thanks for the poke bret, here’s a small effort to keep this thing alive
I have recently started grad school and so far I’m really liking it. I’m doing a neuroscience doctorate at Washington University in St. Louis. I had to choose between going to UW-Madison instead and it was really hard to decide to leave, on account of a) I love the city of Madison, it’s liberal culture, it’s greenery and lakes, it’s extremely high bars per capita, etc. b) I knew several awesome profs at UW that I would have loved to work with (Giulion Tononi:sleep,consciousness, and Richard Davidson:happiness/emotional resilience, attentional regulation) c)my brother, and best friend, and many other friends, were there d)my family was just 90 min away in Milwaukee. In the end I decided to leave because that last reason is sort of a double-edge sword…I thought it would be good to go somewhere new, start fresh, meet new people, make new connections, and not rely too much on preexisting academic connections to get started in science. Also, WashU is somewhat more prestigious than UW, which I hate being responsive to, especially since the strength of the ‘program’ is basically dependent on your mentor, lab, and project, moreso than on any teaching that gets done in classes, and UW certainly has awesome mentors and labs. That said, it was made clear that the places you get post-docs at is strongly related to where you got your phd, and that in turn effects where you can get a PIship, so…I bowed to the market forces.
To be fair, my brother Alex had spent many years in St. Louis and really talked it up, and it has not dissapointed. It’s a bigger city than any I’ve been in (err, except Boston maybe?) and has lots of distinct neighboorhoods, decent public transportation (for an American city, I’m told it pales in comparison to our cultural superiors across the Atlantic), tons of free awesome activities in huge (bigger than NYC central park) Forest Park including an awesome zoo, art museum, history museum, music venues, etc.
School itself has been largely good so far…there are 16 total first years in my program, we all take an intensive crash course in cellular/molecular neuroscience and nothing else for the first 8 weeks. The lectures are so-so but we read lots of papers for discussion and I’m getting a lot out of those papers and talks. Meanwhile I’m trying to set up rotations in a couple labs so I can decide where to do my thesis work and though it was rocky at first (cool profs liked me but didn’t really have time for more students), I now have several lined up and am confident I will end up in a lab that is doing exciting work, with a mentor who is some version of cool, and a lab that I will be comfortable in, so that’s hugely important and cool that it’s working out.
Socially things are going more or less smoothly, I’m making plenty of friends through shared interests in a) making it through class, b) football, c)intoxicants, and d) making friends now that we have none in the new city where we live. D is particularly important…
So that’s what’s up with me, I’ve managed to keep a bit of time for some reading, cooking, other leisure activities, and am generally not insane yet. Not more insane, I suppose. I do regret not keeping in touch better with those of you with whom I haven’t kept well in touch…which is basically all of you. Peace and love,