*Note: This was posted after "Summer Research Update" but it's appearing before it. Huh. Beats me.
It's Salaita - no and's, if's or but's. So, if you read earlier, you'd know I was leaning toward Salaita's group. I'm now 100% certain that's where I'm supposed to be. I told him this - but I'm not saying anything to anyone else - no one I feel like would understand why I'm so sure, and it just brings on pointless debate to say so. It's ok. A year ago, I would have been in their shoes, telling me to 'consider all my options.' Yes, yes, yes. Well, I have - and the answer is overwhelming. If I - who never makes up my mind about anything - can be 100% sure, you can know it's a miracle of God, which is precisely true, in this case. A bit more on that below.
I visited Tech March 14th - 15th. It was cool, but it's also huge. And I don't know anyone there. Still, I met some awesome people. I enjoyed Dr. Oyelere's work (who spoke at Oxford a year or so ago) and Dr. Finn's work (who just came from CA's Scripps) the best. Especially Dr. Finn - the stuff he's doing is amazing. Tech hired him to expand chemical biology at GA Tech and apparently, he's into expanding collaboration between Tech and Emory. I cannot WAIT to see what will come of this. Here's an article I found about him on the web. I could see myself doing a post-doc at Tech someday perhaps. I just have to do more networking there.
I met this hilarious girl at Tech, from Miami (Kim O.). She's super hyper and friendly to everyone. She was telling me about how she wrote a proposal. She's accepted Tech and is looking to work for Dr. Kubanek. A great choice, considering she wants to work on synthesizing drugs from natural compounds. I'm trying to talk to her these days about proposal writing. I'm looking forward to saying hi to her when she comes to campus officially in the fall. Maybe she can introduce me to Tech people.
Also, hats off to Dr. Cameron "Cam" Tyson, the graduate coordinator at Tech. He's the only graduate coordinator I've seen at any school that actually personally toured us around everywhere we went, probably walking miles over March 15th. I was deeply impressed by him. I told him so. I hope he realizes that, even though I rejected Tech.
More Answered Prayer
So, before I went to Tech, I did pray that God would make me abundantly certain about whether or not I should be at Emory, that'd He'd show me something, and that I would have 0% doubts. Well, He did just that.
One of the prospective students I met was Mary Radhuber, who's been working for Dr. Weaver at Emory the last five years, since she was a freshman. I just ran into her and she asked me about the school I was leaning to (Emory) and the lab (Salaita). She gave me glowing reports on Emory and Dr. Salaita immediately. It was another quite obvious and I might say - totally unexpected - slap in the face.
By the end of the 15th, I'd heard from her that Dr. Salaita was so well funded, all three of his government grants had been approved, and he'd had to chose one. No one is having that problem right now. At Tech and UGA especially, I heard nothing but how much the funding crunch was scaring everyone. One professor I spoke to at Tech had graduated four students recently, had one left, and only had the ability to hire one more. This kind of thing I saw repeated a LOT at UGA as well.
Mary said she'd heard talk of Dr. Salaita being considered for tenure early. Who ever heard of such a thing?
But more importantly, she was able to tell me that yes, he really is as nice as he seems - he's always been that way since he came, and excited about his research. It's not a fluke. And he's nice to undergraduates!! That's really important. The little people matter. I was an undergraduate for an incredibly long time, it seems. Sometimes, no one takes them seriously or treats them like inferiors. I sympathize with them.
Additionally, it seems Dr. Salaita really does talk to all his grad students regularly - which is something I want. Yes, of course I want to be independent. But, I really do enjoy butting heads with people to talk things out as well - a vigorous, lively debate. The other professors are always available to talk - but, I feel like Dr. Salaita would seek us out. It's the difference between feeling like a bother and knowing such time is scheduled in. It makes a world of difference to me.
I knew from all this that God had confirmed everything I wanted to know and more. But I was still nervous. I hate making big decisions - "limiting my options" - whatever that means. But, it turns out, it wasn't over. To end the day, I was waiting in the lobby for dinner and Wallace another prospective sat next to me, saying how much he loved Emory and was totally going there. He, Mary and I had a 1.5 hr long conversation about Emory, science and how awesome it was, Emory professors - that completely soothed away all the rest of my nagging fears at just going for it. Yes, I know an answer to prayer when I see one.
I ended up realizing that Dr. Salaita came to Emory about 4 years ago, when I first started praying for a lab to join. And, it came to my mind a specific day three years ago, when I was commuting home from UGA and started praying very specifically for the kind of person I wanted to work for ...
1. Someone not terrifying.
2. Someone who wouldn't mind questions, even stupid ones.
3. Someone who would enjoy talking with me on a regular basis about science and ideas.
4. Someone who would talk to me like an equal.
5. Someone who was excited about science and their research (this one I didn't remember until a few days ago, but it was also there).
Guess what? Dr. Salaita has all five of those qualities - I've seen them myself and had them confirmed by others. Let it be said that I've seen what I've seen and know what I know - I'm working for him - no more questions asked. His research is interesting too. How about that. Isn't God great? You'll never believe what I'm praying for concerning this summer.
In all of these things, I've used both logic and faith - logic took me to 90%. Of course I look at the facts - it's burned into me - and the facts are there. There's loads I could list but it would take all day and get really boring, so why bother? It's really a combination of a LOT of little things that mean nothing individually but everything added together. Yet only faith could give me no doubts. It's obvious to me I'm supposed to be here. If God can do this - something that I was so worried about for my entire undergraduate career - He can do anything. I'm no longer worried about anything else that'll happen at all.
Don't think for a second I've given up talking to all the other labs. My "grad school goals" stand. I forgot that Emory and Tech are connected by a bus route. Maybe I actually can talk to people at Tech! I shall talk to them ALL. I'm always open to changing my mind, always evaluating facts and ideas - though I know I won't about Salaita - but still - I do look at everything and will continue to. Let the fun times begin!! *cracks knuckles*
And now, some pictures to get across how I am approaching grad school - total war, all guns blazing, battle cry, "SPOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONN!!!!"