National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Graduate School Forum

Wednesday June 18, 2008 – NASA Glenn Research Center

One morning was devoted to allowing five researchers at the Glenn Research Center (GRC) to share their graduate school careers with the interns. It was an enlightening time for everyone when they were able to answer some questions, and offer some background on their diverse experiences.

Dr. M. David Kankam is the University Affairs Officer in the Business Development and Partnership Office of GRC’s Research and Technology Directorate. He obtained his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Toronto in Canada in electrical engineering, making the leap from B.S. to Ph.D. in six years. He subsequently obtained a diploma in business administration from the same institution. Being present at other graduate students’ thesis dissertations helped him learn presentation skills and the types of questions usually asked. An advanced degree, he said, produces flexibility in career options down the road. His advice to us was to match our career goals with our choice of graduate school, and to consider the quality of faculty at an institution and not just the fame or glamour of the university.

Dr. Deidre-Paris Michael is an assistant professor from Tuskegee University in Alabama, visiting GRC as part of its summer faculty program. Her bachelor’s degree is in electrical engineer while her doctorate from Georgia Institute of Technology is in civil engineering. The availability of funding sources like the Graduate Degrees for Minorities for Engineering and Science (GEM) fellowship and timely opportunities to work and study helped shape her graduate school career. She stressed the importance of your advisor for your personal development and understanding your own capabilities.

Dr. Grigory Adamovsky is a senior electrical engineering researcher at Glenn. He holds a bachelor’s in optical engineering, a master’s in physics, and an electrical engineering Ph.D, in every case studying aerospace applications for optical systems. His one and only pointer for us was to allow a curiosity for knowledge and passion for learning fuel your continued education because only through the surprises that result from newfound information can true innovation take place.

Dr. Felix Miranda serves as the chief of the Antennas Branch of the Instrumentation Division at GRC. His physics B.A. is from the University of Puerto Rico, his master’s degree is from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and his Ph.D. is from Case Western University. We must be flexible enough to deal with very varied work options, he said. He encouraged us to work in a field we are interested in, and to find a mentor to advise you on not just academics but also the graduate school process and career development. In the end, he told us that our application of fundamental knowledge is more important than how you obtain that knowledge, so we should avoid being intimidated by the hypercompetitive and flashy nature of today’s generation.

Finally, Dr. Sheila Bailey was given the floor as a senior researcher at Glenn in photovoltaics. Her diverse educational background includes a physics B.S. at Duke University, a physics M.A. at the University of North Carolina, and a solid-state physics Ph.D. from the University of Manchester in the U.K. Her travels, some of which were NASA-funded, gave her chances to befriend global colleagues and experts. In addition to the higher salary afforded to Ph.D. holders, she stressed that a doctorate puts more challenge and variety in your work and gives your work more credibility. Her advice included choosing a variety of classes to expand our knowledge bases, learning problem solving methods as opposed to narrow-minded procedures for specific material, making sure that your academic advisor treats you well.