Dean to New Grad Students: Work Hard, Talk to Poets, and Other Advice

It’s a new school year, which means a new batch of graduate students has joined the ranks of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. SEAS Dean T. Kyle Vanderlick took the time this week to welcome the group and offer some advice for their next few years here at Yale.

“Some parts are going to be hard, and some parts are going to be wonderful, but it’s going to be a fantastic journey,” Vanderlick said. “And we are delighted that you’re going to do that right here with us.”

Get Ready to Work

That means going into the lab on a Friday to do the same experiment over and over – work that will often spill over into the weekend.

“It’s going to take an enormous amount of personal character-building to stay on track, and to bang your head against the wall a tenth time, because that’s what research is all about,” she said. “It’s not going to work the first time, I assure you – it’s probably not going to work the second or the third time.” 

And then you go in the next day and do it again. Not easy, certainly, but well worth the effort.

“When you come out the other side, you will not only undergo this unbelievable intellectual growth experience and have contributed to the role of scholarship and to world-class research, but you will also have experienced  enormous personal growth."

No Longer “Students”

Although they’re formally known as graduate students, Vanderlick advised them to start thinking of themselves more as colleagues of the SEAS faculty. 

“It’s a psychological transition you have to make, and today is the day you make it,” she said. “You’re no longer a student in the back of a classroom reading a newspaper or working on your iPhone. We’re colleagues.” 

Also, Vanderlick said, enjoy Yale and take advantage of the "overwhelming breadth of activity going on" at any given time on campus. 

“When you do need a break from your research or coursework, go out and hear a talk by a Supreme Court justice," she said. "Go and have coffee with some poets. Go to another talk by Nobel Prize-winning scientist who may be speaking on campus.

“Take the time to really get to know this place and become part of Yale, not only through what you do in the lab, but through your interactions outside the lab.”