wife, mother, ph.d. student, hot stuff.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

wedge status: ready to go...

Sophie is curled up in my lap, eating cheerios that I drop on her as I try to finish up an essay.

My first application (Harvard) was submitted yesterday morning. By tomorrow, I'll be done with my second application (to UW molecular and cellular biology) and that will go in the mail so that it has a week to get across the country and make it before the deadline. By the end of the weekend, I should be done with my third application (Stanford) so that I can submit it online before the deadline on tuesday.

UCSF is due online the 20th, and most everything else is due Jan 1 or a little after. But I think by the end of next week, I can be done with it all.

Every morning now, I take my vitamins, eat my breakfast, and cuddle with Sophie as I work on my apps. I'm getting there, bit by bit, cheerio by cheerio. This part of the journey is almost over.... the next few months, though, are gonna be crazy I think. I'm ready for it... after all, I'm doing all the setup now, right?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Robin and Sophie are famous! I submitted the photo a week ago, but completely forgot about it until I received this email from Robin:

So this morning one of the [TAs] asked me out of the blue whether I had a
cat. I responded with something like "Yeah, that is cat hair all over me."
However, it turns out she asked because she saw the picture you posted on

Coincidentally, last night we bought a pommello at the supermarket, with the intention of making Wirt a kitty crash helmet. His head is a mite small but we'll manage somehow, I'm sure.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Massive Change (10 months late!)

I wrote this up in January, but needed to upload a picture for it... which I didn't do until this past week. Better late than never, though.

Some friends and I went to the Massive Change exhibit at the Vancouver Art Museum. What is Massive Change? On the website, it says:

Design has emerged as one of the world's most powerful forces. It has placed us at the beginning of a new, unprecedented period of human possibility, where all economies and ecologies are becoming global, relational, and interconnected.

In order to understand and harness these emerging forces, there is an urgent need to articulate precisely what we are doing to ourselves and to our world. This is the ambition of Massive Change.

I believe that this project was started just as a book, but has since spawned the website linked above, and the art exhibit that I attended.

One of the neatest rooms of the exhibit attempted to quantify disparity of numbers concerning wealth and politics. Sections of wall were painted with numbers of different things, and balloons representing general orders of magnitude filled the 2 story room.

However, the most jarring image here (and in the entire exhibit, for that matter) was unintentional. A museum employee was teaching kids how to use a Segway. They probably chose the location because it was the biggest room of the exhibit. But he chose to spend most of his time beneath enormous letters that read "We Must Eradicate Poverty" ....

Now I know that technology is being developed to help eradicate poverty. But those things are more in the form of reliable, cheap energy sources, water purifiers, medications, etc etc. A Segway? How is a machine that enables someone to avoid expending effort to walk (cheapest mode of transport!) and costs several thousand dollars going to eradicate poverty?

Monday, October 17, 2005

How to Get Into Caltech for Undergrad part 2: no, really, how do I get in?

All right, the part that I bet most students who read this are zooming straight to. How do you get into Caltech? What can I do to my application that will make my chances of admission higher?

The number one question at the Caltech Info session I attended revolved around test scores. "What kind of SAT score do I have to aim for?" Your SAT score and other standardized test scores probably mean squat, and are not indicators of how well you will do at Tech. I knew folks who got 1600 on their SAT's (this was before there were 3 parts to the test) and they flailed through all 4 years of Caltech. The Admissions committee knows this. So don't bother retaking the SAT a billion times to get that perfect score. If you scored relatively high, then that's all that matters... you just need to prove you are smart enough to take a test, not that you have mastered standardized testing.

The most important thing that you can show on your application is that you have challenged yourself as much as you possibly can with the resources around you. This means that you should have taken the most challenging classes at your school. If your school offers AP's in sciences, you should take them. Having gone to the community college nearby for classes that your high school doesn't offer is also a big plus.

Me, I went to a magnet program in high school, and I have a feeling that was a big factor in my admission. I sought out the hardest stuff I could do in my school district.... I took at least 7 science/math AP tests, and did pretty well. I ended up being an average student at Caltech. On the other hand, my husband took 3 science/math AP classes in high school because harder classes weren't offered. His high school science classes were a fraction of the difficulty of my classes. But he was admitted to Caltech early, had a much easier time grasping the concepts than I did, graduated with honors, and is now a graduate student at Harvard. I think that the admissions committee could see from the rest of his application that he was a hard worker.

This brings me to extracurriculars. What I said above about challenging yourself holds here as well. This is where I think my husband made his application. He was an Eagle Scout, and the section leader for the saxophones in his extremely successful high school marching band. Both those things took a lot of time and dedication and hard work.

Almost everyone I knew at Tech had something interesting to put in their extracurriculars. Some of us did research over the summers. (I think that's what got me in; I worked at Fort Monmouth for 3 summers doing engineering research.) Some of us goofed around and built wacky things with our friends (a friend of mine built a remote controlled submarine). None of us were simply classes classes classes. We challenged ourselves outside of school as well, and were able to juggle everything.

So those are the important things in your application. Which means that by the time you are a senior and are applying, there's very little you can actively do to pad your application. It all depends on the stuff you've already done.. have you taken the hard classes? Have you challenged yourself extracurricularly? It's a little late to fix that now! Great SAT scores won't make up for slacking off in school and doing nothing over summers but video games.

How to Get Into Caltech for Undergrad part 1: Do you belong at Caltech?

I've been a bit immersed in application things lately; not only am I working on my own grad school applications, but I have been involved in advertising for Caltech admissions as well. The admissions office sent me a packet of information that they thought would be useful to disseminate, but I think my version of Caltech might differ a bit from theirs.

After attending a Caltech info session a week ago, I decided to write up my own blurb about who should go to Caltech, and how to get in. Please understand that this is my own opinion, and might not match up with other Techers or the admissions office... but I figure, I went to Tech, I might as well share what I know and you can decide what to believe.

Why should I know? Let me first tell you about me. I attended a science/engineering magnet program in high school, before attending Caltech from 1997-2001. I finished my BS in Engineering & Applied Sciences (concentration in Mechanical Engineering) a trimester early, and worked at the Jet Propulsion Lab for the remainder of the school year, doing initial mechanical design for the Mars Rover (yes, the one that is currently tooling around on Mars this very moment.) After Tech, I attended MIT and got my SM in Mechanical Engineering in 2003. At this time, I am working in the immunology lab of a Harvard professor, and am applying to Systems Biology/Immunology ph.d. programs.

So that's who I am. Who do I think belongs at Caltech?

You belong at Caltech if you know for certain that you want to be involved in science or math. Does labware give you a hard on? Love calculus? Think string theory is the neatest thing since sliced bread? You'll love it at Tech. No other university will challenge you harder in these disciplines, not even MIT.... what other place makes quantum physics mandatory for EVERYONE? And on top of the challenging classwork, there's no other place that has as many opportunities for undergraduate research, which is a very key thing for getting into grad school. I was generally an average student at Tech, but even I was able to get an internship at an immunology start-up, and then do design for the Mars Rover.

That said, if you are uncertain about what you are interested, if you have even the slightest leanings towards literature, history, art, you should stay away from Tech. Admissions likes to talk about how Tech has alternatives for those who find out that they don't want to do science, but really, what employer is interested in someone who has a history degree from Caltech? You'd be better off going somewhere with liberal arts program, so you can explore the other options, and make an informed decision in such a way that you are well prepared whether you do science or something else.

Another sore point is pre-meds. The Admissions office sent me a whole packet on how pre-meds at Tech have all these opportunities, etc, and how pre-meds would do awesome at Tech. Which I think is bullshit. Sure, the opportunities exist. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities at the nearby hospital, and you can definitely be involved in great research. However, from what I remember about classes, I have no idea how the pre-meds had any free time to spare for volunteering and all the other things you have to do as a pre-med. And let's face it, med school applications are about grades. How many pre-meds do you think are going to get A's in quantum physics? In linear algebra? I know several people who were pre-meds at Tech. The few that were super stars, who were extraordinarily talented, got into med school, and are doing fantastically. But I know of others who were average students and were rejected from med school, and years out from Tech are still trying to get in.

In summary, I wouldn't recommend going to Tech if you are dead set on being a doctor, or if you think you might be interested in humanities. But if you love science and math, then there's no better place to get your feet wet.

Friday, September 02, 2005

putting my money where my mouth is....

Just last night, I was lamenting to Robin what a costly summer we've had. Our rent is up, vet expenses high because of the new kitten and the resulting illnesses of said kitten and Sophie, travel expenses from 2 trips, and now one of our computers seems hosed so THAT's going to be expensive. For a grad student and a lab tech, that's a lot of money.

But every morning, I am awakened by my clock radio set to NPR, and every morning, the story out of Louisiana gets more and more grim, and I wonder how I could possibly live in my own little world full of fuzzy cats, World of Warcraft, and pipettes, while so many people out there have lost EVERYTHING.

This morning, I made a donation to the Red Cross. I hate feeling like there's nothing else I can do (short of going to Louisiana and getting my hands dirty) but at least I can do that.

Monday, August 15, 2005

concerning control....

Saturday morning, I was feeling a mite sheepish. Robin and I had flown down to Delaware for his second cousin's bat mitzvah. Towards the end of the service, Elana gave a short speech about some things she had learned. One of those was to learn to let go; you don't need to have the last word in an argument, you don't need to dwell on your mistakes, just move on.

I'd spent the night previous trying to do just that. I have been ramping back my World of Warcraft play time, but was laying awake worrying and stewing over how the alliances and social networks that I set up were doing without me. After 45 minutes of steaming over it, I finally told myself that I had to let go, and simply trust that those who had taken over leadership would do a good job without me. Let Go.

Here I am at 25, and I'm still struggling with lessons that a 13 year old can comprehend.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

holding pattern...

Robin has a year left till he gets his ph.d. Various friends are also plowing their way through grad school. A fair number have good jobs. Others are having babies, even second children. It feels like everyone is making major inroads to their careers or families.. except for me.

In a way, that's silly for me to say. I've completed a grad degree already. I'm on my second job since graduation, everything's been on my own terms, and I've burned no bridges, only opened up possibilities. I'm happily married to a fantastic guy. I have zero debt. I have a biology GRE book sitting on my kitchen table, and a Harvard professor in my back pocket for when I apply to grad school. I'm doing pretty damned well.

But I still feel like I'm stuck in limbo while everyone else around me progresses to the next stage.

I suppose I am still nervous about my timing of everything. The thought of another 6 years of school is very intimidating. Am I really prepared for that? Can I really start having babies while in school? Do I have the chops to be an academic? What if I fail? After all, I still haven't even gotten into any schools, much less the prestigious ones on the top of my list.

Since college, I've been in an almost constant state of transition. The transition to grad school across the country, 2 years later to unemployment, half a year later to employment, and not even another year later to a different job. Overlay that with plenty of personal transition (from not dating Robin to dating again to moving in together to engagement to marriage). How did all that fit into 4 years? And how is it, despite all that movement, that I still feel like I'm stuck on a hamster wheel?

Friday, May 27, 2005

end of an era.....

I am taking today off of work, in preparation for the 5-?? hour long drive to my youngest brother's college. Mostly I am nervous about having to endure Memorial Day Weekend traffic out of Boston. But part of me is a bit astounded at how far my brothers and I have come.

I think we grew up exceptionally close. It helped that we are all within 3 years of each other. Our parents also kept us pretty sheltered, and so we turned to each other to be playmates and best friends. Of course, we had our fights and grudges, but when push comes to shove, we have ALWAYS stuck together.

Since I left for college, our interactions have changed significantly. I almost feel like my brothers have grown up behind my back, despite the fact that my middle brother went to the same college that I did. And now, I am procrastinating packing to go to my youngest brother's college graduation. When did we all become adults?

Having spent most of these past 7 years living apart from my brothers, I now understand why some people settle down so close to their relatives. Lately, I've realized just how much I miss my brothers, and how I regret that I do not know them better as adults. I was really happy to have my middle brother at college with me for those 2 years, and I am looking forward to having my youngest brother in Cambridge with me for the next year.

In my heart I will always think of them as Big Baby and Small Baby, even though they both tower above me at 6' plus. Here's to you, my brothers!

Friday, April 22, 2005

A excerpt from the Annals of Wedge - April 4, 2005 -

Again I seem to be lacking in discipline when it comes to paper journals. I've been here in the Bahamas for 3 nights, and nary a word, although I've had plenty of spare time to do so.

Before I came, I thought I'd have an opportunity to think hard about myself, my future, etc. etc. Seems like my mind wanted nothing but complete relaxation... and did no such thing as ponder my future.

Perhaps I do enough of that on a daily basis. I've done nothing but discuss my future since I met Nir in September. Maybe this vacation was the break I needed such that I can continue to think about my future in a constructive way.

Maybe these are all excuses.

I feel that I probably won't return to Nassau. It is a spring break town, a booze and dance town. I've seen Paradise Island, Atlantis, the straw market, the beach. I don't care for a tour of the rum factory, or for snorkeling here (I'm sure other islands of the Bahamas have better.)

But this beach (Cable Beach) in the morning is as peaceful and beautiful as can be hoped for. Layers of blues, white sand, calm waters. If only Robin were here to see it. **

If I have learned nothing else this trip, it has been that I need Robin in my life. Not every single day... these days have been beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable. But I feel a great need to share these things and can think of no one else more deserving than him.

**footnote: Robin was at a conference that week, so I went on vacation with a friend; hence Robin's absence.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Girls Only...

I've spent my life surrounded by boys:
- I have 2 younger brothers, the youngest is only 3 years younger than me.
- Robin has no sisters, so when I visit my in-laws, I spend a fair amount of time with my brother-in-law (who is one cool cat, btw).
- I attended a science/engineering magnet program in HS, a Tech college, and a Tech grad school. So I spent most of my formative years in places where the great majority of my peers were male.

As a result, throughout my life, most of my best friends have been guys. This is not to say that I don't have girlfriends. But they have tended to be sporadic, both in space and in time. And rarely did I ever hang out with girls only. So while I occasionally enjoyed hanging out with just the girls, I didn't ever think of it as something I particularly needed.

I think I've finally been converted.

For New Year's, Robin and I, along with 2 other friends, visited college friends in Seattle. There were 6 of us, and 2 cars. We ended up with a girl car and a boy car. It wasn't that we didn't want to be with the boys; after all, 4 of us were in married couple form. But when we went shopping, out to lunch or dinner, drove up to the mountains to go sledding, and made the trek to Vancouver, we split off into girls vs boys.

At first, I didn't really think about it. In my mind, I was maximizing the utility of my time away from home by spending time in a car that didn't include my husband (I see him all the time, I don't need to be with him 24/7).

We were on our way back from Vancouver when suddenly, it all came together. Ady and I were chatting about our lives, our plans for the future, as Laura dozed in the back. We stopped at a gas station while the boys filled up their SUV, and Ady acquired some soda. Revitalized, we got back on the road, and turned up the music. I think "Buttercup" reached the top of the Ipod queue, and Ady and Laura broke out singing at the top of their lungs. I felt like I was in a warm, cozy bubble, shooting along the highway. I leaned my forehead against the cool glass of the passenger side window, and tried to put my finger on what I was feeling.

Clearly, a good portion of it was just good vibes from good friends. But there was something more. There are certain things that only other girls understand; the joy of pawing through underwear bins at a Victoria's Secret sale, for instance. Or the little pangs of the heart when seeing other people's babies. It felt really great to share these vibes with more than 1 person at a time. (my daily/weekly interactions with girls are limited to a housemate and one college friend, both of whom are in grad school and are really busy.)

I miss my girls. Thank you, for teaching me the good that is all girl.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A few thoughts now that I'm a quarter-century old....

Birthdays are strange beasts. As a kid, you get big parties with other little kids in attendance, cupcakes and sprinkles, loud games, etc etc. But what about now? I assume that my age equivalent would be a big drunken adult party. However, I don't know if I would enjoy that; it's hard to have fun while drunk when you also get a headache and want to puke after more than 1 drink. Watching other people act silly while drunk also gets old.

I digress. There's something to be said for being the center of attention, which is really the main point of a big party, at any age, for any occasion. The little kid with the crown blowing out birthday candles with everyone else watching. The bride in a big poofy white dress. You can do almost anything you want, and no one can say anything bad about it. After all, it's my party and I can cry if I want to, no?

But is that what everyone really wants for their birthday? Large events seem too fraught with responsibility for the guests. That's the last thing a birthday girl wants for her big day. People take the day off of work, sleep in late, and generally shirk responsibility on their birthdays, why would I want to worry if we have enough food for people, or about social niceties?

There's a point in here somewhere. But I am not sure where it went.

When all is said and done, I had a good birthday. My closest family (husband and brothers) and an observant waitress at Finale made sure that I was the center of attention for an evening. And I didn't have to worry about a thing.