Monday, March 28, 2011


I had finally decided, made up my mind, crossed all the others off my list. Stanford and Hopkins were the schools were I felt most at home with the people and the program, but Stanford won out with more people I really wanted to work with in each of the various fields (within neuroscience) that I'm interested in. I also felt the biosciences program there was more integrative, and would give me exposure to more non-neuro topics.

And then once I had crossed out Hopkins and Rockefeller (too small for my undecided interests), UCSD popped up again because apparently Stanford could not run unopposed. But while I loved UCSD as well, I think it might be the opposite of Rockefeller - too big for my undecided interests. Stanford was the only one that I didn't have any objections to program-wise, and everything I loved about it overpowered my hesitation over staying in the same place for another 5-6 years.

"I'm going to accept Stanford's offer!" I exclaimed to myself, excited that the vacillation was over. I grabbed my admission letter, looked up the website, extremely happy to be done with the decision making - and then I read the instructions. You have to wait one day after creating an ID in order for the system to give you permissions, then you can go accept your offer. Damn it.

So now, faced with a day to wait before I can act on the decision I made, all of my choices are floating before my eyes again. Was it a mistake to decide against Harvard so easily? So many of my friends among the recruits are going there and it's not so bad, right? All of my reasons against the other schools seem to have dropped in my (relative) panic. But I have to put it out of my mind right now and get my paper written so that I can work on my poster for my thesis. And probably after a good night's sleep, my full confidence in my decision will be recovered. Regardless, for now I'll trust my judgment and refuse to second-guess myself, so I think I can let you know I've made a decision now - I'm going to Stanford!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quietly Brilliant (or, An Ode To My Aria)

I have to say, HTC's tagline seems pretty much on the ball to me. I didn't know much about HTC until I got my Aria last year, but it is brilliant. And their whole "it's about you" campaign? Well, at least some of the designers seemed to agree, since they came out with the Aria last summer.

It's not the most amazing, largest screen, highest resolution, superfast smartphone out there. But bigger isn't always better. That wasn't what I was looking for when I was getting a new phone. What I needed was a phone that fit in my pocket.

Now, I would be willing to bet the majority of programmers and engineers working on these phones are male. Unless they're wearing hipster jeans, their pants have big pockets. iPhones fit. Droids fit. Size is not an issue, and their smartphones just keep getting bigger and bigger. The only small phones are dumb phones. But someone at HTC looked at these phones and thought, "Hey, maybe there's someone out there that has smaller hands and smaller pockets and wants a smaller phone that's still pretty darn smart." I don't want to suggest that it's a girl phone, but it's definitely a small people phone.

It's fast and responsive, even more so now that I have Froyo (Android OS 2.2) on it, and is so comfortable to hold. The soft touch finish on the back is, well, soft, but also non-slippery. HTC Sense looks lovely and acts quickly, and comes with a lot of the features for which other Android users have been rooting (gaining root user access in order to have more options) their phones and voiding their warranties. With Swype installed as my main keyboard (something you cannot have on, say, an iPhone), typing one-handed is extremely easy and fast.

I mentioned I got this phone last year, right? It was last September, after my old phone stopped working, and I'm still absolutely in love with it. That's a testament to its worth.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Final Impressions

My arms feel like noodles right now. Today was the first time in 6 weeks that I was finally able to go to yongmudo! The one week when I was here on a Wednesday night, I was sick. And Mondays are usually spent in the lab, but that wasn't going to work out today, so instead I worked out today.

So basically, interviews are over. Of the places I went to, I got accepted to most (but not UCSF) and waitlisted at one (Hopkins). And now, I have to decide where I want to go. This is a really hard choice because all of these schools have top-flight neuroscience programs. My top 3 keep fluctuating, so I was waiting a couple days after this last visit to allow them to solidify, and I think they're getting there. Stanford and Hopkins are at the top (contingent on my actually getting in to the latter), with Rockefeller close by. I can't just rule it out yet because it's a completely different type of program (not neuroscience alone), and I'm soon going to have to decide just what I want. Harvard and UCSD are right beyond that.

Many of the other interviewees I met are choosing between Harvard and UCSF, but those two didn't feel quite right for me. Harvard felt a bit more tense, which might be unfair because it was the first interview, but another recruit, an undergrad there, independently agreed with my assessment (pictures, by the way, are not all of the campuses, but just my favorites I took in each place). The thing is, I really liked Harvard, but then I went to Hopkins and liked it more.

UCSF, on the other hand, felt, if anything, too familiar. I did an internship there a couple summers ago, and while it was fun, it made me decide not to go into strictly computational work. And maybe that feeling was sticking around, making an appearance as soon as we visited the Mission Bay campus (lovely as it is there). When I learned I hadn't gotten in here, I was not all that disappointed.

I liked the feeling at Hopkins, though I don't know why. For whatever reason, I came home feeling like I could live and work there and be happy for the next 5 years. More importantly, that feeling stuck around beyond the first weekend, unlike with some of the others.

The same went for Stanford, where I felt not only extremely comfortable, but very excited about the professors and labs (probably because more exposure to current goings-on in neuro over the course of interviews meant I understood more).The weekend there was also common for all of the biosciences, and it did in fact feel like there was more collaboration between departments.

Rockefeller, on the other hand, does not have a neuroscience-specific grad program. There are fewer neuro labs, but much more exposure to a broader range of topics in biology and chemistry. I loved hearing not only about the neuro, but also about cancer metastasis and developmental cell death that isn't run by apoptotic machinery. I thought I was extremely interested in neuro, which is still true, but having that breadth around me felt nice. That's how you make discoveries, by drawing together different fields and new ideas.

I also feel a strong connection to the place because that's where my postdoc mentor worked for a while. That's where another postdoc in our lab was a grad student. And most importantly, that's where my parents, then postdocs working at Rockefeller, lived when I was born. That's where I lived until I was 8 months old. I've got history there.

At any rate, it's going to be a very difficult decision. Fortunately, I have some time to decide, and wherever I end up going, I will probably end up happy. Unfortunately, I now have to use my noodly arms to lift my heavy genetics book and study for my quiz/midterm/midterm this week, so that's all for now, folks!