When Life Hands You Lemons… (and you have a Paper Due)

Posted June 21, 2017 by unlmcnair
Categories: Graduate School, MSRE, Research & Internships, Study Skills

By Jenn Andersen

We all know that college (and graduate school) is hard enough on a good day, but what happens when life gets hard too? When you consider the mental and physical health issues many college students face themselves, as well as family issues that happen back home, it can get pretty daunting to be a college student. For example, more than 30% of students in college are dealing with the death of a parent or close friend within the past two years (Balk et al., 2010). Almost 20% of those students are at risk of withdrawing from college (Plaskac et al., 2011).

I’m here to tell you, however, that there is support available to help you get through these situations. I bet you’re asking yourself, “How would she know?”, and it’s because I’ve been there myself. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes my second semester of grad school, and my Dad passed away from ALS a year later during my second year of grad school. That made for a rough year or so, but I succeeded in earning my Master’s degree and am moving on to my PhD. Here are some tips to making it through the rough stuff.

  1. Get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat healthy. This is important. Stress can make it hard to sleep, and a lack of sleep can affect your mood, memory, immune function, and judgement, as well as making it even harder to sleep (APA, 2017). Rest when you need it, and limit your computer/phone use when you are lying in bed. Exercise releases natural endorphins which can help you feel better, not to mention helping with sleep. Eating healthy foods and limiting caffeine will help to combat the effects of stress as well.
  2. Keep the people that need to know in the loop. Make sure to let your professors know what is going on and make sure you understand your options if needed (this becomes even more important in graduate school). I spoke to each of my professors during office hours to keep them posted on what was going on in my life. They worked with me when I was in the hospital and when I had to leave campus suddenly for my dad. Talking with your advisor will help you understand your options and make the best decisions for your specific circumstances.
  3. Find a support system. Support systems take many forms. They may be your family, your friends, or even an online support group. Find people who want to help you succeed!
  4. It’s okay to say, “No.” It is hard to say, “no” to things, especially if you are working towards a goal. When life gets hard, sometimes you need to take a little bit of time back for yourself. You can stay home on a Friday night if you need to catch up on your rest. It is okay not to jump at every opportunity presented to you and make choices that are best for your situation.
  5. Make an appointment with a counselor and for a checkup with a healthcare provider. It’s not easy to handle these big things on your own. Seeing a counselor will give you strategies to cope with grief, depression, anxiety and a myriad of other things you might feel during this time. It can even be nice just to have someone reassure you that all of these things you are feeling are completely normal. Getting a checkup will help make sure that everything with your health is in good shape as well.

Hopefully these tips will help you navigate the difficult times that can come up while you’re in college, and in your future graduate school program. As always, you can reach out to your McNair Staff for help finding resources for help as well.

The MSRE Project that Keeps on Giving

Posted June 15, 2017 by unlmcnair
Categories: Graduate School, MSRE

by Jenn Andersen

My MSRE project kept me busy, not only during the first summer, but also during my senior year, the summer after that, and through my first year and a half of graduate school. My project isn’t something I’m now studying (I switched disciplines for graduate school), but it gave me a head start on my graduate school work. Here are some ideas for making your MSRE project the gift that keeps on giving.

  1. Use your MSRE project as a senior thesis (dependent on department). UNL’s College of Arts and Sciences requires a senior thesis to graduate with highest distinction, and to ensure graduating with high distinction or distinction. I used my project (with some added work) as my senior thesis. Check with your department on how your paper might help you work towards this goal.
  1. Use it as your writing sample for graduate school applications. You have worked very hard on getting your MSRE project done. Why not use it as your writing sample for graduate school applications? This is especially important if you are applying for graduate school the Fall semester after MSRE.
  1. Think about a second study/project. You have access to the data from your first project, why not use your project as a launching pad for a second study? This was an idea my faculty mentor came up with for my study, and it allowed me to keep presenting my paper long after I graduated. I also gained experience working with other undergrads while completing the project. As an added bonus for my graduate student mentor, she was able to talk about her work with me in her job talks.
  1. Keep on presenting. Given that I had a second study, I could present my MSRE research at two more conferences after Berkeley; one poster presentation at an international conference while an undergraduate and one paper presentation at a regional conference during graduate school. You present your research projects a lot while in graduate school (class presentations, conference presentations, brown bag/colloquium presentations), so get all the practice you can! An added benefit is the added lines on your CV.
  1. Publication! After I completed my second study, my graduate student mentor and my faculty mentor helped me to prepare it for publication. While this can be long process (it took almost two years for mine to be accepted), it is a good start to your publication achievements in graduate school. Plus, it’s pretty cool to look yourself up in Google Scholar for the first time!


With a little bit of planning and a little extra work, I made the most out of my MSRE project. Talk with your faculty mentor and graduate student mentor about how you can make the most out of your MSRE project!

Getting the most out of MSRE: Grad School Boot Camp

Posted June 8, 2017 by unlmcnair
Categories: Graduate School, MSRE, Research & Internships, Study Skills

by Jenn Andersen, McNair Graduate Assistant

Graduate school is an eye-opening experience for all new graduate students (myself included). Grading policies are stricter, workloads are often intimidating, and then there is the ever-present imposter syndrome—the feeling that maybe you don’t belong in graduate school. But, guess what? MSRE is a great time to get the grad school experience without leaving the comforts of UNL.

Three challenges that are often reported by first year graduate students are (a) time management, (b) amount of reading due/understanding the reading, and (c) graduate level writing (Schramm-Possinger & Powers, 2015). In addition, first year graduate students have to learn how to motivate themselves without the undergraduate structure they are used to and with other duties like teaching or research. Sound familiar? It is pretty close to the day-to-day experience you are having right now, right? This is why my MSRE mentor called me and her other McNair scholar ‘grad-students-in-training.’

So how do you make the most of the MSRE experience so you won’t be as shocked when you jump in the grad school pool? I’m going to share five tips that might just help you out.

  1. Practice time management. Time management will save you in graduate school. I learned early on in MSRE to schedule due dates for draft reviews and revisions backwards from the final paper due date, the poster due date, and the PowerPoint due date. I do this with my grad classes, I did it when completing my master’s thesis, I’m currently doing this to get publications out for review, and I’m already scheduling things for my Ph.D. It is also helpful to schedule your writing time, as well as time to do the next tip…
  2. Read, read, read. Graduate school will require more reading than you have ever done before. EVER. Practice for the higher reading loads. Find the articles that pertain to your research interests. Read them, and then find a few from the reference list and read those too.
  3. Ask questions. I can’t stress this enough. You have to be able to understand what you are reading, as well as how best to read an article in your discipline, and the best time to learn this is before graduate school. Schedule meetings with your graduate student mentor to get clarifications on the new theories you are reading about. Ask them how they read an article. Ask them how many pages of readings they get a week and what they are expected to know.
  4. Practice discussing your research with your grad student mentor. This is a great way to practice for questions at Berkeley, at future grad school interviews, and for talking about your research interests when you start with your new cohort in graduate school. Talk about what you’re doing, what you plan on doing, and how you could extend your project. This process turned into a second study and a senior thesis because I talked to both my faculty mentor and my grad student mentor about the direction my research was headed (and it is published now!). Also, it can help you to ask for tip #5…
  5. Ask your mentor to give you feedback like you were his or her grad student. The best way to know how to write like a grad student is to have your faculty mentor give you feedback like you are already a grad student. My writing improved by leaps and bounds through the course of MSRE, through my senior thesis, and into the summer because my faculty mentor kept giving me feedback on my work like I was one of the grad students she worked with. Trust me, you want to be as prepared as possible to write like an academic when you land at your program!

These five tips are just some of the ways you can make the most out of MSRE to prepare you for graduate school! Good luck and enjoy your MSRE experience!


Schramm-Possinger, M. E., & Powers, D. E. (2015). The First Year of Graduate Study: Documenting Challenges and Informing Ways to Reduce Attrition.


McNair Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Norberg, Ph.D.

Posted June 7, 2017 by unlmcnair
Categories: Accomplishments, Graduate School, UNL McNair Alumni

I grew up in a small, rural town in Nebraska. Few people, myself included, thought I was smart. Rather than taking physics and geometry classes during high school, I opted for remedial math, home economics, and making the high school yearbook. Through what seemed like luck, rather than intellect, I became the high school yearbook editor.

Becoming editor of the yearbook encouraged me to obtain a university degree. While at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I took a “Careers in Psychology” class that put me on the path to becoming an academic clinical psychologist. That class taught me that it would be a long and competitive path. So, I followed its advice. I maintained a high GPA,  volunteered, and obtained research experience. However, that research experience was in the field of perception, which while highly useful in teaching me about research methodology, it taught me little about conducting clinical research.

During the final year of my undergraduate degree, I was accepted into the McNair program. The McNair program linked me up with Dr. Debra Hope, an academic clinical psychologist. Under Dr. Hope’s supervision, I completed an Honors project that examined the role that clients’ expectations have on therapy outcomes. Conducting research in Dr. Hope’s lab allowed me to gain the exact type of clinical research experience I needed to be accepted into a doctoral program for clinical psychology. During graduate school, I led a team of students in developing an empirically-based instrument to measure clients’ expectations about treatment. This measure was published and has been translated into a handful of different languages by other researchers. Thus, the influence of the McNair Program and Dr. Hope did not end with my undergraduate degree.

I am now an Associate Professor and the Deputy Director of the Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University. Macquarie University’s psychology department is ranked within the top 100 psychology departments in the world and the Centre for Emotional Health is one of the premier research centers on anxiety in the world.

Within my current roles, I teach undergraduate and graduate classes, provide empirically-supported treatment to individuals suffering from anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, mentor students and early career researchers, and conduct research that is focused on helping people reduce unwanted behavior. My research has been supported by numerous different funding bodies and has led to over 60 publications. Furthermore, my research output gave me a profile conducive to becoming a Director for the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy, a national body for professionals interested in evidenced-based practice. In addition, I am currently serving as Convenor for the association’s 38th National Conference.

Thinking back, I wonder what career I would be in if it wasn’t for the McNair Scholars Program. I may not have received the clinical research experience I needed to go directly into a doctoral program after completing my undergraduate degree. I also may not have received the invaluable mentoring that occurred during the program.

I want my story to serve as a motivator to young people, especially disadvantaged females, that they can obtain a successful STEM career. I am a minority, my parents are uneducated, and I grew up in a rural community with limited academic opportunities. The McNair Program was an essential step on my pathway to achieving my dream job—and much more.

– Melissa M. Norberg, Ph.D., Associate Professor & Deputy Director, Centre for Emotional Health, Macquarie University, Australia, and UNL McNair Scholars Program Alum

Melissa Norberg conducting research into hoarding with Julia Irwin.Photo courtesy of Chris Stacey

You’re Prepared for MSRE, but What About FOMO?

Posted May 26, 2017 by unlmcnair
Categories: Graduate School, MSRE

by Jess Tate, UNL McNair Graduate Assistant

Trust me, you’ve felt it before, but maybe didn’t know how to label the feeling. Fear of Missing Out, also known as FOMO is a real thing and common phenomenon in the 21st century among many, and particularly salient for aspiring and current graduate students. In 2013, “FOMO” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary and is formally defined as, “a feeling of anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere.” Another definition put forth by researchers describes FOMO as ‘‘the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you” (JWT, 2012).

During the McNair Summer Research Experience (MSRE), you’ll get an early opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a full-time graduate student. In this role, it’s possible that may experience FOMO at times…and that’s okay! This may be the first time you’ve had to miss out on social engagements with friends or going home for the weekend because of your new role as an emerging researcher during MSRE.

Impact of FOMO
Now that we have a term to label this phenomenon we must add into the equation your life as a McNair scholar and future graduate student. Demands and deadlines associated with research and applying for graduate school will confront you daily, and you can probably start to imagine the reality of missing out on exciting opportunities, whether social or academic, because of these demands and deadlines. Adding to the fear and anxiety is the wonderful world of social media that’s filled with our peers and family members posting filtered vacation pics, engagement rings, job promotions, etc. while many of us students and researchers are focused on our next paper or presentation—this is likely to elicit some ambivalent feelings.

Recent research studies have shown that FOMO is correlated with feelings of disconnection and dissatisfaction (Przybylsk, Murayama, DeHann, & Fladwell 2013) and guess what the leading culprit is? Social media. We often forget that the personas promoted on Facebook are largely fabricated, and most people only show their “best sides.” However, we still fall victim to FOMO whether we like to admit it or not. For example, it’s normal to feel regret for missing out on a social outing with friends because you have made the decision to stay at your office and finish a project or experiment, but then you see the Snaps and Instagram photos and FOMO sets in. Wortham (2011) proposes that FOMO may be a source of negative mood or depressed feelings in part because it undermines the sense that one has made the best decisions in life. But, you’ve made a great decision by choosing to participate in MSRE and you will be happy with your decision years down the road—trust me!

How to Combat FOMO during MSRE?

  • As you participate in MSRE it is essential that you become honest with yourself, career and life goals, and learn to trust your decision and pursuit of an advanced degree.
  • Find a balance between social engagements, hobbies, and academics.
  • Confide in your MSRE cohort because you have many shared goals, shared frustrations, and will soon be able to share and celebrate the success of having made it through MSRE together.
  • Do A Social Media Reality Check
    • Be conscious of your social media use
    • Take social media “Holidays” or “self-care” breaks from social media
    • Challenge yourself to take a break from social media during MSRE.
    • Find a balance between on-line and off-line activities
  • Seek out resources, such as counseling, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you begin to develop a persistent negative and depressed mood. Not addressing this will impact your productivity during MSRE and as a graduate student.
  • See the “10 Ways to Overcome FOMO

FOMOGraphic citation: buzz feed

Read the rest of this post »

I Went to Berkeley… And Got Much More Than a T-Shirt

Posted July 28, 2016 by unlmcnair
Categories: Uncategorized

by Jenn Andersen, McNair Graduate Assistant

Having been in your shoes just two years ago, I know that MSRE goes by much quicker than you ever anticipated. It’s a lot of work, and California McNair Symposium at UC-Berkeley is the finish line. So what do you do now? Here are five things you should do once you are back in Nebraska.

1. Reflect on your experiences. What did you get out of MSRE? The reflective essay is one of the most important assignments you will do as a McNair Scholar. Think about your experiences, what you’ve learned, and how you felt during your first year as a McNair Scholar. Writing this essay helped me to see how far I’d come and how ready I was to be a graduate student. Reading it again after graduation and before starting my graduate program gave me insight into how I’ve grown as a scholar since MSRE.

2. Take a break. One of the most important things about ending MSRE is taking a break once it’s over. If your experience was anything like mine, you lived in your lab, worked on your paper, poster and PowerPoint once you were home, and still had to take care of real-life issues. Make sure you enjoy the last little bit of time before the GRE and applying to graduate school take over. Learning how to do this now will serve you well in achieving a good school-life balance.

3. Get your name out there! Email the people you made contact with at the Berkeley Symposium. Contact potential mentors at graduate schools.  Make appointments to talk with UNL professors to discuss your future goals. You never know when one of those connections will help you. See Abe Flanigan’s July 16, 2015 McNair blog post about networking for tips and ideas! https://unlmcnair.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/finding-a-graduate-program-thats-right-for-you/

4. Keep up with your research. One of the best things about taking part in MSRE is the skills and knowledge you gain in your field. Leverage this to start work on your senior thesis! Keep working on your project or start a new one. You can always spend some time in a new lab for a different perspective.

5. Start prepping for Graduate School applications.If you’re graduating within the next year, graduate application deadlines will be here before you know it. If you have another year, this is the time to work on getting your materials together.

  • Start narrowing down your list of graduate schools.
  • Take the GRE within the next month after the end of MSRE.
  • Explore websites like McNairScholars.com for ideas on where to find funding, either for current research or for your future graduate career.
  • Reach out to your faculty recommenders and make sure you know what they need to complete your letters. Professors may have very exacting standards for their letter packets.
  • The more you do now, the less you need to do before the due date!

How to Prepare for Going Out-of-State to Graduate School

Posted July 18, 2016 by unlmcnair
Categories: Uncategorized

by Colin McGinnis, McNair Graduate Assistant

“Man, it would be nice to get out of here and go somewhere new.” It’s a thought many, if not all, of us have probably thought while watching movies, reading a novel or just simply talking to friends and family about college.

When beginning the application process for Graduate School, you’re given the unique opportunity to relocate to a different part of the country. Since I’ve gone out-of-state for both undergraduate and graduate school, I’ve put together a list of points to consider (and get excited for) when applying to programs outside of Nebraska.

Cost of Relocation
Cost is one of the factors I didn’t properly account for with my move out-of-state. Every time I passed a U-Haul location, I’d think “$20 isn’t bad!; I’ll just rent a truck and move all my stuff to Nebraska.” I was misinformed. Sure, a U-Haul is an affordable option for in-town moves, but once you cross state lines, the rental fee can easily approach the thousands. What I did instead was sell my furniture in Ohio and (slowly) bought new items here in Lincoln. At first, I was a little upset by this, but thinking back on my decision I’m happy with it. I was able to purge items I’d honestly never use again, and start my new life as a graduate student fresh.

If you’re a little more attached to your items than I was, you should start planning your move now. Save a little bit each week so the cost of moving across country isn’t so shocking. You should also talk to friends and family to see if they have any unique ideas for the move (for example my uncle offered to load all my furniture into a produce delivery truck that was going to Omaha from his company! If I hadn’t already sold most of my pieces at that point, I probably would have accepted the offer).

Here are a few things to consider when relocating:

  1. What do you really need to take with you and what can you get rid of?
  2. Where are you going to get boxes to store your stuff? You’ll be surprised at how many you need, here is the tool I used to help calculate (http://hdmoving.com/). Once you know how many boxes you need, call your local grocery store, Target or Walmart! Often if you call ahead, they’ll have boxes for you.
  3. If you’re driving, where are you going to sleep along the way? A tip to consider: Motels are cheaper in smaller, rural towns. Take a day to plan out your stops; it will save you money later on!

Emotional Considerations
Even the least emotional student may find moving to a new part of the country an emotional rollercoaster. Even if you make it through moving day without a tear in your eye, you may be feeling the pain in the following months.

Being separated from all you know and are comfortable with can be emotionally tough. The things you take for granted now, like being able to congratulate a friend on a new internship or seeing your parents twice a month, won’t be such a common experience if moving more than a few hours out-of-state. It’s even harder when family emergencies come up, and you have to make arrangements to get back home. It took me some time, but I’ve come to peace with the idea this is not a reason not to go out-of-state. Instead, see all the positives in your distance from friends and family. I treasure the time I have with my friends back home more now than I ever did, I get to be the “cool vacation spot” for my family, and I’ve found myself talking to my mom and dad a lot more than I did before. As they say, “distance makes the heart grow fonder.”

Building Your Network
Being in a new place is exciting because everything is new! Take advantage of your new surroundings and learn about the culture of your new home once you move. Try local restaurants, go to local concerts, explore parks and festivals. For me, Nebraska has quickly turned from a bland state full of corn to a cool, hidden Midwestern gem packed with art and food.

You should also make an effort to be at locations and events where you’ll meet other students. Look into events organized by your new institution’s Office of Graduate Studies and department. Look up graduate student organizations (e.g., Latino/a Graduate Student Association, Black Graduate Student Association, etc.) and get involved in their programming. Work out at the campus rec center. Go to lectures and seminars both in and out of your discipline. Some of my closest friends are those whom I met as a graduate student!

For many, moving out-of-state takes a toll on wallets and emotions. However, by properly preparing before your move, an out-of-state graduate school experience is immensely rewarding. By moving to a different state for graduate school, you’re offered a unique perspective into how other parts of the country think and operate– which is immensely beneficial as a scholar.