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A behind the scenes look at the graduate experience at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
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  • Meet the 2017-2018 SAGE Board Members

    Students Advising on Graduate Education (SAGE) is a student advisory board and leadership opportunity for graduate students at Illinois that fosters active engagement with Graduate College programs and initiatives. SAGE board members enrich graduate student community, build leadership and administrative skills, and strengthen Graduate College services and programs.

    This board contributes to the graduate student community at Illinois by providing varied perspectives that enhance the academic, professional, and social experience of graduate students at the university and collaborating with Graduate College staff on a project related to a program, initiative, or the broader goals of the college.

    As we embark on a new academic year, we are excited to introduce our 2017 – 2018 SAGE board!

  • Postcards from the Field: Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security

    In June, I had the distinct privilege of representing the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) at the 2017 U.S. Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security. Led by Purdue University’s Center for Global Food Security, the 2017 Summer Institute provided 40 of the top graduate students from across the nation with an intensive introduction to global food security, with special emphasis on the utility of multidisciplinary teams and complex problem solving of real-world challenges. 

  • Sloan UCEM at Illinois Helps Underrepresented Students Pursue Advanced Degrees and Career Paths

    “Illinois is committed to the goal of achieving diversity and excellence,” says Dr. Ellen Wang Althaus, director of Sloan University Center of Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM). 

    The Sloan UCEM at Illinois is one of the eight centers in the country funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. With a one-million-dollar, three-year grant, the Illinois UCEM was created to broaden participation and provide support for underrepresented minority graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. It  provides activities designed to support students toward doctorate completion, such as professional development opportunities, mentoring, research opportunities, workshops, and seminars. 

  • Giving Names to the Dead: Building the Philippines' First Skeletal Reference Collection

    Matthew Go, PhD student in Anthropology, spots it tucked into the foundation of a building on the grounds of a cemetery in Manila. An old rice sack, bulging in place and covered in dirt and grime, partially decomposing. Inside, a jumbled collection of bones showing their age and exposure to the elements.

    Matt and fellow Illinois Anthropology PhD student, Amanda Lee, spent last summer in Manila creating the world’s first reference collection comprised exclusively of contemporary Filipino skeletons. Their salvage archaeology work and the new collection, housed at the University of the Philippines Diliman, may potentially help identify victims of criminal cases, mass disasters, mass fatality events, and mass graves throughout Southeast Asia.

  • Postcards from the Field: Interviewing in Rural Tanzania

    You never know what you will find when you sit down to interview someone. Where have they lived? Who have they worked for? What challenges have they overcome? Who have they lost? After explaining that I am a history graduate student conducting research about gender change and the role of the church in Tanzanian society, I usual start by asking the most basic question. What is your name? It turns out that the answer isn’t always simple.

  • Day in the Life: Monica Chinea Diliz

    Hi, my name is Monica and I am a third year PhD student in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology. My research focus is molecular neuroscience and in particular my lab studies the RNA binding proteins involved in Fragile X Syndrome, the leading cause of inherited cognitive impairment.

    As a graduate student doing research in a laboratory, most days there is an ebb and flow that is primarily dictated by the experiments that are taking place. The stereotype of a scientist hunched over test tubes 24 hours a day does not represent the many ways that science actually unfolds. One of the most valuable things that I have learned thus far in my graduate career is that the time I spend thinking about science is nearly as critical as how much time I am putting in at the bench. It is also very important to cultivate habits that contribute to overall wellbeing outside of the lab.

    This is my first semester without taking any classes, which has freed up more time to focus on my research. Here is what a recent Monday looked like.

  • Postcards from the Field: Global Young Scientists Summit in Singapore

    Excite, engage, enable. These three words are the driving mission behind the gathering of over 250 PhD and postdoctoral fellows at the Global Young Scientists Summit of 2017 in Singapore. Eric Epstein, Shama Barna, Gregory Hart and I had the distinct pleasure of representing the University of Illinois at this year’s summit.

  • Robin Holland: On Taking Chances

    Robin Holland, dual degree candidate in Pathobiology and Veterinary Medicine, doesn’t hesitate to throw her hat in the ring when contests and opportunities present themselves. Robin was awarded People’s Choice at the inaugural Research Live! competition last fall and took home first place in Image of Research the preceding spring.

    As if that weren’t impressive enough, Robin was awarded a prestigious NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) for individuals pursuing dual-doctoral degrees, both a PhD and an MD, DVM, or other medical doctoral degree. This award was created to increase the pool of highly trained clinician-scientists in the biomedical research workforce.

    We sat down with Robin to pick her brain about her career, academic contests, and getting involved. Read on for the interview.

  • More Than Just Buzzwords: Social Media as a Tool for Personal Branding in STEM

    nspired by nothing more than a joking remark from a colleague on the importance of securing a unique domain name before someone “stole it,” I made my personal website, RituRaman.com, in my second year of graduate school. Luckily for me, launching this website was the first step in an ongoing attempt to develop a coherent web presence and recognizable personal brand.

    Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge that terms like “personal brand” can often come across as meaningless buzzwords used by millennials to justify a relatively self-centered use of social media. When used without context, they make me cringe and feel pretentious – and I understand if they make you do the same – but this blog post isn’t about the philosophical clash between personal modesty and taking selfies. Rather, this post is about crafting your online presence in a way that best represents your personal history, your interests, and your future goals.

    Now that we’ve moved past the obligatory disclaimers, I will attempt to distill the social media lessons I’ve learned over the past few years into a few pithy steps.

  • Meet the 2016-2017 SAGE Members

    SAGE is a student advisory board and leadership opportunity for graduate students at Illinois that fosters active engagement with Graduate College programs and initiatives. SAGE board members enrich graduate student community, build leadership and administrative skills, and strengthen Graduate College services and programs.

    This board contributes to the graduate student community at Illinois by providing varied perspectives that enhance the academic, professional, and social experience of graduate students at the university and collaborating with Graduate College staff on a project related to a program, initiative, or the broader goals of the college.

    As we embark on a new academic year, we are excited to introduce our 2016 – 2017 SAGE board...

  • Stuck in a Rut: Exploring an Outside Interest Can Shape your Grad School Experience

    “I think a common experience for grad students, particularly at major research institutions, is the single-minded focus on producing excellent research. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision and lose track of what you are excited or passionate about. And, it’s easy to get caught up in a pattern of obsessing about whether you’re smart enough or ‘good’ enough.” Kaye Usry, PhD candidate in Political Science, said. “I was feeling a lot of pressure to meet these expectations that, when it came down to it, I was really setting for myself. It wasn't healthy or good for me.” It was at that point that Kaye started exploring ways to engage with the community and issues that were important to her, outside of her research.

  • Postcards from the Field: Inheriting the City Conference in Taipei

    Last month, I traveled to Taipei with my fellow PhD candidate in Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Lassamon Maitreemit, and our dissertation adviser, Lynne Dearborn. Lassmon and I presented our dissertation projects to international cultural heritage academics and experts at the “Inheriting the City: Advancing Understanding of Urban Heritage” meeting. “Inheriting the City” afforded me the opportunity to share my work with some of the best minds in heritage preservation and now my name and ideas are out in community. I got great feedback on my project and have motivation to move forward with my work on a larger scale. Both during sessions and in our free time, Taipei offered great hospitality, so much to see and do, and warm weather!

  • Marrying Math and Art through Outreach

    When Michelle Delcourt was presented with the choice between math or art summer programs in high school, she knew that by choosing mathematics, she’d never leave art far behind. “For me, math is a very creative process,” she said. “Math and art are very similar, the process of doing research in doing mathematics is similar to the way that I approach making a painting or seeing a piece of artwork.”

    Now, the 5th year PhD candidate and winner of this year’s Graduate Student Leadership Award uses her love of math and art to engage young girls and underrepresented minority students in math through community outreach programs. She hopes that her approach could help attract students who might not otherwise choose mathematics.

  • Meet Our Fellows: Lauren Hagler, Illinois Sloan Scholar

    Lauren Hagler fell in love with Chemistry during her first general chemistry class at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. The lab, which was set up like a fictional crime scene, was designed to provide hands-on opportunities to learn different lab techniques, the results of which lead students to a fictional suspect. Hagler loved the science, but not the crime – during her undergraduate career she quickly decided she’d rather solve medical queries than criminal ones.

    Fast-forward to the summer of 2015 and she officially embarked on her journey to do just that as a first year PhD candidate in chemistry and one of six Sloan Scholars at the University of Illinois.

    The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of three institutions awarded a grant by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's expanded Minority Ph.D. Program to support underrepresented minority doctoral students in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

  • Day in the Life: Donzell Lampkins

    In this new series, Illinois graduate students share a look at a more-or-less typical day in their lives in their own words. Our first "Day in the Life" author is Donzell Lampkins, a 1st year graduate student pursuing a Master of Social Work with a concentration in Healthcare. In addition to his coursework, Donzell works as a graduate assistant for the school of social work and as a graduate mentor for the College of ACES. He also works as a research Assistant for Dr. Venera Bekteshi (Assitant Professor, School of Social Work) whose research investigates Breast-cancer related health (cancer) disparities and immigrant populations, integration challenges, and immigrant women.

  • Meet Ana Martin: Fulbright Research Fellow in Barcelona, Spain

    Hola! My name is Ana Martin, I am a 6th year PhD student in Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Illinois. This month has been pretty exciting for me as it marks the beginning of my Fulbright Research Fellowship in Spain. Although it was a long process getting here, I’m excited to embark on the adventure of living abroad while I complete my PhD research at the University of Barcelona. For anyone interested in teaching English or conducting research abroad, I highly recommend applying for a Fulbright Fellowship. Hopefully through this post you will gain some insight into the application process and some aspects of moving abroad.

  • SAGE Advice for My Past Self

    We caught up with some of the members of this year’s SAGE (Students Advising on Graduate Education) board to ask them just one question: If you could give your first-year-grad student self one piece of advice, what would it be?

    Their responses were funny, honest, and totally on point.