Dec 22, 2022

Artificial intelligence writing tools that might help you in graduate school and beyond

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Ange
Overview: As you matriculate through your graduate program and into your professional positions, chances are high that you will also have access to artificial intelligence (AI) for writing assistance. This year, my institution provided all faculty and students with Grammerly Premium, an AI writing assistant that provides help with grammar and spelling. To help you understand AI and AI tools, I explored some articles written on the subject and then tried a representative of the AI writing assistants (Moonbeam). 

Contributor: Dr. Marian Kennedy

Dec 13, 2022

Practicing self-care as a graduate student

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash
Overview:  Over the past few years, it feels to me like references to “self-care” and “self-love” are cropping up more and more during faculty training, although, after having experienced some recent health complications, I may be more sensitive to such references. “Self-care” was a major component of the “Faculty Success Program” which I just completed. This semester-long faculty development program heavily integrated self-care reflections in parallel to developing a strategic plan for writing and daily writing practice. Since self-care practices are beneficial for graduate students too, I decided to that this next post should over this subject!  I reached out to Dr. Marieke Van Puymbroeck, an associate dean for the Clemson Graduate School who focuses on student professional development, health and well-being.  You can find out more about her here.  She graciously agreed to help.


Contributors: Drs. Marian Kennedy and Marieke Van Puymbroeck

Dec 8, 2022

Time management- an essential element to thriving in graduate school (and life)

Overview:  As a graduate student, you probably are not given a to-do list each day and have the autonomy to determine when you will come to and leave campus. You also undoubtedly have many concurrent projects running, including course work, research or teaching-related tasks. Chances are you are also finding that your time is as limited as money in your bank accounts.  As a graduate student, I started to see telltale signs of limited time too.  I experienced late nights scrambling to complete assignments and struggled to identify which activity I could complete in small pockets of time. When I felt that I had to miss the wedding of dear friends in Vegas to get lab work done for a conference a few weeks later, I realized I was not managing my time (or self regulating) at all. 

Photo by Malvestida on Unsplash

Figuring out my priorities and exploring some time management techniques substantially relieved my stress.  As a graduate student, I am confident that you will be able to make relatively more thoughtful progress on your research work, get high marks in your courses, and complete the requirements for graduation by using time management techniques that work best for you.  For this blog post, I enlisted Dr. Fadi Abdeljawad as my coauthor. When we were restricted to online teaching due to COVID-19, I asked him to give a virtual talk to students about time management as part of a professional development seminar series.  The students raved about it in their exit surveys.  I hope that this post helps you reflect on your own time management while you apply and thrive in graduate school.

Post Contributor(s): Drs. Marian Kennedy and Fadi Abdeljawad, the Bob and Kay Stanzione Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Clemson. More about Dr. Abdeljawad can be found at the end of this post.  

Dec 6, 2022

Managing finances for grad school

Overview:  While graduate school will involve intense focus for completing the required courses and conducting research, you will also need to allocate chunks of your time each week for other things and activities. Time will be needed for doing basic household management (think food prep and cleaning), engaging in exercise, being social, self-care activities and managing your finances.   


Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash
This post is dedicated to helping you get a handle on this last topic- personal finance.  If you do not handle your money well while enrolled in graduate school, the ramifications will increase your stress and potentially make it difficult for you to finish your degree and launch into the life you want after graduation.  I reached out to Dr. Angela Morgan from the Clemson Department of Finance to determine what the most salient pieces of financial wisdom for graduate students (and those applying to graduate school) would be. The following article is the outcome of those discussions.  Nothing in it is radical information, however it is important.  Small changes in your financial trajectory in your 20s can have radical impacts on your finances later in life. (Caveat emptor: This content is for informational purposes, and you should not construe this as financial advice for your specific situation.)


Contributors: Drs. Marian Kennedy and Angela Morgan, Chair and Associate Professor of the Clemson Department of Finance

Dec 2, 2022

Strategies for efficiently starting your literature research and reading journal articles

Overview: As you enter a research-based degree program, you will need to master the process of selecting, organizing, and effectively reading papers. It is a skill to thoughtfully engage with an article’s intentions, scope, assumptions, and analysis that unveils new knowledge for a community of practice.  We hope that the following post will help you as you either start exploring published literature or revisit your current practices to become more effective. 


Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Post Contributor(s): Marian Kennedy and Dr. Sapna Sarupria, Associate Professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry. Professor Sarupria studies materials using computational methods (molecular modeling, simulations, and statistical mechanics) and won one of the coveted NSF CAREER awards in 2017.  Her research involves developing sampling techniques in molecular simulations and applying them in understanding long-standing problems in condensed matter.


Nov 29, 2022

Journal Peer Review and Revision and Publication! Oh My!

Overview: For a scientific community to grow its knowledge, individual researchers need to enter a conversation with the rest of this scientific community about their newest research results, the validity of those results, and how those results fit into the existing knowledge. The peer review of manuscripts by journals, the publication of accepted articles, and then the discussions of the articles by others (citations in articles by other researchers) is one way such dialog occurs. 


Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash
We hope that the following post will help you understand the role of journals and the peer-review process in our scientific communities. As we have better understood how research studies are reviewed for publication, we have improved our own writing and internal evaluations before article submissions.  This has led to a decrease in our own frustration and quicker progress toward publication.


Post Contributor(s): Marian Kennedy and Dr. Sapna Sarupria, Associate Professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry. Professor Sarupria studies materials using computational methods (molecular modeling, simulations, and statistical mechanics) and won one of the coveted NSF CAREER awards in 2017. Her research involves developing sampling techniques in molecular simulations and applying them in understanding long-standing problems in condensed matter.


Nov 15, 2022

Advising and mentoring for those pursuing a MS or PhD degree

Overview:  Upon entering a research-based graduate program, many graduate students are asked to identify their own research advisor.  This faculty member will direct your thesis or dissertation work, help you select appropriate classes, and share their knowledge about your disciplinary field.  While it is important to select a person with the technical knowledge to guide you on a research program aligned with your research interests, there are other factors to consider.  A strong mentor-mentee relationship will provide you support beyond helping with the design and implementation of a thesis or dissertation project.  This support might include advocacy, sponsorship, and guidance on adapting to the social norms of your disciplinary community. Not having a person helping you to navigate the personal components of graduate school and to prepare for your first professional position constitutes a distinct disadvantage.   The earlier blog post related to setting expectations for advisor-advisee partnerships with Dr. Ulf Schiller was based on our lived experience as both faculty members and graduate students.  This post is based on research and it is cowritten with Dr. Aubrie Pfirman, whose doctoral dissertation focused on understanding the types of relationship formed. 
Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash     


Dr. Pfirman described what students are looking for in a mentor based on her interviews with doctoral students in chemistry thus:


Students are seeking a professional and friendly mentorship from their faculty advisors. They want to feel valued in their scientific ideas and exploration and have a balance of firm guidance and critique. They want to be trusted to do their research and fulfill their roles in the laboratory yet know they can depend on their advisor to work alongside them at the bench when the occasion arises.


Dr. Pfirman provided a typology of five relationships that can occur between a graduate student and advisor during graduate school:    

  • “Mentorship” Relationship-In this situation, the graduate student is able to discuss academic, professional, and personal topics with their faculty advisor. Interaction includes formal and recurring feedback. In addition, both people have a similar enthusiasm for research in their field, learning, teaching, collaborations, and the publication progress. 
  • “Mentorship + Advocacy” Relationship-This is very similar to the “Mentorship” relationship except that the faculty member takes on the additional role of being an advocate for the graduate student.  The Cambridge dictionary defines advocating as “public support for an idea, plan, or way of doing something.”
  • “All Business” Relationship- Interaction is limited only to research and the interaction resembles that of a “boss” with their employee.  The faculty member provides direction for research and the independence of the graduate student is scaffolded as they grow in skills and confidence.  In such cases, the advisor's presence in the lab is on more of an as-needed basis than with other relationship types.  These partners typically have a shared interest in research, teaching, and collaboration.
  • “Autocracy” Relationship-In this relationship, the graduate student is provided directives for task completion that will lead to the thesis or dissertation being completed. The advisor provides the student feedback, but there is not shared agency (feeling of control) or control over the scope of the research work.  Mentor and student do not discuss the profession or personal topics. While either party or both may be passionate about research, teaching, collaboration, etc., they do not share this passion with each other.
  • “Absentee” Relationship-This type of relationship lacks many aspects found in a “Mentorship” relationship. There is no formal and recurring feedback, no scaffolding of responsibilities, and the graduate student is not helped to grow in skills and confidence and mutual enthusiasm for learning, research, etc., in this type of relationship.  


These types resonated with my experiences and observations. While I was lucky as a graduate student to have two wonderful mentors, Dr. David Bahr and Dr. Neville Moody, I saw others who have experienced less productive relationships. When you interview potential advisors, you want to look for signs that you will be able to establish a mentorship or mentorship + advocacy relationship. I spoke with Dr. Pfirman about her findings in the interview below, which I believe offers significant insight into the mentor-mentee relationship. 


Post Contributor(s): Drs. Marian Kennedy and Aubrie L. Pfirman 


Oct 31, 2022

Professional networking while pursuing your undergraduate and graduate degrees (insights from an anti-social academic on socializing)

Photo by Fatih on Unsplash
Overview: Networking requires more than just attending a conference and collecting a pile of business cards. To network, you need to make meaningful connections with others in your professional community so that you can exchange ideas and information. This is something that students should be doing within their own departments, across their institutions, and at professional events like conferences. Dr. Delphine Dean has helped many students overcome that awkward feeling of approaching people they don’t know and forming robust networks that helped those students enter their dream fields and positions. While a single blog post could not capture all her suggestions, the following post highlights the critical concepts to get you started.

Post Contributor(s): Drs. Marian Kennedy and Delphine Dean.

Finding your research advisor and mentor(s) in graduate school

Overview: For a research-based MS or PhD program, you will need to identify a research advisor. This faculty member is responsible for collaborating with you on your research contained within your thesis or dissertation. You advisor will help you set your research hypothesis, scoping your experimental plans, dealing with technical questions, resolving any emergent ethical questions, etc. 

In some cases, your research advisor can also become a mentor. A mentor provides their mentees with motivation, emotional support, serves as a role model, and gives support in determining career path options. However, the assumption that all research advisors will be able to provide every one of their advisees with mentoring in every area should not be made. While some faculty are excellent research advisors, they may not have the skills (or passion) for helping students balance graduate school responsibilities while raising children, perspectives on negotiating job packages, networking, etc. Therefore, we encourage graduate students to find a research advisor who can guide them on a research project they are passionate about and then to also assemble their own team of formal and informal mentors for their professional and personal lives. This mentorship team will help guide each graduate student as they enter and then matriculate through graduate school.

Post Contributor(s): Drs. Marian Kennedy and Oliver Myers


Photo by Josep Martins on Unsplash

Applying to and completing a graduate degree program can be an exciting time in your life. It can also be the first time that you notice that your existing network of friends, parents, etc. does not have answers to your questions or guidance on the things you need to know. You might need advice about what graduate programs to apply to, guidance on how to undertake paper revisions, resolve personal conflicts with peers in your research group, manage your finances without the support of parents, etc. If that is the case, as it is for many, you should add at least one mentor your network. A mentor has more expertise and experience than you in some domains and their guidance can increase your academic and professional success (including numbers of research publications and citations, recognition in the field, and research self-efficacy). In addition, this person will provide support (and enthusiasm) for your ideas and efforts. A mentor can share their knowledge and personal experiences with you to address your issues. This is different from a role model, who demonstrates the professional attitudes or values that you would like to embody but do not necessarily interact with you.

The need for a mentor is not new or a symptom that young people today are particularly unsuited to independence. Indeed, mentor-advisee relationships go back to early civilization! The term “mentor” originated with a character named Mentor in Homer’s The Odyssey. For those of you who have never read it, you can find a quick summary here. Mentor was a friend and advisor to Odysseus to whom the latter entrusted the care of his son when he went to Troy to fight. While the term did not come into use until much later, Socrates mentored Plato in the fifth century BCE and the Bible tells of Paul’s mentorship to Timothy. Mentors act as coaches, confidantes, advocates, guides, etc.

Reflecting back on our careers, we have both sought out mentors in various phases. In graduate school, Dr. Myers sought mentors to help him persist through his graduate program, leading peers and identifying his first position outside of graduate school. These mentors supplemented the work of his research advisor who oversaw Dr. Myers’s dissertation work, and he credits them with his success in becoming a researcher.   

For both of us, most of our mentoring relationships have been informal. That is, we never specifically asked someone to be our mentor. Instead, we simply ask them for input on a specific concern or situation that could not be answered through a little bit of reading or Googling. A description for how to do this is outlined well in the “Are you my mentor?” chapter in Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandburg. In this chapter, she suggests that asking questions and gauging the response results in much more productive relationships between an advisee and mentor than a formal request. When identifying your mentor, geography is not vital. You can absolutely have a mentor who you talk to on a phone, Zoom with, or just email. What is important is that they can hold your questions in confidence, are willing to give you time in their busy lives and that you respect them enough to take their advice. In addition, you will need to identify a system that determines when and how many mentors you connect with each month.

There are some advantages to formally asking someone to be your mentor. This may make it easier to work together to identify the scope of the mentoring relationship—that is, how you will communicate, the outcomes you want from mentoring, etc. Both of us asked for formal mentoring during the tenure process. We wanted a formal relationship with another faculty member in your departments to discuss the unwritten rules for promotion, and by having a formal mentor we were able to get consistent feedback and guidance over the six-year tenure process. Without this, we might have been tempted to put off those vital, but sometimes uncomfortable, discussions.

The last path for mentoring that you can take is peer mentoring. During peer mentoring, you are part of a team who want to grow in a particular area. Dr. Myers entered a program like this as a student, as part of the University of Maryland Meyerhoff Scholars Program

As we conclude, we want to emphasize that it is rare to find a perfect mentor, that is, a person who can help you in all situations. Therefore, we would strongly suggest that you create a mentoring team for yourself as you apply and then matriculate through graduate school. These mentors might include: 

  • Graduate students who can provide you insight on how to navigate the application process for graduate school, choosing an advisor at your institution, etc.
  • Faculty members on your research committee who can help you think through your possible career paths after graduation.
  • Researchers publishing in your focus area can help you with methodology, theoretical frameworks, etc.
  • Researchers who may will give you perspective on the different benefits between collaborative efforts with large teams of researchers vs. those that will just include you and your research advisor.

Remember that mentoring is not a one-sided action. To get the most out of mentoring, you must be able to collaborate with your mentor. In addition, you need to be honest with them and be open to constructive criticism. Finally, as your experience changes, your relationships with existing mentors will change. That is, you will need to continuously evaluate your team of mentors and adjust by either changing the intervals in which you meet with them or add new mentors. Students who were previously in our research groups normally transition into valued colleagues at the end of our mentoring relationship. And when we realize that has occurred, it is always a great moment. 

About our guest contributor:  Oliver Myers is the Associate Dean of Inclusive Excellence for Undergraduate Studies in the Clemson College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Science/. He is also an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering where his research group focuses on the characterization of smart materials and structure mechanics.

Acknowledgements: This blog post was edited by Kate Epstein of EpsteinWords. She specializes in editing and coaching for academics, and she can be reached at kate at


Oct 24, 2022

Navigating the application process for the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship Program

Overview: Over the last 15 years, it has become harder to find funding for graduate school.  More departments are moving to a model in which internal funding (such as slots for teaching or grading assistantships) are used only for students pursuing PhDs.  In addition, many grants that faculty are awarded to conduct research are awarded for a period of three years, which is less than the typical length of a PhD student program. 


A solution for students (and their research advisors) may be to apply for awards from “scholarship for service” programs.  These awards require the recipient to work for a designated employer for a period of time after their graduation.  For students in engineering and science, one of the largest of these programs is the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship Program, which is funded by the US Department of Defense.


This post provides an overview of the program and then provides insight on tips for a successful submission from a recent recipient in the midst of their PhD program (Camden Brady) and a recipient who is now working for the Department of Defense (Dr. Hunter Rogers).  If you are a US citizen looking for funding support to complete a STEM degree, you might be interested in a scholarship-for-service program offered by the US Department of Defense. This program can support undergraduate or graduate students supports students through the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program. This program is open to undergraduates and graduate students who are pursing either a master’s, or Ph.D. in select science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Applications this year are due on Dec 1st, 2022. This program is unlike the NSF GFRP in two main ways. The first is that students are supported in areas that are of interest to the US Department of Defense. The second is that recipients are obligated to obtain civilian employment with the Department of Defense upon their degree compl’tion.




Post Contributor(s): Dr. Marian Kennedy, Camden Brady (a PhD student at Clemson University within the Department of Industrial Engineering), and Dr. Hunter Rogers (Research General Engineer at the 711th Human Performance Wing of the Air Force Research Laboratory). 



Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash
The Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship program offers graduate students support in exchange for committing to work for the Department of Defense (DoD) for a period of time after earning their degree.  Support includes full tuition, an annual stipend (of varying amount) and opportunities for internships during the graduate school years. For those supplies for support for graduate school, students need to apply in the year before they begin graduate school or early in their graduate school programs. 


The website for this program is masterfully designed compared to many of its programmatic peers, allowing for easy navigation and offering helpful tips and data!  The award statistics for each cohort on the site include these statistics for the 2022 cohort (who applied in 2021):    

  • 482 awards
    • This is smaller than the number of awards granted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellows Program (GRFP).
  • 19% success rate
    • This is a higher success rate than that published by the NSF for the GRFP.
  • 3.75/4.00 average cumulative GPA
  • Distribution by degree program:  BS 46.89%, BS/MS 12.66%, MS 13.90% and PhD 26.56%. 

This shows that half of the awards are granted for graduate students with approximately 25% of funds going to MS students and 26% towards PhD students.  The website also indicates the percentage of applicants and recipients from each discipline. Of course, I checked my own: 2.3% of the recipients and 2.7% of the applicants were from materials science and engineering, respectively. 


Basic Outline of Application Process

The administrators also deserve applause for their library of videos that will guide you through the steps in the application process. Most the application process is much like that for any scholarship you might apply for, including submission of transcripts, letters, etc. The main component of the application that might be challenging is the personal statement. In it, undergraduate applicants are asked to address all the following prompts (all of these are on the program’s website linked above):

  • “Your educational and professional goals”
  • “The factors and experience that led you to choose your field of study”
  • “How working as part of the DoD civilian workforce will further you technical and professional goals”
  • “How your experience, interests, and goals will further the DoD mission”

Graduate students must answer all of those as well, and also answer an additional prompt:

“Elaborate on the kinds of research you have engaged in or would like to engage in during your studies as well as during your expected tenure with the DoD. Please discuss these research interests in sufficient detail for an expert who is technically competent in your field to judge your understanding of the questions to be addressed, relevant hypotheses and approaches one might take to answering the questions, and other research principles required to investigate in the research area you identify.”

As a student, I did not investigate this program.  Scouring forums, I found that students have mixed perceptions of the required job after graduation.  Some seemed to appreciate job security (a plus during a market downturn), while others were concerned that if they participated in the SMART program they would be too limited.


Tips for getting started from two recent recipients

Since I have not had experience either mentoring or receiving this award, I reached out to Camden Brady, a PhD candidate in Industrial Engineering at Clemson University.  Camden was awarded a SMART Scholarship in April 2022 to study how humans and artificial intelligence can form more effective teams.  This work is overseen by his faculty mentor, Dr. Kapil Chalil Madathil.  Dr. Hunter Rogers, who was also in the SMART Scholarship program under Dr. Kapil’s supervision, weighed in on her experience as well. You can learn more about Dr. Hunter’s research on Google Scholar.


Q:  How did you first learn about the SMART Scholarship program? 

Camden Brady:   My mom informed me about the SMART scholarship once I graduated high school and began my college career.  I pushed the scholarship to the side during my undergraduate career because I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do yet and I didn’t think I would be qualified for it. 


Dr. Hunter Rogers: My advisor informed me about the scholarship program after I had completed a submission for the NSF GRFP. My parents both worked in civil service for the DoD and the program seemed like a natural fit for me, especially once I learned about the variety of research programs I could be a part of within the DoD.


Q:  What made you decide to apply?

Camden Brady:   I was worried about funding for grad school, so I talked to my advisor, Dr. Kapil, and he highlighted this opportunity.  He really encouraged me to apply.  I still didn’t feel like I had what it took, but I devoted a lot of time to making the application the best I could.


Dr. Hunter Rogers: Much the same as Camden, I saw that this scholarship program had the potential to remove the weight of funding off my back. After realizing I was familiar with the areas of DoD service and scouring the supporting facilities research, I decided to reformat my GRFP application and apply.


Q:  What were the critical steps in your application process?

Camden Brady:   I had to write a personal statement which highlighted myself and why I believed I deserve the scholarship.  This was followed by a research statement (a component that is only required for those using the scholarship to fund graduate school).  Based on this, you may receive an interview from one of the sponsoring facilities you selected if they are interested in learning more about you. Finally, if the sponsoring facility selects you, then you receive the scholarship.


Dr. Hunter Rogers: A big step for me was the personal statement. I was not very experienced at writing about myself.  Working with my advisor who was more experienced with proposal writing really helped me craft a strong personal statement. After submission, I was left waiting to see what interviews I would receive, if any.  I spent time thinking about how I would convey my experience and how my research was crucial to the DoD.


The scholarship program offered me funding if I would commit to working with the Air Force Headquarters group A9, which is a Mathematical Modeling/Operations Research group operating out of the Pentagon.  It was a very technical assignment and didn’t have any connection to my focus area (Human Factors research) that I had spent time on during my Ph.D. program. This unit selected me from the pool of candidates because they appreciated how I thought through technical problems, and they wanted a person who could bring a new perspective to their projects.


At that point, I had to decide if I wanted to accept the funding (and branching out into a new area right after I would graduate) or decline this funding opportunity.   I chose to accept the scholarship and it worked out better than I imagined, as I was ultimately able to return to Human Factors research in my current PhD position.


Q: What’s one piece of advice you have for students completing fellowship/scholarship applications?

Camden Brady:   My process to apply for a SMART scholarship was rushed because I started preparing my application late.


While it worked out, I would suggest reaching out for help/advice as early as possible from your advisor. 


During the start of my application preparation process, I sat down with my advisor and Dr. Rogers to discuss the SMART scholarship application process.  I also had my application statements revised about 4 times in 2 weeks.  This process helped increase the professional tone of my statements and eliminated grammar error.  I also spent a significant amount of time in the application process speaking with my lab members about their projects.  Since I was new to the research scene, this helped me gauge what research areas I was interested in.


Dr. Hunter Rogers: I am going to tell you what I told Camden in our meeting.   Applicants should consider their fit for DoD work and culture.  A good description of this can be found on the application portal.  The SMART program is looking to find academically talented individuals to support the military through their technical skills. The DoD is putting a significant amount of resources into the development of scholars and their careers, so you need to assure them during the application process that you will be a good fit for the DoD and have the potential to build your career in your sponsor facility. They go through some trouble to find the best candidates, and to make sure that those scholars will love their jobs, because that’s what creates a sustainable workforce.



Q: Some students say that completing scholarship/fellowships helps them learn about themselves.  Did you have that experience and if so, what did you learn?

Camden Brady:   I did learn more about myself during the application process.   I learned about potential research areas, identified projects that interested me and solidified what I wanted to do after completing my graduate program.  It also forced me to think about my experiences thus far and how they have impacted my educational and career goals.  For example, I had two previous internships before completing the SMART application and while I was filling in the application, I realized how my internships changed my career aspiration from a role in manufacturing to a researcher studying human factors.


Dr. Hunter Rogers: I learned a lot about my ability to adapt during my internship with A9 and I was really able to hone in on what research directions excited me.


Q:  Did you apply for multiple graduate fellowships or scholarship opportunities in parallel?

Camden Brady:   No.


Dr. Hunter Rogers: I had applied for the NSF GRFP and started one with the Department of Energy as well.



Q:  How and when did you first make the connection to your Department of Defense Partner?

Camden Brady:   I partnered with the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic in Charleston.   My advisor recommended that facility to me because of connections he had.  I was excited because I also love Charleston.  In my application, I applied for a range of sponsoring facilities.  When they contacted me for an interview, I was thrilled.  During the interview, we started discussing the DOD project I am currently helping with.


Dr. Hunter Rogers: My story is a bit more complex because I ended up transferring my commitment to a different sponsoring facility.


My original sponsor facility, Air Force A9- a mathematical modeling group, initiated my SMART scholarship interview. After getting accepted as a scholar, I was very motivated to make sure that my dissertation work would be of importance to the DoD since they were funding my training.  Therefore, I made an effort to reach out to researchers from the Air Force contributing to human factors studies.  I was able to connect with a group located at the Air Force Research Laboratory.  I appreciated the correspondence and their support as they made an effort to read my publications over the next two years. I was surprised, that this group decided to offer me a position after graduation and I worked with both A9 and 711th to find an equitable solution.  At the end, I transfered my commitment from to the 711th Human performance wing of Air Force Research Laboratory with the support of A9.   


Q: I get this question all the time, so I thought I would ask you both.  What made you decide to stay at the same institution for both your undergraduate and graduate work? 


Camden Brady:   I will answer this with a list.  The first two bullet points were heavily weighted than those following.  However, I wanted to explicitly mention the more personal factors. 

· I had established connections with peers, research lab, and my research advisor at Clemson University.
·  I was already attending an institution with a well-known program for research of human factors and that was the area I was interested in pursuing.  
·  Clemson is also close to my home, which I appreciated during my undergraduate career.  It was nice to return home for a home cooked meal every once in a while, and to visit my girlfriend.
·  I appreciated that I was already familiar with the area.  Starting graduate school can be tough because expectations are drastically different and going somewhere new, where you would need to navigate an unknown area, could add to my stress levels.
·   I considered Clemson a great school during my undergraduate years and now into graduate school.  I love everything about it including our sports teams. 



Dr. Hunter Rogers: Clemson had been my home for four years during my undergraduate program.  As I was graduating with my undergraduate degree, I still felt like I wanted to spend more time at Clemson.  Additionally, the institution achieved an R1 designation at the end of my undergraduate program.  This meant that I would be getting my doctorate from an institution with an exceptional level of research.  (More information on the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education® can be found here.) Finally, I knew most of the Human Factors faculty and knew I had some great minds around me to guide my research.


Q: In addition to funding, what has been the largest benefit to participating in the SMART Scholarship program?



Dr. Hunter Rogers: Job security made a huge difference to my graduate experience. After the initial interview with A9, I had an internship lined up every summer that would help me gain experience and would end up with a job that I was prepared for as I already learned the culture of the institution.  I would already have experience of the team, culture, type of work, and how to navigate the institution, which would improve my transition to full time work. Additionally, I wouldn’t need to constantly apply and interview for jobs throughout my graduate school years. Just before defending your dissertation is the most stressful point, and having to worry about a job then would have been hard.


Q: Any advice for graduate students transitioning from their degree program to their first position after a SMART scholarship?



Dr. Hunter Rogers: Take advantage of asking questions and making connections with people in your internships facilitated by the SMART program during your graduate program. This will help socialize you as an employee and help others match you to the right projects.   Also, work with those contacts to find areas to live, social areas etc. to help make the full life transition.


Q: What was the most enjoyable part of the research process for you and the least enjoyable part of the process as you completed your dissertation? 



Dr. Hunter Rogers: The most enjoyable part for me was getting to see other people excited about my research and the designs I was able to complete. Least enjoyable was the qualifier and comprehensive exams that are required within some Ph.D. programs at Clemson.  The first exam (qualifying exam) is there to determine how much of the core materials you have mastered within the first year of your Ph.D.  The second exam (comprehensive exam) helps faculty determine if the research you proposed for your dissertation is sufficient for a Ph.D. and if you have the knowledge needed to complete the research proposed, respectively.


(Note from Dr. Kennedy:  Most PhD exams have similar types of steps or exams, but the specific scope of those steps is determined by each program and not the university). 




Q: There are many productivity programs and software out there.  Are there any tools you would suggest for graduate students?  More specifically, were there any tools that were especially helpful as you finished your dissertation and transitioned into your first post-doctoral position?



Dr. Hunter Rogers: I am a huge fan of Microsoft Excel! I made sheets to track my personal spending as I tried to move to Washington DC for my placement (which ended up not happening, which made things slightly easier).  I also had a checklist and timeline in Microsoft Excel for all the things I needed to wrap up with writing and forms/steps needed for moving into the new job.   As a graduate student, I also made use of the counseling and psychological services on my campus to help work through the stress and anxiety I was dealing with.



Acknowledgements: This blog post was edited by Kate Epstein of EpsteinWords. She specializes in editing and coaching for academics, and she can be reached at kate at