I flew out to the Midwest last week for the University of Chicago's chemistry visit weekend. Grad school visits are organized by department, unlike undergrad visits where it is the entire admitted class. It's really nice that in a STEM Ph. D. program, the institute reimburses all travel costs and puts you up in a good hotel for the entirety of your stay :) When I mentioned I was going on a grad school visit to my chamber music coach, Delores, she said incredulously, "Wow, they never flew us out or treated us to anything for music grad programs!"
I had arranged to fly with my friend Joe, a fellow chem major who also got into UChicago's chem Ph. D. program. Our supershuttle was supposed to leave at 5:10 Thursday "morning," but the time got changed to 4:50 a.m. "I guess I'm not sleeping then," Joe said sadly, referring to the fact that he had to be up the entire night building the casing for the final project in his new art media class due the Monday we got back, as well as working on a lab report due Friday. I felt slightly bad that I had gotten a whole 2 hours of sleep before we had to leave...
We made it to LAX with maybe 2 hours to spare before our flight (another downside of the supershuttle--the potential for a lot of lag time because it picks up people whose flights are all in one generic, 4-hour time frame). Getting in was fairly straightforward, no long lines or anything. I did get patted down, though, since the sweater I was wearing had set off the metal detector, as all of the sparkles on it were apparently metallic. Go figure... But otherwise, it was a fairly calm time before we boarded the plane. I took a picture of the sunrise and sent it to my parents, who, not expecting their daughter to be up at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m. just bumming around at the airport with nothing to do, told me what a pretty sunset it was.
Sometime during the 4-hour flight I woke up briefly and, peeking out the window, saw that it was covered in ice crystals! !!! (Excuse my enthusiasm; I rarely fly.)
The touchdown in Chicago showed a gray sky. It already felt much colder than LA and I wasn't even out of the temperature-controlled cabin of the plane yet. Whereas all the traffic directing guys at LAX had been in T-shirts, everyone at Midway was wearing thick jackets with hoods and gloves on their hands. I felt preemptively grateful for the thick goose down jacket stowed away in my suitcase.
Well, on the commute to the hotel, we figured out how catching a taxi works at an airport. Basically you just walk up to one of them and get in. Super streamlined. Unlike an Uber, where you communicate your location and the number of passengers before getting in. The ride itself was also an experience. I live in LA where traffic is supposed to suck, but the Chicago cab drivers seemed pretty mean--lots of abrupt lane changes, not using the turn signal. Also, I was pretty sure our driver was purposefully taking the long way around in order to rack up more miles on his meter, but I didn't know the roads so I couldn't say anything.
The Hyatt in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood turned out to be quite nice, with spacious rooms and a pretty lobby:
I was also excited that they had a revolving door entrance, since we don't have these on the west coast much. Joe, who is used to such things being from a midwest city himself, amused himself by laughing at my delighted exclamations every time we passed a revolving door on the way to the local Whole Foods down the block for a snack.
We had arrived at the hotel around 3:45 p.m. Checking in and walking around took us basically until 5 p.m., where a bus would take us to the University, about 1 mile away. On the bus we ran into our friend Connie, also from Caltech, and ended up all chatting with our grad student guide Kate until the bus dropped us off. The activities for the evening would be taking place on the second floor in the atrium of the GCIS, one of UChicago's main chemistry buildings.
We all met our individual grad student hosts and picked up our schedules before the orientation welcome session, with Department Chair Viresh Agarwal and Professor John Anderson (the latter was a grad student at Caltech!). Then there was some deep dish pizza and a poster session for everyone to get to know some of the current research going on in different labs. I didn't take a picture of the poster session, but I did snap one of the pizza...
The poster presentations concluded at about 7:30 and we could split up into groups to head off to the campus pub or one of the chem profs' houses for more socializing. I opted for the pub and spent the next few hours playing pool and talking to the grad students in the labs I was interested in, as well as munching on some seriously delectable tater tots.
Back at the hotel, Joe and I rifled through our new UChicago bags and folders and found, among other essentials, nifty mini periodic tables and UChicago scarves!
A pleasant conclusion to the day. The lack of sleep the previous night was kicking in by then, so we headed off to bed to get some rest; it would be a full day tomorrow of meeting with professors and other activities. And that's it for UChicago, Part 1!
Till next time,