Life as a graduate student

Published Dec. 4, 2009

Matt Ganter has recently taken on some life-changing roles. In July, he progressed from fiance to husband. And in August, he advanced from master’s degree student in materials science to doctoral candidate in RIT’s sustainability program. 

As a doctoral student, Ganter knows the next several years will be challenging as he works to balance his professional and personal pursuits.

“Luckily, I have people in my life who are understanding if I have to stay longer at school to complete a paper or meet a research deadline,” says Ganter. “It’s all part of being a graduate student. Most of the time I am able to find that balance. You have to in order to continue to do good work.” 

The 25-year-old says he’s conducting more laboratory work than ever before. His current research focuses on lithium ion batteries. As part of the battery group in the NanoPower Research Labs, Ganter’s work looks at incorporating different nano materials in lithium 
ion batteries to improve their capacity, charge-discharge rates and how much power they can produce.

“All these aspects have different uses, whether it’s high energy where you want your cell phone to last as long as possible, or whether you need high power in a power tool for a short amount of time. And then there can be a combination of uses like a hybrid vehicle where a fast battery discharge is needed to get the vehicle up to speed, but also requires enough energy to keep the car running.”

When not in the lab, Ganter’s days at RIT center around reading current research papers, attending group meetings and teleconferences, presenting his research and helping to 
compile data reports for government sponsors. 

story photoPursuing a doctoral degree was not Ganter’s original goal when he came to RIT 
after earning his bachelor of science in physics from St. John Fisher College. Initially, the materials science master’s degree program brought him here.

“The University of Rochester and RIT both offer degrees in materials science, but RIT interested me more because of the technological side and resources available here. I intended to get my master’s and then get a job in industry, but once I started working in the NanoPower Research Labs, the research opportunities grew from there.”

When RIT announced the doctoral degree in sustainability last fall, Ganter knew he wanted to be among its inaugural students. The Ph.D. program is one of the first in the world focused on sustainable production to advance research and education in alternative energy development, sustainable design, green-product development and pollution prevention. The program attracts students from a broad range of majors.

“This doctoral program offers me the chance to expand my research and look closely at some of the current topics around sustainability. The issues are very complicated and addressing them can be difficult, but exciting. As we move toward finding alternative energy sources, we also can’t ignore the social and economic impacts.”

Ganter says the faculty support has been tremendous. With their encouragement, he’s presented his research at conferences in Las Vegas and Phoenix. Next is a December conference in Boston to present his work on end-of-life strategies for lithium ion batteries.

story photoHe also recently authored his first scientific journal paper.

“The lab gives us the opportunity to present our work. The presentations and publications get RIT’s name out there. It’s also great experience for my resume.” 

Ganter credits Brian Landi, a chemical engineering professor at RIT, as one of his mentors. Outside of RIT, the two try to schedule early morning or late afternoon golf outings when time allows. An avid sports fan, Ganter played basketball and lacrosse in his early years as an undergraduate. His research, though, leaves little time for much else these days. His work consumed his summer with the exception of his July wedding and honeymoon. 

Ganter and his wife, Katie, grew up together outside of Watertown, N.Y. Now, they call Rochester home. 

“I love Rochester. I have a lot of friends here and the city has a lot to offer for someone who came from a small town.”

Building Consensus and Community

RIT has experienced a steady growth in graduate student enrollment in the past several years. Graduate students comprise 16 percent of RIT’s total enrollment.

“We think this growth is a demonstration of the increasing attractiveness of applied technology and science that is a significant element of our graduate programs,” says Andrew Moore, dean of RIT Graduate Studies. “We believe that graduate students and their research work with faculty will drive RIT in the future.” 

story photo“We want to build a sense of community based on a foundation of academic research and scholarship,” adds Chance Glenn, associate dean of RIT Graduate Studies. “This rests with our graduate students.”

The Office of Graduate Studies, established two years ago, serves as an advocate for graduate students and graduate education.

“Graduate students require a tailored research infrastructure,” says Moore. “This includes dedicated research space, computer facilities and library services. The university is paying more attention to our students’ needs and I’m delighted to see this progress.” 

Despite the economic slowdown, RIT moved ahead with increasing the stipend for doctoral students. The university also offers basic health care coverage at no cost if the doctoral candidates are not covered under another health care plan.

RIT currently has six doctoral programs: astrophysical sciences and technology, color science, imaging science, computing and information sciences, microsystems engineering, and sustainability 

While working to increase its visibility internally, the office has ramped up its efforts externally to raise the prominence of its graduate programs. Glenn travels the country to promote RIT and to recruit graduate students. He’s visited Northeastern, Princeton, MIT, Johns Hopkins and Georgia Tech, and several other leading colleges and universities.

story photo“We are trying to establish connection points so we can focus on particular institutions and build relationships with them to generate a stream of talented candidates for our programs,” says Glenn. 

For more information, visit

  • Orientation program

  • Wallace Center support for students to submit their dissertations and theses 
via ProQuest

  • Professional development programs

  • Grant writing workshops

  • Graduate seminar series 

  • Graduate Research Symposium

  • Student Government representation

  • Social events