Assessing Graduate Programs - Survey Detail

New Mexico State University

In a typical year, how many Ph.D., exiting M.S. and B.S. degrees does your department award?

In a typical year, we award four to six Ph.D. degrees and about two terminal MS degrees. We also award 10 to 15 BS degrees in physics and engineering physics.

In a typical year, how many Ph.D., exiting M.S. and B.S. graduates find employment in industry?

Our MS students typically move to another Ph.D. granting institution. Over the past five years, only one or two MS students have selected a position in industry. One third of our Ph.D. students take postdoc positions in the US, another third return to their home countries, and another third take positions in industry (the most recent one at Intel in Oregon). About 60% of our physics BS graduates move on to graduate school, the others become teachers, work for a national lab, or move into industry, often to work for DOD contractors.

How does your department connect employment-seeking students or post docs with a network of graduates?

The Department Head has 15 years of experience in industry and is available for individual consultations who are interested in such careers. He often uses his personal contacts to make connections with students. We keep track of our engineering physics alumni through surveys. The Department also teaches a junior/senior level course on social networking (Linkedin, Researchgate), resume writing, and GRE preparation. Many of our undergraduates accept summer employment with national labs, local companies, and participate in REU programs. The Department helps with the application process when requested. We also take field trips to local companies and national labs with undergraduate students.

What opportunities exist for students and post-docs to learn about the practice of science in non-academic settings (e.g. networking opportunities, internships, entrepreneur seminars ...)?

Our postdocs are usually located at national labs (Fermilab and Brookhaven), where they learn about employment (academic and non-academic) through their postdoc mentors and national lab contacts.

In a typical year, how many colloquium speakers are industrial scientists?

Industrial speakers are rare, because there is not much local industry. On the other hand, we have a good number of colloquium speakers from national labs.

What active collaborations exist between members of your department and industrial partners?

One of our lecturers consults for a local small optics company. We also had and have contacts with large companies through GOALI proposals.

What is the most important message you have for prospective students and postdocs who are interested in pursuing careers in industry?

The department head (with 15 years of industrial experience) and the faculty members are available for individual consultation about career goals and how to achieve them. Since we are a small department, this works well for us. NMSU is a nurturing community focused on discoveries made by our students.

How does your department foster development among students and post-docs of these skills that are highly valued by industry: written and verbal communications skills, ability to work in multidisciplinary teams, critical thinking about economic realities, knowledge of ethical practice?

Ethics is an ABET criterion, which is tracked through our ABET assesssment process for undergraduates. Some UG courses focus on ethics topics. Soft skills development is achieved mostly through teaching assistantships, where students learn oral communication skills, ethics, following proper procedures, and conflict resolution. Written communication is trained through the writing of an MS or Ph.D. thesis. Our capstone design courses and lab classes develop an ability to work in teams (including interdisciplinary teams for engineering physics students). Capstone courses also have an economics component. Economics is also a recommended general-education course for undergraduates.

Updated: July 31, 2015

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