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!

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