Talk to me about ______ Graduate School

Howdy Chief Delphi community! I realize this year that I’m heavily considering continuing my education into Grad School. There is a lovely thread titled, “Talk to me about __________ University” but I would love to have a thread from people with experience in Grad School. Please bold the title of your school. Thanks!


Finished a Robotics MS at Carnegie Mellon a couple years ago, happy to chat about it


Georgia Tech

Electrical Engineering, PhD, 1990.

Thirty years and five career changes later*, I am sure that quitting my entry level job to accept a graduate fellowship was the right decision. The EE program I went through has very probably evolved its structure; I hope this topic will discover some whose experience at Tech is more recent than mine. The retrospective view I can offer is simple: graduate study at Georgia Tech was worth the investment.

*Academia, Motor Manufacturing, Consumer Appliances, Medical Devices, Automotive Powertrains, and Aircraft Actuators. Also twenty five seasons as an FRC mentor and volunteer.

When you say “worth the investment”, can you clarify?

When you say investment do you mean monetary or shear effort? I’ve been told that no one should pay for an advanced degree in engineering in that you should always go somewhere your education is paid for (i.e. research or teaching assistantships). Was this true when you got your PhD? Also, many people have told me that getting a PhD can damage your chances at getting a job in some respects. Do you think this is true? Is there any going back to an entry level engineering position if I find out that I don’t want to do PhD things after getting a PhD?

I am in a similar position to UnofficialForth in that I am progressing through college and I’m now thinking about graduate school. I’ve been asking various professors about their experiences so this thread is wonderful for gathering more.

My own investment had two parts: (1) earnings and early-stage career advancement that I might have had in industry, but exchanged for the lifestyle of a grad student, and (2) learning is hard work, if you’re doing it right. Many people considering graduate study have weighed those against the opportunity presented by an entry level engineering job, and the decision is not easy to make, because neither choice is the obvious winner unless you’re looking backward. As I am now.

One factor important to me at the time was my notion of following an academic career path, as my father and others in my family had done. As it turned out, teaching and mentoring were the aspects of academic life that really attracted me. Committees, grant writing, and managing, not so much. So industry beckoned, and I went. Since then I have changed jobs when it was necessary to find interesting projects and engaged people to pursue them with.

Talk to me about Carnegie Mellon University. I have an MS in Engineering Management (ETIM) and was finishing an MS in Computational Design & Manufacturing as a Robotics Institute fellow (on medical leave). MSCDM is an interdisciplinary CAD engineering degree in the Mechanical Engineering Department. My Field Robotics Center work is in the Whittaker lab for nuclear and lunar robotics.

Echoing, never pay (cash) for a graduate degree. (Heck, I did state school for undergrad and am very happy I don’t have undergraduate loans either.)


I have a BS and MS from WPI in Mechanical Engineering. Some of the big tech giants (Apple, Google, Facebook, etc.) distinguish between interns that are in a BS and MS program. At one of my internships, MS grad student interns were paid a significant amount more than BS students. Through that lens, I’d recommend doing an MS program and applying to internships at all the tech giants. Happy to chat more.

Ask me about Vanderbilt University! I completed by PhD in Materials Science there in 2012. I would agree with others that you should be getting a stipend if you’re getting a graduate degree in a STEM. That will cover your tuition plus give you money for living expenses. It’ll usually be something between $15-30k per year depending on where you attend.

Vandy is awesome and I would recommend. My grad program was interdisciplinary, so I had a lot of leeway to choose the courses that would best support my research path. After coursework was done, it was all research and lots of opportunities to travel to conferences, publish work, collaborate, etc. Oak Ridge National Laboratory which is not too far away. Nashville is a great city to live in, and the university is centrally located.

If Vandy accepts you for grad school, they want to put you in the right place to finish your degree. For my program, the first year you’d spend taking classes and completing research lab rotations, do a year of undergrad lab TA work, finish up classes by 2nd year, do an oral qual exam, and then get started working in your own research project under the supervision of a main advisor and research committee.

I know my fellow grad students went to work at universities, national labs, and some in industry. It would be true that there’s lots of fields where a PhD isn’t as big an advantage as others. The pay may be better for the years immediately after college graduation if you jump straight into the working world. I think the PhD is about training for long term - no regrets here in terms of the time spent and skills I developed.

Talk to us about Grad School at the University of Michigan! Our members are currently pursuing graduate-level degrees in CS, ME, BME, and Business, and we work closely with grad students and professionals in M|Robotics.


What are your interests? What are your grades like now? Are you deep into the math and theory or more hands-on? Have you asked your undergrad professors for their perspectives? Do you like some piece of engineering so much that you’d do it as an unpaid hobby? I recommend looking into all of those questions before diving in. I went to Lehigh for undergrad ME and went to Brown to study solid mechanics on the recommendations of my Lehigh profs. For the most part, the Lehigh profs whom I respected most then (and still do) understood me better than I did at the time. The Lehigh profs whom I respected less tried to sell me on staying at Lehigh. I am glad I went to Brown. Compared to Lehigh, Brown was very challenging for me because it was very theoretical. The transition from Lehigh was a shock because suddenly there were a whole lot of people smarter than me in my classes. Nonetheless, I was able to pursue an experimental PhD while the math and theory provided a strong foundation to understand mechanics and taught me how to learn. I liked my Applied Math professor, the late Alan Pipkin, so much that I took or sat in on six of his courses, and ended up with an Applied Math masters along the way to my engineering PhD.

The financial payoff took a while, but the PhD has paid off, even though “I am working for the Man,” i.e., working for a large company. About the only way to make more pay would be to run my own business, which would take me too far away from doing engineering day to day.

Can anyone talk to me about Industrial & Systems or Operations Research MS programs? Anyone couple these with an MBA? Anyone participate in the Graduate Research Fellowship from the NSF?

You should 100% apply to NSF if you’re eligible.

Also, I’m happy to answer any questions about the Robotics MS and PhD programs at Carnegie Mellon University.

Hey Eugene.

Figured I’d keep this here in case others wanted info.

So I’d much rather get a masters with a research dissertation than a PhD (I just would rather work). Is CMU set up for opportunities like that so I can keep in accordance with the NSF guidelines?

Also do you enjoy the classes?

Yeah, it’s definitely possible to use the NSF for a Master’s. The CMU Robotics MS program requires you to pay for one semester of tuition even if your advisor has funding for the remainder of your program, but the NSF makes it so you don’t have to pay a dime! :grinning:

Classes were really good. The four core classes are all useful, and you can choose your interests for the three electives.