by Rachael Kroot
Published April 2, 2013
As graduate students, our goal is not just to get good grades in the classroom. Sure, our studies are very important… but on a grander scale, we are also expected to get involved with the research community.
This does not mean we need to make any breaking discoveries or change the world. We can leave that to the professors and PhD students. What we are expected to do is demonstrate that we understand the research process - and that we are able to effectively communicate our research to others.
For many graduate students, a thesis is a great way to accomplish this goal. If you want to take full advantage of the graduate school experience, however, you can look for additional opportunities within your department or school. For instance, some of my friends here at MSU have gotten involved with a program in which they spend 10-20 hours per week in the science classroom of a local public school. They create a lesson plan each week to tie their thesis into whatever topic the students are learning. This program is a great addition to their resume, but it is also a great way for them to practice explaining their research to non-experts.
Personally, I am on a non-thesis track. So what opportunities does that leave me with? Last semester I took a class called Research Methods. As a class, we did a group research project/paper on color usage in weather maps. This semester, we have taken the initiative to present our findings at MSU's Severe Storm Symposium. About a week from today, two of us are going to get up in front of an audience of 100 people and talk about our research. Public speaking is good practice for just about anyone… but by doing this, we are also beginning to make our names known in the field.
Once the presentation is over, we are also going to rework the paper and submit it to a journal for publication. Publishing is a long process. You can only submit to one journal at a time, so you must be sure to meet all of their qualifications. If you don't use the right reference formatting, they might not even consider you!
If you do submit something worth considering, the journal editor will send your article to peer reviewers who can accept or reject the work. Most often, they accept with modifications. The back and forth can take quite a while. For our Research Methods group project, we decided to get the professor involved as an author as well. She is already very knowledgeable about the topic, so she is going to help add to the review of literature for publication. She will also be listed as the corresponding author, which means she will be in touch with the journal/editor and answer any questions readers have in the future.
This semester I am involved in another research class led by Dr. B. The goal of this class is publication as well. I am excited to have my name associated with so many projects. Hopefully next year will bring more opportunities as well.
If you are a graduate student who has not yet done research with a professor, ask around your department and see if there is anything you can do!
Rachael has a B.S. in Geography from the University of Maryland and is currently attending graduate school for broadcast meteorology.