Sunday, March 18, 2012

Negotiating grad schools with my subconscious

I'm deciding where to go to grad school, right, and where to spend the next 5-6 years of my life. It's a tough choice with a lot of factors. Our slow sequential rational minds are not great at processing these huge multi-dimensional choices, but luckily we've got these built-in hacks called "emotions". They're capable of doing massive processing, but they're tricky! For example, the weather has a big impact on which school you attend. Also, I like feeling accepted by people I respect. So I've got to understand what my emotions are telling me and then decide which ones to listen to.

Here's what I'm thinking:

Georgia Tech

  • The wearable computing contextual computing lab (and neighboring BCI lab). When I heard about magic piano gloves, I was ready to sign on the dotted line right there.
  • The other students visiting along with me had mostly done something else before coming back to grad school. Of course I'm biased, but I think that's a good sign.
  • Atlanta's cooler than I expected.
  • The "Aikido problem": if I decide to try some new thing (say, Aikido), will there be a studio nearby? If it's driving distance, I won't stick with it. I want an atmosphere where growth is not only possible but actively enabled; does Atlanta have that?
  • I feel like family already.
  • They are so tight with Microsoft Research, Intel, Google, and y'know other companies too.
  • I met a lot of fervent supporters. People who, if you asked them to rate their time at UW on a 1-5, would say 5.
  • And I had a couple of think-really-big conversations. Students and profs interested in big important work, not just publishing papers. I think their heads are on straight.
  • I'm not really looking forward to going back to Seattle, oddly, and I'm not sure why. The rain or something? The homogeneous Stuff-White-People-Like-ness?
U of Toronto
  • The prof I'd work with seems very sharp, enthusiastic, flexible, and interested in growing his lab.
  • Toronto is an amazing city. I like it so much. And U of T is right downtown.
  • HCI is not such a focus there as it is at CMU, GA Tech, and UW. (doesn't mean there's not cool stuff going on. but CMU/GA Tech have whole schools for HCI, and UW has a big group.)
  • I met a couple of folks who might rate their time there as a 2.
  • There's a whole school dedicated to HCI; the class mix is different than I'd get elsewhere (for better or worse).
  • I have a few friends in Pittsburgh. Plus, Pittsburgh is cool and cheap.
  • I'd feel a little weird being back at CMU, too, and I'm not sure why.
To be continued!


Pretzel said...

You want Georgia Tech. Seattle and CMU are both safe choices, but you're not really looking for a safe choice. And you're seeing red flags on Toronto.

Atlanta might not seem like the South at first, but it really is the South, just not the rural South. You might not be entirely comfortable there. More diverse, but more obvious racism (not more racism, but the racism is more obvious).

Get a scooter or a motorcycle, and you can reach all the points that you would otherwise need a car for. You won't need it every day, but it will open up the area.

And don't worry about making a mistake. You can always make abject apologies and bail, and go for one of the safe choices 1-2 years in. Or get the Masters as a consolation prize.

Dan Tasse said...

Curious! Those are good reasons not to avoid GA Tech, but not great reasons to actually favor it. Why do you say that I want it?

yincrash said...

I'm told GT has a huge gym.

Dan Tasse said...

True! And point taken. I shouldn't expect Atlanta not to have things until I at least do some googling.

I guess that's not really my reason against GA tech; it's more about research, and I can't put my finger on it there either. Something like "diversity of research", although that can't be right, as there are more HCI profs there than anywhere save CMU. Maybe it's that I'd spend all my time inside the school of Interactive Computing? Seems not so bad when I say it, because I don't really care about theory and stuff anyway. Hmm.