Brian Hornbuckle: Experiences
It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do.
The experiences listed below helped me decide.
If you would like to ask me more about these programs,
please contact me.
- Student Conservation Association
- During the summer of 1989, after my junior year of high school,
I spent a month working at
Isle Royale National Park
with six other high school students
and an adult leader.
We repaired campsites and trails at
the Feldtmann Lake campground for three weeks and then traveled
around the island by canoe. They also have programs for college
students and college graduates.
This is a great way to get into the National
Park Service and other state park services.
You are not paid in the high school programs,
and recently there is a fee to participate.
But there are modest stipends for the college and post-college programs.
My concern for the environment
and desire to work out-of-doors
resulted from my time in Isle Royale.
- University of Minnesota Biomedical Engineering Institute
- I participated in the
undergraduate summer research program
in the summer of 1992 after my sophomore year of college.
It was there that I figured out that I didn't
want to be a biomedical engineer or work in a hospital!!
This discovery had
nothing to do with the program itself,
but simply verified what I already suspected:
I'm uncomfortable in hospitals.
I designed a relational database
for Dr. Stan Finkelstein's and Dr. Jay Cohn's research
on human blood vessel compliance (elasticity)
and its relation to hypertension
(which can contribute to high blood pressure).
The Minneapolis/St.Paul area is a nice place to live.
Our group did a lot fun things together.
This program pays a competitive stipend.
- NSF REU Program at ISU Microelectronics Research Center
- This was a National Science Foundation
Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU).
It was not well advertised, and I found out about it only
after mailing several letters and resumes
to professors in the electrical engineering
department at ISU asking for a job for summer of 1993,
the summer before my senior year of college.
There are many REU at schools all over the country each summer.
Look here for a list
or you could contact professors directly as I did.
This particular program at Iowa State consisted of both coursework and research.
I took a class with lab on designing
and fabricating semiconductor devices
and also did some research on using
amorphous silicon to make electrical contact to shallow emitters
typical in microwave devices.
A competitive stipend is paid.
From a faculty member's point of view,
this is a great way to attract good students to their research.
Keep that in mind if you are accepted into one of these programs.
Your advisors would like you to come to graduate school and work with them
if you do well in the program.
- Mississippi Teacher Corps
- After learning from many great teachers during my high school and college careers,
I decided to pay back the time my teachers had spent with me
by becoming a teacher myself.
In June of 1994, just after graduating from college,
I joined the MTC
and began taking education classes at the
University of Mississippi that summer.
During the next two academic years I taught five classes of chemistry
and one class of physics at
Clarksdale High School
in Clarksdale, MS,
and attended Ole Miss every-other-weekend to take classes.
Before the end of my first year I was a certified high school teacher,
and by winter break of the second year I had my M.A. in secondary education.
I earned regular first-year teacher pay and benefits,
a stipend during the summers,
and a free M.A. degree.
Well, the M.A. wasn't really free: teaching was
very hard, but enjoyable, work.
If you're interested in the teaching profession,
this is the best non-traditional certification program
of which I am aware.
The twenty-or-so teachers in my class became a great support group.
I worked harder teaching than I have at anything else,
but it's probably the best thing I've ever done (other than marrying my wife Jalene!).
Here are some things I created while teaching.
- NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
- I was very fortunate to receive a three year graduate study fellowship from the NSF in 1996,
after I had been teaching for two years.
As an undergraduate, it was my impression
that I had to know exactly what type of research I wanted to do
before attending graduate school.
I had heard about the NSF
but also thought it was a fellowship specifically
for students who knew exactly what they wanted to study.
I have found that this is not true.
Although I was required to write an essay entitled "Plan of Study"
detailing my graduate school plans,
this did not mean that the reviewers at NSF expected that I had finalized my plans,
but only that I had put significant thought towards them.
In my application,
I wrote about my plan to study communication systems.
When I got to Michigan in the fall,
I immediately changed my plans and decided to pursue coursework in electromagnetics.
I submitted another plan of study near the end of my fellowship at
the request of one of the program directors,
who commented that the NSF is not supporting my research
but my graduate study.
The NSF gave me time to carefully choose what I wanted to study
and who I wanted to work with after arriving at Michigan.
This is a luxury:
many incoming graduate students are "attached" to a faculty member at the start
in order to receive support (tuition and stipend).
In some cases, although definitely not all,
it is hard to move from that faculty member if the research does not appeal to you.
For some students,
this is fine because they know beforehand the type of research they want to do.
Some students can secure TA positions,
which also give you independence,
and fewer still acquire departmental fellowships of some kind.
Having an NSF fellowship also makes you extremely attractive to faculty members:
who wouldn't take a free student?
I believe excellent grades, excellent recommendations,
good GRE scores, and a well-thought-out plan will get you an NSF.
- EPA STAR Graduate Fellowship Program
- I was also very fortunate to receive a three year graduate study fellowship from the EPA in 1999,
after I had been in graduate school for three years.
Although my area of research was certainly on the fringes,
if not outside the scope,
of traditional EPA research,
I carefully read through EPA documents that identified science goals and priorities
and figured out how my research could help accomplish those goals.
I then wrote a plan of study that emphasized
how my work would help accomplish a specific goal,
and elaborated on this topic.
I believe identifying and clearly stating this link
between my research and the EPA in my plan of study,
along with good grades and recommendation letters,
got me this fellowship.
One benefit of this fellowship is a spending account,
part of which is used to pay your benefits.
But a significant amount is left over
that can be used for travel, equipment, books, and other supplies.
It's nice to have your own account when you're a graduate student!
Recently EPA's graduate fellowship program has been consolidated with the NSF's.
- NSF International Research Fellowship Program
- Marshall Sherfield Fellowship
- I was awarded, but then declined, an NSF International Research Fellowship
just after accepting my present position here at ISU.
To apply for this program,
the applicant basically writes a short grant proposal.
I proposed to do research at the
Earth Systems Science Centre at the University of Reading, England.
I had spent a week in the UK
meeting with people at the ESSC,
and had thought carefully about what I wanted to accomplish.
This meeting also allowed the director of the ESSC
to write a specific letter inviting me to come.
In my proposal,
I was very careful to explain
why the ESSC was the perfect place to do my research.
Through the application process,
I was also able to establish some international contacts,
with whom I hope to collaborate in the future.
I also made the final round of the Marshall Sherfield Fellowship program.
I interviewed at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.,
but was not offered a fellowship.
Again, I believe the key to my success in this program
was a specific research program,
and the relationship I had already established with the ESSC.
If you're interested in these two opportunities,
the Marshall may be a bit more prestigious,
but the NSF IRFP is much more lucrative and flexible.
This was important for me because I had a spouse and three children to support.