Saturday, September 19, 2009

UCLA + the wrap

Good morning, Santa Monica, you seamless plain of city, sand and salty sunshine. I awoke, once again, before sunrise and disappointed at the disjointing of exhaustion and slumber by steroid-induced starvation.

We appeased my broken chakra with a stroll on the surfer-peppered beach, packed, and finally introduced a pumpernickel bagel with dry egg to my poor, neglected gut. Lord, how I have missed pumpernickel bagels.  Let it be known that it took me the course of an hour to eat this, and I had to discard of the last 1/4 egg.

UCLA, as my boss promised, was gorgeous, open and pleasantly devoid of the rapids of students who will arrive next week. My moment of swooning peaked before even setting eyes on the Health Sciences sector of the campus, which, although na├»ve and totally unwarranted by the dilapidated babblings of the “graduate tour” guide, may have been intuitively accurate.  The Semel Institute was excellent.

The meeting itself with Dr. L meandered sinusoidally between mildly encouraging and unnecessarily pessimistic – all on his part, of course. I remained enthusiastic the whole time, prying him for a spark of any sort.  I did, in fact, provoke three (booyah!). I was forewarned of his no-nonsense manner, but proceeded under the pretense that my own excitement would expose some vivacity in him. All in all, it was made clear to me that the logistics of applying to the UCLA program demand that you are accepted by the admissions committee – note; not composed of the program faculty - before the faculty are at all interested in you. Fair enough. I must commend Dr. L for putting his time into speaking to me when he knew very well that I may not even get an interview in the spring. UCSF works this way, as well. Contrarily, the weight of faculty sponsorship or even recognition at Stanford and USC gives a prospective student weight in the direction of acceptance.

The final rank: USC, UCLA, Stanford, UCSF.

“What’s your safety school?” Dr. L asks…

Uh… safety? I don’t do safety. I live dangerously. Dancing wildly onto the precarious glacier of a future whose apex is probably out of my league is my preferred approach. What’s my safety school… Here’s the plan: if none of these top-ranking institutions want me next year, one of their PI’s will hire me as a technician and I will blow their minds from the propinquity of beneath their snotty noses for another year until they realize the mistake of side-stepping me. Then I will proceed to make history in the atmosphere of Academia’s profusely apologetic compunction.

I do not have a safety school for two reasons: 1) I’m not choosing the school based on the reputation of the program, I’m choosing it for research opportunities that can be taken advantage of during my time there. Ultimately, PhDs are not hired for the name of their graduate institution but for their technical skills and the incites of their productivity. 2) Heroic Boyfriend cannot stay in Oregon, where I am an unquestionable shoe-in with at least seven PhD projects in the works that are all at my instigation, a guaranteed adviser, a new technique to be mastered and an excellent program in Behavioral Neuroscience. Oregon is a much smaller program and puts constraints on opportunity that I am not ready to endure for safety’s sake. Therefore, a “safety” school is a waste of $45.00.

My glorious parents met us at the airport and treated us to Rosh Hashana sushi (what I would not give to have had my mother's brisket). I got my avocado roll and udon noodle soup. Tomorrow… tomorrow will be for recuperation and preparing for the overload of excitement that will be returning to work on Monday. [No, I’m not being sarcastic, I’m more than ready to be back at work with all the amazing projects that must develop in October]

Side notes: VERY VERY AWAKE AT 3AM (thank you, prednisone and uncouth enthusiasm for life) AND VERY VERY HUNGRY ALL THE TIME (thank you, prednisone).

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