Gene Russo, Careers editor at Nature
The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently gave a small group of graduate students a big say on the future of graduate education. Then the NSF announced a new contest that will give a voice to any student who’s willing, able and motivated to do the same.
At a workshop held by the NSF at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, a couple dozen graduate students, career scientists and others, broke up into work groups, then furiously scribbled their thoughts on large paper pads. How would they change graduate school education for the better?
Some suggested avenues toward greater diversity, empowering minority scientists to teach aspiring minority science students. Others suggested better means of making the transition to full-time jobs – by incorporating more internships into curricula, for example. One group called for more research training among undergraduates in an effort to better prepare future graduate students. There should be more teaching requirements in graduate school, suggested another workgroup. Perhaps, said one group, the master’s degree should be elevated in stature and augmented with more practical training to prepare master’s degree holders for immediate jobs openings. And maybe it’d be wise to extend NSF’s well-regarded, cross-disciplinary scheme, known as Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship or IGERT, to other graduate programmes.
After leading the discussion on such brainstorms, the workshop organizers posed a challenge to all: They launched an NSF-sponsored essay contest, calling on STEM graduate students to submit essays describing what they would do to improve graduate education and professional development in the US. Winners will receive prizes of between $1,000 and $3,000. See here for more info.
What changes would you like to see to improve graduate education and professional development in your country? Let us know in the comments section below.