Interview with M R Hasan

First year Master of Science student in Civil Engineering with a specialization in Structural Engineering
University of Akron
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Graduate School – Application Process

How did you select your graduate school or program?

I chose University of Akron for my masters degree because it has one of the best civil engineering programs in Ohio. I also had a few friends here already and was familiar with one of the professors.

I did a lot of research on potential schools and their faculty to find a program that would support my goals. I looked into what graduate programs were available in addition to the research profiles of the faculty at the schools. I also investigated financial aid packages and other funding opportunities at different schools.

Did your application requirements include standardized test scores?

Yes, for my masters degree program in civil engineering, I had to submit GRE and TOEFL scores. The minimum GRE requirement for engineering programs at University of Akron was a score of 750 in the quantitative section. That seemed to be a standard requirement for civil engineering programs at all of the universities I investigated.

What kind of information did you include in your personal statement?

In my personal statement, I described my motivation for pursuing a graduate degree. I explained my past experiences and my educational background in civil engineering. I also wrote about my career goals, and I explained how a masters degree in civil engineering would help me achieve them.

How did you choose faculty to approach for letters of recommendation?

I wanted to submit letters of recommendation written by faculty who were aware of my academic potential. I chose professors who had mentored me when I wrote my undergraduate thesis because I felt that they were most knowledgeable about my abilities.

Do you have any other tips for a student who is considering applying to graduate school in civil engineering?

If a student is considering applying to graduate school for civil engineering, I would recommend that he or she prepares by taking some undergraduate courses in structural engineering. There are several different topics within the field of structural engineering, so I suggest that a student become familiar with areas like earthquake and wind engineering and computational mechanics. Having some exposure to the sub-fields of engineering will help a student determine a specialty in graduate school.

Graduate School – The Program

How long is your program and how is the curriculum distributed?

My masters degree program in civil engineering typically takes around 2 years or more to complete, but I will finish in about a year and a half.

Research work and coursework are equally important in my masters degree program. Each composes about half of the curriculum, but the distribution is flexible. I am required to take a total of 8 courses throughout the program, but I can choose when to take them. In addition to coursework, my thesis research is also spread across the program. I have focused on taking as many courses as possible early in the program to leave a lot of time to focus on research at the end. I have only 1 formal course left, and then I can devote all of my time to my thesis.

What is the focus of your masters degree research?

My thesis title is “Analytic Parametric Study on the Seismic Response of Self Centering Concentrically Braced Frame (SC-CBF) Structures.” Essentially, I am researching earthquake engineering. When I applied to graduate school, I had a general interest in seismic engineering but no specific topic in mind. My advisor picked the topic and assigned it to me because it was a project that would complement his own research.

Can you describe the process of researching for and writing your thesis?

I am still in the process of researching for my thesis and have not begun the composition. To research, I compile data and read a lot of journals and other publications. I also regularly enlist the guidance of my advisor.

Does your program have an internship component?

No, there is no special internship requirement for my masters degree program in civil engineering. Most students in my program do not have time during the school year for anything but schoolwork, but many do pursue internships during the summer. For some students, this additional exposure is necessary to understand the field of civil engineering.

What role does your advisor play in your education?

My advisor, David Roke, has been an integral part of my education. Most importantly, when I enrolled here as an international student from Bangladesh, David played a crucial role in helping me to adjust to the new culture and get settled in my new country. We have developed an excellent relationship.

I did not choose my own advisor. When I applied to University of Akron, I described my research interests. David was assigned to me when I enrolled because his field of research is similar to mine.

Does your masters program require comprehensive exams prior to graduation?

No, I am not required to take comprehensive exams. However, in order to graduate I will have to defend my thesis.

How does a masters program differ from undergraduate study?

One major difference between studying for a masters degree and studying for an undergraduate degree is the level of interaction that you have with your classmates. In my undergraduate classes, there were 50 to 60 students in a class. But in my masters program, there are 8 to 10 students in each class. In my masters degree program, it is more intimate and much easier to interact with my peers.

Graduate School – Paying for It

How are you funding your education?

The university funds my education completely for my masters degree in civil engineering. I work as a research assistant, and in exchange I receive a tuition waiver and a monthly living stipend.

Graduate School – Living Life

What are the time commitments for a masters degree in civil engineering?

In addition to attending classes, I commit about 25 to 30 hours each week to schoolwork. The research is the most challenging, time-consuming aspect of studying for this masters degree. During research, it can take time to generate resources. Sometimes I have to be very creative, and sometimes it is difficult. A lot of my time is spent conducting research for my program.

How has graduate school affected your personal life?

Graduate school has not had much impact on my personal life. Although my schoolwork is very time-consuming, I had already established friendships with American friends before my program began. Some of my classmates have a hard time connecting with friends because the work is very demanding, but I find it refreshing to connect with friends, and I try to find some time to socialize. Then I can approach my work feeling rejuvenated and motivated.

Graduate School – After Graduation

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In 5 years I hope to be completing a PhD program. My goal is to finish my education quickly, and I am already moving through my masters degree program faster than average. I hope to also earn my PhD as quickly as possible so I can enter the job market. When I finish my education, I will look for a job in academia, perhaps as an assistant professor.

Are you planning on pursuing a PhD? If so, how are you preparing for the admissions process?

Yes, I plan to pursue a PhD in civil engineering at a top university like Georgia Tech or University of Illinois. I am still in the process of exploring my options, but in preparation for my PhD program application, I am considering an internship at a consultancy firm.

Graduate School – Advice

What insights can you offer a student who is interested in pursuing a masters in civil engineering?

If you are a student who is interested in pursuing a masters degree in civil engineering, I would hope that you are a hard-working, patient person who can believe in yourself and seek out your own opportunities.

Studying for a masters degree in civil engineering is difficult, and you will encounter obstacles. The important thing is to always work hard to overcome those obstacles. To be successful, you have to be the sort of person who can look at failures as learning experiences, stick with it and work harder next time.

In addition to working hard and confronting challenges, it is very important that you believe in your abilities and set the bar high for yourself. You can have good grades or impressive credentials but good opportunities will still not present themselves if you do not go looking for them. If you try to get a job at a big firm or try to get into a great university, the worst that can happen is that you will not get the job or get into the school. But if you do not consistently set the bar high for yourself, you will never know what you can accomplish. If you don’t believe that you can do something, then you can’t.

Erin Larson


University of Minnesota


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Mike Prince


University of Florida


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Renee Pietsch


Mississippi State University