Much like a high-energy thrash metal song, my first semester of grad school was over before I really understood what was happening.

There was a lot to do. At home, I was still setting up my living space, so a lot of my spare time at the beginning was spent on mundane things like unpacking or cruising for free dishes and furniture. That, and spending a lot of time with my shell-shocked cat, who spent the first few days of his new East Coast Life under the bed, refusing to emerge for any reason other than tuna.

Getting set up in a new lab takes a while, too. There’s paperwork that has to be filled out and turned in just to get access to various buildings and rooms. I didn’t know where anything was, so I spent an awful lot of time just wandering around my lab, campus, and Cambridge, trying to get my bearings or locate simple things like lab tape. I also had to meet and re-meet a thousand professors and fellow students, and attempt to memorize all their names in a timely fashion. I’m terrible at names. Better if we all just went by our SS numbers; I can remember numbers much easier. When I rule the world…

I had classes! It had been so long since I took classes!

I did homework!

I’ve been out of school for several years, so I enjoyed every minute of my assignments. It’s like when you forget about a band you like for a few years, and you suddenly come across them again to discover the band has FOUR NEW AMAZING ALBUMS and you completely lose yourself in listening to their new music. After a while the shiny wears off, but for a little while there the world could have ended and you wouldn’t even hear it over all that double bass pedaling.

That’s how this first semester of grad school was for me. I ignored the fact that I probably should have spent some time making friends, and instead donned the noise-canceling headphones of the following: classes, reading the primary literature, hiring an awesome undergrad minion, picking out a new computer and figuring out how to use my new funds to buy it, writing a news article for my school’s Science Newsletter, attending seminars, a little bit of hands-on lab and field work, making a display case about one of my old research projects, slowly finishing the write up for a different old project, completing the ethics course for my Graduate Research Fellowship, and getting to know the campus, my lab mates, fellow students, and professors.

I adore Children of Bodom as much as the next Norwegian, but after six years of Hate Crew Deathtoll blaring on repeat, I think even the most ardent of fans would lose their shit.

I adore Children of Bodom as much as the next Norwegian, but after six years of Hate Crew Deathtoll blaring on repeat, I think even the most ardent of fans would lose their shit. (photo credit:

It was like the years I spent after undergrad were the crappy opening bands – some high notes for sure, but mostly just impatient anticipation for the headliner that is Finally Being in Grad School. And if that first set wasn’t phenomenal, I think Linkin Park is hardcore.

But I have 5-6 more years of this PhD program ahead of me, and I’m pretty sure my committee isn’t going to let me turn down the volume and slack off. By the end of this epic concert, I reckon I won’t be nearly as excited and motivated as I was this semester. My head and body will be aching from the never-ending moshing and grant proposals, and my ears will likely be bleeding from the proximity to those wicked Marshall stacks (read: teaching psychotic pre-meds). In six years, I’ll likely hate grad school.

So for this second half of my first year, I’ll try to regain some sense of myself outside of work and school, and spend a bit more time on R&R, and finally actually scoping out the Boston hardcore scene.

And I’ll put aside more free time for this blog, because I’ve got more than a 3-Disk set’s worth of things I want to talk about, both about what it’s like to be a scientist, and especially about metal music. As long as there’s people fighting to teach Intelligent Design in schools and One Direction has any fans whatsoever, I’ll be writing.

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  1. John says:

    Hi. Chilis, very interesting. However, I’m more interested in knowing about food chemistry. Do you do food chemistry, and if so can we talk?