Question and Answers on Graduate School, with Etosha Cave '06


What is grad school really like?


Stanford, the MS degrees, for the most part, are all coursework.  Keep in mind though; a good number of the
courses are project-oriented.  There are
even year-long course series that are project-oriented and can be as time
intensive as a research project.  In the
PhD program, your life is mainly focused on the research done in the lab.  Classes are less important, after you are
assigned to a lab. 


How is it different from undergrad?

In graduate school you are not as connected with the social scene
and on-campus activities as you were as an undergrad.
  You do meet new people,  but mostly those people are in your department
or program.


How did you know it was time to go to grad school?

I always knew I wanted to go to graduate school to fulfill my
long-term career goals; which include becoming an astronaut.
   I waited a year after undergrad to start
graduate school, only to take time to relax for a bit.


How did you pick this program/research lab at Stanford?

I first ruled out the schools that were in places, where I did not
want to live.
  I then looked at the
course offerings and the research at the remaining schools.
  I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do, so
it was easier to narrow things down from there.


How did you decide between MS or PhD?


My career goals are what drove the decision.  Make sure you know what the end-goal is
before starting a PhD.  Often times an MS
can get you a job before a PhD will. 


Describe a Day In the Life...

I am not taking classes anymore, so my life is a bit different
than when I was involved with coursework.
Lately, I wake up fairly early - around 7am - and answer email.  I then get ready for the day and bike to my
office, which is across campus.
  I can
decide what I want to do during the day, which involves either lab work or
making content for an upcoming presentation, poster or manuscript.
  I then go home around 7pm and will sometimes
work from home, go to the gym or relax in my apartment.


Tell us more about your technical area
of interest. 

work in a chemical engineering lab at Stanford.  We study solar fuels and
electrocatalysis.    My team specifically looks at the
electrochemical conversion of CO2 into fuel or high-value chemicals.  My
thesis work is the study of gold catalysts for this reaction.   I am
hoping to continue my research after graduation in a post-doc, where I can look
at the electrochemical reduction of CO2 for space travel.  


Do you still want to be an astronaut?


Posted in: Alumni Speak, Graduate School