One semester down, 11(+/-3) to go…

On the day the first snow arrived this winter, I wiggled into a glove box for the first time since my sophomore year. I was 19 then and 22 now. I am 2300 miles from home in a very, very cold place where I pay my own rent and car insurance.

I will finally finish my first semester of grad school in a week. It’s weird to think that I had just driven cross country to this cluster of red brick buildings in the middle of a corn field not too long ago. Today I did my first synthesis in grad school, which earned today a blog post of its own.

Here are some of my random thoughts and lesson learned from my first couple of months of grad school:

  1. The midwest: I was and probably always will be a Cali girl. But so far, the lack of a coastline, mountains,  or any civilization beyond the city limit really haven’t bothered me yet. I love the humidity in the summer and watching the leaves turn color.
  2. Classes: This semester, I took advanced group theory and a matsci class. I find these interesting but not very difficult (probably true: MS = More of the Same). Taking graduate-level courses in my senior year definitely helped. I probably didn’t spend nearly as much time on these as…
  3. Teaching! I teach an honors genchem course. I love my students (all 80 of them!… ok, most of them)  and it’s a ton of fun to teach. I like that I can be a teacher and a mentor, since most of them aspire to do something relating to chemistry. I also learned that I should never have children of my own. Why bother when I can have college-aged ones that I can return to their respective parents when I get sick of them?
  4. Research: We spent a lot of our first semester getting tours and meetings to decide whose research group we will be married to for the foreseeable future. I haven’t gotten to do a lot of work in lab yet, but so far I think what I saw in undergrad and a little bit of the post-bac life about grad school is rather accurate.
  5. Stipend: If I haven’t griped to you about this already, here it is– many of you know that I took a pretty significant pay cut (I get paid about 2/3 less now than my previous job) to go to grad school. The thing about not living in California though… I live very comfortably on my paycheck. If anyone is thinking about grad school, that should be a major consideration to make (cost of living vs stipend).

Take home lesson to those of you who are thinking about graduate school: observe grad students and ask questions. Do the math on your budget. There is more to it than the ranking. After all, you are putting 6 years of your early 20s on the table, wouldn’t you expect a little more from yourself in return?

Happy first synthesis day to myself. A glass of Livermore Valley merlot for the many more reactions to come and fires to put out.



  1. yay! i’m going to have my first column day here very shortly X(

  2. Before you start graduate school, you need to read A Novel And Efficient Synthesis of Cadaverine

  3. 6 years in USA vs 3 years in Australia. I know which one I would pick particularly considering the ridiculously small amounts of money earned in this period of time. Keep chugging along!

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