Graduate school was always something I considered but was not sure about. I graduated with a biotech engineering degree from Tec de Monterrey in Chihuahua, Mexico and immediately started working at a local company, where I learned a lot. But after three years, I realized that I needed a change. Then, an opportunity opened up with a series of positions available at Purdue as a partnership with the Mexican scholarship program CONACYT and my alma mater, so I jumped right in.
To begin the graduate school process, I reviewed the open positions for potential fits for my interests. I did additional research on the labs and professors. After that, I learned that it is important to schedule the professor interviews to discuss the project and talk about your goals. After 3 years in grad school, I can safely say that this is the most essential step in choosing the best fit for grad school.
It is vital that you feel “connected” to the research or the lab, or even the professor’s research. I was lucky enough to find an excellent fit for me in the laboratory of renewable resources in the Department of Agricultural Biological Engineering at Purdue. As an international candidate to grad school, there is an additional layer of requirements. Whatever your options are, always remember to follow both the school and the country guidelines. Every department has specifics to their process, but everyone is happy to help when you ask kindly.
If I were to start grad school again, I would consider 3 essential things in my checklist. First, the laboratory or professor’s presence in the research topic areas is easy to see from publications and citations and potential job or academic opportunities. Second: the current state of the project finances; some projects might be eligible for you to look for funding opportunities or be already funded for your degree. Third, the cost of living and pay for your research work and how this payment will cover your expenses because you are expected to commit to this research for 2 to 5 years. This will not guarantee your success, but it certainly allows peace of mind for you to carry your research successfully.