Current College of Engineering graduate students provided
the following tips to aid incoming students:
What is the best way to find out about resources on and off
How do I learn about classes?
time should I spend on research in my first year?
- This will depend a lot on your program requirements and your
advisor's priorities. It is hard to make
much progress on your research when you are swamped with classes, but your
first year can also be a great opportunity to get up-to-speed on what your
research questions could be. Try to
dedicate some time each week to learning about your research area. If you have a well-defined research problem,
try to figure out one (small) piece every week.
And remember, figuring out that something doesn't work counts as
I be good at research?
- See "The importance of stupidity in scientific
research" by Martin A. Schwarz for a good starting point.
possible to be a graduate student with a family?
I would like to get involved on campus, but I
don't know what options are available to me. How should I go about finding things
there isn't a single resource that gives you everything you need. A full listing of all of the organizations on
campus can be found at maizepages.umich.edu. However, there are
thousands of organizations on this website. Here are a few suggestions to narrow it down. Each department in the College is very
autonomous so, if you want to get involved in department events, talk to a more
senior graduate student about organizations in your department. Some organizations that you may have been
involved with in undergrad also have grad chapters, such as Grad-SWE. You may want to focus on grad organizations
if you would like to be with your peers, but organizations with a focus on
undergraduates would still be happy to have you. Read your emails closely for new opportunities.
During your first year, make a note of organizations or groups that you're
interested in joining. Some
opportunities may only occur on an annual basis so, if you're too busy your
first year, look into it in another year.
resources can be found here (http://studentlife.umich.edu/getinvolved).
- The CoE
Office of Graduate Education seeks volunteers regularly for advisory boards,
planning committees, event helpers, mentoring programs, recruiting trips, etc. Contact email@example.com for more information.
I get my first paycheck?
- It depends on your appointment. Feel free to ask the same person
that sent you your offer letter.
- Typically the administrative
in-charge of the department that hired you would be able to answer this
question. There is an option in
Wolverine Access to directly have the payment made to your bank account,
otherwise you need to get the check from the Wolverine Payroll office.
I have been awarded a fellowship. When and how do I receive the funds?
- It depends on the specific terms of your
fellowship. Some fellowships may be paid
to you through the university, while others may work directly with you. Feel free to ask the fellowship provider for
the terms of your award.
can I find the tax rules that apply to MY situation (un-taxed fellowships,
dept. stipends, quarterly payments, etc.)?
- Most people you would be tempted to ask will refuse to answer
since they are not licensed to do so. You
can ask more senior peers who were in your situation before, hire a tax person,
or search online.
- Watch Rackham Graduate School’s “Tackling Your Taxes”
should I take before certain classes?
I live "on campus" (i.e. Northwood), near North Campus, on Central
- The registrar provides some information, though asking around
within your department (both other students and faculty) may give you better
- All prerequisites can be viewed on Wolverine
Access/M-Pathways > Course Catalog > Browse Course Catalog
- The department
program coordinator must be consulted for classes compulsory to the program. If there is a class for which you feel that
the mentioned pre-req course isn’t required, contact the professor teaching
should I discuss vacation time with my advisor to arrange for visits to see my
family? What is an appropriate length of
- It depends on your preference.
Many students live in Northwood their first year because it’s convenient
and there’s limited time to find a place.
The North Campus area is much quieter and more scenic, but Central Campus
gets you closer to all the action downtown.
Ypsilanti is also an option because it is fairly cheap, but you would
most likely need a car to commute to campus.
- Each area has different advantages and
disadvantages. Central Campus tends to
have smaller and more expensive housing, though there are more opportunities to
socialize. Most students choose to live
near North Campus to cut costs and their daily commute.
- Living on Central Campus, there is a lot more activity there
(restaurants, theater, bars, movies, etc.).
It's a lot more fun. There are
free buses to North Campus all year long and they run very frequently.
- It is very
convenient for Engineering students to live near North Campus and likewise for
students having their departments in Central Campus to live on Central. Having said that it is also a personal choice
based on peers and the lifestyle to choose where to live. North campus has a quaint and peaceful
lifestyle which is in stark contrast to the bustling and downtown Central Campus
- It depends on your advisor and how far you live from home. Oftentimes, international students will go
home once a year for 3 weeks or a month, while domestic students will have a
similar total amount of vacation time in smaller pieces throughout the year. Generally, it is best to discuss any extended
vacations with your advisor well in advance.
- It is best to
frankly discuss visits/vacations to visit family with your advisor. Keep in mind the dates for conference
deadlines when you propose your vacation dates. Sometimes it is beneficial to align your
vacation dates with that of your advisor. Summer is generally a high productivity time
for research so 2 weeks is the usual time one takes. Winter is more forgiving since a majority of
the population is on vacation.
is the key office, exactly?!
- It is located at 525 Church Street: https://goo.gl/maps/Ed8ZI. It’s very close to the
Central Campus Transit Center (CCTC), which is the main bus stop on Central
Campus. Almost all bus routes stop
there. When you get off the bus, walk
south along Church St. for about half a block.
The key office is in the Church Parking Structure. There is a small sign
above the door right along the sidewalk.
How do I print and
how many pages do I have?
eat in my office or lab?
have access to the Computer-Aided Engineering Network computer labs, in which
you log on to your computer account with your Uniquename, click File + Print,
and select the type of printer you want to print from. U of M students have $24 for the semester to
use on printing, however, as a CoE student you will get an additional $40,
which allows for printing about 1066 pages, if you select black and white.
- Google MPrint and
access your account
can eat in the office (you should really get out of the office/lab to eat--it's
better for your mental health, networking, etc.). Most labs have restrictions on having food
around (you don't want to ruin expensive equipment).
advisor happy or mad about my work?
much time should I spend on research vs. school work (for PhDs)?
- It can be hard to read an advisor, just like any supervisor. Remember that your advisor chose to work with
you because they thought that in the course of about 5 years, you could be
trained to conduct independent research.
Along the way there may be bumps in the road, but you will both be
happier if you focus on how to achieve that end result.
- Every department is required to conduct annual reviews with
their Ph.D. students, in order to set goals and evaluate if milestones are
How do I find a suitable adviser?
- It will depend on your advisor. Typically for the first two years, the
majority of your time will be spent on class work. After that, almost all of your time will be
spent on research.
- If possible, pick at least one day a week (or
1-2 hours a day) to focus on research.
- Some departments assign an advisor from the
start, while in others you find your advisor early on. Finding someone who is a
good fit personality-wise will help immensely.
Otherwise, feel free to decide which advising style you prefer. For example, early career faculty are
generally more hands-on than later career faculty.
How should students prepare for the PhD qualification exam?
- Talk with your Chair and Coordinator on departmental expectations.
- Talking to more senior students is also important.
How do you make the most out of a master’s education?
- It seems that there are two main approaches that
students take, depending on their goals.
Those who aim to dive into (or go back to) the job market and industry
tend to focus on taking as many classes as possible (3-4 per semester) that
companies would like to see. Even though
there is no official list that I am aware of, I know there is a list of courses
that EECS students aim to take in order to appeal to companies in specific areas. Other than taking classes (and getting good
grades), they tend to utilize the university resources (ENGenius.Jobs) and
networks to promote themselves through university recruiters. Others who lean toward research tend to
follow guidelines that are offered for PhD students. They tend to take only 1-2 (sometimes 3)
courses per semester and try to engage with professors in research. Many students start out by engaging in
directed research with the professor they are interested in. If you are thinking about a career in a
research path, you will not be making the most out of your Master’s education
if you do not engage in research one way or the other. Note that this path is tougher than just
taking classes and possibly more challenging than PhD students; you need to not
only maintain good grades for future PhD admission but also need to heavily
engage in research to gain your research experience.
What are the necessary steps to transition from master’s to PhD
- If you hope to transition within UM, the most
important step is finding a potential advisor.
Otherwise, learning how to conduct research is extremely valuable.
- Participate in the Beyond the Master’s mentoring
program, where you can have a free lunch with a PhD student who went through
this process (http://grad.engin.umich.edu/beyond-the-masters).
How does a cross-collaboration typically develop between
departments in COE?
your advisor has some projects with other groups. Try to work on one of those projects and you
will be able to collaborate with other groups.
Taking classes with professors and approaching them with your research
problems can also lead to collaborations.
- A common or related problem statement being looked
at from different perspectives and fields helps cross collaboration to develop
between COE departments
- Join a
project team (http://teamprojects.engin.umich.edu/teams/).
Institute for Global Operations (http://www.tauber.umich.edu/).
What are key actions and habits that separate highly
successful PhD/graduate students from others?
- Time management skills are incredibly important,
as is choosing an advisor who is a good match for you. Also see “Getting what you came for” by Robert
If you could go back and restart your graduate studies at
Michigan again, what would you be sure to do again, and what would you do
- As a graduate student, I participated in several student organizations
and/or volunteering activities and would be SURE to do it again. Research and classes are time consuming and
can be stressful, but taking a break to get involved in events such as Dance
Marathon, Tech Day, Design Immersion, Detroit Partnership Day, etc., is a great
way to meet new students (both engineering/non-engineering,
undergraduate/graduate), experience Ann Arbor and/or Detroit culture, and give
back to the community.
- As a Master’s student I was lucky enough to participate in an all-expense
paid 3 month research internship in Japan through a program offered by the
International Programs in Engineering Office. I highly recommend an experience abroad for
those who haven’t done so yet!
Is it safe to walk on campus at midnight? What about in the city?
- It is reasonably safe to walk around campus at
midnight, but it is advisable to be aware of your surroundings and walk in groups. More information about public safety on campus can be found on the Division of Public Safety and Security website (http://www.dpss.umich.edu/).
- If you are concerned about walking back to
your room but live near campus (one mile radius), you can use Late Night
Transportation services (http://studentlife.umich.edu/article/late-night-transportation).
How do you find out
about all the great events going on around campus?What are the
disadvantages an international student would face in terms of research
opportunities available to the students?
far as opportunities to work with professors are concerned, there is no disadvantage for international students.
Communication might form an issue to some students, however it relies on
them to make an effort and be proactive in reaching out to professors or labs
of interest to be able to participate in their research.
Can you elaborate on
the system of taking up a minor in a particular field?
How and when can I
decide whether I pursue PhD degree or not?
procedure for minors varies based on your department. Generally your program
manual would contain sections of possible minors and the course requirement for
each of them. Contact your department academic advisor in case of doubt.
- You start off by getting
involved in a research project and develop a good rapport with your advisor.
This is preferred irrespective of whether you want to pursue a PhD or not. Your
advisor would be the primary person to discuss your PhD plans with. You need to
be clear on where you want to find yourself in your future career and also what
the industry demands. In some cases a PhD is essential to carry on research
work in a field but not in others. Try to reach out to various alumni in
industry and academia and discuss their career options and your own thought
process with them.
- The Just ASK (Alumni
Sharing Knowledge) mentoring program (http://justask.engin.umich.edu/) is an excellent resource to get in
touch with alumni from engineering departments.
How do you find
opportunities for students at UMich are posted here (https://studentemployment.umich.edu/). You can search by criteria
such as work study / non-work study, the type of employment (office, technical,
etc.), the term you wish to work, and more
- Internships and other employment opportunities can be found here (http://career.engin.umich.edu/).
I'd like to learn
something about business too, while pursing the MS program. I plan to start my own enterprise. Please
guide me about the kind of courses I can take up from the business school to
complement my technical knowledge.
- It is difficult to recommend specific classes because many of
these elective courses change each term and may be offered one year, but not
the following. However, the LSA course
guide is a good source to peruse classes and can be accessed here: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/cg/. Also,
searching on Wolverine Access for courses listed under the subject
"ENTR", entrepreneurship, or "IOE", industrial &
operations engineering, are often cross-listed with or similar to business
school courses. Finally, for more
specific guidance tailored to your interests, you can contact the Center for
Entrepreneurship, and they will likely be able to suggest special courses. Their contact information is found here: http://www.cfe.umich.edu/contact-us.