From Undergraduate Student to Graduate Assistant: One Step Closer to Achieving Her Goals

Nicole Ramberg-Pihl received her bachelor’s degree in environmental biology with a minor in chemistry from Plymouth State in the spring of 2009. Without skipping a beat, she applied to the Master of Science in Biology program and is now teaching biology at the undergraduate level while working toward her graduate degree.

How would you describe the education you received at Plymouth State as an undergraduate student? What were you involved with then as opposed to now?

As an undergraduate my education was very thorough. I felt as though I was exposed to several disciplines aside from my own which allowed me to realize the connections that occur across disciplines in the “real world.” Furthermore, I was fortunate enough to be involved with as much hands-on research experience in my field as I was with my traditional classes. I conducted work under Professor Christopher Chabot, studying the endogenous clocks of the American Horseshoe Crab. After all, research does exemplify the essence of science and tends to come along with the territory! However, that never limited me from becoming involved with other projects the university had to offer. For instance, last fall I was part of the Hamlet crew; the dramaturge. Essentially, I conducted historical research and had a blast! It was great to meet fresh faces and form bonds with individuals with entirely different backgrounds.

As a graduate student, I am very involved with my research and the Department of Biological Sciences. I assist my advisor, Professor Kerry Yurewicz, and her students in Freshwater Ecology. I also instruct one section of General Biology I Lab and, of course, I am enrolled in classes! You can never have enough education. The way I see it, we are always learning.

What has the transition from undergraduate to graduate studies been like? Any tips for undergraduate students who are contemplating graduate studies?

The transition between undergraduate and graduate studies has seemed rather smooth. In all honesty, I believe it to be more enjoyable than my three years as an undergraduate. For one thing, most of the individuals who are attending graduate classes have a genuine interest in the subject matter, above that of the general undergraduate populous. So they are more inclined to participate and offer as much as possible to courses, making the entire experience for everyone much more educational and enjoyable.

For those students who are contemplating pursing a graduate degree, I would advocate for enrolling. There are always those who know that graduate school is a definite yes! Then there are those who know that their undergraduate education was enough and graduate school is not for them. However, for those students who are sitting on that fence I ask, “Why not?” There is nothing to lose and it is only going to help improve your life in terms of being able to attain a job and further understand the way the world works.

As an undergraduate student, were you aware that you could take up to six credits and count them toward your bachelor’s and a master’s degree?

I was aware of the fact that I could take graduate level or “co-listed” courses and count them toward both my BS and MS degrees. Although, I was unaware that I could take up to six of these credits. Truthfully, I would have taken advantage of this opportunity; however, I found out about it after I was enrolled in the “co-listed” classes for some time. I do suggest that undergraduate students who plan to pursue graduate studies at Plymouth State jump at this opportunity.

Could you describe your current research interests?

For my (MS) degree, aside from my classes, the concept is to obtain as much research experience as possible. I am currently working in the realm of freshwater systems and I am specifically looking at the Northern Crayfish, a rather abundant species of crayfish found in this area of New Hampshire. From an ecological perspective I would like to focus on predator cue experiments.

What are your career goals? How do you plan on using your degree?

Before I get ahead of myself, I need to finish my education. This requires the completion of my master’s degree and subsequently completing a doctoral degree. Once I have finished with my many years of education I would like to work within the realm of research. For every bit of information we do know within the science field, there is a great deal we have yet to understand. Contributing to the field of science and adding to the great pool of knowledge from scientists before me, I believe, would be a gratifying use of my degree. And, I will always remember how it started at Plymouth State University, from my BS to my MS.


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