Christine’s Tea Room

Master’s Project: No Pain, No Gain!
by Christine Chen -- June 30th, 2014

Celebration of Graduation in front of Bryan Center, photo by Szu-Ying Chen

Celebration of Graduation in front of Bryan Center, photo by Szu-Ying Chen

Time flies in my last semester at Nicholas School as fast as a trout whirling down the creek. Career planning in the form of job searching at this stage and the master’s project earmarking the hallmark of my learning in the past two years – those are two main things of the last semester, in addition to the regular curriculum, of course. There is uncertainty as well as excitement towards stepping into the real world, to many people, again, and to the others, for the first time.

The Lesson from Master’s Project

The presentation of the master’s project was my most valuable experience at Nicholas School. For our fellow readers, I explain how this master’s project works. As a partial requirement of the MEM Program, students delve in, explore and with an attempt to solve one of the most complicated environmental issues with the knowledge across all fields. For myself, I simply learned so much from this process. Asking the right question to the issue was the first lesson. The questions, for example, could be “Are there more efficient ways to deliver oil and gas than current ones [1]?” “Land uses and its influence on denitrification rates within aquifers [2]” or “Are there better ways to manage stormwater [3]?” The questions one raised reflected one’s world perspective and the discontent with the status quo. Next, we asked questions and we turned on our radar for appropriate methods, the process of which, I found it to be the most rewarding part for me. It is also very critical to the success of a project. The Asian-style education traditionally has less focus on creativity, innovation and stimulation but rather more emphasis on practicing and utilizing developed rules and residues and with incredible efficiency. What I learned here were really how to “think out of the box” and never let your “but” stall the hundreds of possibilities that follows this idea. The largest failure was not a failed trial but never giving the chance to try. I was glad to see my fellow students being the adherents of this spirit just from a quick glance of their master’s projects that I attended during the MP Symposium Day on April 4th and 5th [4].

MP Symposium, Spring 2014, photo provided by Ally MyeongYeon Son

MP Symposium, Spring 2014, photo provided by Ally MyeongYeon Son

The Opportunity to Use Just-In-Time Technology in Project Management

Also, a great lesson for me and everyone who is about to step into the professional world was to be able to stand up and discuss why you chose your method of approaching this question to your advisors, professors, clients of the project and even your supervisors and to explain (sometimes persuade) all the merits and drawbacks that were taken into account for consideration. I also did project management throughout the period. Thanks to the great CEM Program, two of my MP group members were based at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C., for their second year while I was here at the main campus in Durham, N.C. This turned out to be a great opportunity for us to try out the just-in-time technologies in internet development. Thanks to all the computer engineers, we stored our files and data on the cloud for sharing, we used Skype for meetings and we documented our lively discussions on Google Doc and we practiced and synchronized our presentation on Google Powerpoint. To me, the master’s project was the most rewarding experience and I will carry these experiences with me wherever I go after graduation.

Regarding the Nicholas School Blogging Team and this Blog

Last, but never least, I am glad to have had the chance to blog with the Blogging Team since the fall of 2012. I found it a unique chapter of my life and I am appreciative of this opportunity. After my graduation, the Nicholas School Blogging Team will hold the full authority of administration, editing, and management of this blog “Christine’s Tea Room”. To all potential bloggers, Tawnee, Sarah and Emma are great team leaders and make the regular blog meetings pleasureable, educational and maybe even a little soul-baring. Sometimes, and to much delight, we meet at the local yogurt shop! If anyone wants to know more about the Nicholas School, MEM program, Water Resource Management concentration, or blogging experience, please e-mail me at I’ll be glad to answer questions as much as I can.


[1] Zhou. C. (2014). Optimal design of pipelines network for CO2 transport.

[2] Geisenhoffer. C. (2014). Spatial Influences on Rates of Denitrification in Floridan Karst Aquifers.

[3] Bishop. R., Chen. S., Santoni. A. (2014). North Carolina Stormwater Compliance Evaluation for the 20 Coastal Counties

[4] More information of Nicholas School MP Symposium, please go to (

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