Thursday, May 22, 2014

My Ph.D. Career as an International Student in the U.S.



I chose to start my Ph.D. career in the U.S. because it offers the best graduate programs with its abundant resources and talented mentors/peers that make doing research less difficult and more enjoyable. No matter what interesting ideas you might have, you will find someone that shares the same interest and you can find the resources as well as funding to support you to pursue your dream.

Working in a lab at an Ivy League school has allowed me access to cutting-edge research and state of the art developments on current technology. Under the mentorship of my advisor, I have been leading research on multi-millions dollar grants to improve humanity. This is a unique and exciting training process.
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As a Ph.D. student and research assistant (RA) in biomedical engineering, I have always been passionate in doing research. Truthfully, research is hard. One has to be curious and fascinated by the work and constantly devote all their energy to it. However, the unspeakable thrill and ecstasy comes along when a researcher tastes the moment of solving a long haunting and lingering problem. Going through such a process instills growth and maturity. 

Every day I face many challenging problems and am pushed to rapidly learn and adapt to a new field, brainstorm and discuss with talented engineers and scientists, and conduct experiments that no one in the world has ever done. I also have had the opportunity to attend some of the most prestigious conferences to witness the frontier of current scientific discoveries while also presenting my own discoveries to the world. I am learning valuable skills, including trouble-shooting and critical thinking, which will benefit me in my future career.

Another advantage of studying in the U.S. is the funding that is provided to research assistants. In most research universities, getting an assistantship in a lab means two things: 1) You are admitted by the graduate program (M.S. or Ph.D.); 2) You are given full-tuition with a monthly stipend. The stipend is usually enough to cover most living expenses, including rent and food. If you are good at managing money, it is even possible to save some money. Additionally, it is not hard to get an assistantship position in a lab. Even though many of my peers didn’t get offered a research position during admission, they took courses, made a good impression in the class, and got hired as either a research or teaching assistant afterwards by the professor.

The curriculum of a Ph.D. program is more than exciting. Different from China, the courses here emphasize more on the application and real industry. There are many hands-on projects and each department provides a wide range of curriculum. Therefore, Ph.D. students have the best opportunities to select the courses according to their research needs, personal interests, and/or career developments. A good Ph.D. or master’s student can decompose their dissertations into parts and find the corresponding courses to learn and finish each part in class, which is particularly efficient. Some of my peers also take business and management related courses and work in consulting companies afterwards. 

After this summer, I will enter my fourth Ph.D. year. As I get closer to the end of my Ph.D. career, I realized that I have grown and matured tremendously. I was given the opportunity to fulfill my past curiosity as well as discover my future interests. As Gandhi once said “Be the change you want to see in the world”, I believe a Ph.D. career in the states would truly make a difference.


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Yue, Eric, Yu is currently a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University in New York. His research mainly focuses on the tissue mechanical properties of spongy bone and how they influence the whole bone strength. He was born in the city of Harbin, China. He received a B.S in Microelectronics with a minor in Finance at Xian Jiao Tong University and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering at University of Houston.

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