Sunday, April 08, 2012

I'm going to CMU again.

Yes! I wanted to come back to the states and try something new, get into a bigger pond, really get out and expand my life, throw off the shackles of the past, onwards and upwards, and my search has brought me to... Carnegie Mellon University. If you'd asked me a month ago, I would have said that CMU was maybe my #3 choice (out of 4), but after the visits, that's how my gut feeling went*. I feel good about this, meaning I don't think I've been unduly biased by any of the many biases I must have towards these places.

So as of this fall, until 2017 or 2018, I'll be a PhD student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at CMU. Looking forward to this!

Now, though, time for me to hop a plane to Sofia, Bulgaria. More details on my travel blog. See you in the States again in July!

*and then here are the reasons that my cold rational brain has come up with to support my gut decision:

Research: is number one. Great profs, great students, lots of cool projects. They and UW seem like the top two places for HCI research, so it's good to be in this crew. Sure, maybe other cities might be bigger ponds in the "city" sense, but CMU is at the top of the game, research-wise. And (importantly) I've found a great potential advisor, as well as talking with other profs doing stuff I like.

The school itself: I want to study HCI, not CS. I like how my classes will be probably 4 CS, 4 HCI, one design, and one behavioral-science, instead of 10 CS. They feel like they've got a big family feel, all the profs care about the students and vice versa. Great atmosphere.

Students: very cool. Coming from CMU CS undergrad, I was not expecting this. They live reasonable lives, probably decorate their houses better than me, hang out a lot, have fun, work hard and play hard, etc.

City: Pittsburgh is smaller than Seattle. I'd wanted to move to a bigger city. So why Pittsburgh again?
- it's got history (which I didn't think mattered, but it means it's got a lot of flavor too, which is subtly important)
- it's still on the up and up. In 50 years I'll be able to say "Pittsburgh is cool now but I liked their earlier stuff better."
- some googling led me not to fear the Aikido problem (if I decide to try some new thing like say Aikido, will there be a studio nearby?)
- sounds like third wave coffeeshops have landed so y'know we're set there
- it's not super far from 90% of the people I know (I have some friends in Seattle and a few others on the West Coast and otherwise from Seattle I am flying 5+ hours to see anybody, which means I am not doing it.)
- it's cheap. never hurts.

Reasons I should have gone to UW instead:
- they have a bunch of cool, enthusiastic professors in the area I'm interested in
- I mean, their students are really cool too
- Microsoft Research is right next door
- skiing, mountains, air that smells nice, etc.

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