You’re Old Now

As you walk around campus today, pass through buildings, and try to figure out the panini line in the IMU, you may have had a weird feeling in the depths of your soul—that’s right you’re officially old and you may want to blame an undergrad or seven hundred for that feeling.  While the undergraduate experience may still be fresh on a few of your minds, for those of us over twenty-five, four years out of college is a light-year in fashion, music, nostalgia (seriously what the heck is a One Direction).  You’re confused, maybe even a little tired because the coffee line is too long, but stay strong comrade, stay strong.

courtesy of

Now before you go grabbing your cane and lecturing these young bucks about the good old days when MTV played music videos, eating dunkaroos, and long forgotten dance moves courtesy of D4L remember one very important thing; your parents, their parents, and their parent’s parents did the same exact thing to the generation that followed them.  No young person wants to be lectured, but they do want someone who will reach out to them as a mentor and ally.  Your undergraduate experience was transformative to your being and so will Indiana University be for theirs, don’t gripe if they seem apathetic or don’t immediately know how to network.  Don’t judge too harshly; reach out to a few of them especially if they share similar academic and career interests.  Learning is a reciprocal experience where as you provide guidance, the appreciation will come back two fold and hopefully they’ll be able to explain to you who the heck One Direction is.


Finding a Mentor


Clip art taken from

Clip art taken from

I’ve always envisioned a mentor as someone I would meet with on a regular basis; discuss what was going on in my academic and personal life. They would offer me their experience, serve as a sounding board and help me accomplish my goals. Sound a little too perfect? Maybe…maybe not. My experience has been that one person cannot always accomplish all of the above.

Finding the right mentor(s) can be an amazing asset as you navigate the complex world of graduate school; but what exactly should a mentor do for you, and how and where do you get one? While the following advice is not extensive, it will hopefully get you thinking about how to proceed.
First, what is a mentor? A mentor is someone who will be available to work with you to develop your potential, inspire and challenge you. Because you will need different people for different things, a mentor is not always a one-size-fits all. Finding multiple mentors for the various parts of your career or personal life is important; the key is asking yourself:

  • What can I learn from this person?
  • How can they help me maximize on my graduate school experience?
  • Does their mentoring style fit me?
  • Where to find one?

Mentors can be found in faculty, staff, and other graduate students. Again, the fit will depend on your interest and goals in maximizing your graduate school experience. Be aware of the different mentoring styles, and that some mentors will want to keep their communication strictly professional and not personal.

In short, create a network of mentors that fit your needs and goals, along with clear and realistic expectations.
For more on mentorship, check out the following presentation from Dr. Patrick Dickerson, “How to get the Mentoring You Need?” PLD GLASS 2013 Mentoring

Future Faculty Conference

This past week I attended a future faculty conference at Virginia Tech. It was lots of fun. I got to meet other grad students and post docs from around the nation. I figured I share the pictures with you all. Check it out! If you are able to participate in future faculty programs I’d strongly encourage it, IU has one in the spring click here for more info.

Diversity at IU

We can see, feel and taste the diversity whenever we come to any IU campus. With students from all 50 states and more than 130 countries, IU has a rich culture with very diverse ethnicities. Diversity promotion is a big part of the strategy to internationalize IU.

The office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (DEMA) is dedicated promote diversity at IU. Diversity promotion efforts focus on developing diverse array of programs, services, and activities that help to “promote excellence through diversity, equity, and culture at Indiana University”.

Below you would find the link of Diversity resources at IU Bloomington.

Each center provides its own services to support students in every aspect. Know that they are always there to support you and your academic growth.  It is awesome to be part of a diverse campus where you know the exchange of ideas and experiences is fully encouraged. These certainly influence our academic and campus life in a positive way.


Networking and the courage to say “Hi”

Everyone knows the core principle of networking ☺ I think it basically means we make efforts to broaden our relations…Why? Coz relation is extremely important to our personal growth and professional development. There are different kinds of networking namely business networking, social networking… I want to mention about social networking under IU context. So how do we do networking? For me it starts with the courage to say “Hi”…

The hardest part to start a conversation with a stranger is to “break the ice” or “ice breaking”. This sounds very simple but it is not so easy. Why saying “hi” first? The “stranger” is certainly strange. He/she is so different from us…There might be no connection between us and “the stranger”…He/she might prefer to be alone…He/she might not be interested in talking to us …A bunch of “fair” reasons keep us silent and act as a stranger too. But…very often when I take the initiative to say “Hi” first, people open up immediately and we continue with very interesting conversations. These conversations provide me lots of good information about new school programs, community involvement activities, funding opportunities…I am here today to write this blog about networking thanks to a friend I met at the Graduate Lounge over lunch. That’s gives me the chance to meet with 11 awesome emissaries and we have so much fun working together…

We can say “Hi” creatively too. The most common I use are Heya, Halo and Hola. You could look up all kinds of foreign ways of saying hello and memorize them to impress your friends. I also see recommendations from another blogger who says if you’re going for humor, you can use famous lines from movies or characters. From Mickey Mouse Club, “Howdy, Howdy, Howdy” from Toy Story, and “Hiya Pal” from Mickey Mouse himself :) There are millions of ways to say Hi starting with the basic ‘hey’ and ‘what’s up’. What are your ways of greeting people? ☺

I also strongly recommend joining the activities of students’ associations at IU if you want to broaden your network. Do you know that IU has more than 750 student organizations all founded and led by students? Those organizations gather regularly to explore professional interests, hobbies, sports and recreation, academics, religion, politics… In Vietnam we have a saying “you are rich because you have friends” and I hope you are always very rich ☺

Your academic family: to colleagues in your department to those you meet at conferences … it’s a small world

It may seem like a big world out there; besides your colleagues that you see and work with everyday in your academic department, your academic family can extend to others in your discipline.  Whether you see or interact with each other daily or even weekly, because of technology, the world is a much smaller place than you think.

It is important to meet and get to know others in your academic department.  The wealth of knowledge from your colleagues will help you explore areas that you may not have thought of or even known.  More importantly, this allows for collaborative efforts in teaching and research.  In addition, others in your department can help you network and navigate the larger world in your discipline.

I have had a benefit of professors at the IU School of Education to encourage me to collaborate with them on research and attend academic conferences with them.  This opportunity not only strengthens my academic portfolio for later employment, but it helps me make connections with other colleagues.  By being involved, the large and scary realm of academia becomes much smaller, manageable, and personable.  It all becomes your family!

Every person has something unique about them.  If you spend time to really get to know them and understand their life experiences, you will be amazed of what you can learn.  Reach out to your colleagues now; either those you work with everyday or those you see once in a while, you will be surprised of how much you can learn from each other.

IU: an institution that allows and supports collaboration across disciplines

A large research higher education institution as IU can be daunting as there are so many options. Everyone has a specific specialty and academic niche. There are a myriad of academic disciplines that students can choose from, and there are hundreds of academic research centers to wade your interests through. Although it can be overwhelming to some, it is a paradise to others who enjoy collaborating across disciplines.

I am studying higher education policy at IU; however, I am also a trained secondary education teacher and a lawyer.  From my old days as a lawyer, I still currently serve as Director of Disaster Legal Services, which is a partnership program between the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). DLS provides pro bono legal services to disaster survivors after a natural disaster strikes the United States.

After meeting Mike H., a fellow IU Emissary for Graduate Student Diversity, we talked about the things we were involved in.  Mike mentioned that he used to work for FEMA and was intrigued with my work through the ABA and FEMA.  After several discussions, we figured that we could collaborate with each other to find better ways our services could be delivered to disaster survivors.

Mike H., is studying for his master degree in Human-Computer Interface Design at the IU School of Informatics and Computing. Through my work and connections with FEMA, I was able to invite Mike out to Washington D.C. for our quarterly meeting with FEMA and his capstone project to design a mobile application to better deliver disaster legal services was approved.

This government/non-profit – academic partnership is possible because of the collaborative nature at IU.  Because of the varied disciplines and opportunities, Mike H.’s past experience with FEMA and his interest to build this mobile app for us as his capstone project will allow us to better serve disaster survivors.

Come and find out more about IU’s collaborative nature among students, faculty, and the community!



Recruiting while at academic conferences

As a alumnus and current student of Indiana University, I represent the university and the schools that I am affiliated with everyday and every interaction I have with others. Indiana University is a world-renowned institution that attracts quality and diverse scholars to study and research.

This semester, I plan to attend and present at two scholarly conferences: the Indiana Student Affairs Association Annual Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the Education Law Association Annual Conference held in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  I will be presenting about the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas – Austin when the Justices will hear oral arguments in October.  Their decision in this case can change how universities and their admissions offices consider race and ethnicity as diversity in their admissions decisions, and thus, impact the make-up of our student body and the quality of our higher education.


While at these conferences, my interactions with fellow colleagues and prospective students will be to introduce them to Indiana University.  IU is a place that embraces diverse research and viewpoints.  As such, I am proud to be representing IU and continually recruit and introduce others to IU.

Recruiting at academic conferences isn’t akin to sales.  I am not there to pitch a sales message, but I am there to build life-long relationships, friendships, and academic camaraderie.  The name of the game isn’t competition, but collaboration.

Welcome to IU!  I look forward to meeting you and showing you how IU can help you succeed in your academic career.

A look back at the 3rd Annual International Particle Accelerator Conference

In the late spring of 2012, I had the wonderful opportunity of attending an annual international conference held in New Orleans, Louisiana. The International Particle Accelerator Conference (IPAC) was established in 2010 to join together the world’s largest organizations working on topics pertaining to particle accelerator technologies and applications. Among them includes CERN, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, IEEE, and countless national laboratories, physical societies, and accelerator facilities around the globe.

Conference poster for the 3rd annual International Particle Accelerator Conference held in New Orleans, LA, USA.

It was here that I was given the opportunity to showcase my research as well as get acquainted to the research of fellow scientists in the field. There were over 2000 participants in all. I ran into old professors and advisers, friends, and colleagues I met along the journey. I presented on the compact radio frequency accelerating structure that I built at the Center for Exploration of Energy and Matter (message me if you are interested in reading the paper). To the best of my knowledge, it the the most compact accelerating structure of its kind in current literature. Overall is the wonderful, humbling, and empowering experience for a young scholar. On the flight back to Indiana, still buzzing with excitement, all I can think of how I can keep pushing and contribute further to the accelerator physics community. I hope you’ll one day get to experience the same.

The Ernest N. Morial Conference Center setting up for IPAC 2012. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

Both researchers and vendors prepare their booths for IPAC 2012. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

The conference’s opening ceremony. Somewhere in the crowd I am sitting, absorbing the experience. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

The conference included both oral presentations and poster sessions. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

There is a coffee break between every scheduled session. This is where we grab a pick-me-up and chat. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

The billboards to the left are for research posters that rotates between specialized topics for every given day. Researchers, including myself, typically stand by their poster to answer questions. All conference proceedings must be be accompanied by a journal quality 3-page report. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

All the big vendors like Agilent and Tektronix were there to showcase their latest and greatest gadgets. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

In copper, a beautifully machined radio frequency quadrupole structure. And in Niobium, encased in glass, sits a superconducting radio frequency structure. Photo by Alfonse N. Pham.

It is conference tradition to pass on the ceremonial bell to each successive conference chair. The chairperson for this year’s conference is Victor Suller, the associate director of the CAMD facility at LSU. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

Victor would chime the bell giving the participants a 5-minute warning that the next session is about to commence. It was hilariously like herding cows. Photo by Victor G. Ramirez.

“Networking” with some fellow colleagues on Bourbon St. Photo by Alfonse N. Pham.

And oh, did I mention seafood? Cajan spiced deep-fried oysters with blue cheese. Photo by Cara S. Maffini.

Seafood! Soft-shell crab eggs benedict. Photo by Alfonse N. Pham.

SEAFOOD!!! In retrospect though, all-you-can-eat crawfish wasn’t a great idea after a long night of “networking.”

No NOLA trip is complete without a visit to the Cafe Du Monde. Photo by Alfonse N. Pham.

Iced coffee and sugar-coated beignets. Photo by Alfonse N. Pham.

Schedule A Campus Visit.

I highly recommend that you do visit your potential graduate school institution, it is a smart decision. Simple put, a visit can go a long way in your own personal ranking of a program.

When you schedule a visit: 1) be sure to take a tour around campus, 2) meet with faculty in your intended program, 3) come prepared to ask questions and seek out opportunities to meet with current graduate students, 4) keep in mind what the cost of living will likely be, and 5) do as much research ahead of time to give you a head start & also make time to have some fun on your trip.