Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Seattle, here I come!

While I alluded to it in a previous post, I still wasn't 100% sure. But now it's official - I'll be going to the University of Washington to get my PhD in the Department of Genome Sciences in the fall!

That still sounds crazy when I say it. I'm going to go get a freaking PhD. Who knew that would happen ten years ago, when I was still amazed by the simple puzzle of a Punnett square, or when I still didn't quite grasp the whole evolution thing. I've come a long way.

So come September, I will have officially escaped the Midwest. Wooooo! Though I admit, I'm nervous. I've lived in Indiana for the past 21 years (lived 5 minutes across the border in Illinois when I was an infant), and I've never lived in a big city. Purdue is only an hour and a half from my home town, so I was still close to family and retained some of my old high school friends. It's kind of terrifying knowing I'll finally be completely on my own. It's like I'm an adult or something!

If you have any tips about grad school in general, the University of Washington, or Seattle, now's a good time to let me in on all of the secrets. Or you can just use this post to celebrate along with me. Hurray!


  1. HURRAY!!! I'm so happy for you Jen! You are going to LOVE the west coast and the Pacific NW in general. Can't wait to hang out again =)

  2. I graduated from UW back in 1987 with degrees in French and Criminology. You are absolutely going to love Seattle. Go eat at Ragin Cajun and Herbies (although, you might want a tetanus shot before going to Herbies- great food but slightly questionable on the cleanliness scale) and go hang out at Giggles Comedy Club.

    You will LOVE UW!!!!!

    Go Dawgs!

  3. Tips about grad school? Run away while you still can!

    Hehe, just kidding. It's not too bad. You'll have pain and fun, to a proportion dependent on your luck with your supervisor. :)

  4. Hooray & Congrats! Seattle has good nerd heritage I think. Home of Penny Arcade & PAX, and soon to be the home of PVP.

  5. Congratulations and best of lucks to ya!

    Me grad school tip: Get what ya can outta it, but don't take it too serious and stress out. Is just grad school.

  6. OMG getting far away from home is the best thing ever, especially when you live in the midwest. :)

    Don't worry, I'm sure you'll make new friends. And if not, that's what cats are for =P

  7. You'll do fine.

    Unlike some of us.

  8. I'm totally visiting you out in Seattle!!! I've always wanted to go and this will be the perfect excuse. :)

  9. Yay! I can't wait to head to LA myself. That cross-country move is going to be a bitch logistically though.

  10. You're going to do great! I've never been to Seattle, but I might make it out there one day.

  11. I hear Seattle is an awesome town, my girlfriend has been there many times. I have never been. Again, congratulations on getting in.

  12. The Midwest's loss will be the Pacific Northwest's gain. Congratulations and good luck, Jen.

  13. This isn't a big city, don't worry about it. I'd call it "a city." And I agree about the PAX. Don't forget Cinema Seattle's SIFF, and the Emerald City Comic Con (to be three days next year).

  14. Congrats Jen!

    I'll also be starting grad school at UW this fall in Computer Science. I've been there for a summer before, so I know the area a little. Make sure you ask around so that you can make a good decision about where to live, and learn about things to do, and places to see!

  15. Congratulations!

    Don't sweat grad school. It's not so much hard as it is demanding. A lot more creative work and a LOT more plain work to support the creativity.

    But not much more rote crap.

    The Fiance tells me that UW is a far better school than Stanford or Harvard. So the Right Thing happened.

  16. Congrats! After seeing two classes of first year grad students come through after me, I've got the following advice:

    -Find out when you get your first paycheck, and plan accordingly. Many programs pay their grad students once a month. The stipend may be more than adequate, they may be reimbursing your moving expenses, but none of that helps when you first show up if you don't see a dime until the end of Sept (like my program does to their first years). You'll have a ton of up front expenses when you get there, rent, security deposit, moving van, etc.

    - Get the skinny on potential rotations ahead of time (if you're in a program that does rotations). Contact the grad students you met and get their opinion. Now that you're in the program proper, they'll be a lot more honest about who has money, who's an asshole, who's constantly away giving talks and any other relavant info. Also keep in mind that PIs who make great advisors aren't always the best places to go for a first rotation. For your first, I'd definitely recommend rotating through a lab that has a 2nd or 3rd year grad student. They'll have great advice on preparing for tests, and any hoops you'll need to jump through.

    - Be wary going in 'knowing' you want to end up in so and so's lab. People don't get tenure, don't get grants renewed, get offered chair positions elsewhere, or have 4 students all want to join their lab. Another reason why it's important to make every rotation count.

    -Start early if possible. Many times programs will be able to accommodate a few students who want to start their first rotation early. It's a HUGE advantage to be able to start doing research before you're also dealing with classes.

    -Learn to play the politics game. There's something you need to understand: going to grad school is like going back to high school in some ways. People LOVE to gossip about each other, and the incoming first year class is always a topic of interest. Even if you find yourself rotating through a lab that you cannot stand, you want to leave them with a good opinion of you. If you complain about the people in your lab, they inevitably WILL hear about it. I know someone who had the best grades in her class and was told that her dream lab wasn't taking students that year, mainly because when she inquired about a rotation the PI heard she was a difficult know-it-all and decided to hire another post-doc instead.

    - Find out where other grad students live. This is mainly for social reasons, but it really sucks to be the person who never goes out because you live in another part of the city.

    Hopefully I don't sound too pessimistic, quite honestly I have no regrets about grad school. It's tough, but I love it.

  17. Way to go Jen. You will only be 3 hours from my home town Victoria, British Columbia! I have visited Seattle quite a bit and find it a really great place with lots of stuff to do.

    Do you like rain? The big trick is not to fret about it and go outside as much as you can. You are not made of sugar and will not melt. Also, one of those SAD lights may help to get you through the long grey periods (e.g. October thru March).

    Grad school was a blast when I was there ~10 years ago but I am glad that it is over. Enjoy it thoroughly while you are there. It is really great to be surrounded by smart people that share your interests.


  18. As far as I'm concerned, the pacific northwest is the closest us atheists will ever find to heaven. Nothing makes you stand out faster than being overtly religious around there. I'm sure you'll love it. Once you're a millionaire due to your perpetuation of that crazy evolution conspiracy and you're in the market for a kickass personal chef, lemme know. :P


    Einstein puts the final nail in the coffin of atheism...



    atheists deny their own life element...




    add comment moderation to your blasphemy blog, you fool...

  20. As Nick said, be prepared for politics. The level of politics amazes me, and if you're not careful they can very much affect you and your success during graduate school.

    Also, like I've said before, make sure you're saving as much of that stipend as you can. Being broke right now at 22 sucks, right? Imagine being equally broke in 5 years. With no retirement savings or no nest egg. Make sure you're graduating with at least a good chunk of money and some beginnings of a retirement fund, even if it's a Roth IRA or something, and even if you still have deferred undergrad loans.

  21. Be sure to try to visit Pike's market, lots of good deals and fresh food, plus the experience music project.

  22. I don't know anything about Seattle, but good luck!

    Just watch out for vampires (I think I remember someone telling me that the Twilight vampires went to Seattle at one point. I might be mistaken, but you always look out for vampires anyway).

  23. Congrats on making your own natural selection.

    Seattle = Great place w/ great airfare deals to Hawai`i!!

    We get a lot of people from both Alaska & Washington/Oregon over here in Paradise.


  24. As a Northwest native, here's what to expect: rain. :-) Congrats!

  25. Congratulations! From what you've written about your interests, UW Genome Science sounds like a program that will be a great fit-- and it's also just a really excellent, well respected program with top-notch faculty. I'm sure you're going to love it, and love living in Seattle. Have an incredible time. And don't stress too much in grad school- everybody has lots of ups and downs, and they're all totally normal. Remember why you're there, that everybody has a hard time sometimes, and how cool the work you're doing is, and you'll be set.

  26. So what will a phd get you that couldn't be learned from the Manga Guide to Molecular Biology? Just saying. :)

  27. Godspeed!!

    (in its totally secular meaning of course!)

  28. Congratulations. I'm not sure what else needs to be said...

  29. Congratulations!

    Do you like rain? The big trick is not to fret about it and go outside as much as you can. You are not made of sugar and will not melt.

    Concur. The citizens of your sister city over here are always saying the same thing. "There's no such thing as bad weather", they say, "only bad clothes" (it rhymes in the original). Weeell, IMHO both exist, but you get the point. Unlike you I'm ancient and rheumaticky, but the muscles nevertheless appreciate the warmth of exercise.

    Black humour helps. Other Bergen proverb, jokes and so forth:
    Q. "What do Bergenites do when it rains?" A. "They let it rain".

    "I saw the sun yesterday, ghod it made me jump".

    Tourist: "Tell me, young man, does it ever stop raining here?"
    Native: "I don't know, I'm only six."

  30. Seattle has a great public transit system and really bad road signs. The drivers here are really nice for a big city. If you're going to pay to go to the top a a building, the Space Needle is a waste of money, go to the Columbia Tower instead. Pike Place is pretty cool, but super touristy. Check out our ferry system, Seattle is beautiful from the water, and it's really cheep if you're on foot. Uwajimaya, the Japanese grocery store has great novelty foods. Pagliacchi's has great pizza. It's hard to find bad food at a restaurant in Seattle, as long as you stick to local places and avoid national chains. The Seattle Art Museum is nice, but the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum are a lot more experience for your dollar. The weather really isn't as bad as everyone says. If it rains for five minutes in the morning, and clears up in the afternoon, it still counts as a rainy day, so the numbers are kinda inflated. There are so many awesome parks all throughout this city: Woodland, Gasworks, the Sculpture Garden downtown, Seattle also has both a Japanese and Chinese garden. It's less than twenty dollars on public transit to the Pacific Coast. Oh, and there's a huge Atheist community out here, if you didn't know already!

  31. If it rains for five minutes in the morning, and clears up in the afternoon, it still counts as a rainy day, so the numbers are kinda inflated.

    Then we should really stop comparing ourselves with Seattle. Our problem is not so much the presence of rain as the absence of sun; endless drizzle from a lid of cloud resting on the mountains. We can go for months without seeing the sun, and the winter is even worse.

  32. \o/

    We'll be happy to have you! You should totally come visit me. I swear this time I won't be an ax murderer. >.>

  33. Congrats! Seattle is great and so is Bellingham! I suggest you start reading the SLOG for fun and enlightenment about Seattle culture, arts and politics - the zeitgeist.