Level Completed: Grad School Week 1

So I am finished with the first week of my biomedical sciences grad program. Well, four days of it. I get Friday off. Pretty much always. I do not question the extra free time they give me to study.

I have four classes. Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology (also lovingly referred to as BCMB), Scientific Communication (how to read scientific papers), Research Survey Seminar (how to write scientific papers), and Biomolecular modeling (a mix of BCMB and how to present to a scientific audience without looking like a bumbling idiot).

Classes are three to four hours a day from 4 pm to 7ish pm. The first day was a bit of a wash, mostly because it was tarnished by my standing up, the chair grabbing my foot, and promptly falling right back down on my poor knees in a very dramatic and painful manner. My knees were instantly numb (I probably made those nerves very upset) and even today I have two bruises the size of golf balls on either of my knees that are a deep purple. The bright side was only the girl sitting next to me saw me. The down side was that my knees were a tingling numb that was indicative of something Not Good.

Tuesday and Thursday of last week were BCMB. Apparently this is not the way it normally is. I think it’s Mondays and Wednesdays from now on. But the professor is pretty cool. She keeps us engaged for three hours straight (a harder feat than you might think) and taught us all about prokaryotes/eukaryotes and proteins.

Biomolecular modeling has probably one of my most favorite professors I’ve ever had. His name is Dr. M. He was the main reason I was so excited to go to my grad school. Dr. M really, truly believes in you in a very natural, “why shouldn’t I believe in you?” kind of way. He spent the entire class teaching us how to study and learn and why other ways aren’t effective long term. This was such a wonderful, amazing lecture. No one really teaches you how to properly learn. He didn’t speak at us, he spoke to us. I would go over the moon for that man. He expects a whole lot from you, but he gives you a way to help get you there if you put in the effort.

Wednesday resulted in myself being used as a human pincushion and getting boosters, antibody titers done, and a tuberculosis test. The TB test requires a needle, which I did know, but putting a glob of TB antigens right under my skin so it looks like I’ve just been inserted with a tracker which I was unaware of. It hurt. And bled a lot. But mostly it hurt. You’re not supposed to touch it, breathe on it, look at it funny, or even think about it because apparently it might result in a “positive result”. So, good little person I am, I avoided the fact that it was on my forearm and am officially negative for TB. What they don’t tell you is that after you’ve been tested, if you accidentally, say, happen to scratch it lightly, it’ll swell up, turn bright red like a mosquito bite, and hurt quite a bit. So just in case you ever have to have one, don’t touch it.

So now that I’m done gushing a bit, I had an assignment to “reverse outline” a chapter on proteins. No biggie, right? Well, let’s define “reverse outlining”. This means that you go in a chapter, take every paragraph, find the main point of the paragraph, and then come up with three to five supporting facts that establish the main fact. That seems fairly simple. But the chapter was 65 pages long. I read fairly quickly and I think I’m pretty smart, but that assignment took me 18 hours and was 18 pages long. I felt so rushed because I wasn’t able to be ahead in anything else with me trying to finish it before the deadline on Friday at noon.

But you know what? Despite all the grueling work, I am in love with my graduate school program. This isn’t the “I’ll love it as long as I’m good at it” type of relationship that most people have. This is a “I know I’ll sweat blood to make this work, but I’ll love it in a very small corner of my mind” type of relationship. I feel smart again, something my undergrad institution had me questioning for five years.

I’ve also gotten questions as to how I have time to read and maintain a review blog while carrying a full grad school load. The answer is, I reward myself with reading. Reading keeps me sane and grounded. Even if I read an entire book in two pages snatches and it takes me a month, I’m still going to choose that over clubbing with the med students or doing karaoke with my classmates. I’m not antisocial and I do have friends (though they are currently all up in Nashville and I miss them dearly) and I will make friends here again, but this is how I work.

Off to bed with me to prepare for another week of learning new things and feeling like I actually got a degree that’s useful!


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