James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

February 13, 2008

Retrospective of CSHL (day 2)

Filed under: University Visits — Tags: , — James @ 8:20 pm

Ok so my laptop is back up and running at a reasonable speed after some RAM issues. I also have a working camera again, and, by cleaning under by bed, once more have the technology to transfer pictures from my camera phone to my computer. Which allows me to bring you this picture (click to see a larger version on flickr):


Dance of The Polypeptides  

So when last I checked in, I have just gotten through my first day at Cold Spring Harbor, and was facing a grueling day of interviews.


Well it was grueling. I met with more than three times the faculty I did at Berkeley, and all on these were one on one meetings, no being able to fade into the background of a group meeting. The other major different between Berkeley (as well as Minnesota) and Cold Spring Harbor as that at the former schools ask roughly the same number of people to interview as they’re planning to extend offers to. The result is that the interviews focus on learning about faculty’s research and lab management styles, while trying to avoid making any strong negative impressions. (For example, I was told a guy who feel asleep during an interview with faculty was not offered admission.)


In contrast, Cold Spring Harbor invites six times as many interviewees (spread over three weekends) as they would like to see in their entering class of graduate students. There were two kinds of meetings. Those with PIs who I’d either requested or how requested to meet with me, which were similar to my interviews at other institutions, and interviews with members of the admissions committee. And the two were marked identically on my schedule.


Unlike previous schools I actually had to sell myself during the interviews. It took me until about my third interview to adapt to the new dynamic.  Those interviews tended to focus on my own research as an undergrad, and fortunately I had several research projects to talk about, and (I hope) a good grasp of the greater context. First I’d explain what I’d done, then answer questions about why it was important, or why we’d used the techniques we used, or what have you. Towards the end I was actually starting to enjoy myself. Being able to talk about experiments that I was personally very interested in, to people who were both bright and well educated, but knew less than I did about the specific topic. There aren’t any plant PIs on the admissions committee, so I was mostly talking to people with backgrounds in cancer and neuro biology. So I also got to learn about subjects at adjoined on my own, but in which I had very little background.

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