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Through their stories, graduate students tell the importance of research for the university mission | VTX

Research is fundamental to Virginia Tech students. As a land-grant university, research constitutes one-third of Virginia Tech’s tripartite mission and is deeply integrated into education and outreach missions.

At the Board of Visitors’ Academic, Research and Student Affairs Committee meeting on June 7, members heard about the importance of graduate students to the university’s research mission and, therefore, the central role of research in higher education.

“Research is an integral part of education and training across the continuum of higher education – from undergraduate experiential learning via research to the development of scholarship and expertise as ‘Graduate student to establish as an independent researcher as a postdoctoral researcher,’ Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation Dan Sui told the committee. “As a destination for talent, Virginia Tech views its graduate students as an essential part of the core engine of the research enterprise and a key contributor to our national and international reputation.”

Research embedded in higher education is deemed essential by federal agencies, with sponsors increasingly requiring training and mentoring plans for graduates in proposals.

During the session, Virginia Tech Graduate School Dean Aimée Surprenant moderated a panel discussion with graduate students, demonstrating their importance to business science productivity. “It is our future leaders, researchers, decision-makers and scholars who create policies, opportunities and solutions for humanity through study, reflection and the creation of knowledge,” said Surprenant while introducing the four graduate students to the committee.

What differentiates graduate studies from undergraduate studies is that they not only deepen their knowledge in their areas of scientific interest, but also generate new knowledge, Surprenant said.

The graduate student panel pointed to Virginia Tech’s research reputation and communities of faculty working in cutting-edge research areas that interest them as what drew them to the university. Everyone, pleasantly surprised by the resources available to support their research, teaching and professional development, provided feedback to the committee.

“During my undergraduate studies in Georgia, I met many Virginia Tech students and faculty because they were so out there in the community,” said Kayla Alward, a doctoral student in dairy science at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS ). “I chose Virginia Tech because it has a long history as a world leader in agricultural research, particularly dairy cattle research. I also found an excellent mentor from Virginia Tech who was a perfect match for my ambitions.

Alward also shared how she feels supported by the resources available to students interested in teaching. “CALS offers a graduate education program that gave me the opportunity to take courses that help me become a better teacher and conduct research in education. »

Steph Cooke, a doctoral student in marriage and family therapy at the College of Liberal Arts and Humanities, said she chose Virginia Tech for her graduate studies because she was drawn to the research interests of professors in the Department of Human Development. and family sciences, but also the common interests of several Virginia Tech professors. “I was also interested in the mentorship available here – I wanted to have a mentor who shared my identity and I was able to find him,” she said.

Aidan Bradley, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering and mechanics at the College of Engineering, shared that one of his favorite experiences as an undergraduate “was studying abroad, which I don’t didn’t think I could do during my graduate studies. But thanks to an international research grant I received from the National Science Foundation, I was able to join a faculty member on a trip to China to study bats in caves.

According to Leonard Ohenhen, a doctoral student in geosciences, the resources widely available to students made the difference for his research. “When I was working on a master’s degree at another university, I had difficulty finding a data repository. During my first semester at Virginia Tech, I discovered that I could email my data to a repository, and there was more than one resource available.”

Although students recounted many positive aspects of their experiences at Virginia Tech, they expressed some challenges, primarily centered around funding and work-life balance. Current stipends often do not cover costs, so students are required to borrow money or work overtime to make ends meet. Additionally, balancing the demands of research, teaching, and professional development activities is a difficult task and can result in long hours in the lab or in the classroom.

Currently celebrating its 150th anniversary, Virginia Tech’s original mandate as a land-grant university was to focus on agriculture and the mechanical arts and for decades it was known primarily for research and engineering agricultural. Now students have comprehensive research options through the transdisciplinary research portfolio, which includes and intersects the arts, health sciences, quantum, artificial intelligence, and security, among other focus areas and initiatives. .

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