Tuesday, August 26, 2014

-Penn State News

Engineering student shares his experience getting involved at Penn State
Danhao “Spark” Ma, a fifth-year senior majoring in energy engineering, got involved in undergraduate research as a freshman at Penn State Altoona. When he transferred to the University Park campus two years later, Ma’s professor in Altoona introduced him to a colleague at the new campus to help him further his undergraduate research experience. In the past four years, Ma has presented multiple projects the Penn State’s Undergraduate Exhibition and published two academic papers. Based on his experience at the University, Ma, an international student from Shanghai, shares five pieces of advice for new college students.

1. Get involved right away

Ma said that one of the best things to do when you arrive at campus is to get involved in campus organizations that cater to different interests you may have. “That’s a good way to get to know your classmates and college friends with similar interests to you,” he said.

During his first semester, Ma joined the mathematics club at Penn State Altoona. The next year, Ma became the group’s president.

He recommends that international students in particular find cultural organizations to join since they might not be traveling to see family as often as other students might. “I was a 14-hour flight away from home, so I had a lot of free time to spend,” he said.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask

Ma secured his first experience with undergraduate research simply by asking his professor, Kofi Adu, if he could learn more. “In my case, I took a physics class and found it was interesting, and I wanted to dig in more than what we covered in class,” he said.

Ma wanted to make a good impression on Adu and decided to approach him after the semester ended. “I tried to prove myself and show him that I was active in learning physics. I paid attention,” Ma said. “I think respect is important for good communication between students and professors. Professors, of course, are always willing to help you, but if professors know you care about their subjects, they’re more motivated to do that.”

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