Hello from the cheesiest place on Earth!
When we last spoke, I was packing all of my possessions into a one-way rental car and blasting off from my happy hometown into parts unknown…
Two days on the road later, after an ungodly amount of gas-station coffee guzzled, innumerable sticks of trident gum masticated, and an overnight stay in a hotel room that smelled like Don Draper’s ashtray I touched down in my new midwestern hometown.
Ignoring the advice of Horace Greely, this young man manifested his destiny eastward. I traversed the flat, fruited and utterly un-Instagrammable plains of Nebraska and Iowa. I counted cows and cornfields until reaching a magical mecca in central Wisconsin. My final destination and current location for the foreseeable future is the high powered political epicenter of the 30th state admitted to the union, the incredible city on an Isthmus: Madison, Wisconsin.
I arrived in Madison at 4 pm on a beautiful afternoon. I received the keys to my apartment at 10pm on a beautiful evening. Despite the major SNAFU associated with gaining entry into my new accommodations, I retained a positive attitude while I explored my new neighborhood. I live right on State Street, which is a boisterous byway bisecting downtown.
After disgorging all of my worldly possessions from my one way rental, I said goodbye and good riddance to the carbon-fueled covered wagon with an abundant lack of storage capacity. I then set my sights on the first step in becoming a full fledged Madison-ian: procuring a totally tubular steel-framed townie bike.
I named my new bike Blue Velvet, in honor of both the mind-bending David Lynch Drama and the CLASSY bar above which I’ve made my home.
My living situation is awesome. I have a view of the state capitol from my rear window and, in addition to the aforementioned bar, my apartment is also situated on top of a bakery, so it always smells like delicious cupcakes.
I’m loving living in this city so far. Madison sits squarely on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona.
My morning runs along the lakes feature balmy breezes and spectacular sunrises.
In case you were wondering, Madison is also scenic during the afternoon.
I moved to Madison to pursue my dreams of becoming
the king of bacteria a science writer. I’m enrolled in a Master’s Degree program at UW-Madison where I’m learning the ups and downs and in betweens of effective scientific communication.
At this moment, regular readers might be expelling their espressos all over their computer screens.
After all, this aspiring author holds a Ph.D. in microbiology from a high powered, prestigious, public research institution.
Shouldn’t four years in the academic trenches be sufficient to propel this plucky researcher across the threshold into a high-paying career?
I’ve said this before, but I’ll reiterate: a Ph.D. is an incredible educational experience. The training is a trial-by-fire that conveys black-belt level critical thinking abilities, a work-ethic that would be the envy of hercules, and a truly gargantuan amount of knowledge about a highly specific topic.
A Ph.D. builds a rock-solid foundation for further training; however, years of pipetting clear liquids provides shockingly little in the way of applicable, real world job experience.
While the prospect of spending ANOTHER two years in school initially seemed overwhelming, now that I’ve landed in the hallowed halls of UW Madison, I couldn’t be more excited.
My classes are fascinating, my colleagues are convivial, and I’m attacking this Master’s with the same gusto I apply to everything else in my life.
One of my greatest regrets about my madcap microbiology adventures at the OTHER UW is that I never really participated in the college’s culture. I spent the vast majority of my time in my lab, which was isolated away from the thick of things at the University’s Hospital. Granted, I loved running around Seattle, and I certainly had my fair share of fun with my Ph.D. program, but I never felt truly connected to campus.
Here in Madison, by contrast, I have a centrally located office in a BEAUTIFUL historic building that originally served as a dairy products research facility.
During my tenure at the other UW, I served as a teaching assistant for microbiology lab courses. My duties were seen as a distraction from my research. Here in Madison, I’m teaching an introductory freshman writing class where I have the privilege of personally guiding 30 fresh-faced new undergraduates into becoming effective communicators. The attention paid by our department to optimizing the incoming class of 2020’s educational experience inspires me to try and become a more effective teacher. Additionally, teaching writing has made me take a long, hard look at my own habits and identify some areas for improvement.
I’ve also landed an internship writing about research! Similar to my public relations position with UW Seattle’s Department of Environmental Health, I’m working for the UW Madison College of Engineering to promote the exciting scientific achievements across campus. I’ve been interviewing faculty from the engineering department left-and-right and writing articles on everything from theoretical physics to 3D printing. I’m learning about topics so far outside my wheelhouse that I need three textbooks and some serious time on wikipedia just to formulate a coherent interview question, but talking to engineers and walking around their labs has been a totally mind-expanding good time.
I’m going to take advantage of EVERY single resource that’s available to me here at the home of Buckington Badger. Unlike a Ph.D., my Master’s Degree program has a strict two-year expiration date. It’s up to me to make sure I squeeze as much as possible out of my time at this UW.
I’m sorry for this excessively lengthy blog post after so much time in relative radio silence. I’m enthusiastic and excited about my new Wisconsin home. Watch this space for more madcap adventures, science writing, and my ongoing quest to uphold the Wisconsin Idea…or at least find a decent cup of coffee.