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Thursday, October 14, 2004

I don't live in the Ivory Tower, I just go up for the view

I first heard of the term 'grad student' when I was in my first year of undergrad at UBC. My TA's in "Intro to English Lit" were grad students and they looked and sounded very scholarly. Everything about their appearance suggested countless hours spent at the stacks of the library, studying anaphoras, anastrophes, antistrophes and other bunk rhetorical terms. I admired these learned beings and I so desperately wanted to move into the Ivory Tower, from whence these scholarly men (or women) gazed down upon the unwashed masses in the Real World below them.

Alas, genetics grad students do not resemble their English lit counterparts in scholarly appearance. Everything about our appearance suggests countless hours spent at the lab, doing minipreps, pcr's, western blots and other bunk biological experiments. In fact, in all my years at UBC, I have only been to the library twice for research purposes -- both times for History 270 (you rock Dr. "pick three out of nine preassigned topics for the final exam" Woodside!) -- because almost everything I need to read is available as an e-journal online or a textbook on my desk. In fact, up until today I had not lived the dream I had as a wide-eyed undergrad. But today, all that changed because a book I needed was neither available online, nor in my small personal library of textbooks, so I had to go to the Gerstein Library to "borrow it" -- correct me if I used that term wrong; I am not familiar with library jargon.

The "stacks" at the Gerstein Library are similar to the stacks in the old UBC main library (I'm not talking about naturally lit Koerner Library here). It's the sort of place the Navy might rent for a weekend to acclimatize new submariners to life in a tiny vessel hundreds of feet below the sea. The lighting is dim, the space is tight, and the floor makes a hollow metal clanking sound when you walk around. But I was ready to put up with these minor inconveniences to enter the Ivory Tower, from whence scholarly men (or women) gaze down upon...okay, okay you've had enough. Anyways, to make a boring story short, I got my book and I genuinely felt like I was a "scholar". Sadly, my stay at the Ivory Tower was cut short when I looked at the title of the book I had borrowed -- "Immunoinformatics: bioinformatic strategies for better understanding of iummune function" -- and realized that as a science geek I was never going to be like the English lit grad students, who were my childhood heroes (them and the Power Rangers, specifically the pink ranger with the special moves and the...I've said too much). Medical genetics grad students don't get to live in the Ivory Tower...we work in the basements of the tower and are let out once in a while to enjoy the view.

Your Favorite Jerk


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