15 December 2006

Adding to the family tree

At the wisened old age of 24, I have become a great-aunt. My nephew just had his firstborn, Warren Ashley.

On an unrelated and amusing note, one of the investigators I work with is doing a study on visual field cut after stroke (in children). She is testing it using several custom built (simple) games on a touch-screen computer. Recently a child turned to her mother during a testing session and asked for the game for Christmas.

03 December 2006

Almost anniversary

We're coming up on one year of post-baccalaureate study so I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what I've learned. Put another way... chapter 9 in organic chemistry just doesn't sound like relaxing Sunday fun.

1. There really is a difference between old schools and new ones. My current institution has a huge endowment and my alma mater, well, it doesn't. Both are great schools, but the facilities the endowment affords really are nice. Several large libraries, each with sturdy wooden tables, lots of private study rooms (with laptops and plasma screen tvs), and laptops you can borrow for 4 hours. A 4 story gym with lots of equipment so you don't have to wait for machines or court times. Edible food.

2. There really is a difference between a top tier university and a middle tier. I'm sure you can do great things attending either, but at a great school the opportunities come to you. Brands, even when it comes to education, have power.

3. Organic chemistry is not as scary as Matter and Interactions II (honours physics II). S. and C. must have been out of their minds when they designed the curriculum for M&I II. They took a subject I loved and made it hell (bad enough I left the major), wheras organic is actually kind of fun. My hexane has a first name, it's c -y -c -l -o...

4. Getting into medical school really is that hard. There are so many hoops, most of them totally pointless and it costs a fortune.

5. Academia is just as political as the "real world". Grant money and tenure are no more a meritocracy than any other industry. The tweed and white coats just make it look that way.

6. Coffee. It's not longer recreational use.

7. Saturday labs really do suck, no matter how late they start. I've had Sat. lab for the last year, first at 9am, then 12pm, now 11am... and nothing sounds better than next semester when, for the first time since returning to school, I will have no lab class!

8. I am not a party girl. I used to look with envy at the people with busy social lives in college, but honestly, I very much enjoy dinner or a movie with friends and wearing my PJ's as much as humanly possible.

9. Diet coke is better than diet pepsi, and sierra mist free is better than diet sprite.

10. I'm going to enjoy being a doctor (but I'm definately not going to be a pathologist).

02 December 2006


Unlike many of the more considerate bloggers out there, I simply disappeared rather than formally announcing a break. And it was a month long. Oops. Ah, but now we're heading into finals, which can mean only one thing: procrastination! And what better way to procrastinate than to write things and assume you have nothing better to do than read them?

I did my first alumni interview for my alma mater today and the student whom I was interviewing is also applying to my current institution. This worked out well for her since I was able to offer perspective on two of her choices, but now I have no formal way to notify my current school that while she's probably quite smart, she lacks that pizazz that I associate with the people I matriculated with.

In fact, she is planning on going to business school. She is the second person in the past few days that has expressed this future plan and in both cases I have proven to be a huge hippocrite. I have a business degree. I chose to get that degree. I switched out of a science degree to earn it. But I counseled both these young ones to get something else. Economics maybe, but not business. The unfortunate thing about a business degree is that is qualifies you exclusively for business jobs and you're actually still fairly likely to lose the spot to an engineer or an economist. Quant is in, so if you have the brains you are better served getting a more quantitative degree and taking the spot from a business major. I'm not saying you can't get a job with a business degree, but you better be a business kid with a whole lot of real math (not watered down business math). Well, at least in finance.

You know what the frustrating thing is? I was a business kid with a whole lot of math and do you know what I actually used when I got to my oh-so-coveted finance job? Differential equations (not required by business curriculum), writing (something employers ought to be looking at), statistics, databases, and programming. The last two also landed me my current job. It's a very good thing I got my business degree from the institution I did.

Business degrees prepare you for a job managing people, which is a job you won't actually hold in business for quite some time. Your first years are spent doing a lot of scutwork and the way you differentiate yourself is to teach computers to do the scutwork for you. That, and be able to form coherent, articulate sentences and say them without five "ums" and a "you know?". You spend four years learning how to effectively give orders and then graduate to 10 years of taking them.

There should be a new class added to the curriculum to supplement the strategy lessons: Interpersonal Politics. It should cover:
- How to get people to do what you want when you have no leverage
- How to differentiate the people you want as your allies
- How to recognise the ones trying to take you down
- How to maintain network contacts without looking like an idiot
- How to get around people in your way
- How to work with people that annoy the hell out of you
- How to deal with a boss that's dumber than you
- How to read between the lines

Actually, adding a class in No Limit Texas Hold'em wouldn't be a bad idea for the finance concentration. Poker is the Wall st. golf.