Navigating Grad School: Imrul Shuva's Journey in Computer Science and Research

Victors in Grad School

08-01-2024 • 24 mins

The road to success in graduate school is paved with unique challenges and triumphs, especially for those pursuing their aspirations in a foreign country. In this week's Victors in Grad School podcast, Imrul Shuva, a graduate student in Computer Science and Information Systems at the University of Michigan Flint, shared his insightful journey through graduate school, shedding light on the experiences, challenges, and strategies that have helped him navigate the complexities of pursuing a master's degree.

Choosing Graduate School for Research Opportunities

Imrul's journey began with a passion for research. He highlighted that his interest in continuing to graduate school stemmed from a desire for more research opportunities. His undergraduate experience in thesis work kindled a passion for in-depth research, prompting him to seek advanced opportunities for academic exploration and growth. Imrul's journey emphasizes the vital role of passion and interest in choosing to pursue further education.

Selecting the Right Institution

Imrul's decision to attend the University of Michigan Flint was influenced by various factors, including the presence of research opportunities, a welcoming community, and the potential to bring his family with him. His decision process exposes the importance of considering multiple aspects such as community support, academic resources, and personal circumstances when choosing the right institution for one's academic pursuits.

Transitioning to a New Environment

Moving to a foreign country presents unique challenges, especially when considering cultural, environmental, and educational differences. Imrul's experience of acclimating to the climate and lifestyle in Michigan underscores the resilience and adaptability required for success in a new academic and personal environment. His experiences serve to reassure prospective international students that perseverance in the face of unfamiliarity is an essential aspect of their journey.

Balancing Academics and Fatherhood

Imrul's journey took an extraordinary turn as he welcomed his first child while navigating the demands of graduate school in a foreign land. His honest account of the initial challenges and eventual adaptation to juggling fatherhood with academic responsibilities sheds light on the resilience and determination required to navigate the dual roles of a student and a parent. Imrul's story conveys an inspiring message to aspiring students, affirming that dedication and adaptability can lead to success despite challenges.

Navigating the Transition to Graduate Research

Imrul highlighted the significant difference in the support and resources available for research at the graduate level compared to his undergraduate experience. His account emphasized the indispensable support of professors and the abundant resources at the University of Michigan Flint. His narrative underscores the value of mentorship and academic resources in empowering students to excel in their research pursuits.

Success in Graduate Classes

Transitioning from undergraduate to graduate-level classes necessitates a shift towards greater independence and self-motivation. Imrul's emphasis on the independent nature of graduate study and the importance of self-discipline and accountability aligns with the essential skills required for success in advanced academic pursuits. His journey reinforces the significance of proactivity and self-reliance in achieving success in graduate classes.

Future Aspirations and Advice for Prospective Grad Students

Looking towards the future, Imrul's aspirations for a career in academia and qualitative research reflect the profound impact of his graduate journey on his professional goals. His advice to prospective graduate students resonates with the importance of proactive planning, timely communication, and the pursuit of one's academic and professional passions.

Imrul Shuva's journey through graduate school at the University of Michigan-Flint serves as an exemplary testament to the resilience, adaptability, and determination required to navigate the complexities of pursuing an advanced degree, especially in a foreign country. His experiences illustrate the transformative power of passion, support, and dedication in the pursuit of academic and personal goals. Imrul's story inspires students to embrace challenges and seize opportunities, reaffirming that success in graduate school is a journey marked by dedication, growth, and extraordinary achievements.

This podcast is brought to you by The Office of Graduate programs at the University of Michigan-Flint. If you’re still wondering about other things to consider when it comes to graduate school, you can also contact the Office of Graduate Programs at UM-Flint. We’re here to answer questions Monday – Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST. You can also find out more about the 50+ programs that the university has to offer here.

TRANSCRIPT

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:01]:

Welcome to the Victor's in Grad School, where we have conversations with students, alumni, and experts about what it takes to find success in graduate school.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:11]:

Welcome back to Victors in Grad School. I'm your host doctor Christopher Lewis, Director of graduate programs at the University of Michigan Flint. Really excited to have you back again this week. As always, every week, We have an opportunity to be able to sit down, to work together, to work through this journey that you're on of going Either through grad school, getting ready for grad school, preparing in some way, or looking back at the experience that you had. You might be listening and trying to hear about some of the other people's experiences and see if they're the same as yours. There's so many different people That there's so many different ways in which we all go through our graduate school experience, and it's important to be able to understand what it takes to be able to be successful in that graduate school journey, and that's what and that's what this show is all about. Every week, I love being able to bring you different guests, people that are having different experiences, that Had different experiences that have had to do different things to prepare themselves well to to go into graduate school, but then What but then also had to pivot or do different things to be able to continue to find success in that journey along the way. This week, we've got another great guest with us.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:32]:

Imrul Shuva is with us today, and Imrul is a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Flint. He is studying computer science and information systems at The University of Michigan Flint, and he is actively getting ready. He sees that light at the end of the tunnel as he's preparing for graduation here in the the next year, and I know that he's gone through a lot to be able to get through the program and to do what he's had to do, and I'm looking forward to sharing his experience and having him share his journey with you. Imrul, thanks so much for joining us today.

Imrul Shuva [00:02:07]:

Thank you so much, Chris, for having me here. I'm privileged to be here.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:02:11]:

Well, I really appreciate you being here today. And first and foremost, I guess, what I would love to do is turn the clock back in time because at some point, it might have been during your Bachelor's degree or your time at your previous institution where you were thinking to yourself, I think I might wanna continue. I want to continue to go to graduate school to get a degree. What were the reasons that you chose that you wanted to go to graduate school?

Imrul Shuva [00:02:37]:

Well, I was more interested in research. When I got admitted to my undergrad program, I was involved in a thesis that was a mandatory part of the undergrad. And at the last semester, we had a thesis. But before that, you know, I was looking for research opportunities. And the school I was In I mean, there were some research opportunities there, but most of them, you would have to do individually with a professor, and they were more involved doing the course works and people who are finding jobs, but I thought then if I could get admitted to a grad program, then maybe I will have more research There's opportunities. And the paper I wrote, I didn't have a chance to complete it. I mean, the standard I set for that. So I really wanted to have that published, but it didn't happen finally for the undergrad course.

Imrul Shuva [00:03:31]:

So, you know, I was looking for more research opportunities, and I thought, You know, going to a grad school, I would be able to achieve that. So that that was the primary goal to come to a grad school.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:03:42]:

Now as you were looking at opportunities For graduate school, you could have stayed near home and done your work there. You chose to Eventually attend the University of Michigan Flint, but there are many options, many different degrees many different degrees, many different institutions. What was it about the University of Michigan Flint that drew you that drew you in and made you decide that that was the right school for you?

Imrul Shuva [00:04:08]:

Okay. So it's Honestly, you know, it's interesting that finally I came here, but the plan was not like that at first point. So I was planning to I mean, in US, so I didn't have a funding. I applied to a couple of universities. I initially, I didn't plan to come to Europe. I was planning to go somewhere else in Europe and applied to a couple of universities there. And then, you know, got admission, got the visa as well. And then I attended a seminar that run by US Embassy Bangladesh.

Imrul Shuva [00:04:41]:

It's called EducationUSA. I'm from Bangladesh. So there, I went there, and then after I think the doing the seminar, I thought maybe I could try a couple of universities in the US, and then I would Decide later. And then I got admitted to UN Flint, and then I got married at that time. And So in US, you know, bringing your family while you are starting a a little easier than Europe. I mean, the country I was planning, I couldn't take my wife with me. So that was the initial A reason I came here I mean, I chose this university. And then after I came, I never, you know, re regret it.

Imrul Shuva [00:05:25]:

I always felt great, you know, with the community, with the professors, staffs, and with everyone. I have had a very good time here so far, and I'm enjoying my time here.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:05:35]:

Now you talked about bringing your family with you. You uprooted your family, brought them to a new country, a brand new area, Which are very different than than home. Talk to me about that transition for you and what you had to do, not only for yourself to transition, But also to transition your wife to the area as well.

Imrul Shuva [00:05:56]:

So after I go ahead, Mitel and planned for AUM Flint. So then I did research on the school a little bit before finally I finally planned to come. I got some research. You know? I went Through those careers dot umich site, and I have viewed some professors' labs website and their profiles. I went to Google Scholar, and I have seen what are the fields they're working on. And then, you know, it felt that I would really have a good opportunity in terms of research and in terms of computer science research, then I choose this university. And then after I came here so I started in fall 21, and then I didn't get the visa on time because I I applied a little late for visa, then I got the visa, and I came on November 3rd 21. After I came, it was so cold In Bangladesh, the weather is usually hot.

Imrul Shuva [00:06:52]:

And, I mean, it's cold only nearly 2 months in Bangladesh, but not as cold as here. So it was too cold, and I have seen snow for the first time in my life. I was residing in First Street resident hall, then I had to buy groceries For myself, I didn't have a car, and I didn't know where to get those groceries. Then I talked to people at the School and at the dorm as well. I had some Interesting. Friends, and they're local. They're from here, undergrad students. They are living in my apartment.

Imrul Shuva [00:07:24]:

So some of them, you know, took me to buy groceries, but I was shocked by the cold. I mean, it was a different experience at that time. You know, if you are a country from, like, Bangladesh or South Asia, so the weather in winter is crazy here for those people. But now, you know, I'm getting used And I don't feel what I felt when I first came here.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:07:46]:

Definitely takes some some time to, as we say, thicken the blood So that you have an opportunity to not have not to not be as cold as quick. But it it definitely takes some time to do that. Now I know that while you were going through graduate school, you also had some other changes that happened where you welcomed your first child Also and you are balancing that now of going to school, being in a foreign country, having a child That is that was born here. Talk to me about that and being a graduate student and having to to being able to focus on your graduate studies while also being a father for the 1st time.

Imrul Shuva [00:08:27]:

Yeah. So, Chris, it it was really challenging, I would say, not in terms of having a child because, My child is only two and a half months now. So but before that, when we decided to came that time, I didn't get full funding From the school, for master's program, they don't offer mostly I mean, don't offer full funding. But maybe with other jobs, on Campus jobs and assistantships, it's possible to cover, I mean, significant part of that. So I'm not discouraging people that you're not gonna get funding. You can get funding, but it's not Like that from 1 scholarship you are getting full fund. So I had that problem at the 1st place. I mean, I didn't have full funding.

Imrul Shuva [00:09:04]:

I got a little funding and then I came, but I managed to survive with those financial parts as well. I was trying to get a job, and then I applied for different graduate research assistantship Paulishan gave interview with some of the professors and then, you know, got selected for that. So now now it's pretty much balanced. I don't have those kind of problems, you know, maybe not from only 1 source from the school, but combining 2, 3 different source. Right now, I work as a student ambassador with the graduate programs office and then work as a GSRA. So from those and other on campus Jobs or whatever whenever I have time apart from my studies, you know, I try different things to support us financially. That's one part. And Being a new parent, you know, a new dad, it's a great feeling.

Imrul Shuva [00:09:53]:

I cannot express in words. But the 1st few Days for the 1st month, we were really struggling because it was a totally new experience we never had before. The baby Try is not sleeping in the night, waking up several times. I have to, you know, wake up and feed the baby, and then I know I have lab at 8 Thirty. I have another class at 12:30. So I'm gonna stay all day on campus and then waking up several time in the night. So it was a hectic for the 1st and half months, I would say. But now, you know, he is doing better.

Imrul Shuva [00:10:29]:

He is sleeping more In the night and things have got better if we have to feed him less. I mean, he is drinking more, but the frequency is less.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:10:40]:

Congratulations. I know what it's like to be a father, but it's always challenging in those early months to early year, especially when they don't sleep, And you're having to balance all that and walking around walking around a bit like a zombie as you're going from piece to piece as you're trying to do everything. Now Earlier, you said that one of the things you loved in your undergraduate experience was that research component. And as you mentioned, you are a Graduate student research assistant here at the University of Michigan Flint. You've been able to do some really cool things As a research assistant, talk to me about the difference between research at the undergraduate and graduate level, and what did you have to do to make that transition for yourself to be prepared, but also to be ready to do research at the graduate level versus what you had to do at the undergraduate level.

Imrul Shuva [00:11:34]:

So I don't know how it's gonna sound, but I think for me, it was a major difference With the professors and their support and their interest in giving me the opportunity to continue working in a project, in a research project, You know, very actively, we didn't have that practice at home. At least for me, I didn't have that opportunity that A professor would support me, you know, actively to work in a research project. We did the courses. I think we had a very good insights of the courses we did at undergrad Even with the programming course and all other courses I had, we learned so much from there. But in research perspective, so we didn't have much insight and much encouraged to continue our research. Or there was a lacking of time from our sent as well as from the other invite here. I found mostly supportive faculties. That's one thing.

Imrul Shuva [00:12:29]:

And the resources we have here at AUM Flint. The library, I think, for research, a very good resource For us, you find everything you need to do research in any of the fields, I believe. Because for me, the papers and The things I was looking, I always got from that library. I was able to download everything from that site at the school. And then, you know, I went through all of them, and I discussed with my professors, and they were actively working with me as well. So I I think that's the significant change I had. And we have some other graduate courses. Right? We have an online platform, Canvas.

Imrul Shuva [00:13:08]:

From there, we have to do some research courses as well. Those are optional, but we can take those, and we can get a good insight how to do research. And as a GSO, we have to provide feedback as well to the grad school, how we are doing, what we are doing. There are Some important things that will teach you how to not flag your resume in any of those research Manuscript you are writing. So back in home, there was a a little lack of those things, I would say. But here, they're more organized, And the professors are really helping towards getting those resources.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:13:45]:

Beyond research, I know you've been able to find success In your classes as well. And going from undergrad into a graduate program, there's always going to be some transition that you have to go through to be able to change the way that you think, prepare yourself in some way As you enter the classroom and the expectations that are being set in front of you from your faculty that are different than what you had in your undergraduate degree. So as you think back to that, what did you have to do to Set yourself up for success as you entered into the institution. And what did you have to do to maintain that Success as you've been going through your entire graduate school journey.

Imrul Shuva [00:14:32]:

At undergrad, we were more dependent on our teachers, You know, in terms of learning and in terms of getting our studies, so whatever, you know, they are telling us to do Or maybe a homework or maybe a study. We're just studying that and going to the class and to have the next lecture. But here, I would say it's A bit more on your own. I mean, they're gonna instruct you. They're gonna tell you what to do, but all the things you are gonna do, you're alone, and it's more independent study. For example, let's say I come to the lab 2, 3 days a day full time. I don't need to. As a GSO, you need to work only 6 hours.

Imrul Shuva [00:15:10]:

Right? And if I don't come to the lab, no one's gonna tell me anything. Why didn't you come or whatever? But, you know, I set a goal for myself. So I set a goal for myself, and I know if I work more, I will have a better idea of what I am doing, and that might help Me towards a publication or towards my PhD or or whatever, towards my future academic goals. So I don't have a boss, and your professors not gonna tell you that you you need to come to the lab and you Maybe why you are not coming to the lab rather, you know, it's on myself. It's more independent studies at grad school Compared to the undergrad, what I did in undergrad. So that's one transition. And for the coursework, I think if you are doing it is the same for this course or graduate course works. Right? Attendance and all those things back in home, you know, there was obligation for that.

Imrul Shuva [00:16:07]:

You have to attend class at least 60%, 80%, 90%. So those are the things for you at there. But at the grad level, I mean, no one's bothered about Taking add in dance or those kind of things. Rather, as long as you are doing your course works properly, as long as you are learning those topics, Submitting your homeworks on time, wherever you staying I mean, whatever you're doing, no one's bothered about that. But, I mean, it's On you, how you are doing and how you are studying, it's no one but you. But if you need help, I mean, I have found everyone to be very helpful. If you don't understand any topic after attending a class, just, you know, feel free to reach out to that professor, and I'm sure, you know, they're gonna help the reg to help us.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:16:54]:

So as I mentioned at the beginning, the light is at the end of the tunnel. You're seeing it down there. There you are almost done. I know you've got 1 class left Here before you graduate, as you look at the future, what is in store for you? What do you see as your next step, and where do you want to go?

Imrul Shuva [00:17:12]:

Teal, I have 2 plans in my mind, plan a and plan b. So, I mean, my plan b was to get a job in application designing and Qualitative data analysis, qualitative research, so those kind of things, which I have been doing for a while. And I'm enjoying my work, You know, in that field. So that's one thing, to get a job in an organization where I could utilize those skills of qualitative research and designing, and I could learn more and carry on those research. So that was plan a b. And then my plan a is now is to continue studying a few more years, continue my research a few more years, get more comfortable with it. And after that, to stay in academia, to be honest, that's plenty for now, to stay in academia. I dream to be a professor.

Imrul Shuva [00:18:05]:

Why not? You can dream anything. Right? So the bigger your dream, the bigger you maybe will be able to achieve. So so I dream to be a professor, a computer science professor. So that's in my mind right now. And to do that to help me with that, I want to do a PhD. And it's in qualitative data analysis more in any of the fields of human computer interaction, user experience designing. And by doing that, I know I will have a lot of chance to help the community as well. Right? You should be grateful for everything you have.

Imrul Shuva [00:18:43]:

You should be grateful for the people you have around you, the people who are supporting you. So and you always At least you need to try something for them as well. Not in return, but but you will feel great if you can do something for them as well. So I'm more into doing my research and application designing, user experience research, and towards that.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:19:06]:

Now you've mentioned a number of different things that you had to do to prepare yourself to find success in your own journey of graduate school. As you look back at that graduate education, what are some tips that you might offer other students that are considering graduate education that would help them find success sooner?

Imrul Shuva [00:19:23]:

So as per my experience, my first suggestion I could give is to stop overthinking. Do not overthink. That's the first thing I would say. Because when I was in Bangladesh and I planned to come here, for me, I was overthinking a lot about those VISTA interviews and, I mean, small, small steps. I didn't have to, but I did. So I think it's it's Still the same case for many of the students. They're, you know, planning to come from abroad, so which can restrict them as well. And I can tell this because I interact with a lot of prospective students, and the students, they just came with those as a graduate ambassador.

Imrul Shuva [00:20:04]:

I have meeting with a lot of students from different parts of the world. And what I have felt is that many of those are overthinking. And Right now, I can understand they are, you know, unnecessary. They don't need to overthink that much. So that's one tip I could give. Stop overthinking about anything, but rather, you know, plan concrete. If you are planning to come to a school, plan for The best you could achieve in terms of getting scholarships, assistantships, and how you are gonna manage your funding, and what are the opportunities for you. So so those are the plan you need to have in your mind rather than overthinking.

Imrul Shuva [00:20:45]:

That's one thing. And Be on time with everything. I mean, with the coursework, with everything. So, I mean, Whatever you say to others, you you always try to maintain that. Or what what your responsibilities are, You don't, you know, run from them, not any point in time, whatever happens. Let's say I'm not on time in Submitting an assignment. It happened to me I mean, if not many times, still a lot of times it happened to me. The day my son born, I was in the hospital.

Imrul Shuva [00:21:21]:

You know? I took my wife 3 days ago to the hospital, and then I couldn't also inform my professor, but the day my son born, I had to submit 2 important assignments. I couldn't submit any of them. I just Send an email to these professors that I'm in a difficult situation, and so they're always helpful to listen to you to solve your problems, But you just need to, you know, need to let them know what's going on with you. Rather, let's say I'm not informing anything. And after after 5 days, I'm gonna tell them this happened. So it's better to let them know beforehand what's that, What's going on with me? Everyone's gonna consider that. So I would say, try to try to do all your works You are responsible for on time. That's another tip I would give.

Imrul Shuva [00:22:13]:

And whenever you have a problem, Whatever it is, how silly you think it is? The 1st place in my 1st semester, I know in class, They were going through some advanced topics of computer networking, and one of my professors from computer science department. I can name he say his name. It's professor, Soleiman Oludeg. So I'm going towards more advanced topics, And some of them, you know, I wasn't able to understand. And then I was very worried of asking him questions. You know? There are many students at the class. And, you know, I was thinking, I should have understood it. Maybe it's a very silly question.

Imrul Shuva [00:22:55]:

But whatever I Learned now, no question is silly as long as you don't understand it. So whatever it is, If you don't understand it, ask away to your professors. You know, this is the only way we can learn. We don't have any other ways to learn. I mean, If I have a problem in any topic I don't understand in the class and I am not asking, maybe I have to spend another 3 hours at home searching Google. And I might still not be able to understand that properly. But maybe, you know, in asking in a class, it might take only, you know, 30 seconds for them to explain and to make you understand. So those are the few tips I could give him as per my experience.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:23:36]:

Well, Imrul, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for Sharing your journey today, and I look forward to hearing what happens next in this next phase as you Get to the end of this master's degree, and I wish you all the best.

Imrul Shuva [00:23:52]:

Thank you so much for having me here, and it was nice meeting you. Thank you.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:23:56]:

The University of Michigan Flint has a full array of masters and doctorate programs if you are interested in continuing your education. Whether you're looking for In person or online learning options, the University of Michigan Flint has programs that will meet your needs. For more information on any of our Graduate programs, visit umflute.eduforward/graduateprograms to find out more. Thanks again for spending time with me as as you prepare to be a victor in grad school. I look forward to speaking with you again soon as we embark together on your graduate school journey. If you have any questions or want to reach out, email me at flintgradoffice@umflint.edu.

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