Tag Archives: School of Engineering

Being a full-time employee and part-time graduate student: A week in the life

Written by Penelope Seagrave, Human Factors M.S. 2019

I work full-time as an Engineer at Cognex and am also a part–time graduate student. This semester, I’m enrolled in two evening classes at Tufts as I work on my  masters in Human Factors Engineering. I thoroughly enjoy these courses, and find the assignments interesting and worth the precious time that I forfeit to work on them on Saturdays and Sundays. Occasionally, I may work through lunch on an assignment, but typically I am able to manage by finishing assignments exclusively over the weekend. Weekends are now my productive time. Honestly, it’s encouraged me to be more responsible and disciplined in my life overall. While it does mean that I spend more Friday or Saturday nights at home, I’ve come to realize that having an entire weekend day full of productivity is a truly fulfilling experience, and worth the potential FOMO. Working on a Sunday makes me feel like a responsible adult.

While I could choose to do homework assignments in the evenings during the workweek, I find myself extra inclined towards procrastination after I’ve spent the whole day working already. So, for me, it’s easier to plan to devote a weekend day. During the week, I prepare by reading over the assignments and getting a solid sense of the expectations so I can predict how long I will need to complete it, and then I save the work for the weekend.

There are some projects that are better broken down into steps over the course of many days. This goes for studying too. Especially for design courses that encourage an iterative process, I tend to work on my assignments after work and sometimes during my lunch breaks. This allows me to space the time better and also solicit feedback from my coworkers, which I have found to be an incredibly helpful and unexpected bonus. 

So far, I have been able to manage working full time while in graduate school very smoothly. And the best part is that I have an income while in school. If you are considering this option, check to see if your company offers tuition reimbursement. Having money coming in while I’m in school is fabulous. There is no way I could go back to my old college days of ramen noodles.

I will say that the consequences of being a part-time student are felt primarily in the length of time it takes to complete the program. For example, if I were a full-time student, I could have graduated in two semesters. Now I’m completing my fourth semester and looking forward to my final full semester in the fall, with a one-course summer session in between. 

But the upside is that I get to be a Tufts student for a longer period of time. I love being a Jumbo! And because I’ve been attending classes here for so long, I feel it has a stronger place in my identity. I am really proud to be studying at Tufts.

Event Spotlight – Graduate Student Research Symposium and 3-Minute Thesis

Written by Brenna Gormally, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

As a member of the Graduate Student Council, I’ve had the pleasure of helping organize a number of events. From roundtables with administrators, to pub nights, to community service opportunities, one of the primary goals of the GSC is to provide meaningful experiences for all graduate students within the Tufts community. 

One of the most popular events is the annual Research Symposium. Every year in early March, graduate students from across campus come together to present their research in a variety of different formats; posters, speed talks, long talks—there’s something for everyone! And as usual, we aim to feed attendees with plenty of food. This year we even had the Frozen Hoagies  food truck, a local ice cream sandwich favorite. Graduate students present their research while faculty members and post-doctoral fellows provide feedback and ultimately choose the top 3 from each category. The winners get awards, but everyone gets free food and has a great time.

This year was no different. The day began with a poster session. Students from Biology, Chemistry, and other departments all presented their research during an informal reception. We were grateful to have judges from diverse, interdisciplinary backgrounds. One of the best things about Tufts is being surrounded by such interesting and broad research. At these kinds of academic events, we emphasize communicating research in an accessible way. Though I’m a biologist, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from students in the English, History, and Child Study and Human Development departments. As a Tufts graduate, I can guarantee you that you’ll have your elevator pitch down and that you’ll be able to clearly discuss your research with anyone who might listen.

The posters were followed by 15-minute talks, during which I learned about triple-stranded DNA, how climate change is impacting the use of bike share programs, and whether cupcakes and muffins are statistically distinguishable. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a symposium that is more diverse than that!

While the Research Symposium is the biggest academic event that the GSC runs, we have also begun a 3-Minute Thesis competition in the fall. 3MT is an international event that began in Australia, but any school can create its own version. It’s pretty much all in the name—you have to describe your thesis research in 3 minutes, using only a single PowerPoint slide with no animations. It is definitely challenging to say the least. This year we had nearly 15 participants from across the campus. Competition was fierce, but Alec Drobac from the Physics and Astronomy department prevailed. We’re looking forward to continuing to expand this event, and possibly even including other Boston-area schools in the future.

These academic-focused events give students the opportunity to practice communicating their research to the broader Tufts community. It’s also a great chance to meet and connect with students outside of your department. You never know where your next collaboration might be, even right on campus!

ARC Spotlight Part 2: Writing Support Program

The Academic Resource Center, or ARC, as it is more commonly referred to, offers multiple dynamic programs which aim to support Tufts students. You may not realize that the ARC also caters to graduate students and offers three programs to choose from! The Time Management and Study Strategies program, Writing Program, and English for Academic Purposes program were all created to help students through the challenges they commonly face. In the second of a multi-part blog series shining a spotlight on the ARC’s programs, we’re going to talk about the Writing Support Program.

Written by Manisha Raghavan, Bioengineering M.S. 2019

Kristina Aikens, the Program Director for the Academic Resource Center’s Writing Support Program, strongly believes that writing does not have to be a solitary experience. Reflecting back on her own grad school days at Tufts (she earned a Ph.D. in English), Kristina notes that she had a support system in the form of a writing group, writing consultants, and her advisor who helped her through the writing process. The Writing Support Program’s graduate writing consultants hail from different backgrounds and have a deep understanding and knowledge of the writing process. The consultants work with students on their papers, class assignments, thesis, dissertations, fellowship applications, personal statements and so on. 

The program offers a variety of options in terms of the services provided. One could sign up for a one-on-one consultation session through ‘Tutor Finder’ in SIS where a list of tutors and their availabilities are posted. This consultation session could be a one-time event to work on a short assignment or a recurring event depending on the student’s need. If one intends to work on a longer paper, for instance their thesis, they could email arcwriting@tufts.edu to get matched with a suitable writing consultant. 

Apart from the regular sessions, the program also offers a Graduate Writing Exchange (GWX) where a group of graduate students work independently on their drafts and meet weekly to discuss. The exchange spans over three hours and is based out of room 203 in Campus Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m for the Spring 2019 semester. An ARC consultant is present to offer feedback and guidance when needed. The group also shares their challenges during the writing process and sets deadlines and goals for themselves. Participation is completely voluntary and grad students can choose to attend as many weeks as they wish to!

Graduate Writing Retreats are a week-long tailored event which cater to students who are looking to start their thesis or dissertation. These retreats are held in the months of January, June and August on the Medford campus. The motivation behind these retreats is to provide a space for students where then can conceptualize and write in peace with limited distractions. At the beginning of the retreat, the student meets with a consultant to discuss their personal writing plan. The first day of the retreat focuses on identifying and addressing writing problems apart from setting goals. During the course of the retreat, approximately four hours a day is dedicated solely to the writing process. At the end of the week, the student evaluates their progress and can seek further guidance from a writing consultant if desired. The participation for the retreat is capped at 20 students, so students are encouraged to sign up for it at the earliest date possible.

Interested in working as an ARC writing consultant?The Writing Program always welcomes applications from students across Arts and Sciences and Engineering for the role of writing consultants. The application period usually begins at the beginning of April and interviews are held throughout May. Prospective consultants are expected to be writer-focused and willing to help the writer achieve their goals, along with having strong interpersonal skills. If you have experience with intensive writing, editing and mentoring, and enjoy working with people closely, this might be the perfect role for you! 

To sum it up, if you ever have writer’s block, anxiety while writing a paper, or just need someone to help you out with any stage of writing, sign up for a writing consultation session right away!

In search for writing inspiration? Here are a few writing tips from Kristina to help you get started:

  1. Make writing a habit: Carve out a time in the day to sit down and write 
  2. Make writing a commitment: Treat it as you would treat an essential task
  3. Start with hand-written notes if you find yourself staring at a blank document on your laptop

Confessions and Lessons from a First-Gen College Grad

Written by Michael Ruiz, Bioengineering M.S. 2020

I am the only person in my family’s history to earn a bachelor’s degree. While more enrolled students in college are identifying as first generation, it is important to know that we are still an underrepresented population in higher education spaces. 

I grew up in an underserved community of Los Angeles, and the only male role models in my family were incarcerated through much of my upbringing. At 19 years of age, my only academic achievement was that I had successfully failedout of high school. At this time, I knew college was not in the cards for me. I left high school in 2006 and by 2008, the U.S. economy had descended into a major recession. 

As a young person with no formal education, I relied on temporary manual labor jobs to support myself. Somewhat surprisingly, I embarked on a journey towards the Midwest. I would come to call North Dakota my new temporary home. Eventually I worked my way out of the oil fields to complete my B.S. at Montana State University, then I conducted some post-graduate work at Harvard, and now I am a Bioengineering M.S. student at Tufts.

The lesson I’ve learned is that it is tough to be the first in your family to do this. I know this because despite the seemingly abundant opportunities to enter higher education that generations before me and after me have had, I remain the only person in my family to have completed an undergraduate degree. It is hard because your family may not understand seemingly esoteric subjects like Judith Butler’s doctrine on performative acts of gender, the laws that govern thermodynamics, and the exciting intersections of biology and physics.

My message to incoming undergraduate students: I didn’t attend Tufts as an undergrad. I wish I had! I’ve had the opportunity to work with talented undergraduates at Tufts and I feel like this talent is cultivated through Tufts’ curriculum. In my opinion, there is an extremely talented and innovative group of individuals here that easily rivals the other Boston-area schools.

My message to incoming graduate students: Find an advisor that you can vibe with. Interview as many potential thesis advisors as you can (if you don’t know what questions to ask, email me and I will give you an exhaustive list). Ask yourself: what kind of graduate experience do you want to have? Do you want to pursue an entrepreneurial, academic, or technical career? These are important questions you may not think to ask. 

Lastly, you are not alone. I chose Tufts as my graduate destination because I am specifically interested in an education that combines rigorous engineering with entrepreneurial expertise. I am pleasantly surprised that many student groups share that vision. As someone who experienced a failing at early education, I can most certainly say that I have found a place at Tufts where I can grow. 

Home Sweet Home: A Guide to Graduate Student Housing

Written by Ruaidhri Crofton, History & Museum Studies M.A. 2020

So you’ve been accepted to a graduate program at Tufts and you just can’t wait for your new adventure to begin! You’re starting to make travel plans and maybe even connecting with some of your future professors and classmates. Everything seems to be coming together, but you still have to figure out one of the more frustrating aspects of becoming a graduate student: housing. 

As cheesy as it may sound, Tufts will not only become the place you go to school. For many students who aren’t from the region, the Boston area will also become your “home” for the next several years. With so many things to consider when looking for housing, the process of house hunting can quickly become overwhelming. As someone who has already been through the process of finding a place to live while attending Tufts (and is getting ready to do it again for the upcoming school year), here are a few tips and tricks I have for making your housing search as straightforward as possible. 

1. Consider On-Campus Housing

The first thing to consider when searching for housing is the fact that Tufts does provide a limited number of rooms for graduate students on the Medford/Somerville campus. This is a great option, particularly for incoming first-years, as it eliminates many of the more difficult parts of finding a place to live. Because this housing is managed by the university, you won’t have to worry about finding available properties, contacting landlords, locating roommates, or buying furniture. You also won’t have to be concerned about not being able to view the room before you arrive. However, applicants for on-campus housing are selected via a lottery system so keeping other options in mind as a backup if you aren’t selected is wise. More information can be found on the Office of Residential Life website.

2. Do Some Online Searching

Luckily, the days of searching through crowded bulletin boards or looking for “For Rent” signs in windows is over as there are now a seemingly endless number of websites and resources available to students searching for off-campus housing. However, starting to search these sites for available rooms as soon as possible is ideal. Tufts offers a fantastic off-campus housing website for students to search for apartment listings and roommates in the Boston and Somerville/Medford areas. Other third-party platforms can also be helpful in finding good housing accommodations. I have found Jump Off Campus to be one of the more helpful sites for housing searches. Social media pages, such as the “Tufts University Housing, Sublets & Roommates” Facebook group, are also good places to find good housing opportunities both near campus and beyond. 

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Expand Your Search 

Though living right across the street from campus and being able to roll out of bed right before class is nice in many respects, available housing options may not always be so convenient. Due to the number of rental properties immediately adjacent to the Tufts campuses and the fact that rent prices tend to be higher the closer you get to the school, you might want to consider expanding your search area to find better/more affordable alternatives. Looking in communities slightly further from Tufts may get you more “bang for your buck”. Utilizing public transportation can also make the distance less inconvenient and even give you a good excuse to get some extra exercise on your way to class!

4. Networking Works!

Many graduate students elect to live in shared accommodations with several other Tufts students. Not only does this often make housing more affordable by splitting the cost of rent and utilities between several tenants, it also provides you with a great opportunity to meet new people in your first year! If you happen to already know students currently enrolled at the university or who will be starting at the same time as you, chatting with them about the possibility of living together could make finding roommates less difficult/awkward. At the same time, connecting with students using social media or Tufts platforms is another way to find others who might be looking for prospective roommates and housing. Depending on your department, there may also be a way for you to connect with other students in your field. Though it certainly may feel odd at first, I can personally attest to meeting some great friends this way. 

5. Know Your Budget and Your Preferences

With so many things to consider with housing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed! Before you get started looking for housing, make sure to identify what you are looking for in a prospective housing accommodation. Things like setting a budget and identifying preferences such as number of roommates, location, whether or not furniture is provided, etc. will be important to streamlining your search. Though it is unlikely to happen to you, it is also important to be aware of the potential for housing scams. Taking steps like viewing an apartment before signing a lease and knowing your rights as a tenant are important for having a pleasant experience in your new home. More information can be found on the Off-Campus Housing resources page.

ARC Spotlight Part 1: Time Management and Study Strategies Program

The Academic Resource Center, or ARC, as it is more commonly referred to, offers multiple dynamic programs which aim to support Tufts students. You may not realize that the ARC also caters to graduate students and offers three programs to choose from! The Time Management and Study Strategies program, Writing Program, and English for Academic Purposes program were all created to help students through the challenges they commonly face. In the first of a multi-part blog series shining a spotlight on the ARC’s programs, we’re going to talk about the Time Management and Study Strategies program.

Written by Manisha Raghavan, Bioengineering M.S. 2019

The Time Management and Study Strategies Program (TM&SS for short) traces its roots back to 2004 when Lara Birk, the head of Subject Tutoring, noticed undergraduate students struggling with their time management skills. Lara hired doctoral student Laura Vanderberg as an intern to design a structured program to support students in honing their time management, which became officially known as the Time Management & Study Strategies Consulting program in 2008.

TM&SS is a very unique program which focuses on developing a personalized, collaborative relationship between the student and the consultant, who then work together on the changes the student wants to make. Claire Weigand, Assistant Director of the ARC, strongly believes that the program has something to offer to everyone. Each year during staff training, the consultants (who are also grad students) report learning strategies and concepts that they find personally useful in grad school.  The TM&SS program receives requests from a wide variety of students who often find themselves experiencing burnout, procrastination, anxiety, struggles with sleep and so on. The program operates on the philosophy that change is possible, while recognizing that change involves a mixture of setbacks and growth. 

What can I work on with my consultant?

If you find yourself working on your planning, motivation, study strategies, test anxiety, perfectionism, self-care or work-life balance, it is worth giving TM&SS consulting a try. TM&SS consulting focuses on three areas: planning (routines, busy weeks, goals, etc.), academic skills (reading large amounts, note taking, studying, test taking, etc.), and well-being (life balance, motivation/procrastination, self-care, etc.). You can sign up, get matched with a consultant within two days, and then meet for the first time to see if this is something that helps you make the changes you are working on.

How does the program work?

To request TM&SS consulting, fill out a sign-up form at go.tufts.edu/tmsssession. The program director matches students with consultants based on the information in their answers. Students are asked about what they would like to work on and what they look for in a consultant. It is important that each student feels accepted and understood by their consultant, so matching is based on schedule overlaps and each student’s preferences around shared life experience (gender, race, sexuality, personality traits, field of studies, etc.). The process also offers the flexibility to swap consultants if a student feels like they are not working well with a consultant.

TM&SS is available for both undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and the SMFA. For graduate students, depending on the consultant’s availability, sessions can be conducted over both winter and summer breaks. 

Want to work as a TM&SS consultant?

Look out for the job posting starting in mid-April on Handshake and keep your cover letter and CV/resume handy! Candidates must be able to attend the entire 40-hour paid training week, the week before orientation in August (August 19-23, 2019).

Want some advice without scheduling an appointment yet? Here are some mantras from the program to help you cope with the pressures of grad school:

  1. Take effective breaks! One ends up being more productive when one takes timely breaks.
  2. Gratitude journaling is a wonderful way to start appreciating the good things in life we often do not notice, which can boost motivation and our mood.
  3. Sleep improves learning! Cutting back on sleep to get more done quickly stops working as everything takes longer to get done when we are tired.

My consultant was absolutely wonderful… She helped me develop skills that will be valuable in my post-Tufts life. She was a fantastic part of my network of support this semester.

-Anonymous Tufts Grad Student

The Top 5 Ways to “Treat Yo’ Self” (on a grad student budget)

Written by Gina Mantica, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

  1. Ice cream

Massachusetts is filled to the brim with homemade ice cream shops, and nothing says “treat yo ’self” like a small Death by Chocolate (chocolate ice cream with a chocolate swirl, chocolate chips, and fudgy brownies) in a colorful house-made waffle cone. Head on over to C.B. Scoops if you’re near the 200 Boston Avenue buildings for this decadent treat.

If you’re closer to the hill, don’t fret. Walk down or take the bus to Davis Square and hit up JP Licks, where you’ll find fun seasonal flavors, as well as some great dairy-free options!

If you’re feeling adventurous, drive or take a cab on over to Tipping Cow ice cream on Medford Street. A hip, nut-free ice cream stop boasting unique rotating flavors like Vanilla Buttermilk and Earl Grey, you will never be bored or disappointed by their selection.

  1. Books

For all you bookworms out there, I dare you to treat yourself to a book that is entirely unrelated to your thesis, dissertation, and class work. Next on my own non-academic reading list is Paris in the Present Tenseby Mark Helprin. If you’re into flowery prose and details that will make you forget where you are, I highly recommend his works.

If flowery and detailed is not really your cup of tea, make a day out of finding your new book with your own piping hot cup of tea. Head downtown to Trident Café and Booksellers on Newbury Street. There, you can peruse the aisles while enjoying a drink or a light snack. The café has a wide selection of coffees, teas, and pastries (they also serve an amazing brunch).

  1. Museum of Fine Arts

Did you know that your Tufts ID gets you free admission to the MFA? With one of the largest collections of Claude Monet’s work outside of France, you could spend an entire day (or 2!) at this museum. They have incredible temporary exhibitions, so even if you think you’ve seen everything the museum has to offer, there is always something new. This past fall semester, for example, they had a Winnie the Pooh exhibit filled with original drawings of Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and friends!

  1. Ice Skating

In Boston, when people think “ice skating” they tend to immediately think of the Frog Pond on the Boston Common. While the Frog Pong is beautiful, it is also a little pricey on a graduate student budget. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, head on over to the LoConte Memorial Rink in Medford. During public skating hours, admission is free and skates are only $5 to rent! Due to its location, the crowd at the LoConte Rink is mostly middle and high school students, but take a date or a group of friends and you’ll have a blast!

  1. Sports games

Did you know that the Celtics, Bruins, and Red Sox all offer affordable options for students to see games? Register online to get updates on Red Sox student ticket availability. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a Red Sox game that way, but last time I went the tickets were less than $20 a piece! Similarly, register online for the Buzzer Beater Pass offered by the Celtics to get notified if last minute tickets are available for purchase on game days. Also, check out the Student Nights offered each year by the Bruins for half-price ticket options.

The National Parks of … Boston?

Written by Ruaidhri Crofton, History & Museum Studies M.A. 2020

What better way to learn and have fun exploring the outdoors than with a visit to a national park? The dizzying depths of the Grand Canyon, the majestic ocean vistas of Acadia, the stunning views of … Boston? That’s right! Even though an urban center like Boston may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a national park, the greater Boston area is home to over ten sites administered by the U.S. National Park Service. Though the majority of these sites are focused on preserving and interpreting sites of historic interest, the national parks of Boston also contain a number of opportunities for hiking, fishing, and even camping.

As both a history enthusiast and an avid national park visitor, I have been thrilled to have so many national park sites to explore in such close proximity to the Tufts campuses. However, with all these places to visit, deciding where to go and what to do first can be overwhelming. Having now visited each of these special sites, I have attempted to narrow down five of my favorite parks in the Boston area and provide some tips to make the most out of your visit. And the best part? Almost all national park sites in Massachusetts are free! Hopefully this will give you some inspiration and ideas for your next off-campus adventure.

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, Boston, MA

Just beyond the hustle and bustle of downtown Boston is what feels like an entirely different world of peace and calm. Made up of 34 islands in Boston Harbor, the aptly named Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking, boating, and more! Catch a ferry from Long Wharf in Boston and sail out to one of the islands in as little as 30 minutes (don’t forget to show your Tufts ID for the student rate). Spend the day exploring Historic Fort Warren on Georges Island, hiking around a city dump turned nature preserve on Spectacle Island, or seeing the oldest lighthouse in the United States on Little Brewster Island.

Boston National Historical Park, Boston, MA

Yes, even the famous Freedom Trail in downtown Boston is a national park site! Walk the 2.5 mile trail to see historic burying grounds, view the site of the Boston Massacre, see the meeting house where the Boston Tea Party began, tour Paul Revere’s House, and climb the 294 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument. Though all sites run by the National Park Service are free, some of the affiliated museums charge entrance fees (though all offer student rates with a valid Tufts ID).

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic SiteBrookline, MA

Just down the road from JFK’s birthplace is the home and studio of another notable Bostonian: Frederick Law Olmsted. Though many people are likely unfamiliar with this American landscape architect, almost everyone is familiar with his work, including Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace in Boston. Tour the studio where many of the firm’s designs were drawn up and explore the beautiful grounds of Olmstead’s suburban home.

John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, Brookline, MA

Did you ever wonder what life was like for a president before they became the commander in chief? One of three presidential birthplaces preserved by the National Park Service in Boston, John F. Kennedy National Historic Site preserves the childhood home of the nation’s 35th president. Take a ranger guided tour to learn more about the family, see the bed where “Jack” was born, and learn about the Kennedy children’s dinnertime political debates.

Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, Saugus, MA

Perhaps my all-time favorite Boston-area park, Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, is a faithful reconstruction of the wooden factory buildings used by European Iron Makers who came to Massachusetts in the 1600s. Explore the buildings to learn the origin of the term “pig iron,” view a blacksmithing demonstration, and hike the short nature trail along the Saugus River.

For more information on all of the national park sites in the Boston area and Massachusetts generally, please visit www.nps.gov/state/ma .

Adventures of a Tufts Teaching Assistant

Written by Alia Wulff, Cognitive Psychology Ph.D.

When I first was admitted into Tufts, I barely thought about the fact that I would need to be a teaching assistant. It was an abstract concept, something that graduate students naturally knew how to do or were taught how to do during some mythical three-month intensive course. I knew I would have to take on the role of a TA, but I didn’t know what it would mean.

Fast forward five months, and I was attending the teaching assistant orientation during my first week at Tufts. I sat down with my notebook and pencil in hand, ready to have all of the necessary knowledge to be a teaching assistant implanted into my brain. Two hours, at least a dozen speakers, and a whirlwind discussion with a current psychology TA later, I still had no idea what I would have to do. The Tufts orientation taught me everything I would know about the ethical obligations and workload expectations of a Tufts TA, but it would be impossible to have an orientation that would teach every individual TA their responsibilities for every class they would ever TA for. I left, full of questions and worry. The TAs I had in undergrad taught full classes, knew the answers to every single question, and graded papers. I didn’t know how to do any of that.

Then I went to my first class. I introduced myself to the class and saw the faces of 40 undergraduates staring back at me, full of excitement and concern and boredom in equal measures. I realized that I was going to be fine. I didn’t know every answer, but that wasn’t my responsibility. My only responsibility was to the 40 people in that room. I was not there to teach them everything about the subject, I was there to help them understand what had already been taught. Being worried would not help me help the students.

I created quizzes for that class, taking notes and writing questions from those notes. I pulled questions from the test bank and edited them to better align with the lecture. I graded activities. I had students come into my office confused about terms and definitions. I offered basic study topics and techniques if people expressed concern about testing abilities. I learned the name of almost every student in that class.

The semester seemed like it flew by if I marked the time according to the syllabus. The midterm came and went. Finals loomed, and suddenly my first semester as a teaching assistant was done. It was rewarding and educational and I appreciated everything I had learned about teaching and organizing a class. I even got positive teaching evaluations. One student referenced how much they appreciated that I took the time to learn their name. At the time, it seemed like just another task I had to do, but it actually made a difference in this student’s perception of me as a teacher. I took that to heart and still do my best to learn the name of everyone in my class.

The next semester I was assigned to a course that is generally taken further on in the program. I had to grade papers this time, which worried me at first. I quickly learned how to create a rubric and stick to it. My comments were short and to the point, but I always encouraged my students to come to me and talk about how to improve next time. I got evaluations that thanked me for my quick grading (and one that complained that I took too long), my feedback, and my helpful email responses. I also was told that I was too harsh of a grader and didn’t explain the requirements before I graded. I now make sure that I grade easier the first time a student makes a mistake and set expectations early.

This semester I am a teaching assistant to a course that requires me to teach a lab section once a week. I’ll admit that it still seems weird to be in front of the class, rather than sitting in the front row taking notes, but it’s a good weird. I’m learning even more about what I should be doing to help the students get the knowledge they need. Next semester I am not taking a TA position, as I have research assistant funding available. It will be nice to focus on my research, but it will also be strange not to be preparing for class every week. Being a teaching assistant was once a hugely foreign concept to me. Now I am not sure what grad school will be like without it.

The Ultimate Healthy Eating Guide for #TuftsGrads

Written by Ece Gulsan, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student

After I finished high school, my parents sent me to Canada for an international cultural exchange program where I got to spend the whole summer in a small town called Guelph (near Toronto). I stayed with a host family, and became very close friends with their daughter Meagan. The next summer, she visited me in Istanbul, and we took her to our summer house which is located in Tenedos, one of the Greek-Turkish islands on the west coast of Turkey. My mom prepared a typical famous Turkish breakfastwith all the fresh produce she picked up from our garden, while my dad was spearfishing to catch some bluefish for dinner. When Meagan saw the table, she couldn’t hide her astonishment by how much we eat at breakfast. Then she grabbed a bite of a plump tomato, and amazedly murmured: “I didn’t know that real tomatoes actually taste like this!”.

Growing up in Turkey, I was very spoiled in terms of my food. Seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs, organic legumes, and assorted table wines were essentials of our pantry. Wild-caught fish was served at least three days a week with a drizzle of the highest quality extra-virgin olive oil. My family grew some of our own food, but we also had access to good quality fresh food at local markets.

Dealing with the differences in food culture was one of the biggest challenges I faced when moving to the U.S. for graduate school; not only the kind of food consumed, but also the way it is packaged and sold at supermarkets.

Graduate student life is very busy and demanding, and unhealthy habits can make our lives more difficult and stressful. Nourishing our bodies is as important as having a good night sleep and regular exercise. Understanding nutrition and healthy eating is more common these days, but for some people it can still be difficult to know where to start making changes to improve their health and feel better about what they eat.

Here is some basic information that will help you begin your journey towards a more balanced plate: avoid too much sugar and salt, read the list of ingredients on food packages, and try to learn more about the meanings behind terms like “gluten-free”—they don’t always mean “healthier.”

First of all, EAT YOUR VEGGIES! Here is an example of my weekly vegetable shopping from the farmer’s market.

 In addition to all the minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals necessary for your body to fully function, vegetables are also packed with fiber, which affect your overall health starting from your gut microbiome to all the way up to your cognitive abilities.

A great way to introduce more vegetables into your diet is to go seasonal—do some research online about what produce is in season for your location, or visit a local farmer’s market and see what’s available. Choosing fresh, local vegetables is also preferable to pre-cut, imported vegetables from the supermarket because pre-cut vegetables are more prone to bacteria and can lose their nutritional value when cut. Many packages also contain preservatives to keep them fresh; chlorine and ozone are sprayed on the vegetables to delay spoilage. Try to buy whole fruits and vegetables, and wash and cut them right before you will eat them; the difference in taste is impossible to ignore.

Another good way to get more healthy foods into your diet is to eat more high-quality proteins. Lean protein sources such as chicken breast have always been a “go-to” meal for me. However, considering how common the use of antibiotics in chicken farming is in the US, it could be a better idea to switch to turkey, which is a safer option in terms of additives. Turkey is also a great source of the amino acid called tryptophan, which is known to aid in quality sleep. Can you say no to a better night sleep as a graduate student? I thought so. If you don’t eat meat, you can add lentils and tofu to your diet for more protein.

When it comes to sleep quality, another thing you should be mindful about is the time at which you sip your coffee and how much you consume in a day. Coffee is the elixir of life for us graduate students, but it can take up to eight hours to be metabolized. So, if you go to sleep at 11:00 pm and want to wake up the day feeling well-rested, try to avoid drinking coffee after 3:00 pm, and aim to not exceed 400 mg of caffeine per day. It is also noteworthy that consuming coffee right after your meals significantly decreases the absorption of some minerals and vitamins in your food, such as iron.

Lastly, I would like to talk about meal-preps. I looooove meal-prepping! As a chemical engineer, I have this an obsession with knowing what exactly is in each of my meals. With a little preparation, you can bring your own food to campus and know that you have made something delicious and healthy (not to mention cost-efficient)!

Health doesn’t just start and end with food. The containers you use to carry your food to campus can also be unhealthy. Many common plastic containers are a main source of “obesogens” called “endocrine disruptors,” and they tend to release into your food when they are in contact with fatty acids. Glass containers are a much safer option to avoid those chemicals. If you would like to learn more about how those chemicals affect our bodies and how serious they are, I recommend the Swedish documentary Submission (2010) by Stefan Jarl.

With a few simple changes, it is possible to eat healthier! Keep things balanced and stick to real food. You can also visit Tufts Sustainability and learn more about healthy eating on campus. With these tips, I hope you can take your healthy eating goals and upgrade them to a new level.