August 29, 2016
My STEP signature project was centered on work in the Dynamic Mechanics of Materials lab at The Ohio State University. While my project was categorized as Undergraduate Research, it was really more of an Internship. Time was spent learning how to use the lab equipment, and then testing materials for outside industry. I was allowed thirty-eight hours of work per week, and the experience was treated as a full time job.
Throughout the summer, and the subsequent completion of my STEP signature project, I began to feel much more passionate about continuing my education with a masters degree after graduation and perhaps a doctorate degree after that. Previously I had looked forward to graduation and beginning my career, but after spending time in the lab this summer I began to enjoy the research side of the profession, and it would not be a bad idea to continue my education in this way. Working in the lab also showed me that if I were to decide to continue my education I would be in a very good position to find a lab to do my research in, as well as some knowledge of academic research going into a masters degree.
Going into my STEP signature project I had been considering continuing my education after completion of my undergraduate degree, but it was discussions with Dr. Amos Gilat and Dr. Jeremy Seidt that convinced me that it was the correct path for me. Dr. Gilat is the professor in charge of the lab, and Dr. Seidt is the lab manager. Both of these individuals have experienced what it is like to fully complete an education, as well as work in industry, and I listened to their advice intently, and have ben influenced greatly by them. I will continue working in the Dynamics Mechanics of Materials lab for the next two semesters, and will continue to seek their advice as I grow as an employee, researcher, and student.
Both Dr. Gilat and Dr. Seidt suggested that graduate school would be easier to complete when one is already in the habit of going to school, as well as before one starts a family. I was shown that a graduate degree is much more enticing to an employer, and that students with a masters degree will often have a higher starting salary than an individual with a bachelors degree. Most importantly, I was told that often times graduate students can have a sponsored research project for their masters degree, which is where a company will pay the students tuition if the student researches a topic for the company. For me, this was the deciding factor because it would be difficult to pass up free graduate school. Additionally, I was shown that while many students choose to start working and then have their employer pay to send them back to school, these individuals are often expected to continue some amount of work for the employer while they are completing their degree.
While I am almost certain at this point that I will be going to graduate school after getting my bachelors degree, I am still not sure what subject I would like to pursue. I will receive a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, and part of me would like to continue with a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering. However, there is also a part of me that would like to continue working in the Dynamic Mechanics of Materials lab, and get a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. However, there is time to make this decision. I will continue my work in the lab for at least the next two semesters, and this will give me the time and experience to make a more informed decision on what to pursue.
As is the goal with what I would assume to be all college students, my ultimate goal is to find a job after graduation. As was stated previously, a masters degree would make this task much easier for me. Not only this, but I would be surpassing my initial academic goals. The two additional years of education will give me valuable time to grow as an individual, and as a future employee. I will have two more years of valuable research experience to take into the workforce as well as two extra years to determine exactly what it is that I want to do and achieve. Without my STEP signature project I may never have met the people that fueled this change, or taken a research position in a lab altogether.