What one gets out of graduate studies depends entirely on what one puts into them. The ultimate value of a graduate education is less the degree than the intangible benefits that accompany it—the intellectual maturity developed and the professional relationships established (neither of which is recorded on certificates at graduation). Indeed, if all one does to obtain a degree is satisfy the graduation requirements then many valuable opportunities may have been wasted. The academic community offers tremendous resources for personal and professional development, but it is the responsibility of the student to exploit these opportunities while in school. This section offers some advice on how to do this.
Becoming a scholar
All scholars must read widely, both within their fields of specialization and outside, but it is especially important for chemical and biomedical engineers to read widely in other areas, because of the broad base of chemical engineering (see Section 1.2).
At no time is comprehensive reading across engineering sciences more important than during the first year in graduate school (though it continues to be important throughout an academic career). This is the time when the student needs to discover which outstanding engineering and scientific problems most capture their interest, so that a field of study can be identified and made the focus of subsequent research. A good choice of specialization -- one that is right for a particular student -- is critical to academic success in later years, and so time spent in making this choice is time well invested. Recommended journals include American Scientist, Nature, Science, and Scientific American. For book recommendations, consult individual members of the faculty.
Broadening Professional Horizons
Joining a Professional Society
Membership in a professional society, particularly AIChE or BMES, will boost career prospects by keeping the student abreast of trends in the field and the employment opportunities that accompany them. Membership can be of especially good value of graduate students, whose membership rate is typically much less than the regular one. Subscriptions from AIChE or BME include journals and newsletters to keep students up to date. Other relevant societies include the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Attendance at Conferences
Attending conferences (and presenting papers at those conferences) are an excellent way to develop a good knowledge of what is happening in the field and to meet the people who are making it happen. It doesn't have to be expensive (especially if one belongs to a professional society): greatly reduced conference fees are the norm for graduate students, and travel and accommodation costs can be kept to a minimum by sharing. Consult the major professor for conference suggestions.