|Actually, I had three summer internships at
Lawrence Livermore and
Los Alamos National Laboratories. I was surprised to see how undaunting
science can be. I was conducting real research alongside professional
who were publishing in reputable journals, and I was just a sophomore
engineering. The work that I did each summer contributed to a published
paper. When I went back to A&T after that first summer, I changed
major to physics. Of course, as I considered changing my major, I had
count the cost of time, because all of the scientists I met had
I applied to six graduate schools and for seven
fellowships. I was accepted
to five graduate schools, but the one I wanted to attend, the Georgia
Institute of Technology, would not accept me unless I was able to
my own way. Of the seven fellowships, I received one: the David and
Packard Foundation fellowship, which would amount to as much as
over 5 years. I believe I still had the letter from the Packard
in my hand when I called Georgia Tech to tell them that I was on my way
There were several simple reasons why I selected
Georgia Tech for my
graduate studies. First, many students from A&T went there for
school, so I had a lot of confidence that I would be successful.
during my initial visit to the school of physics, I found a professor
whom I wanted to work. Finally, I considered the environment in which I
would spend the next 5 or 6 years. A warm climate and the culture of
made up the perfect combination for pursuing my studies!
In preparing my statement of purpose for graduate
school and fellowship
applications, I knew I needed to focus on various strengths from my
and experiences that would make me stand out. Because I did not perform
well on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), I relied heavily on my
at the national laboratories. In my personal statement, I presented an
overview of my research accomplishments, and I gave the three journal
of the articles on which I am a co-author. Obtaining research and
experiences as an undergraduate can be extremely valuable, particularly
if you want to earn a graduate degree in science.
Currently, I am in my sixth year of graduate
school. I can sum up my
experience at Georgia Tech as being in a tough but fair environment.
are difficult and students are very motivated, so I couldn't depend on
"the curve." Students in my first-year class stuck together, and ethnic
background did not matter. However, when it came to the dreaded
exam, I found that I had to study alone.
After successfully passing the exam and thus being
admitted to Ph.D.
candidacy, the next step was to conduct my own research project.
I had some bad luck. I started on a promising research topic that,
1 year, ended up going nowhere. However, learning from my past
I proceeded to pursue a different research topic, which--again after 1
year--had to be scrapped! This was very disappointing, and I was quite
frustrated. But I soon realized that I only had two options: I could
or I could try again. I am presently at the 1-year mark of my third
project, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! Conducting
research can be a very frustrating experience, but it also can be very
rewarding. I enjoy my current work immensely and should finish my Ph.D.
in less than a year.
There are many different things I would like to
accomplish after I graduate.
I am very interested in continuing my current work on fuel-cell
vehicles in the automotive industry. And I am also interested in
high school physics. Teaching will allow me to serve as a role model
mentor for other minority students. I am looking forward to giving back
and motivating others to accomplish their goals.
C. Marcelle Buford is a
native of Detroit,
Michigan, and is completing his doctoral degree in physics at Georgia
For more information, please
e-mail Marcelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.