How I Chose My Graduate Committee?

    Posted on Wednesday, Nov 07, 2018
    How do you select a group of people that will decide whether you are worthy of your degree? The answer is very carefully.

    For my graduate program, I am required to have a committee of three professors: one chair and two members. During orientation, the department heads of the program explained the significance of choosing our graduate committee. As a first-year student I did not have a rapport or know any faculty to start with; so, I felt in this metaphorical game of finding a committee down, but surely not out because an interesting thought came to me. Similar to Archimedes’ dramatic “Eureka!” moment, I was struck by an idea of how to find a graduate committee. I would choose three professors based on the concepts of past, present, and future.

    Are you skeptical to where this is going? Well, I was too. Why had I immediately thought of this? How did these three areas relate to choosing a graduate committee? I tried thinking of other ways, yet my mind kept mulling over the idea of past, present, and future. So, I resolved that I needed to think in threes.

    It turns out people tend to think in patterns, especially threes. This phenomenon is known as the rule of three. Omne trium perfectum is a Latin phrase that means “everything that comes in threes is perfect”. The pattern of three is weaved throughout history, literature, and various facets of life. The Declaration of Independence delineates a trinal of human rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nursery rhymes such as the three blind mice focus on three characters. The trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a focal point of Christianity. When learning fire safety as children we are taught to stop, drop, and roll. Physics is governed by Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion. In art composition, the rule of thirds is a fundamental technique. Whether in threes or other numerals, patterns are ingrained in aspects of our lives. How we synthesize material is affected by patterns. Thus, it is recommended to use three bullet points compared to two to for effective rhetoric.

    Now back to the graduate committee dilemma. How did I transform this idea into a plan that worked?

    Past. I defined this as my undergraduate endeavors. For four years, I studied biomedical engineering, so this encompasses the majority of my educational background. There is a level of comfort for me in the realm of tissue engineering and medical devices. I understand the nuances of the field and it influences how I observe things now. It is my goal that I can always retain these pieces of my education in my future profession.

    Present. This would be something active in all parts of my educational career, undergraduate and graduate. I deemed this writing, more specifically technical scientific writing. No matter the branch of research I followed, cultivating my writing skills would be vital.  

    Future. This enveloped a scope of science I aim towards. Neurodegenerative diseases are a sphere of research that has always interested me, and I hope to one day pursue in the trajectory of my career.

    Combining these three ideas together, I figured out how to bring a group of diverse professors together for my graduate committee. Together, they each represent an aspect of myself and are a reflection of my academic identity.

    Kalifa Stringfield
    Kalifa is a masters student in the Biotechnology program in the College of Engineering

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