First Things First

Posted: May 27, 2016, 12:36pm

Hi. I’m Jeffrey. I’m not sure why you’re reading this (heck, I’m not even entirely sure why I’m writing this) but I’m glad you are. Ever since being asked to write for Viterbi Pulse (#proudestmoments) I have considered how to best use this space to serve my audience. So let’s figure this out. Let’s make a deal, I’ll tell you who I am, if you’ll tell me about yourself.

Well, this is awkward

Who are you? Well, this is awkward. I guess you can’t really answer that can you? So let me take a few guesses who you might be. You, the reader, may be a wide-eyed and expectantly excited prospective USC student. Or maybe you are already part of the Trojan Family (fight on!). Perhaps you’re an undergraduate who stumbled across this blog wondering what the life of graduate student looks like. Or maybe you’re one of the many international students (over 10,000), still getting the lay of the land (yay America! Welcome!) and you want to see life through the lens of a domestic student.

Whoever you are, I hope I can provide an engaging and fun blog series. I’ll focus on my life: the past, the present, the future, and try to write from the perspective of someone on the outside looking in. What’s the life of a PhD student at USC living in Los Angeles all about? Let’s take a look.

The Past

When I flew in to LAX in the late summer of 2012, I stepped off the plane, looked around, took a deep breath, and wondered how I would ever survive in a city with millions people. I didn’t even know a single soul in the entire city at the time. Coming from small town Ohio, I felt that I had humble beginnings and wasn’t sure if I’d be “cut out” for the rigor of PhD academics. Along the way, I made some mistakes, hit some lucky breaks, and definitely learned a lot of lessons. I’ll write about the process of the past four years (and still counting!) of graduate studies at USC, and share any insight that I’ve gleaned and can pass on to the next generation.

The Present

I’m a PhD student. That is a huge part of my life. For my life currently, that means long hours in a tucked away lab in the corner of an obscure building. A tiny building on a huge campus that regularly holds upwards of 40,000 students. I’m a face in the crowd and I’m working my way up the academic ladder. Working for the advancement of science, the hard work is rewarding and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But hey, I live in Los Angeles, the greatest city in the world. So my breaks away from the lab are likely to include beach time in Santa Monica, camping in the mountains of Angeles National Forest, hiking to the Hollywood sign, or tempting my tastebuds at one of the many international foods I found scrolling through LA’s endless Yelp pages. I’ll use this blog series to track my day-to-day ongoings roaming the concrete jungle that is Los Angeles.

The Future

Ask any PhD when they will graduate and you’re likely to receive a reply like “uh.. soon… I hope?” or a snarky “don’t worry about it” or maybe just a long sigh of despair. We are in this race for the long haul, and we do not know what the future holds. A student’s PhD research usually inhabits their thoughts endlessly throughout the days. It becomes a competition within themselves to finish the thesis, and a major focus of their lives for years at a time. Nearing the end of graduation, it’s hard to move on from this project that holds a special place in their heart. I’ll write here about my thought process for the future. The pros and cons of pursuing a career in academics versus a career in industry, and the reluctance to leave such an amazing school in USC are a few of the topics we’ll talk about.

Thanks for going on this journey with me! Check back here for my updates every week.


Published on July 25th, 2017

Last updated on August 10th, 2017