What do you like to read? (Non-school related)
I don’t do as much reading as I would like during the school year but I do try to catch up on reading during the summer. I have to admit that I am a fan of young adult fiction (I’d appreciate recommendations). I also often end up listening to non-fiction books when I’m running. I recently listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, which was fun. I find that I’m often drawn to non-fiction books that have themes related to motivation (not surprisingly, since that’s what I research).
What was the most momentous moment of your life?
This is a hard question to answer. Although I don’t remember the day, exactly, I feel like the day I moved to the U.S. from Japan when I was 3 1⁄2 years old was pretty momentous in the sense that it has had a lasting impact on my life. I also think the day my mother passed away was “momentous”. I miss her every day.
What do you remember about being a graduate student?
You know how they say that painful memories generally fade over time, and that usually when you look back at certain experiences, you tend to only remember the good? Well, that’s true for me, at least when it comes to my memories of grad school. I wouldn’t trade my grad school experience for the world. I was really lucky. I attended grad school full-time and I was fully-funded. I had wonderful mentors who looked out for me and made sure that I got rigorous training in research methods.
The friends I made in graduate school remain my best friends. I mostly remember the times I spent working on various research projects with them… The time we stayed at the office until the wee hours of the night making sure that this program we were using to collect data was working is something I remember fondly.
Did you ever feel discouraged as a graduate/PhD student?
Of course! I think every grad student feels discouraged at some point. I distinctly remember walking into my mentor’s office one day in my third year and telling him that I was going to quit. At the time, I found grad school to be overwhelming. I was trying to pass my comps, teach classes, work on various research projects and publish papers. Most importantly, I seriously questioned whether or not I could spend the rest of my life writing papers. To his credit, my mentor just listened to me whine and then helped me figure out how to get my work done.
What is one (or more) piece(s) of advice you would give to the graduate/PhD students today?
I recently had the opportunity to visit my alma mater (University of Michigan) to give a talk and meet with current students. Many of the students that I had lunch with also wanted to know if I had any advice for them. Here’s what I told them: As difficult as it seems at times, try to enjoy it. Yes, it can be hard, and it is often overwhelming (I seriously don’t know how you all juggle all of your commitments – I know I had it much easier than you). But, it’s also a time when you can really learn and grow, like I mentioned earlier, the friends you make in graduate school often become friends for life.
Okay – now for some more pragmatic advice. Many of you are juggling school, work and a personal life, or at least trying to. I find that the students who are most successful are those who have good time management skills and are proactive in seeking help when they need it. So, don’t put off those big projects and when you need help, seek it. Don’t struggle alone.