Why didn't anyone tell me about this? ¿Por qué no me dijeron?

Words of wisdom from those who have gone before you

WhyDidn't STEM

Tips and strategies for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) majors from a panel of Graduate and Upper Level Undergraduate students at UNM

  • STEM fields can be difficult, but extremely rewarding.
  • Ask for help when you need it – humility is a good thing, humiliating yourself because you don’t ask for help is not.
  • Learn everything you can – even if you don’t use it in class or on the job, it will formulate the basis of your knowledge and make learning new subject matter easier. This includes other non-science courses.
  • Take initiative/be proactive – confused or the information wasn’t given to you? Try to find it on your own, don’t wait around until it is handed to you or asked for. Make yourself stand out in the crowd. Then, and only then, ask for help if you still need it.
  • Don’t settle and don’t give up – even if you are tired, keep at it and do quality work. Your work represents you.
  • Reflect on your inspirations and goals.
  • Intelligence isn't as important as you think it is.
  • Focus more on learning than grades.
  • Coding and statistics are skills are beneficial for pretty much any discipline.
  • Don’t limit your skills to your major – at a minimum be proficient at Word and Excel, work at having good writing skills, as well as other tools to help with any job.
  • Socializing can be as important as studying. It builds your network, as well as social and communication skills.
  • Access services and groups on campus /Don’t isolate yourself
  • NETWORK! It is an important opportunity to meet people, make friends and find people who might be able to help you along in your education and career goals. There are a few methods that we have found out work pretty well, including:
    • Get excited about YOUR education. It is what you make it.
    • Be your own Biggest Fan.
    • Meet and get acquainted with advisors and faculty in your department and fields you are interested in.
    • Don’t take NO for an answer!
    • Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions and push boundaries.
  • Don’t burn bridges/be a team player – even if you don’t like who you work with, keep it professional. Rise above. This is great training for the real world.
  • Experiences > GPA; You can be a great scientist without being a great student. Science requires creativity and original thinking, no midterm or final can ever test that.
  • Everyone experiences some form of the Impostor Syndrome. But, the reality is that as students, you're not supposed to have already "made it." You're there to learn.
  • It's good to try at least one thing out of your element
  • Take care of yourself!
    • The college triangle is a balancing act: sleep, grades, social life.
    • Be your own advocate. If you feel overwhelmed and overloaded, you are not alone, but don’t let anyone (advisor/peers/professors) pressure or talk you into piling more on your plate.
    • There is nothing selfish in taking care of YOU—both emotionally and physically. Someday these things may not be so natural. Eat right, exercise, relax, sleep, go to the doctor regularly, make choices that help you achieve your goals, make friends who share and are supportive of your goals, and always know your limits and work load ability! Think about the following:
      • I get__ hours of sleep a night.
      • I spend__ hours being physically active.
      • My favorite things to do during free time are …
      • My good choices in food are …
      • My Bad choices in food are …
  • What are your top 5? Take some time to make a short list of your top five for the following. Keep it close so you can look at it often and remember the reasons why you are doing what you are doing!
    1. Goals for my college experience
    2. Ways I will take care of my self
    3. Goals for my personal life
    4. Ways I will try to make these goals happen
    5. Things I have to change to make my goals happen
  • The professors love what they do and want to interact with you.
  • Apply for absolutely every scholarship/job/opportunity you think you might qualify for. The only way to know which selection committees will resonate with your story, is to apply to everything!
  • Asking questions is everything - Never lose sight of the fact that you're here to learn. Second-guessing yourself is normal, and you might feel intimidated by some of your professors, but if you hold back on asking questions you're only hurting your own chances.
  • Don’t get a STEM degree because you are guaranteed a job – while your chances are higher than in some other fields, get the degree because it is your passion.
  • Just like science, life is fluid – Change is ok – if you find you are not enjoying yourself, it is ok to change majors. It should be fun. As you take courses and experience new things, you also change and grow. If you aren’t enjoying learning the information, you won’t enjoy doing work based on said information.
  • Go to office hours and ask questions in class. If your teachers can put your face to your name, I think they're slightly more generous on curving.
  • Every employer I've had has cared about overall GPA, not GPA is technical classes. So, if there's some non-STEM field you're really good at, you can take a bunch of courses in that to puff up your GPA.
  • Starting from the bottom doesn’t keep you back – everyone goes at their own pace. And, starting one course lower takes less or equal time to repeating a failed course, without the hit on your GPA.

  • Don’t leave referencing to last
  • The library is your best friend
  • You don’t need to live up to the student stereotype
  • If you can, consider summer classes. You can use them to lighten your course load during spring and fall semester by knocking off required courses during the summer.
    • Especially for calculus. The calculus sequence builds upon itself, so taking it fall, spring, then summer makes it easier because you don't have a 3 month gap between Calc 2 and 3.
  • Most engineering courses at UNM have absolutely massive curves. Don't drop until you're sure that, even with the curve, you can't pass.
  • There are a bunch of weird online intercession courses in strange subjects. If you do have to drop a class but need to maintain full time status, you can take one of these in the gap between semesters, and it'll count like you took it in the semester that just ended. As a bonus, they tend to be pretty easy.
  • Soul-search for the type of job you might actually want and whether a graduate degree is actually helpful/necessary to get that job
  • Many STEM fields require additional certifications before you are considered, for example, an Electrical Engineer. Until you have these certifications, you are considered “in training.”
  • Get hands-on experience – get a practical view of the field you are entering.
  • Sandia National Labs jobs are pretty sweet. However, they all require a security clearance and a drug test. So maybe don't drink or do drugs/crimes if you think you might like to work there.
  • To select the best advisor for graduate school, ask yourself these three questions about a potential STEM advisor for thesis/dissertation based programs:
    1. What do the advisor's current or past students say about them?
    2. Has the advisor written a first-author paper in the past 3 - 5 years in your potential field of interest?
    3. How long does it take your potential advisor's students to defend?
At the undergraduate level, research is a self-directed work under the guidance and supervision of a mentor or advisor usually associated with the university that you attend. A gradual transition towards independence is encouraged as a student gains confidence and is able to work with minor supervision. Students normally participate in an ongoing research project and investigate phenomena of interest to them and their advisor. There are many benefits to undergraduate research but a few of the most important are:
  • Learning and application of classroom information in a real world setting!
  • The excitement of discovery.
  • Preparing for graduate school or a post-graduate job within your field of study

How do I get involved?

In your entry-level science courses, you will often perform experiments where the results are already know. These experiments are essential to your understanding and academic growth. But, if you get involved in undergraduate research opportunities, you can take this a step further by creating and conducting research where no one knows what will happen! This is the exciting part of science…discover and create something new! This is how science changes the world for the better every day! There are several key ways to get involved in undergraduate research.

  • Undergraduate research programs. Some of those around campus include, but are not limited to:
    • McNair/ROP offers opportunities for first-generation students from low-income families, or from populations traditionally underrepresented in STEM. To learn more about McNair/ROP, visit http://mcnair.unm.edu/.
    • First Year Research Experiences (FYRE) is open to all first-year students. To learn more, visit https://cep.unm.edu/scholar-programs/fyre-2.html.
  • Meet with a department advisor.

  • Learn about what YOU are interested in.

  • Talk to your professors in classes you enjoy. This is crucial. Faculty members sometimes hire undergraduate students in their labs to help with their research. From these experiences, you will get to know professors, graduate students, and other undergraduate students, and you will learn key research concepts. Undergraduate research looks GREAT on your resume when you graduate and apply for jobs or graduate school.
    • Find a research mentor: http://stem.unm.edu/get-involved/stem-mentor-finding-a-research-mentor.pdf
    • Set up a time to meet with a potential mentor (office hours, before/after class) and ask them the following questions:
      • Tell them about what you read about them and their research.
      • If you don’t already know the answer to this, ask if they conduct research at UNM?
      • Ask them to tell you more about their research.
      • Do they hire undergraduate students in their lab?
      • If they don’t have the money to hire a student, ask them if you can volunteer a few hours each week.

  • Check UNM Jobs for student hires.

  • Be persistent and be willing to volunteer if you can’t get a paid gig.
  • Increased personal freedom.

  • Increased responsibility.

  • Increased demand for time management.

  • Different surroundings and relationships.

  • Changing relationships with family and friends from home.

  • What if you are not happy at college? Take care of yourself! - see “Life, socializing, and working with others” above.

70 ways to manage your time

  1. Clarify your values
  2. Set goals based on your values
  3. Develop action plans based on goals
  4. Record and evaluate how you spend your time
  5. Ensure that daily, weekly & term goals are congruent with your values
  6. Combine activities
  7. Watch out for the time wasters
  8. Have little tasks at hand
  9. Be flexible
  10. Review lecture notes soon after your lecture
  11. Review lecture notes throughout the term
  12. Don’t rely on cramming for exams
  13. Spread memory work out over the term
  14. Remember – work expands to fill time available
  15. 20% of what you do yields 80% of the results
  16. 80% of what you do yields 20% of the results
  17. Let your subconscious work for you – start papers and creative work early
  18. Have a note pad at all times
  19. Take learning skill workshops
  20. Have a purpose for everything you do
  21. Define your objectives
  22. Set priorities
  23. Plan
  24. Write down daily goals in order of priority
  25. Set goals that are specific
  26. Set goals that are measurable
  27. Set goals that are acceptable to you
  28. Set goals that are realistic
  29. Set goals that include a specified time frame for completion
  30. Make “To Do” lists
  31. Work on top priorities
  32. Break down big tasks into short projects
  33. Do the hard tasks first
  34. Eliminate tasks you do not have to do yourself
  35. Complete one task before starting another
  1. Delegate
  2. Allow enough time for each task
  3. Allow extra time for the unexpected
  4. Avoid busyness
  5. Allow time for family, friends and yourself
  6. Use calendars: term, week, daily
  7. Set deadlines
  8. Consolidate discretionary time in blocks
  9. Do creative work where you will not be disturbed
  10. Communicate clearly the first time
  11. Get feedback on your communications
  12. Do not over schedule
  13. Know your limitations
  14. Use the telephone or email
  15. Group phone calls, emails together
  16. Return calls at a fixed time
  17. Keep time filler tasks by the phone
  18. Keep a clean desk
  19. Do not waste other people’s time
  20. Plan meetings
  21. Direct meetings purposefully
  22. Start meetings on time
  23. Keep meetings on agenda
  24. Time limit agenda items
  25. End meetings on time
  26. Handle mail once
  27. Throw out what you will not read
  28. Use a tickler system to remind you of due dates
  29. Let your secretary handle appointments
  30. Fix hours for appointments
  31. Go to the other person’s room or office
  32. Meet outside of your office
  33. Block interruptions of appointments
  34. Do not trust your memory – write it down
  35. Develop a good file system

Where does the time go?

Have you considered the time you have? How many times have you wondered what happened to all the time you had? Have you ever counted up the number of hours during a week and approximated times for each activity? You can make master schedules for:
  1. Term papers, Exams, etc.
  2. Template of your life
  3. Weekly schedule: things that change weekly
  4. Daily schedule

Planning study time
  1. Budget time
  2. Deadlines
  3. Breaks
  4. Peak times
  5. Fill gaps
  6. Prioritize
  7. Plan for any task to take 3x longer than anticipated

STEM Gateway Blog

see blogs from Aug. 2015 – May 2016.

  • Two sides of the same coin: Mentor-Mentee relationships. These show the benefit to mentor-mentee relationships and how they interaction develops and the contribution it can have on student success.
  • STEM Career Profiles. These get students to understand that the path to their careers and success is not always a straight line; to highlight the broad possibilities for them with STEM degrees, outside of the traditional or obvious pathways; and to encourage them to persist despite challenges they will encounter.
  • Faculty Learning Strategies. Faculty members' perspectives and thoughts on what students need to be successful in college.
  • Student Survivors. Focus on how students reach their STEM undergraduate aspirations.

STEM Student Resources

  • Adjusting to Undergraduate Life at UNM – a short video; includes multiple perspectives on Cultural Adjustment.
  • Tips for Success
  • …and MUCH more!

STEM Collaborative Center

  • Information on UNM STEM Student resources—including but not limited to: research opportunities programs, ethnic centers, program/academic support, and mental health

STEM Student Organizations

Student organizations are a great way to meet other students with similar interests and can benefit both your academic and student life experiences!

Self Care
  • Student Health and Counseling (SHAC): shac.unm.edu or 505-277-3136
  • Center for Academic Program Support (CAPS): caps.unm.edu or 505-277-7224
  • Veterans Resource Center (VRC): vrc.unm.edu or 505-277-3181/3184
  • AGORA Crisis Center: www.agoracares.org or 505-277-3013 or 866-HELP-1-NM
  • Johnson Center: recsvcs.unm.edu or 505-277-0178 (Free for all full-time students)
  • LoboRESPECT is an advocate for students in a variety of situations including harassment, missing class due illness, and many more. loborespect.unm.edu
  • Accessibility Resource Center (ARC): arcsrvs@unm.edu or (505) 277-3506

UNM Resource Centers