21 November 2008

Late to the party

Hey, maybe I should do one of these, too. I'm going to attempt to describe my adventures in obtaining a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Here's what you can expect:
  • 2 years of complaining about classes
  • 1 semester of complaining about TA-ing
  • Approximately 3 years of complaining about how my thesis work is not going as well as I planned
As of right now, I'm about 3 months in. It has been difficult to say the least. I had never doubted myself or my own intelligence before grad school. I had also never spent 3 hours on an exam with 5 questions. And I had never realized how little I knew about experimental biology despite spending 4 years studying it at Drexel.

Although I studied biology at Drexel, I spent the better part of 3 years working in a developmental psychology lab at Monell. As a result of these two experiences, I have landed somewhere in the middle at cognitive/behavioral neuroscience. (Though I will admit, my heart still goes a-flutter when I read a great molecular biology paper. I'm not sure how to reconcile this just yet.) Anyway, I've set out to understand how we think about things. (Vague enough?)

So here's how things stand now. I'm taking two of my three required classes for the program. The first is Cell 600 and has largely been the bane of my existence. Mostly, I have realized how much Drexel never taught me in the way of experimental biology. I could go on for ages about how Drexel's biology department is failing its students, but I digress... The other class is Core II and largely involves electrophysiology. I now know that I hate electrophysiology. Voltage-clamping and current traces make me want to hide in a closet. I have a feeling that this stems from my complete lack of understanding of electricity and circuits and physics in general. I'm also in a Journal Club, where each week students present papers from the speaker that will be talking later in the week (sort of like an advanced version of Senior Seminar). I picked a speaker that is as close to cognitive neuroscience as was available, and yet sadly so far away. He does single neuron recordings in monkeys to understand decision making processes. Interesting stuff, but the animal lover in me cringes at the thought of it.

I'm also doing my first lab rotation. I love my lab and the people in it. I'm lucky enough to be working under 3 postdocs on 2 different projects. It's been a true immersion in cognitive neuroscience and I'm loving every minute of it. Taking pictures of people's brains is awesome.  To be honest, this has been the only thing that has kept me sane during the semester. [A brief aside: WTF semesters last foreverrrr. Drexel quarter system, what?] 

This post is already entirely too long. Next time I will discuss rap music and saving cats.

1 comment:

Srav said...

biotastic! i didn't know you had one of these days! i'm adding you to my awesome links site on my blog.

until then, i wholeheartedly concur with your flabbergasted-ness at the prospect of never-ending semesters. seventeen weeks?! we could've been done with nearly two quarters in the same amount of time. lame!