Grad Groups

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Registration for Grad Groups will open in late summer.  Please fill out the form at the bottom of this page to be notified of the specific registration dates when they become available.

Grad Groups is Georgia Tech’s extended orientation program for new graduate students. Navigating the nuances of graduate school can be challenging, so don’t embark on this journey alone. 

Our office, in partnership with the Graduate Student Government Association (Grad SGA), sponsors the program, which   provides opportunities for networking with other new graduate students from across campus and exposure to valuable campus resources that you may not otherwise be aware of.

Participants are organized into groups of about 15 students from a variety of degree programs, academic interests, and cultural backgrounds. Each group is led by a senior graduate student, which allows participants to tap into their group leader’s valuable experience and leverage that for their own success. (See below for the names and bios of the fall 2016 group leaders.)

During meetings, representatives from various campus departments give brief presentations on topics including maximizing the advisor/advisee relationship, career development and planning, stress and time management, and maintaining work/life balance.

Hommood Alrowais, Ph.D. student, Electrical and Computer Engineering​

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” — Kahlil Gibran

Originally from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Hommood attended the Stevens Institute of Technology as an undergrad. A few tips he gives to new graduate students are to take advantage of resources around campus; take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and socially; and explore internships. He thinks impostor syndrome is a real challenge for Tech graduate students, but if you’ve been admitted, then you have what it takes to succeed. Hommood also advises that if you are a Ph.D. student, you should document and start your research early. 

Nisheeth Bandaru, master’s student, Computational Science and Engineering 

“Is a man what he seems to the astronomer, a tiny lump of impure carbon and water crawling impotently on a small and unimportant planet? Or is he what he appears to Hamlet? Is he perhaps both as once?” — Bertrand Russell

Nisheeth comes from Hyderabad, India, and has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a master's degree in physics from BITS Pilani, India. His academic interests at Georgia Tech are in big data and machine learning. After having been involved with Grad Groups, Grad SGA, and GradLife during his first semester, Nisheeth's advice to incoming graduate students is to be active on campus and look out for networking opportunities. "Grad Groups will be a great forum to get started on this and also to learn more about the many resources available on campus that are particularly useful to graduate students," he said. ​

Raunak Bhattacharyaa, Ph.D student, Aerospace Engineering 

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein

Raunak's research interests are the modeling and simulation of next-generation aviation operations with special emphasis on human automation interaction and the computational modeling of cognitive engineering concepts. Prior to starting grad school at Georgia Tech, Raunak received his B.Tech. in aerospace engineering with a minor in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. At Georgia Tech, Raunak has been involved in Grad SGA and will serve on the Executive Board for 2016-17. Raunak gives the following advice to incoming graduate students, "Georgia Tech is about creating the next. Each and every one of you is here because you have the capability and the drive to tackle the world's most challenging problems. Grad Groups is here to help you get a head start to take on these challenges and make a smooth transition into Tech. Be it campus resources, career advising, networking, or simply having people to brainstorm on the next big ideas with, Grad Groups is here for you."

Kaikai Che, Ph.D student, Mechanical Engineering 

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” — Steve Jobs

Before coming to Georgia Tech, Kaikai got his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. His current research is focused on design and experiments on multistable metamaterials that can have acoustic and photonic applications. As a Grad Group leader for the second time, Kaikai advises new graduate students to join the Grad Groups and get familiar with all the resources provided on campus. "In Grad Groups, new graduate students can learn how to balance life and work, deal with conflicts, and start career planning," he said. "All these can help you quickly get accustomed to the graduate life at Georgia Tech and plan for your future."

Mojdeh Faraji, Ph.D. student, Bioengineering 

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” Bertrand Russell

Mojdeh completed her bachelor’s in mechanical engineering back in her home country of Iran. Before moving to Atlanta for her Ph.D. program, she received a master’s in mechanical engineering and applied math from Southern Illinois University. "Time passes by quickly and you will be graduating sooner than you imagine," she said. "So, make the most out of your time while you are a first-year student and expectations of you as a newcomer are not that high. Ask questions and benefit from the experience of others. Be open to new experiences, and try random things. Sometimes the most distant subjects from your area of work inspire you for the best breakthroughs of your life. In a nutshell: Life is short. Exhaust it!"

Shivangi Jain, Ph.D. student, Psychology 

“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” — George Bernard Shaw

Shivangi traveled half way across the world from India to work with Dr. Paul Verhaeghen to purse her research interests. She did her bachelor's in psychology and English literature, and master's in cognitive science from the University of Allahabad, India. Shivangi is interested in understanding the workings of working memory and how the process of aging affects it. She has been involved with student activities on campus and has been a part of SGA. Shivangi believes that Grad Groups is a valuable resource for new graduate students. "It is a great starting point to know more about Georgia Tech — its traditions, campus resources, and work culture — to connect with other students, and to learn interesting things about Atlanta," she said. Shivangi recommends that incoming graduate students manage time efficiently, work smarter, and most importantly, enjoy the experience of being a grad student.

Sophie Kay, Ph.D. student, Psychology 

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” — Buddha

Sophie earned her bachelor's in psychology from The College of New Jersey. She is currently studying the subjective experience of work. Most recently, her research focuses on emotional labor, specifically regarding how emotional display rules are communicated in the workplace and their effects on individuals. When Sophie started grad school, she thought she was so prepared she was going to surpass imposter syndrome. She was wrong. Sophie hopes that through Grad Groups she can help incoming graduate students transition more easily to graduate school. Sophie's advice to new students would be to make time for things that make you happy while in graduate school, try not to feel guilty when you're not doing work, and believe in yourself that if you got accepted into your program, that means you can do it.

Colton Moran, Ph.D. student, Chemical Engineering

colton_moran2_border.jpg“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.” — Jerry Rice

Before Georgia Tech, Colton attended Ohio University, a large liberal arts college, where he was a student in a smaller engineering college. The most important tip he gives anyone in graduate school is to realize that graduate school is not your life. "It is a large and very important portion of your life, but it does not define you and it should not consume all of your time — it will if you let it," he said. "This directly leads into why Grad Groups is valuable. Grad groups allows you to have access to resources and knowledge on how to kick start your life here in Atlanta, as well as how to succeed in your graduate level work. Don’t forget — the hard work you are putting in today is setting you up for a life of well-earned success!"

Brandon Sharp, Ph.D. student, Chemistry and Biochemistry 

“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.” — Salvador Dali

Brandon graduated with an undergraduate degree from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn. He thinks older graduate students are an invaluable resource to younger students, so you shouldn't be afraid to ask older grad students any questions you may have. "As grad students themselves, they’ve been through the same things and they are usually more than willing to offer advice," he said. "Grad Groups is the perfect place for you to find and interact with older grad students, especially during your first semester when you probably haven't had the opportunity to meet many."


Renee Shelby, Ph.D. student, History and Sociology​ 

“All human knowledge takes the form of interpretation.” — Walter Benjamin

Renee earned a bachelor's in sociology and a master's in sociology and public health at Georgia State University (GSU). In 2012, she was selected as Outstanding Graduate Student, served as an Urban Fellow in the School of Law, and was active in the SGA. Before beginning her Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech, Renee taught Social Problems and Introduction to Sociology at Georgia State University, and was awarded an Excellence in Higher Education award by the GSU Center for Instructional Innovation. By taking a critical perspective, her research illuminates the relationship between cultural values and institutional responses to sexual assault, and aims to provide mechanisms to support victims of sexual violence. Her advice to incoming graduate students is to reach out, not freak out! "Graduate school can be an isolating experience, but it does not have to be. Making connections with other graduate students, finding joy outside of campus, and taking care of one’s self are vital to positive graduate life," Renee said. "We are all very impassioned about improving the graduate experience at Georgia Tech. Grad Groups will help you make those early connections and ease your transition on campus.​"

Xiaojun Sun, Ph.D. student, Materials Science and Engineering 

“Let every dawn of the morning be to you as the beginning of life. And let every setting sun be to you as its close.” — John Ruskin

Xiaojun was born and raised in Shanghai and received a bachelor’s degree in MSE from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He has been working on the synthesis of bimetallic nanocrystals for applications in plasmonic and catalysis. Since fall 2013, he has published four peer-reviewed papers and maintained a GPA of 3.9. His advice to new grad students is to be proactive and tenacious. "Knowing how to identify and prioritize work can certainly ease your stress and boost efficiency. Most importantly, try to keep an eye on the future, and live your life to the fullest," he said. "Grad Groups is the platform where you can find your root in Georgia Tech, network with great people from diversified disciplines, and be exposed to valuable resources that will lead to future success."

George Tan, Ph.D. student, Chemistry and Biochemistry 

“I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.” — Leo Rosten

George earned his two bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biology from Jackson State University. During his graduate career, he has participated in field sample collection and analysis in Rio Tinto and was the field qPCR lead in the 2015 US-UK-Nordic Icelandic Field Expedition. He is currently using amplicon sequencing and metagenomics to characterize the diversity of bacteria in tephra samples from Iceland as Mars Analog. With a long-standing interest in leadership development, George has been involved in SGA throughout his undergraduate and graduate career as clubs and organizations board member, Director for International/Multicultural Student Involvement, graduate student senator, Ambassador for the White House Initiative for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and has led several Alternative Break. His advice to incoming graduate students is to get out of your comfort zone and try out new things. "There are so many different possibilities out there, and it is up to you to make your graduate experience the way you want it," he said. "The Grad Groups program is valuable to students because it helps them understand the resources available to help them achieve higher goals and bigger dreams."

If you have any questions, please email