Sunday, October 24, 2004

Looking Both Ways

I've been procrastinating working on my job application (but the lawn looks so lovely now!), and I've been thinking a bunch about what brought me here and then I read New Kid's thoughts on what she would have done differently when at the transition between undergrad and grad school.

I was sure that I had to go directly to grad school, that real work would kill me. After a summer spent working 40-hour weeks doing math in a government setting, I knew that wasn't for me. (Yes, these same folks paid for me to go to grad school and were going to require me to work for them for two years after I graduated. My plan was to spend my time at work working on my own research instead of their projects until they fired me. Lucky for me they changed their mind.)

I loved grad school. If they didn't kick students out (finished or not!) after seven years, I might still be there. In a practical sense, it might have been better if I'd started grad school a few years later than I did. Most of the time I was there my advisor was working elsewhere and was only around for a few weeks at a time (or a whole quarter when he had to teach calculus), so I didn't really have anyone to talk to about my research. And most of that time I was his only student; when I was finishing up, he got two more students. So in the sense of having more people around to talk to about research, the same program would have been better for me at a different time. I was so jealous of the topology students and the combinatorics students. Those areas had a lot of students (and all their offices were together), and they had regular seminars, too. (I've never been at a school with an algebra seminar that met more than sporadically.)

Part of why I'm procrastinating this job application is because what I really want to do is to go to grad school again. I've been poking about the web pages of graduate programs here where I work, making a mental note of ones that I find interesting (Industrial Engineering) and ones that would make me more employable (Education -- probably the only academic field that has trouble finding candidates to apply for open faculty positions!). And part of it is that I'm feeling out of touch with my area (I never really felt immersed in it), and I'm wishing for interesting problems to work on and for opportunities to make connections to people with neat ideas. In the job I'm applying for, I'd have to work independently and take a leadership position.