Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Grad Student Experience

I've been out on the left coast for a while, indulging my desire to use a Pipetman, run pretty gels, and generate boatloads of mass spec. data.

While I've been here, I've started thinking about the differences in the graduate student experience at a university and at a research institute or a medical school. I applied to all three when I was an undergrad, although that probably doesn't happen often unless you have a biological bent in your research interests.

I'm floored by the facilities out here. They're really conducive to getting things done quickly. I've been to three or four other labs here to use some random instrument, and everyone's been very helpful. This equipment-sharing must just vary widely from department to department depending on how collegial a place is or how many levels of bureaucracy you need to get past to accomplish anything.

A couple years back, our department was actively recruiting a faculty member from a university that had a medical school campus. I can understand the challenges that would come with relocating to a university like Princeton with no professional schools at all. (The fictitious hospital where House works doesn't count). Even little things like access to the right set of journal articles can become a real hassle.

So why'd I go to a university? At the time I picked Princeton because it had the most PI's I'd want to work for. (Funny that none of them are there now.) I think that the shared experience my incoming class had (living in the grad dorm, working out at the gym on-campus, problem sets in the coffeehouse) gave us a real sense of community, which as a grad student is nice.

It's also important to me to socialize with nonscientists. I didn't know (or perhaps I should say didn't respect) very many humanities people in college, but the people I meet here are almost uniformly brilliant.

Maybe being a grad student outside of a university feels more like a real job, which is exactly what I was trying to put off?



At 12:13 PM, Blogger lemme howdt said...

I remember back in 1980 when i drove cross country with my cat to play chemistry at grad school, while putting off the approach into the job whirled. I also remember doing electrophoresis, before there were kits and a developed technique as an intern with Olin, a firm likely merged howdt of existance at this time. I like the left coast, and being non-traditional, invite you to see what can be. writing poetry, blogging and teaching are great fun, not terribly profitable, but it depends on what you value. Remember to enjoy the time you spend on the journey getting there.

At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Jason said...

You can keep your pipetman...I was born a pipetter by mouth and I'll die a pipetter by mouth (probably of organic solvent ingestion.)

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Ken said...

I did my first Kugelrohr distillation today... Pretty sweet. Worked perfectly.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger Ashutosh said...

The interaction with non-scientists is definitely an important factor. It widens your view of the world of science in an important way.


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