Mad about MadTown

Hello from the cheesiest place on Earth!

There are TWO types of curds...this is an important distinction.
There are TWO types of curds…this is an important distinction.

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…

My cross-country conveyance.
My cross-country conveyance.

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.

Gatsby was NOT impressed by our accommodations in Iowa.
Gatsby was NOT impressed by our accommodations in Iowa.
The trial and travails of the road took their toll...
The trial and travails of the road took their toll…

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.

This place is AWESOME!
This place is AWESOME!

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.

My exploration of Whiskey Jack's Saloon helped bolster my spirits
My exploration of Whiskey Jack’s Saloon helped bolster my spirits
Honey, I'm home!
Honey, I’m home!

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.

Nailed it!
Nailed it!

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.

I can't tell if I should be excited or deeply concerned...
I can’t tell if I should be excited or deeply concerned…

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.

Good morning, Madison.
Good morning, Madison.
Yummmmm
Yummmmm

I’m loving living in this city so far. Madison sits squarely on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona.

Isthmus: A stretch of land flanked on either side by bodies of water
Isthmus: A stretch of land flanked on either side by bodies of water

My morning runs along the lakes feature balmy breezes and spectacular sunrises.

Oh STOP it!
Oh STOP it!
Oh GOLLY
Oh GOLLY
MADISON!
MADISON!
Seriously!?
Seriously!?

In case you were wondering, Madison is also scenic during the afternoon.

Yup...still gorgeous
Yup…still gorgeous

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.

Back in the hallowed halls of higher education!
Post graduate degree take two! Back in academia!

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.

I should get a frame...
I should get a frame…

Shouldn’t four years in the academic trenches be sufficient to propel this plucky researcher across the threshold into a high-paying career?

Yeah...NO
Yeah…NO

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.

In my case: how bacteria copy their DNA. Or spaceships. Tough to tell sometimes.
In my case: how bacteria copy their DNA. Or spaceships. Tough to tell sometimes.

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.

Turns out pouring sequencing gels is a high-demand skill for a VERY niche market
Turns out pouring sequencing gels is a high-demand skill for a VERY niche market

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.

This place is legit.
This place is legit.

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.

GO BADGERS
GO BADGERS

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.

I never even went to a Husky game for crying out loud!
I never even went to a Husky game for crying out loud!

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.

Not such a bad place to go to work!
Not such a bad place to go to work!

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 get to shape the next generation of badgers!
I get to shape the next generation of badgers!

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.

A 3D printed Bucky Badger! EVERYONE has school spirit here.
A 3D printed Bucky Badger! EVERYONE has school spirit here.

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 need a WHOLE new wardrobe for my husky-to-bagder transition. It's a confusing time.
I need a WHOLE new wardrobe for my husky-to-bagder transition. It’s a confusing time.

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.IMG_9620

So far the best coffee in Madtown comes from my kitchen...I miss Seattle.
So far the best coffee in Madtown comes from my kitchen…I guess I do miss Seattle a little bit.

4 thoughts on “Mad about MadTown

      1. Sam! Where did you go? I keep checking your blog – which probably is my favorite – but nothing. Hope you’re enjoying life and staying busy. Don’t make me have to stalk you real life… only joking…or am I…

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  1. I keep checking! Like waiting for the next season of a good show!
    Hope you are well in Mad. Hope you found a sweet place to set up house.
    I imagine you are writing a lot for a lot of other things. Just know this blog-fan loves reading your stuff.
    : ) M A

    Like

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