Career Moves: Mentors & career advisers help alum with top engineering school placement
Alexander Bruch ’14 sought feedback from chemistry professors & staff in the Student Professional Development Center as he applied to graduate schools, including Yale University, for a doctorate in electrical engineering.
For the better part of his studies at Elon University, Alexander “Alex” Bruch ‘14 worked closely with mentors in the Department of Chemistry on an undergraduate research project that examined how certain nanoparticles interacted with light.
The chemistry major from New Canaan, Connecticut, developed a passion for material sciences because of his experience funded by the Lumen Prize, Elon University’s top award to support and celebrate academic and creative achievements. Graduate school was a natural next step in life.
With assistance from his research mentor and staff in the Student Professional Development Center, Bruch applied for and was accepted into the doctoral program for electrical engineering at Yale University.
He is the first person to be featured during the 2014-15 academic year in a series of E-net profiles on the successes of students and alumni who have used the Student Professional Development Center to find job and internship openings, help with graduate school placements, or prepare for interviews and improve applications with guidance from staff.
He answered questions recently from the SPDC about his experience.
How did your interest in Yale University develop?
Yale was ideal for me because it is close to home, just 45 minutes up the road. I ultimately chose Yale because its electrical engineering program has such a strong foundation in materials science. Apart from the research at Yale, they have great connections in industry and consulting for after I complete my Ph.D.
Tell me about Yale and your experience getting accepted into their program.
I actually worked for Yale before my senior year at Elon through an undergraduate research program. In science, especially in research fields, our version of internships is what they call an REU, a “research experience for undergraduates.” They’re sponsored by the National Science Foundation at a variety of sites across the country. I did one through Yale’s Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena. I knew I wanted to try my hand at real graduate research. I loved the university and my professor, so I had to apply. Needless to say, being accepted to Yale was a thrill.
My Lumen research looked at how nanoparticles interacted with light and I thought it was fascinating. What I did at my REU was design a high-quality optical filter. I also devised electronics that would make sure lasers and filters were always operating at the same frequency. Everything we use in day-to-day life is an optical signal. Your TV signal is a light. Your cell phone signal is a light. You just can’t see it because it’s out of our vision. You need a way to filter things out so that your TV knows that what it’s reading is meant for it and not another device.
After my experience I knew I wanted to go to graduate school.
Who did you work with in Student Professional Development Center to apply to Yale University, and what help did you receive?
I worked with René Jackson on my CV and personal statements more than a year ago when preparing my applications for summer internships. After the internship, we talked about the schools to which I should apply, developed a personal statement for graduate schools, and discussed the overall graduate school application process. It was really helpful to get some insight from someone outside the sciences.
What have you learned from the experience?
When choosing which schools to apply to, pick the ones that have many professors conducting research that you are interested in. When choosing which school to attend, make sure the students and faculty are people you could see spending a lot of time with. They will be the people you will see every day for five years!
What recommendations would you share with other students about the Student Professional Development Center?
Get as many people to read your CV and personal statement as you can. Considering the SPDC is not an office of scientists, they can read your statements as a graduate admissions officer rather than a faculty member. Scientists don’t think like non-scientists. It’s a problem we have!
Which faculty members did you work with to prepare and what help did you receive?
I worked closely with my research mentor, Dr. Joel Karty, in developing my personal statement and research interests. My academic advisor, Dr. Karl Sienerth, was a great deal of help as well.
Dr. Karty and Dr. Sienerth helped me approach the application process by looking at the science behind a program and showing other scientists that you know what you’re talking about. They helped as well with teaching me how to think like a researcher and develop where I wanted to go with my graduate work.