Wednesday, February 15, 2006

random encounters

I often eat lunch at the campus union. My first year here I diligently packed a lunch every day. Ultimately it became the exact same lunch every day, because it was efficient, and then I grew tired of it. Now I'm at a loss as to what to eat in the middle of my day. I typically bring an assortment of fruit and a granola bar, but lack the "main" portion of food.

As I forage for edibles in a rather central area of campus, I interact with a different subset of people. Certainly more undergrads, but I also see postdocs and professors intermingling with the students. On cold or rainy days the indoor eating areas are packed and tables are at a premium. This often leads to interesting eating arrangements. Since I'm typically alone and reading the campus paper and apparently look friendly, I often get requests to share my table.

Today I was surprised that the requestee was an older gentleman. I of course allowed him to sit and shared half of the paper with him. We were eating the same lunch from the hot line: chicken curry a little heavy on the ginger. We ate in silence until my curiosity got the better of me. I asked what he did here on campus, and he answered rather modestly by saying "I'm on the payroll here." Turns out that my assumption was correct: he was a professor, in a department quite different from mine. He of the social sciences area, studying rather big picture effects, in comparision to me, studying biology at a microscopic level.

We had a nice chat, albeit brief. Turns out he got his MS degree about an hour away from where I grew up. Small world. He asked about my research and I think I managed to convey what I study in broad enough terms that he understood. He also gave me some kind words of encouragement about finishing my studies. Apparently as an undergrad his GPA was atrocious. He encouraged me to find a subject I like and pursue it. I'm pretty sure I'm already pursuing it.

All in all it was a very nice lunch. I never expected to be getting kind words of advice about graduate school from the random professor at my lunch table. I suppose that says something quite nice about the environment here at Pseudonymous University.


At 7:28 AM, Blogger Abel PharmBoy said...

These are the happy accidents that make being in a universty setting so enriching. Imagine if we all just worked independently in the basement labs of our castles like in old England. Despite the backstabbing and stress of being a prof, I really enjoy going back on campus and just taking in the sense of community and intellectual inquiry for the sole sake of knowledge that is often lacking in corporate scientific environments.


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