the smokin' chemist

smoked meat + nuclear chemistry

orientation week [rebel lab report]

Published / by the smokin' chemist / 4 Comments on orientation week [rebel lab report]

orientation: check. grad school: here i come.


tomorrow [monday] is my first official day of grad school!  i plan to keep a regular account here of the events & progress throughout this process.  i want to have a record of my experiences in grad school, to be able to look back & remember the details of this whole journey, how i felt, what i thought, all of that. i also want to connect with others who have already gone through it/are going through it now, & perhaps can offer advice drawing from their own experience.  or, maybe they can just commiserate with me when things are tough & celebrate the wins when things are going my way.

with that in mind.. orientation week is officially OVER & there is no time to turn back now 🙂

august 22-28

[new ga orientation]

honestly, this was a pretty pointless 2 hours. it was mostly geared toward TAs, so most of it did not apply to me.  i am a research assistant & will not be teaching. there was just a lot of focus on teacher type information, like making a syllabus, dealing with students, office hours etc. that i am sure was very helpful for those who actually need it.

[chemical hygiene training]

this was also a waste of time, for the most part. it was all just basic chemical safety/OSHA information, nothing at all new to anyone who has ever worked in a lab. and, it was supposed to end at 0130, & by 0215 he was telling us to take a bathroom break, so i ended up just leaving then. i mean, i already signed the attendance sheet, lol. i really did not care about the length of the freaking thing, but it just should have been scheduled to the proper time in the first place, seeing as i arranged the rest of my day with an end time of 0130 in mind. sometimes people have other things to do?

welcome week

[grad student orientation]

this was wildly unnecessary. first of all, i had no idea i was apparently supposed to get tickets to attend until the night before, when i was reading over the schedule of activities. well, i needed my student ID to get them, which i do not have [also because no one told me that i was supposed to just go get it], so i called the box office & after being on the phone for 15 minutes, was told i was basically out of luck. they just told me to bring my schedule to the box office, & MAYBE i could get a ticket. so, awesome. great start to this school thing: about to miss the first “very important & supposedly mandatory” event. the next morning, when i arrive, i see that everyone is wearing a matching t shirt. so, that puts me at about 0/3 on knowing things that it appears everyone else knows. i went up to the the ticket lady & told her how i could not get the ticket online, but that i had my schedule; she handed me a ticket & just snapped about how the line is very long & that i should just go on. well, alrighty then. problem solved 🙂

i headed inside & found out where the grad student section was. it was WAY off on the very stage right, directly in line with the speaker’s right side. i could not stop laughing, it was hysterical. literally, we were stuffed into the very top corner possible. yeah, i could not even see what was on the projector screen. based on the seating arrangement, it is clear who the priority is. meanwhile, the whole floor is filled with the red t shirt folks, whom i am now finding out are UNDERGRADUATES. so much for this being some super serious graduate student orientation, as all of the threatening propaganda indicated. good lord.

**i am not kidding about the threatening emails leading up to this week. this is how they coerce the grad students into actually going to the orientation: they hand out the honor cords you will need for-yes, wait for it-GRADUATION- at the program, & send you 97 emails saying how this is absolutely the ONLY time EVER you can get them. i took two, figure they will be valuable come springtime.

as i was sitting there in the far corner of the nosebleeds with my fellow adult students, i could not help but remember the way the grad students looked to me when i was 18 & starting undergrad. i just remember thinking how old they looked, & dorky. oh, how perspectives change.

the speeches were of absolutely no value to me, & were quite obviously geared toward the incoming freshmen. the other grad students & i were basically just making jokes & mocking it the entire time, being 100% mature. the program was scheduled from 0900-1030; somehow i managed to make it an entire hour before i decided to leave. i was group texting with my siblings when i got home, & they were asking what we were doing at orientation; i responded by taking that photo above of the bacon i was currently eating &  sending that as my response. they were less than shocked.

there were still activities scheduled the entire rest of the day until the evening, & then a movie at night, as well. jesus christ. get real.


  • do not have any books yet. none of my classes listed a textbook on the bookstore website, & then finally at 1130 tonight i got an email from the program secretary, wendee, saying that some lady i have never heard of has the books for one of the classes.
  •  one class is monday & wednesday morning; the only one i actually know for sure when and where to show up. none of the other ones list either a time/day.
  • the second class i was told is mainly online and that being that there is only the 2 of us in it or something & the professor is not local most of the time, we will basically just figure out what works for us..super specific. then tonight, at the same time i got the email about the book for the other class, i final
    ly got an email with some information about this class as well. the email just gave us the website for the class, & said to read the first two lectures & take the first quiz.
  • third class is a seminar once a week, i think it is on wednesdays at 0100, but i have no idea where.
  • the last class i am registered for is not actually a class, but is my research. absolutely no clue what that involves as far as scheduling or anything else.

[schedule this semester]

  1. applied nuclear physics
  2. radiochemistry
  3. graduate seminar [radiochemistry]
  4. radiochemistry lab research

i am still working on getting a laptop bag, hopefully can take care of that this week.

i am also in the process of having a desk built for home. i found a local guy here who builds furniture from local reclaimed wood, & i am super stoked about this project. i think it is going to turn out amazing; can not wait for it to be finished, but i do not have a timeline on it yet.

i am thinking about personally ordering my own lab jacket, instead of taking one that they provide for me. i really did not care for them at all, & i never get one that even comes close to fitting because of my size. annoying. so i am thinking maybe i should just get one on my own & bring it with me.

that about covers everything from this past week, all that is left now is to get going already! yikes.

any advice for my first week as a graduate student, or confidence-inspiring words? 🙂


  1. My advice: keep up the workout schedule. I put on ~50 lbs during grad school using the excuse that I had more important things to do in the lab than go to the gym. Still hasn’t come off. In addition to the general benefits of staying in shape, it’s a great way to combat stress, and much healthier than drinking (which was the double whammy for me).

    1. thanks for the great advice, phil. fitness is a serious priority for me, so i am very determined not to let the lab get in the way of that, like you said. i am sure it will be easier said than done, though.

  2. Hi – just finished an accelerated MBA program in May and finally getting settled back into a normal routine. Phil has solid advice, but I failed in similar fashion. As far as the pitiful communication from the school on meetings, books, etc., I had the same experience and was almost used to the incompetence by the time it was over. Loved the high-heat experiment with the chuck and will attempt soon. Good luck with classes and lab – try to find a simple celebratory ritual each week, even if it’s just 15 minutes.

    1. thanks greg, it is nice to hear that at least i am not the only one dealing with these issues, as far as the communication situation [congrats on the MBA! accelerated too!] it is a bit inexcusable, honestly, having to just try & figure things out/take a shot in the dark, when you are dealing with something like a professional graduate program, but it is what it is i guess. as far as the chuck roast, oh buddy you must definitely try it soon! especially if you have never smoked one before, it will blow your mind! make sure to let me know how it goes 🙂

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