Why I love my PI

PI = Principal Investigator, i.e. my boss in the lab

We were discussing my project today.

PI: The reason your project went more slowly than other students’ was because you weren’t working with a grad student. The others were able to jump in and get to work, but since you started your project from scratch you had to do all the background work yourself.

Me: Yeah, I guess I started from the bottom.

PI: Started from the bottom, now you’re here! Well, almost. Once we re-run those failed samples…

 

Truth is:

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Orientation

Yesterday I helped with move-in for the new students. Today I feel like I was run over by a truck. I have bruises over my hipbones from bracing countless cardboard boxes, my arms are pretty much paralyzed and my legs are creaky. But it was worth it because it was SO MUCH FUN and then I got froyo at Menchie’s with  my friend K.

My favorite part of O-Week is not the pep rally, screaming my school’s cheers or the free food. It’s when I see a loner, a shy kid, a misfit standing at the edge of the crowd and I make a connection with them. I’m no good at talking to the cool kids but losers are my people. And I know they’re grateful to see that someone equally weird has been able to succeed/survive in university.

That one question

“What do you want to do with that degree?”

Unless they’re in a program that’s very applied, like nursing/engineering/plumbing, anyone in school knows and dreads this question.

My heart goes out to philosophy and studio art majors because they must get so tired of defending their program to friends and family.

Most of the programs I applied to in high school were in International Development, and I remember spending every major holiday explaining to my family a) what ID is and b) how I could possibly feed myself as an ID major.

Now I’m in Environmental Science, so things are a little better. But Enviro Sci sounds a little bit hippyish and that still provokes concerned/skeptical looks and “Why not engineering/business/nursing?”

But even though I have the marks to be in those programs, I know that I’d be miserable. So no, I don’t really know what I want to do with my degree; but I’m going to love what I do. And it’s not going to be boring.

Club 4.0

My brother and I have a 4.0 Pact this semester. He claims that it will be easier for me to get perfect grades than for him, but I’m not sure.

Bro’s Stats:

  • Studying at a top university
  • Pre-law
  • Working on 2 political campaigns (different levels of government)
  • Part-time job at his university
  • Real life job hunt
  • Girlfriend and social life
  • Senioritis

My stats:

  • Studying at a less intense university, but with a tough courseload: Biochem,  third-year Community Ecology, Stats II, Molecular Bio & Genetics, Evolution.
  • Pre-med
  • Working on a refugee mythbusting campaign; starting an Amnesty International chapter; hopefully volunteering in ER at hospital; writing for campus paper; Running Club.
  • Sophomore slump

I think we shake out about equal. Pity our parents, because they’re going to hear a lot of griping for the next four months.

What I’ve learned in uni

Never go to Bulk Barn hungry. You’ll accidently buy five pounds of chocolate, candy-covered marshmallows, three different flavors of stuffed pretzels and all the candy that’s on sale. You won’t buy the quinoa, egg noodles and soy milk you had intended to pick up.

Charge your laptop whenever you get the chance. A seat in the library is hard to find at this time of year; it’s even harder if you need a socket as well. Bring your electricity from home.

Hunt down the free pens. At my school they have spring and fall open houses for high school students. These are gold. If you pick up enough free swag, you might never have to buy pens or pencils until you graduate. (This works for me because I look like I’m 14, but you might want to use caution if you’re 6’5″ with a full beard).

Everyone talks about the Freshman 15, but they don’t tell you about the Sophomore Slim-down. That’s when you have to cook your own meals for the first time and you lose weight because you’re too lazy/cheap to eat. 

Yeah, that’s “higher education” for you.

 

Fizz

The sad truth is that I have to take three physics courses to get my degree. Fortunately, my school’s physics profs are unreasonably fantastic. One is a circus freak/performer and cat fanatic; the rest are just hilarious in general.

The prof I have this semester is a tiny guy with a weaselly face who looks no older than 17. He has a bone-dry twisted sense of humor. He makes non-Newtonian fluids interesting by showing us videos like this:

The downside of physics – well, it’s physics. And then there’s the Quiz Room (“the place dreams go to die”).

We have five physics quizzes, each worth ten percent. Instead of writing them in class, we go to this room that resembles a battery chicken farm. An overworked TA scans your student card and directs you to a carrell, where you have twenty minutes to write your quiz. The marking scheme is crazy: if you get 4 or less out of 10, it’s a zero. If you get 4 to 7.5 marks, that’s a 20%. An 8 or above counts as 100%.

There’s no better feeling than sailing out of the quiz room after scoring 100%. You think, “I’m a physics genius! Einstein ain’t got nothing on me.” All common sense suppressed, you don’t realize that this is just physics for physics-impaired bio kids. It’s a natural high.

If you get anything but the 100%, you crawl out and look for some place to cry.

I passed my quiz this morning, so the world looks like a pretty good place right now. CERN, if you’re recruiting, I might deign to work for you. Call me.

Don’t post it

Remember KONY 2012? I think we can all agree that the campaign told us a lot about campus culture. I’m not talking about the rise of slacktivism or the power of social networking – I’m referring to the obsession with posters. Will plastering public spaces with posters cause drastic social change? Please. Are posters even relevant anymore? I don’t think so.

All campus organizations, from the Emerald Ashborer Eradication League to the Monty Python Club, think that posters are the highest form of advertising. Walking through public spaces is like a walk in the woods as you’re surrounded by the gentle rustling of generations of curled-up posters.

No one ever removes a poster; they build up like geological strata. If you strip away enough layers you’ll find flyers advertising the Environment Association’s premiere showing of “An Inconvenient Truth”, or exhorting you to vote for Garth Whillikers in the 1978 student elections.

The irony is that no one reads them anymore. If an event isn’t on Facebook, no one’s going to show up. The only function these posters serve is to remind people who already know about the events. I know we Millenials are supposed to have short attention spans, but give us some credit here. We don’t need constant visual reminders of our plans for the weekend.

Then there’s the environmental cost to consider. Even if those posters are printed on recycled paper using vegetable-based inks, they take energy to print. It seems like a waste of resources to make these things that no one reads, especially considering that they’ll be used for a week at most before they’re covered up or ruined by rain.

So think of the trees. That ten-page philosophy paper might not be avoidable, but your Squirrel Emancipation Week poster is.