Denison Grads in Grad School: PhD in Computer Science

Will Brackenbury

Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2015
Denison Major(s):  Theatre & Economics
Graduate Degree Type:  PhD in Computer Science from University of Chicago, Class of 2022
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Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate school and career pathway: what impacted your decision?

I had been working as a consultant for a year and a half at the time. I was enjoying what I was doing, but as I looked ahead to the next steps in my career, I realized that the aspects of the job I enjoyed–data analysis, programming, and writing database queries–would diminish to almost nothing. I realized that attending graduate school in Computer Science would allow me to continue doing all these things, and in fact, would increase their importance in whatever job I would hold in the future.

What challenges did you face on the way to or during graduate school, and how did you overcome them?

The first year was especially challenging. Because I had been a Computer Science minor, and not a Computer Science major at Denison, I was comparatively behind my peers in terms of subject matter knowledge. Additionally, the first year was when course requirements were most demanding. I had little time to devote to the aspects of the graduate school experience I enjoyed most (research, attending seminars), and this was very draining. However, I had built a community among my fellow PhD students, and by leaning on each other, we helped motivate each other to make it through the most difficult times.

What has been your favorite part of your graduate school experience so far?

I absolutely love the subject matter, and because of this, the job of being a PhD student is the best I can imagine. The incredible freedom to mold my own working and learning experience is easily my favorite aspect of graduate school.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

I plan to work in a research lab in industry after graduation.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate program like yours?

If you’re able, get involved in research as an undergraduate. I was lucky enough to have had the chance to participate in summer research at Denison, and the publication resulting from that experience was a major differentiator in my application.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Pharmaceutical Science

Denisonians in health professions: pharmaceutical science - 03-04-19-lauren-thompson-300x300.jpg image #0Name: Lauren Thompson
Denison Graduation Year: 2018
Denison Major: Biochemistry, Mathematics (minor)
Graduate School: PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Class of 2023
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What is the focus of your graduate/professional school and what content has most engaged you?
I am in a Pharmaceutical Sciences PhD graduate program. While the classes are fascinating and challenging, I most enjoy my time in the lab. My program has us rotate through 3 different labs in our first year so I’m getting experience working with cell lines, mouse models, and patient clinical data.

Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate or professional school pathway: what impacted your decision?
For me, the interviews were vital in really getting a feel for a program. In talking with the students and faculty, I was able to tell where I would fit in. Additionally, it was important to me that whichever program I chose had multiple labs that I was interested in. This way I would have a chance to rotate and make the best decision for myself.

What challenges did you face on the way to graduate or professional school, and how did you overcome them?
I had spent the first 22 years of my life surrounded by friends and family in Ohio. Graduate school was my first time going off on my own. While this is certainly challenging, my parents have been very supportive, especially with the big move (21 hours of driving!). Living alone in a new state is certainly scary but the other students in my program have been a great resource and I’ve even connected with some old Denison friends!

What are your professional plans post-graduation?
I’ve only just started my program so I’m not entirely sure yet but I’ll likely end up in pharmaceutical industry. If not, I could definitely see myself running a research lab in an academic institution.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate or professional program like yours?
Talk with other students who have been there! Don’t be afraid to reach out to Denison connections and even faculty members at programs you’re interested in. They’re surprisingly approachable and it can help your chances at getting an interview! Also, the absolute best thing to prepare yourself for graduate school is your lab experience. Get involved on campus, look for summer programs in fields you’re interested in (I did a couple in Pharmacology & Pharmaceutical Sciences labs off campus), and make sure you really understand your previous research and can talk about it!