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Finding Flexibility, Teamwork, and Practice with GEAR

by Rachael He, Class of 2022

Hi, my name is Rachael, and I’m a computer science major, and I am a part of the Graduate Engineering at Rochester (GEAR) program because I am interested in research and access to more resources that will help me in the future. I chose the University of Rochester because the community was welcoming and unique, and I liked the flexible academic structure of the school. For example, I appreciate the fact that the school values well-roundedness in addition to freedom of choice with the cluster system, which means students are required to take three classes each in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences and engineering. While Rochester finds it important to take a variety of classes, I can also pick which classes I take in the areas I also choose. I also found it appealing that the computer science major is included as part of the Hajim School of Engineering, providing me with resources from Hajim, although computer science does have its differences from the rest of Hajim, such as a less rigorous timeline and more flexibility. Another aspect I liked was the ample amount of opportunities for internships and research at the University of Rochester, it being research institution.

My UR Baja SAE team! I’m the one second from the right.

The GEAR program is a five-year master’s program, where you get both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in the same major. This means I don’t have to stay two years after to get a master’s degree. The benefits of GEAR include not taking qualifying exams and half the tuition for the fifth year in exchange for being a teaching or research assistant. There are nine possible programs, but I chose computer science because I really enjoy to code. I can code for hours, figuring out bugs and ways to tweak my program to be better. I find that GEAR gives me a concrete goal and something to aim for. It provides me with motivation to do my best to learn and do well in classes, take higher level courses, explore research, and create connections with faculty.

GEAR interviewing event

The overnight GEAR interview program was my second time visiting University of Rochester, but I learned new things about the school since I was hosted in the dorm of a volunteer student. In addition to the interview, the visit involved different activities like an introduction presentation to the university and its Hajim School of Engineering, a trivia game on the school, and a tour of the University of Rochester Baja SAE Shop where we saw the Baja car.

The interview involved one engineering professor and one admissions officer, and while I was nervous at first, I appreciated the opportunity to ask questions about senior projects and the research facilities on campus. I also sat in classes that were going on, which made it really nice that I went during the middle of the semester. I went to various different classes of different difficulties: from the introduction to economics to quantum mechanics for optics. My advice is to ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to speak up. All the students are really nice and willing to help, and it is good to ask questions from the people personally going to the school itself. The interviewers are also willing to answer your questions about the school and the program opportunities and the intricacies of the school system. I also talked to the professors of the classes I sat in, and they gave a lot of insight into the way classes are taught and what classes people tend to take, so I would recommend also interacting with professors to learn more about whether you would like their teaching style and the way different departments work.

Teamwork and research

To me, teamwork and research are both very important. Teamwork is essential in gaining more progress because you can support each other and figure out things other teammates cannot. Also, it makes it easier to get more done, especially if you split up work but still make sure to consolidate at the end of the day. Research is appealing to me because you can determine what is interesting to you and focus on that, and you will make more progress and retain more focus because it is what you’re interested in. Research helps us bring about progress in advancements in technology and innovation, but it also incites new ways of thinking or new approaches that can be applied over and over again to new problems.

Building robots

I am currently a part of the University of Rochester Baja SAE team, working on the design of the car, specifically CAD (computer-aided design). I am also a part of the Combat Robotics team in the University of Rochester robotics club, meaning I get to make robots fight like in Battlebots. I look to become more involved in practical activities to apply what I learn in the classroom, and research is another way for me to do that.

GEAR also motivates me to look for those practical applications so I can be more prepared for research. This summer, I am doing research with the math department at the University of Rochester since it is closely related to my computer science major. GEAR motivated me to seek out this research to get a better sense of what research is like and if I will enjoy it. The GEAR program has prepared me in the future because it gives me opportunities to work with faculty on research now so I can be ready for research later now, and it also means I will have experience for industry because a master’s degree shows that I can work hard through problems and problem solve.

I hope you or your student consider applying to GEAR as well! I find it very beneficial with its opportunities and as a motivating factor, and I think you will, too.

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