how did i get here? pt. 1
so, as an introduction of sorts to the studyblr/gradblr/collegeblr community, i kind of wanted to go through a quick introduction of my undergrad experience. it’s still totally crazy to me that i’m going to grad school for planetary sciences in the fall, so maybe this is a little bit of an exercise in nostalgia as well.
i did my undergrad at columbia university. lovely place in new york city that’s far enough from downtown manhattan to feel a little homey, but in manhattan enough to feel like a city.
(ID: Columbia’s campus on a particularly beautiful evening. The sky is painted with purples and yellows and oranges. There are a few people walking up and down the white marbley-stoney steps of the campus, as well across the red brick path adjacent to College Walk, cutting through the campus. A few academic-looking neoclassical buildings can be seen in the background. All the lights are just starting to turn on, and the campus feels tranquil.)
the one constant major i had throughout college was astrophysics. a lot of people talk about how so many people change what they do in college, but somehow, this didn’t happen for me. i knew i loved astrophysics, and the astronomy department at columbia was really lovely and supportive, and i found a niche there that i didn’t want to leave.
my first year, i was also a chemical physics major. i was really interested in polymers, nanoparticles, quantum chemistry, materials science, etc. my first summer - this was my first research opportunity ever - was spent in a chemical engineering lab working on click reactions of different polymers. and while i did enjoy what i was learning, i realized that the subject might not be for me.
i dropped the chemical physics major after i got screwed on my first orgo midterm during my sophomore fall. this involved a lot of crying, a lot of thinking i wasn’t ever going to be good enough to do things that were interesting to me, a lot of questioning if it was just my lack of perseverance, etc. but the one thing i learned during that time, and in the years afterwards, is that quitting is okay! i learned that, while i liked chemistry a lot, there was a subject i loved even more, and it was okay to pursue that in full.
i then picked up a computer science major in addition to astrophysics. this was done partly as an insurance policy for my family, who remained unconvinced that i could find any real career path in astronomy. but, weirdly, i ended up really loving parts of cs, and really enjoying the moments where i could apply things i learned in cs to my astrophysics work. i kept my cs major until senior year, where i had a….less than pleasant encounter with a machine learning professor who refused to let me take his class even though i needed it desperately to graduate on time. so, in a fit of rage and self-preservation, i dropped my cs major to a concentration (our version of a minor). i had done all the required classes, so i was able to chill out a bit senior year when i was applying to grad school, which was dope.
i think i realized i wanted to do research ~for real~ the fall of my senior year, when i was still applying to cs jobs. i was interviewing in SF for a job that i realized i really didn’t care that much about, and during dinner the day of that interview i just caught myself thinking about how sad i would be if i just let my love for astronomy go. i think, at that point, i really changed my perspective and viewed grad school not just as an option, but my first option. and somehow, some way, it worked out. i guess i’ll try to talk about that in later posts.