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Home » Discover Rackham » What Advice Would You Give Your First-Year Self?
Grad school/research is a gigantic marathon without many milestones, which can be daunting. Celebrate the small victories (My experiment worked! I presented my data somewhere! I no longer get anxious when speaking at group meeting!) to help get yourself through to the end.
Alison Banka, Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering
As a graduate student, working environment and mentorship are so much more important than being in a “prestigious” lab. If your goal is academia, save the prestigious lab for your postdoc, so you get the necessary training during grad school. If your goal is not academia, find a lab that supports extracurricular and professional-development activities.
Jessica Chen, Ph.D. in Neuroscience
Mentorship matters! Finding an advisor who studies what you are interested in is important, however, finding someone who matches your personality and working style is critical.
Laura Sinko, Ph.D. in Nursing
Find what you love and pursue it. Make time to develop relationships. Don’t believe the lie that graduate school is all work and no fun—it will be difficult and require a lot of effort, but you will be rewarded with new knowledge and good memories.
Nicole Michmerhuizen, Ph.D. in Pharmacology
You are clearly talented if you have made it this far, but you still have a lot to learn. Be humble and seek to learn from everyone around you.
Aubrey Arain, Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences
While assignments are super important, they’re not the only thing grad school is about. And a good sleep schedule goes a long way. Cramming to 3:00 a.m. before deadline day defeats the purpose of most homework/assignments.
Karthik Muthuraman, Master’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering
No one day or moment or feeling or idea will define your experience in its entirety. So embrace the gamut—good, bad, uncertain. It’s okay to have lots of different kinds of all of them! Learning is a process, and too much focus on the product can obscure the importance of the process. Also, almost no one has it together, and most of us just want to be respected, validated, and loved. Within that kind of framing, there’s permission to be kind to others and to myself.
Tonya Kneff-Chang, Ph.D. in Education

Advice from Other Rackham Alumni

Your time at Michigan goes so fast, but if you spend time building up the people around you, those relationships last a lifetime.
Brian Burt (Ph.D. ’14, Education)
I had the opportunity to present at conferences, so I applied for grants to help me do so. There is also funding available for students in emergency situations. Don’t let financial hurdles get in your way. The money is out there. The first step is finding it.
Tiffany Mara (M.A. 1998, Ph.D. 2006, Education)
Take advantage of everything Rackham has to offer: The resources, both human and knowledge, are critical to moving you along in ways that are so far beyond what you can imagine.
Jeannine Bell (M.A. 1995, Ph.D. 2000, Political Science; J.D. 1999)