hello blog

Hi guys 🙂

First post for me: *looks around* so we totally have a blog here, sweet.

So I’m still living in a co-op in Madison and am currently applying to grad schools in neuroscience for next fall. Also, I might go back to Olin in January and finish off my last semester there. Except I’m in therapy now to get that plan approved. Meanwhile I’m working in a lab I started at during my last semester at UW (I graduated last May in biology). So that’s my life in 4 easy sentences.

Therapy is tough but fair. What makes it difficult is having to come utterly face to face with ALL of my own sins and failures. Not surprisingly, it’s pretty heavy, and it’s been leaving me with a bit more stress than I’m used to, more, for instance, than I was ever carrying around on a weeks-on-end basis while at Olin. I guess a Good Catholic is meant to give a full confession on a regular basis; I’m starting to understand some of the neuroses surrounding ‘Catholic guilt’ and I’m only more convinced that their wacky religion is all too often poisonous to the heart and mind, undermining the pursuit of happiness as much as (more obviously) the pursuit of truth. (No offense. For what it’s worth, my mom was raised Catholic. Also, some part of this paragraph was suppose to have a joke in it to, ya know, lighten the mood. But I distracted myself with parentheticals.)

Therapy is also going to get worse before it gets better, for two distinct and distinctly unpleasant reasons. The first is that I will soon have to involve as many of my close friends and family as possible in an effort to create a ‘public supportive community.’ This is bound to be awkward for a good many people, for which I feel guilty. Of course, it won’t be fun and easy for me either. Second, I have to submit to a polygraph soon, exhaustively detailing more or less every bad thing I’ve ever done, extra-inclusive just to be on the safe side. Actually, sick fuck that I am, this part could be both fun AND easy. Anyone ever hear me mention how much I enjoy indignance? Or my fondness for the self-flagellation of the faults game, which consists entirely of going around a circle describing one’s faults?

Anyhow, time and the universe being what they are, I’ll get through this. A lifetime of making mistakes has, at least, prepared me for dealing with the consequences of me making mistakes. Meanwhile I’m enjoying the exciting process of defining myself and my goals as a research scientist.

Applying to grad school in neuroscience is, like, super fun. First of all, basically all the programs pay you to go. More important though is the fact that if you find a specific professor whose lab you want to work in and can convince him that you’ll be an asset, that’s basically all you have to do to get in. Of course there are rec letters (i’m on it), GREs (aced ’em), lab experience (i’m loaded), and gpa (fuck), but if you win over a PI, you’re in.  This means that my basic task is to find labs that are exciting to me, and then go impress the prof (poof! done.). Reading about the work that is going on at schools across the country has of course been a learning experience in itself. It has probably been the most concentrated, diverse, and in depth exposure to neuroscience that I have had in any context to date, and I find my interests changing more broadly and quickly than I would have expected. I won’t go into much detail but: I’ve always thought of myself as a ‘big picture’ kind of guy and was initially attracted to neuroscience for it’s connection to issues of the social world, psychology, and personality, and very UNinterested in the kinds of ‘low level’ working being done on individual ion channels, neurotransmitters, and other areas of cell biology. Reading theoretical neuroscience, (attempts at overall modeling of the function of the brain) however, has made me interested in the electromechanical workings of the brain as an overall system, and also made clear just how crucial the chemical information processing at the synapse really is to brain function. So long story short, I’m fascinated by a wide variety of research in neuroscience, and getting to pick exactly which labs I want to go work for and in which cities is really exciting.

I’m coming up on 800 boring words here so I’ll stop here. Fair warning though: I will probably post links to some of the labs I’m considering.


One Response to hello blog

  1. Ben says:

    Sounds like some cool stuff, I’m excited to check out the labs you’re considering and see what’s goin on in the world of neuroscience. For us laypeople, I found a interesting article in Scientific American about using fMRI to map religious experiences: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=434D7C62-E7F2-99DF-37CC9814533B90D7&chanID=sa023

    Are you still thinking about the science/policy mix? I guess theoretical neuroscience is a step in the opposite direction, but maybe there’s some road back to public policy.

    As for that whole guilt thing, you just got to ride it out. Everything’s perspective: if you focus on the bad things (which is what this polygraph dealy seems to be about), shit’s gonna look bad. But you take all those mistakes and line it up against all the decisions you’ve made in your life, and I bet the good ones easily outweigh the bad. Maybe this Vonnegut-ism will help:
    “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

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