Alumni Spotlight-Kyle Emery
Currently a PhD student in Marine Science at UC Santa Barbara, Kyle is studying the connection between kelp forests and sandy beaches. Kyle graduated from UVA IN 2015 with a BS and MS in Environmental Sciences. Currently in his 3rd year of PhD, Kyle plans to apply for post doc positions in the near future and hopes to come back to UVA as a faculty member someday.
During his time at UVA, Kyle was accepted into a summer REU program at the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in Virginia. His research during the summer focused on carbon sequestration in seagrass, and this research led Kyle to his Master's project.
Kyle's advice for undergraduate students looking to go to graduate school is to get involved in research projects as soon as possible. “If I could redo one aspect of my undergrad education it would be getting started with research much earlier” stated Kyle.
Connecting early on with professors who are working in a student's area of interest is important, as this can lead to involvement with projects that can really set the tone for research. A STEM major is not necessarily a requirement for all research work.
Students without a STEM degree and passionate about STEM research can build up their expertise by getting involved with independent study projects. This is especially relevant for students getting a BA in Environmental Sciences instead of a BS.
For first and second year students, Kyle’s advice was to take a mix of different coursework. A lot of students come in knowing exactly what they want to do but many are unsure. If students are taking classes in only one area, it closes off exploration possibilities. Changing your mind about what you want to major in is completely normal and taking core courses in different areas of interest can make the process of figuring out your interests much easier.
For students taking a gap year or two between completing undergrad and going to graduate school, it is important to stay active in research. Gap years can be a really good way to gain experience; RA jobs, lab manager positions, and some government careers are open to students with a BA or BS degree. However, it is still important to solidify graduate school plans as early as possible. "Look up the professors you want to work with, ask them about their work, and talk about funding mechanisms; Definitely Contact Them!" Kyle emphasized.