Category Archives: Why Tufts?

Why Tufts? Part 4

Written by Ellen Lain, School Psychology M.A. 2019

Hello! This blog post marks my first contribution to the Grad Blog, and I’m very excited to share with you my experience at Tufts as a graduate student of School Psychology. As a first year student, I can only speak from what I’ve observed in only seven months of my grad school career. However short that time may seem, I feel certain of the trajectory laid out by the structured learning environment in these last 1.5 semesters.

The School Psychology program falls under the umbrella of the Education Department alongside other programs like Educational Studies, Museum Education, and Science Education. Tufts’ School Psychology program is nationally certified and graduates from this program are prepared to practice both locally and out of state.

One characteristic of nationally certified programs is the emphasis on hands-on experience. In my first semester, my cohort (group of fellow first year students) were each assigned to a public school for what is called Pre-Practicum. Pre-Practicum is structured so that once a week, for the entire school year, our learning environment is in a real public school. Each of us is also paired with a practicing clinician who supervises us as we shadow them in their normal routine as a school psychologist. During our weekly visits, we have the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge in a real public school setting through sitting in on parent/teacher meetings, facilitating peer support groups at lunchtime (we call them “lunch bunches” clever, right?), being called on to teach social and emotional coping skills, leading group and individual counseling sessions with students referred to the school psychologist, attending staff meetings, and observing as well as administering academic or cognitive assessments.

In our weekly Pre-Practicum visits, we apply what we learn in our graduate school classroom. For example, at Tufts, we learn about theories of counseling and theories of learning, and immediately get to see them in context, in the real world.

Having the opportunity to practice classroom knowledge early on in a graduate program is invaluable. Personally, I feel like one of the program’s strengths is that it integrates head knowledge and practice. As someone who entered school psychology from a completely different field (finance), I feel confident that one day I will be ready to step into my future profession as a school psychologist.

 

Why Tufts? Part 3

   Written by Rachael Bonoan, Biology Ph.D. Candidate


Collaboration, community, and teaching at Tufts

There are two main reasons why I chose Tufts: collaboration and community. When picking my graduate school, I chose based on the Biology Department specifically. Now, after having been at Tufts for four years, I can say that these two reasons also apply to Tufts in general.

Collaboration: I loved that the Biology Department was collaborative, not competitive. Since we are one Biology Department, there is a range of expertise: from DNA repair to animal behavior, there is likely someone that can help with any project you propose. There are grad students that are co-advised and many labs collaborate. I am currently working on a project with the Wolfe Lab, a lab that studies microbial communities in fermented foods! I am working with the Wolfe Lab to determine if honey bee diet affects the community of microbes that live in the honey bee gut.

In general, I find the atmosphere on the Tufts campus to be a collaborative one rather than a competitive one. There are opportunities for grad students to collaborate with labs outside of their own department. Tufts even has an internal grant, Tufts Collaborates, which is specifically for this purpose! In my department, I know of biologists who work with chemists, engineers, and computer scientists.

Community: Even though we are divided into two buildings, the Biology Department strives to stay united. Every Friday, we have a seminar with cookies and tea before, and chips and salsa after. After seminar, I have the chance to catch up with faculty, staff, and students that work in the other building.

Outside of my department, the Tufts Graduate Student Council (GSC) strives to create a sense of community within the grad students. There are monthly GSC meetings where you can meet other grad students, hear about things going on, and voice your own opinions. The GSC also hosts academic, social, and community outreach events. Just last month, the GSC held their annual Graduate Student Research Symposium (GSRS). This symposium is for all grad students on the Tufts University Medford/Somerville campus and School of the Museum of Fine Arts. The GSRS is not only a place to meet other grad students, but it’s a place where you can learn about all the cool research happening at Tufts, and maybe find a collaborator!

A couple other reasons specific to me: I grew up in a small town and while I enjoy visiting the city, I am not much of a “city girl.” The location of Tufts is great for the small-town girl in me: it’s easy to visit the city but it’s also easy to find beautiful places to hike and enjoy nature. Just about an hour south of New Hampshire and an hour east of Central Mass, there are plenty of gorgeous hiking trails and mountains within a manageable driving distance.

Since I would one day like to teach at a primarily undergraduate institution, I also like that Tufts has unique teaching opportunities for grad students. There is the Graduate Institute for Teaching where grad students attend workshops on teaching during the summer, and then co-teach a class with a faculty member during the fall. There is also the ExCollege which awards Graduate Teaching Fellowships for students who want to create and teach a class on their own. This coming Fall, I will be teaching my own class on insect pollinators and applying basic science to conservation practices!

Enjoying the talks at the 2017 GSRS.

Enjoying the poster session and reception after the 2017 GSRS.

Hiking Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, equipped with my Tufts Jumbos winter hat!

Enjoying Boston Winter in Downtown Boston! (I also have my Tufts Jumbos hat on here but it’s covered by my hood.)

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Dean Cook pic

Written by Robert Cook

Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Psychology


As we look toward wrapping up another school year here at Tufts, we also celebrate some new beginnings. The newly admitted students to our graduate programs are weighing their options, checking out websites, and visiting with professors and current students to decide which program is THE program.

There are many factors to consider when deciding which school to choose. Among the questions you might be asking with respect to Tufts are:

“Will I be challenged in my field?”

Absolutely. Our first-class faculty are experts in their fields, recognized for their commitment to excellence. As a research-intensive university with excellent resources, our size allows us to provide students with personal experiences and individualized mentoring.

“Will I have the opportunity to hone my skills?

Yes. Our extensive professional development program lets students practice their presentation skills, dig deeper into how to secure funding, and hone their ability to teach undergraduates. Our goal is to make sure you are prepared for the next step in your career.

“Is Boston the right place for me?”

The answer for most students is a clear “yes”. The greater Boston area provides countless educational, social and cultural opportunities. Our students find that their time at Tufts is enhanced by our proximity to the city. Some people ask about the ability to find affordable housing close by – it is definitely possible, and our current students are a great source for information about what to look for and when to begin your search. The “Starting at Tufts” link in your admissions letter is also a valuable source of information.

“Will I be happy there”?

This is perhaps the most important question. Implicit in that question is whether you will form personal relationships with mentors and classmates. The answer for our students is a resounding YES! We pride ourselves on working closely with students, supporting them as they work toward their goals and celebrating accomplishments along the way. In my job as dean, it’s important to me that our students feel a sense of personal connection to their work and to the larger Tufts community. Only then do I know we’re doing our job of nurturing the next generation of scholars and teachers and setting them up for success.

So, as you ponder your choices for advanced study, I hope that you’ll find a good match for your academic and personal goals. As someone who has spent the past 30 years at the university, my belief is that that you will discover that perfect fit here at Tufts.

Why Tufts? Part 2

robot_grow_up_Final

Written by Vasanth Sarathy, Computer Science Ph.D. Candidate

“I think I want to go to grad school. Does that sound crazy?” This was a question I asked one of my mentors about a year and a half ago. I was about to quit my job as a lawyer, a job that I had held for nearly a decade. I wanted to switch careers because I really missed learning and teaching science and math, and I wanted to exercise some creative control over my life. I thought that a career in academia was the right way to go. “Unusual, yes. Crazy, no!” was the response I got from my mentor. His response gave me the confidence to go ahead and follow my heart and pursue this career track. Of course, to pursue said career, I needed a Ph.D., and to get a Ph.D. I needed to get in to and graduate from a strong research program. Thus began my search for schools.

I decided to restrict my search to the Boston area. This was for personal reasons and because I think Boston is an awesome city! I also had a general idea of what subject I wanted to research. I am deeply interested in understanding the cognitive process of creativity and insight. I learned very quickly that studying these types of questions in cognitive science involves a highly multi-disciplinary effort approached from many different angles: neuroscience and learning about the brain activity; psychology and learning about the human thought process; artificial intelligence/robotics and learning by recreating cognitive architectures in computer systems; philosophy and thinking about why we think a certain way; and mathematics, the language with which to bring these disciplines together.

Each of the schools I looked into offered some combination of these disciplines. I chose Tufts because it provided an integrated approach to studying cognitive science. Not only does Tufts have some of the most well known names in each of the above fields, they all, in full earnest, work together under a coordinated Cognitive Science program. Moreover, I could pursue a joint Ph.D. in Computer Science and Cognitive Science. I felt this combination was powerful and would help me acquire a breadth of knowledge in less familiar fields while deepening my expertise in my primary area of interest: computer science. In the Boston area, this type of program is unique to Tufts. While some schools have cognitive and brain science programs many are limited to the combination of neuroscience and computational methods.

After confirming that I was on the right track, my mentor (during our “am I crazy?” conversation) advised me to reach out to faculty whose research I found interesting. This was a brilliant piece of advice. I sent emails and reached out to several professors in various schools to ask about their research. Only a few replied, which was understandable, given the madness that was the November application season. However, I was able to meet with some of them and learned not only about their research, but also whether or not I could see myself working with them for a long time. The professors at Tufts are highly motivated and driven, while simultaneously supportive–they truly care for their students. If the students are committed, the professors will match their commitment. So, needless to say, another big reason for applying and ultimately choosing Tufts was its faculty, and particularly my research advisor. Meeting via email and face-to-face with my then future-advisor helped me get a better sense of how this important professional relationship might play out.

There are so many more reasons I like Tufts, and I cannot do justice in a short blog post, but one takeaway is that being both a nurturing liberal arts school and competitive research institution, Tufts affords some great opportunities to do good work, grow in your career, and remain happy while doing so. Go Jumbos!

Winter Break as a Grad Student

Written by Rachael Bonoan, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

As a graduate student, winter break is a “break” in that you don’t have to TA and you have more time to write, analyze data, and do research—not the break you become accustomed to as an undergrad. I suppose it’s a bit of a transition to adulthood. But, by the time this post is published, I will be roughly 4,000 miles south of Tufts. This winter break, I am going to Costa Rica! As part of a class I am taking here at Tufts! We will be doing research so it still isn’t a “break,” but I am looking forward to it all the same.

Every other year, Biology professor Dr. Colin Orians teaches a class called “Tropical Ecology and Conservation.” We spend the semester learning about the rainforest (via readings, presentations, and interactive discussions) and designing an experiment. THEN, we spend two weeks—in Costa Rica!—actually doing that experiment! The class is open to both graduate and undergraduate students so it is a good way to meet undergrads that are especially driven and interested in research (you have to apply to get into the class).

It is also a great way to do science in a new location! Since I work with honey bees, I don’t have to travel far to do my field work (one field site is about a 10-minute walk from my lab, the other is about a 40-minute drive). This coming winter break, I am excited to experience a new field site, a new culture, and a new country (I have never left the U.S.)!

My partner and I have designed an experiment to look at salt foraging behavior in stingless bees. While stingless bees get most of their nutrients from pollen and nectar, they also visit nonfloral sources (such as sweat, dung, and even carrion). We hypothesize that foraging for nonfloral resources is a way for stingless bees to get salts that their floral diet is lacking (plants tend to be low in sodium). Like Gatorade for bees!

In addition to research, we will go snorkeling, visit an avocado plantation, tour a coffee farm, and of course, hike in the jungle!

This blog post doesn’t have photos but I am hoping that my next blog post will have some awesome pictures from Costa Rica.

Until then, happy holidays!

Why Tufts? Part 1

Written by Jiali Liu, Philosophy M.A. 2017

Coming to Tufts for philosophy was no minor deviation from what I was doing in college. I majored in English and International Relations as an undergraduate and my school offered no philosophy class (it was a petite institution affiliated with the Chinese Foreign Ministry and it was highly specialized in diplomacy studies). I came to formal contact with philosophy when I was a visiting student at Barnard College in New York. It was a short semester, but that one Intro to Philosophy class intrigued me enormously. In retrospect, I still could not pinpoint the exact reasons for how that happened—to be shaped by one single class and then make a two-year, or even longer, commitment to the subject matter. Graduate schools are different from college in significant ways. They are more expensive. They are more specialized. They bear more relevance to and influence on one’s future career path and prospects. To make a decision about what to do at when and where for a Master degree sometimes calls for a deep soul search. My own guess is that I was exposed to philosophy in a myriad ways much earlier than Barnard, only that I was not fully conscious of its presence and power of osmosis with time in my thinking and action. I probably felt dissatisfaction with only an answer to how things are and wanted to seek why they are such.

But Tufts? First of all, I knew the program because I had a professor who graduated from here back in 2003. The continuity of tradition and legacy presented itself beautifully and ignited my initial interest in knowing more about Tufts. On the other hand, I did not want to mass-produce a dozen of applications (interestingly graduate schools do not work the same way as colleges in this aspect either: to apply for more places barely increases one’s chance to get into any of them). So I had to concentrate on a few programs that are (1) academically top-notch; (2) not discriminating against non-philosophy majors; and (3) cost-efficient. According to the Philosophy Gourmet report, Tufts’ Master in Philosophy program is number one in the country. It has the highest faculty quality. It actually invites different majors who are interested and determined in making a career in philosophy and helps them to prepare for a PhD program. And it is generous in money and TA opportunities! I doubt that anyone who has received the Tufts’ offer would decline it unless she has a PhD letter of acceptance from somewhere else. There was another reason equally important to me. I like intimate communities and a close work-together spirit with my cohort. In total, Tufts’ program has around 20 people, including both first and second years. People have plenty of chance to invest in friendships and intellectual connection and graduate students are treated as peers by the faculty and staff. Choosing Tufts was not nearly as hard a decision as the one on philosophy. It felt almost natural for what has happened to unfold the way it did once I knew philosophy was what I wanted.