This year is the first year I didn’t volunteer to help out with our interdisciplinary program‘s recruitment weekend. I think I have gotten far enough along in my program that I’m sufficiently disconnected from what the coursework is like, let alone what the rest of the departments are like these days. As much as I enjoyed interacting with the potential students for our graduate program and helping to see what the program is all about (and graduate school life as a whole), it’s time to pass that torch on to the younger class members more permanently. Besides, I think I’ve already had my last say in the program in some sense of the phrase. ūüėČ

My mentor told me the roster for this year’s incoming students looked very good on paper, with a strong set of credentials behind most of them. When the email was sent out to the usual crowd of volunteers, I committed to not helping out this year, despite wanting to. To some extent, it was because the more obnoxious of the two new graduate students in my lab decided to invite himself early into the volunteering crowd. I wasn’t pleased by this, but my own altruistic aspirations aside, I felt I was getting too old for the crowd as well. I am somewhere around a year from finishing (for sure this time), so there’s only so much mentorship I can really stick around to provide. With most of my classmates graduated now, I’ve lost most of my connections to the other departments, so I have less of an idea what’s currently going on in them. But man, if you want to know some stuff about the Department of Biochemistry (and sometimes even the Department of Microbiology and Immunology), I can get you info!

I was really put off last year by people who just seem to abuse the program and/or recruitment. There was a younger fellow in the program who volunteered to help, and was all about exploiting the free meals and drinks from the two dinners. Word through the grapevine was he did the same thing this year, to no surprise of my own. There was also another individual who just gushed about how awesome bioinformatics was, because you can just code all day and not do any real benchwork. I was rather appalled he openly suggested that, basically degrading the entire graduate education experience in my personal opinion. I suppose I can’t do much about it; the program directors keep bringing these people on board for the recruitment weekends, so at least the remainder of the volunteers are able to exert a positive and reinforcing environment to encourage the new students.

All in all, it is probably better for me that I didn’t participate. My weekend ended up being far more exhausting and busy than I had anticipated, plus it’ll be unlikely I see any of these students actually come into my lab except for rotations. On the rare chance I stick around for some post-doc time before moving on, then perhaps I’ll actually be around long enough for that, but I don’t anticipate it at this point.

Tangentially related, I just served on a standing committee to formally revise and suggested a new set of guidelines for how the interdisciplinary program is handled and operated (and named…surprise!). It was very interesting to see how the University politics function, so I’m thankful for the recommendation for me to serve on the committee. It was basically a couple of graduate students (myself and two others) to ensure that everything would be kosher from the perspective of a student in the program, as opposed to the faculty that serve to administer and recruit into the program. So recruitment or not, I got my last glimpse into the full operation of the program as a whole. Watching it in action makes me yearn for involvement in instruction more. Ugh! Such decisions!

This weekend is the yearly Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in the Biomedical Sciences (IGPBS) primary recruitment weekend. I have been solicited for help every year since I joined the program as the students have been stated as one of the largest factors for coming to the program here at the University at Buffalo. It struck me just recently that this will be the 5th year I have helped out with this endeavor. It really shows my age in the program, and reminds me I need to be wrapping things up within the next 12-18 months. I cannot seem to wrap my mind around that thought at this very moment, but every now and then it hits me while I’m working in the lab, and completely sidetracks my focus for an hour or two. At my progression within the program, I become more and more disconnected from the current coursework/courseload that the students are expected to take, and really only become knowledgeable within my own department in the context of available research projects and who does/does not have funding available for prospective students. I may be a shining example of what the program is capable of, but my age is becoming a bit more of a bane than a boon at this point!

In regards to finishing, I need to sit down and hash out just what couple experiments left that I need to finish up my current publication in progress. I have the primary experiments done; I need to wrap up the couple loose ends and decide exactly what the “story” that I am going to tell will be. This isn’t my strong point in research by any means (my communication issues have always been a little off-kilter), but I really have to do this and force myself to learn from it if I intend to keep instigating my own research and publishing it.

Anyways, back to the recruitment weekend stuff. With the recent reshuffling of the administration that runs the program, our off-campus venues have significantly changed from what they have been in previous years. In years’ past, we typically started off the weekend with a casual mixer between graduate students and prospective students Thursday evening at Tully’s on Niagara Falls Blvd, followed by dinner Friday night at somewhere a little more upscale1 like Pearl Street Grill & Brewery, and finally ending the weekend with a breakfast session at the hotel at which they are staying2 followed by an optional/voluntary tour of some typical areas that students find housing in.

Of the above locales, only the hotel is staying the same. Thursday evening, we will be classing it up downtown at the Chocolate Bar on Chippewa. The reviews look tantalizing! Friday evening, it will be fine dining at Shanghai Red’s. I have mixed thoughts about this as Yelp has an all over the field reviews mix on the restaurant; we’ll see. Hopefully it will turn out well. If nothing else, I know it has a nice view of Lake Erie!

1Traditionally this has been Pearl Street Grill & Brewery, although two years ago it was at Sean Patrick’s in Getzville during that lovely spring blizzard that stranded a pair of students here (whom I ended up fetching from the airport and returning to the Hotel Indigo in that accursed weather).
2For the past two or three years, the hotel used has been the Hotel Indigo, which I cannot complain about for its trendy rooms and nice atmosphere. I will, however, adamantly chastise them for their very mediocre dining choices/hours and rather expensive yet limited breakfast menu. The blizzard strandees were nigh left to starve there because I didn’t realize they lacked a regular kitchen service/hours there!

The weather has gone crazy again. Big surprise, right?? We had beautiful, sunny skies yesterday with highs somewhere in the 50’s, and now we’re down to crazy mid-20’s with freezing rain and snow due later tonight. Crazy weather fronts and silly southeastern moisture!

This weekend is recruitment weekend for my graduate program (Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in the Biomedical Sciences). Like the weekends in past since I was accepted into the program here, I’m helping out with the recruitment process by meeting with the students and answering/reassuring any questions they may have. Personally, it’s nice to meet some interested parties in the university and help get them excited about coming here, but I have to admit that the free food and beer is a nice perk on the side also! Thursday night is casual night out to break them in and let them meet some students. Friday they get to see the school and meet with selected faculty members of their choice, lunch with students and faculty both, and dinner with faculty and students again. I get to help out with both dinners, and then meet with them one last time Saturday morning for breakfast to show those interested about general housing areas in the city and ‘burbs. Granted, I’m no expert like many of the people who grew up in this region of WNY, but I’ve gotten a good feeling over the years for what’s nice and what’s sketchy.

Being that this is my third year helping out with the recruitment process, I’m starting to feel my age within the program a little bit. The first year I helped out, there were a couple fifth year students still doing it, and numerous other ones above me. Since then, we’ve lost more of those upperclassmen. This year, there are only three that are upperclassmen to myself, and only by a single year. I’m getting to that point that I am the upperclassmen, and it’s starting to feel weird. This is only compounded by the fact that I’m no longer taking real coursework (just research credits and seminars), and I’m already on my way to candidacy as long as my research continues to be fruitful. Ironically, I don’t feel that I’ve accomplished a ton in terms of research, but I have gotten some really interesting results since I’ve started my project. Additionally, I’m on the edge of finishing some crucial experiments to determine where my research is going to continue, so perhaps I’ve really accomplished more than I thought? Who knows…I’ll just be excited to finally get a project of my own to publish!