The assignments plunked down like a sudden freak hailstorm. For weeks, I had wondered about this grad school experience. At University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where I did my first Masters, we had a plethora of things assigned to us from day 1. Readings, short writing activities, articles to critique and present, not to mention the end of term paper that would hang over our heads the entire semester, a bane for procrastinators like myself.
But not here.
I won’t say that I minded the evenings at home, momentarily twiddling my thumbs, staring at my backpack, before accepting there was nothing to do and flipping on Netflix or reading until I fell asleep. Sure, I could have done some outside reading, or reviewed the slides. Right or wrong though, I see that as partly pointless if I’m not actually turning out a product. Call it working smarter, not harder… or something.
As if the professors had glimpsed into my idle evenings, my academic plate was abruptly piled full of things I didn’t want. I felt like a child being served by an aggressive lunch lady.
On top of papers for Infectious Disease Epidemiology, International Health, and Vet Health, I have a dissertation topic to grapple with, working with a brilliant but very flustered adviser who is not big into politics. The TB genotyping data I wanted to get my hands on is being held captive at St. Vincent’s Hospital here in Dublin. Gaining access to it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible; there are papers to be published from it, so they are not keen to let that notoriety slip through their fingers.
Instead, he has suggested I work with a germ called Cronobacter. Able to live in very dry conditions, it has shown up in powdered infant formula and can cause serious illness or death in babies if consumed. Not only will I be looking at the molecular epidemiology of the genotypes, I’ll be typing isolates myself after some training in the lab. This fusion of microbiology and epi is very exciting and will definitely make my dissertation stand out from the others. I had told myself I didn’t want to turn out fluff research and it appears I will be doing exactly the opposite.
So now, here I am. Six weeks into the semester. Exactly halfway through. Time has been trickling on like a slow leak since I got here; it’s not all that noticeable until you see just how much water has filled the bucket. And that bucket is being filled more and more every day with new experiences and pursuits. Among other things, of note, I’ve submitted a short story to the UCD Literary Society’s literary magazine, Caveat Lector. I wrote up another piece today I’d like to forward on to them; it’s currently circulating among friends for their comments and critiques.
I feel as if I’m moving forward in the right direction, and that makes me happy. Despite some temporary uncertainties, it seems to me that the end of 2016 will very much be a positive turning point for a lot of things in my life.