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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Academics & Research

Going to grad school for related degree not always necessary


undergraduate career

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

For some, going to graduate school is a step in their career that sets people up for the next phase of their professional development. Although, specializing in the same field or major as your undergraduate career isn’t always necessary.

Some students pursuing their graduate degree at UH have done just that, like environmental engineering graduate student Jorge Sanchez. He majored in biochemistry as an undergraduate student. 

“I chose my undergrad originally because I was planning to go to medical school,” Sanchez said. “I also loved science as well.”

Sanchez was burned out from the demands of medical school admissions, like the MCAT and lifestyle of medical school. 

“After applying to medical school and seeing what they liked in applications, the MCAT, residency, medical school life, burnout, and (some other) stuff happening in my life, I took a gap year to reevaluate,” Sanchez said. “On top of that, I was losing time if I were to take a gap year to get into med school. I still loved math and science but I still had the passion to help people.”

Instead of medical school, he decided to pursue environmental engineering, since he enjoyed that portion of his biochemistry coursework. 

“Environmental engineering was closely related to the stuff I’ve learned in biochemistry, from general chemistry to complex things like microbiology and biochemistry,” Sanchez said. “On top of that, engineering, especially in civil engineering, will always have steady job growth and security.”

Since pursuing this field, Sanchez has enjoyed his experience in his graduate program, even though some classes are a repeat of his undergraduate career, just at a higher level. 

The classes have been a repeat of my undergrad and so far, almost all of the professors have been amazing. That said, Sanchez assures other pre-med students that leaving the field is not as bad as it seems.

“There is nothing wrong about leaving premed,” Sanchez said. “As an engineer, you are problem-solving and helping to improve people’s lives.”

Other graduate students, like education masters student Davis Mathis, are also pursuing a major adjacent to his undergraduate career, where he studied Reading Curriculum and Instruction. 

“Studying literature involves a lot of critical analysis and theory directly about fictional or non-fictional stories and texts,” Mathis said. “Grad school has been more practical application of ideals to be used in schools and classrooms to create better readers, so I suppose undergrad was more about ways of thinking and looking at the world, and grad school has been about applying ideas to real people.”

Mathis has wanted to be a teacher for a while, but by studying English as an undergraduate, he was able to explore stories he wouldn’t have gotten to otherwise.

“I love stories and literature and studying English allowed me to spend my time immersed in a story,” he said. 

The majority of his graduate school experience has been spent virtually though, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Nevertheless, Sanchez and Mathis enjoy what they do now in their respective graduate studies, even though they aren’t on the same path as they were during their undergraduate career. 

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