McNair Alumni Update

Chandler Countryman graduated from Northern Michigan University in December 2014 with a degree in Biology.  Read about her experiences as a McNair Scholar at NMU:

Chandler is now a graduate student at the University of Georgia in Athens which has an enrollment of over 35,000 students.  We asked her how things are going so far.  Read her story and the see the results of her photo adventure that she is calling her “SelfieCampusTour” of the University of Georgia:

“As you know, I am in my first semester at UGA.  I just took all my midterms and I am enjoying all my classes.  I really loved the small environment of NMU and how easy it was to meet everybody, and the transition to a much larger campus has been harder than I thought.  However, I am slowly getting used to the campus here and I love how many opportunities there are in a bigger city….  As of right now, I am exploring the town I now call home and loving the life of a grad student.”

Chandler UGA

Marine Science Building Selfie – This is where I work and take classes every single day.

Chandler at UGA 2

Bus Selfie – This is me on the scary bus.  It is getting less scary, but this campus has almost 400 buildings and you pretty much have to take buses everywhere.  There are several lines that go several different routes, none of which I have figured out yet, so usually I just go for joyrides to people watch.

“In the south, you HAVE to be a football fan, so uhhhh GO DAWGS!”

Chandler UGA 3

Sanford Stadium Selfie – UGA football stadium.  During home games, this bad boy can seat over 90,000 people and the whole town is all about football.  Fun fact:  I honestly didn’t know that NMU had a football team until my second semester there.  It is not possible to NOT know that UGA has a football team.

Chandler, are you in a Master’s program or a PhD program?  Are you receiving funding support from UGA?

“I got accepted into a master’s program.  So I am technically earning my master’s in marine science.  But they are extremely flexible here and we are talking about just transitioning it into my PhD.  I had originally planned on applying as a PhD student but during the application process, I asked the head of the department what he recommended and he let me know that it’s a lot easier to be accepted into a master’s program and change it to a PhD once you are already in.  So that is what I am doing.  The first year is about the same for both programs anyways.

“Yes, it is funded.  I got accepted into a few other schools that either have no funding or just not very much.  This program completely funds ALL of its students (master’s and PhD) for the entire time they are here.  Most students receive a research assistantship, which is what I have.  They obviously pay my tuition and then I have a stipend on top of that which is more than enough to pay for my living expenses so I don’t have to have a job outside of research.  This is very different from undergrad, where I was working three jobs to help pay for my rent and food and everything I needed.  During the application process, they specifically told me that if I got accepted, I would receive full funding.  They didn’t give me an exact answer, but they gave me the typical range that students get.  This was one of the big reasons that I chose this school.  I wouldn’t be able to attend grad school without financial help and I really didn’t want to take loans out for the next several years.  My research assistantship requires me to take 12 credits each for fall and spring semester and 9 credits over the summer (not all of these credits have to be classes, I get credits just for meeting with my lab group and a journal group every week) On top of that, I have to put in at least 18 hours a week for research, which for me right now is learning some computer languages and basic modeling.  Every lab group is different, some students are actually in a lab for those 18 hours, pipetting and science-ing.  This just depends on what project you are interested in and what faculty you work with.”

Chandler UGA 4

Silly Door Selfie – Some of the buildings on this campus are REALLY old.  Note the half door behind me.  That is because when the buildings were made, there was a tax that had to be paid per door for any building.  However, doors still needed to be large enough so that women’s hoop skirts could fit through them.  So UGA saved money but still have large enough doors by making them one and a half doors wide.  Silly door.

Chandler UGA Pretty Building

Pretty Building Selfie – This building is pretty.  I don’t know what it is but it’s attached to the registrar’s office.  ALL the buildings are beautiful here.

Could you please tell us about your academic interests and your research?

“My undergrad degree was in Biology and I loved it, but I was ready for a change.  Now I am a computer modeler.  I don’t know anything about computers.  But I want to be a well-rounded scientist.  I want to have the biology background and strengthen it with math and technology skills so that wherever I go next, I can handle it.  My research involves modeling of zooplankton and phytoplankton interactions in the ocean, which means that I am learning all sorts of computer-y things that I never thought I would be able to do.”

Chandler UGA Office

Office Selfie – These are the lovely ladies that share my office with me.  We are all in the same lab.

What are your educational and career goals?  Do you have any advice for our current McNair Scholars as they work toward graduate school?

“I think you guys know that I have never really had any plans.  I am just not that kind of person.  For me, college just kinda happened and then I liked it so I went to grad school.  I plan on continuing grad school until I don’t like it anymore.  Or until I graduate.  Whichever comes first.  I know that that is not the case for a lot of people, so my advice may not be that helpful to a lot.  But if you are the type of person that just goes with the flow like me, then I would definitely encourage reaching out to programs that you never thought you could do but that you would enjoy learning.  So if grad school is what you want, but maybe a little different than what you did in undergrad, at least look in to your options.  You never know what’s out there for you.

“I was at a social event this weekend where a girl was talking about her current process of applying to grad school and studying for the GRE and it really made me take a step back and realize how much has changed in one year.  I almost forgot how much work it was to apply to grad school and how much effort and time it took.  It was definitely all worth it.”

Chandler UGA 5

Arch Selfie – The UGA arch is a symbol of the school.  It separates campus from downtown Athens and it has a legend behind it.  Apparently once upon a time, there was a student who refused to walk under it because he thought it would keep him from graduating.  The notion caught on and eventually everyone stopped walking under it.  But at that time it was attached to a fence, so people were actually hopping the little fence to get past it.  It was eventually moved so that you can easily walk around it (or under it if you desire).  To this day, students will not walk under it until graduation day, where you can see a line for miles of people waiting to get their picture walking under it for the first time (usually in their cap and gown).  Silly arch.  And because I know that you are wondering, yes, I do walk under it.  REBEL.