Gina Blazanin

Civil Engineering (2020)

Graduate Research Assistant - University of Texas at Austin

What are your primary job responsibilities?

Conduct research consulting projects for firms and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) that hires us to complete projects. I manage 1 project myself, and am a partner on 2 other projects.

Describe what your day-to-day work life looks like.

The work I do is entirely computer based, as it relates to modeling within transportation engineering. Our research group gets datasets from TxDOT or other companies, and is tasked with analyzing and modeling those datasets. Thus, my work is entirely done in an office setting or at my desk in my apartment; I have an office on campus in a tall building, and my view is wonderful out the windows! I work heavily with my research team, and nothing is done solo within our group. It's been a great team to be a part of so far! We also meet with clients (the companies who have hired us for research work based on a research proposal) up to 1 time a week per project, but otherwise have time to work and make progress. We also take anywhere between 1 and 3 courses per semester, and write research papers in the off hours. As grad students, we put in quite a few hours, but the flexibility of the schedule makes up for the number of hours we work. As for other things, grad student life is quite flexible, and often times I get to sleep in a bit, workout between classes, and grab lunch or coffee with friends throughout the week. It's quite the lifestyle!

What is most rewarding about your job?

The most rewarding part about my job is when a research project is completed and we get to see all the work we put into it through a final presentation. This is rewarding because each of the research projects I am a part of take years to complete, and often the reason the research project has gotten funding is because the research problem has not been solved or addressed yet. Finding answers to unanswered questions is so gratifying to me! Also, I love my cohort of peers and getting to do coursework with them has been a blast.

What is most challenging about your job?

The risk of burn-out has definitely been the most challenging thing about my job. Because the hours are so flexible and because I can work from wherever, there seems to be a pressure to work all the time to get really far on research projects. Additionally, while research is important (it's how you can get paid as a grad student), coursework and writing research papers are also an important task to complete on top of the research projects assigned to you. Balancing this workload can be overwhelming, but that's why the university has mentorship programs and why the professors in grad school are so understanding and relatable.

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