Why Oklahoma?

Im not gonna lie.

We got a lot of shit to put up with in Oklahoma.

Batshit insane politicians trying to ban scientists from the state, make federally funded research illegal, hold up HIV/AIDS funding for personal religious reasons, post medical identifiers of women who have abortions online… yeah, theyre just pretty much insane.

So a question I get rather frequently is “Why the hell did you decide to go to grad school in Oklahoma??”

Some might assume I only put up with ‘Oklahoma crap’ because I ‘had to’, which is certainly not the case.

The University of Oklahoma is actually a really great place to work (when I was a technician), and its been a great place to go to school! My professors are demanding, yet supportive. Knock on their door wanting their opinion/help on X/Y/Z, and they drop everything to help (though its probably better to email first to set up an official meeting– just manners :) ) I have also seen the way my professors interact with one another, and its nice! Theyre always collaborating on something, happily letting other labs borrow a reagent or use an expensive piece of equipment.

Its very cooperative.

Which I love.

I dont want to worry about people putting sodium azide in my coffee, aright?

The standard of living in Oklahoma also helps :) The $1600 a month I get as a student takes care of my car, a nice apartment (no roommates) walking distance to work, tons of Arnie goodies, tons of Abbie goodies, and I still put money in savings every month.

Do not underestimate the value of not being stressed about money during grad school.

Anyway, I was happy to see my Oklahoma decision ‘vindicated’ (as the CFS people would say) by The Scientist. University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center campus is #4 on their ‘Best Places to Work in Academia’ list. The institution that hosted the viral evolution conference I went to last fall? The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, Oklahoma, middle of nowhere. Theyre #9!

So… thats why Oklahoma. :P

Comments

  1. #1 SVN
    October 28, 2009

    I suppose that is a good list of reasons that I put up with the bullshit from our legislators. And the bullshit neighbors. And the bullshit churches, but hey, glad to see us at #4.

  2. #2 Katherine
    October 28, 2009

    Wow–I’m in DC and our stipends start at pretty much the same level as yours. 50% or more goes to housing, depending on how cheaply you want to live. I hear we’re in one of the worst pay-to-cost-of-living areas but I never realized how jealous I should be!
    …what are the post doc salaries out there? I might skip out on the West Coast and go midwest!

  3. #3 Ivan
    October 28, 2009

    post medical identifiers of women who have abortions online

    They do abortions online now? Wow, this really IS the 21st century. ;^)

    (sorry, someone had to say it)

  4. #4 Tyler DiPietro
    October 28, 2009

    Maine doesn’t have as much stupid bullshit as Oklahoma but it still sucks. Maine is filled with more AIDS than the pool at Habbo.

  5. #5 Katrina
    October 28, 2009

    Totally OT, but when I saw this on TV, I immediately thought of you.

    Apparently, Newt Gingrich offered an “Entrepreneur of the Year” award to businesses who would fork over $5k to his American Solutions for Winning the Future group. When a Dallas “Gentlemen’s Club” took him up on the offer, he essentially snubbed them.

    As soon as they got their money back, the club gave it to a local animal shelter to create a wing for unwanted Pit Bulls. Here’s the link, it’s pretty funny.

    http://tpmlivewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/10/strip-club-owner-snubbed-by-gingrich-names-pit-bull-shelter-after-him.php

  6. #6 Kevin
    October 28, 2009

    Hey now, no need to single out Harvard. I know we have a reputation for being cut-throat and super competitive, but your description –

    “My professors are demanding, yet supportive. Knock on their door wanting their opinion/help on X/Y/Z, and they drop everything to help (though its probably better to email first to set up an official meeting– just manners :) ) I have also seen the way my professors interact with one another, and its nice! Theyre always collaborating on something, happily letting other labs borrow a reagent or use an expensive piece of equipment.”

    fits my first two years of graduate school at Harvard to a T. I have classmates in the von Adrian and Sharp labs and I can tell you that they feel the same way. As far as I can tell, this event was an aberration.

  7. #7 Sili
    October 29, 2009

    Ouch. I have to admit I no longer recall the issues with azide, but I do remember having to be careful with it. (Never did get the results I wanted, but at least it didn’t go boom either.)

    Hmm – I think I got a little less than three times what you do when I was a (failing) post grad. Before taxes, of course, but excluding holiday pay and pension.

  8. #8 becca
    October 29, 2009

    I understand where you’re coming from, and *of course* one should go to a university where they are doing awesome research one is interested in (i.e. I’m not dissin your choice to go to OK). But I call bullshit on the standard of living bit. Most of the BigTen have perfectly decent standards of living for about the same stipend level. And I’d much rather live in Madison, Ann Arbor or even Champaign-Urbana or State College than OK. But then, my idea of a reasonable ‘standard of living’ depend on not having batshit insane legislators and bigoted neighbors. Meh. I’m picky like that.

  9. #9 Prometheus
    October 29, 2009

    “The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, Oklahoma, middle of nowhere.”

    How did you miss the cool geology? Arnie could have been four ragged claws scuttling across a late Cambrian and Devonian sea.

    If you go again, there is a back way through the Arbuckles with great scenery and USGS steel signs from the fifties identifying the incredibly varied geological formations.

    The creek beds are lined with Ordovician Nautaloids as big as tires.

    I see the legislative knuckle draggers as spin offs of the general state wide weirdness that, in general, I love.

    It has also made Oklahoma the battleground. I look forward to pointing at the capitol building one day and being able to say “It was right here that the last enemy of the western intellectual tradition in America dropped his bible.”

  10. #10 firemancarl
    October 29, 2009

    Welp, I think your OK will be better than my OK. I get to spend 5 sunny, balmy weeks at Ft. Sill (Jan-Feb.) for my “Warrior Transition Course”-there will be an atheist in a foxhole for those 5 weeks. Yeah, I figure my 5 weeks of Oklahoma will be full of teh suck, and I’ll wish I was back in Florida.

  11. #11 Mobius
    October 29, 2009

    Oklahoma does have a lot of downsides, but it does have its upsides too. Both OU and OSU are among the bright spots.

  12. #12 Wes
    October 29, 2009

    I understand where you’re coming from, and *of course* one should go to a university where they are doing awesome research one is interested in (i.e. I’m not dissin your choice to go to OK). But I call bullshit on the standard of living bit. Most of the BigTen have perfectly decent standards of living for about the same stipend level.

    Having attended both Oklahoma State U and Indiana U, I have to take Abbie’s side on this. I don’t make much more money here at IU than I did at OSU, but pretty much everything in Bloomington costs more than it does in Stillwater.

    I’m not knocking the Big Ten (though I’ll always be Big 12 at heart). I like it out here. But Abbie is right when she points out that money goes further in OK than it does in most other states. I’ve also lived in Maryland, Louisiana and New Mexico, and noticed the same thing about those states.

    Welp, I think your OK will be better than my OK. I get to spend 5 sunny, balmy weeks at Ft. Sill (Jan-Feb.) for my “Warrior Transition Course”-there will be an atheist in a foxhole for those 5 weeks. Yeah, I figure my 5 weeks of Oklahoma will be full of teh suck, and I’ll wish I was back in Florida.

    Posted by: firemancarl | October 29, 2009 1:27 PM

    Lawton is a shithole. You won’t get many arguments from Okies on that.

  13. #13 Rob Abiera
    October 29, 2009

    “I look forward to pointing at the capitol building one day and being able to say “It was right here that the last enemy of the western intellectual tradition in America dropped his bible.””

    Me, too.

  14. #14 Firemancarl
    October 29, 2009

    As are most military towns Wes. The bright spot will be me not goin off base. How the he’ll much snow and what temps can I expect ?

  15. #15 vhutchison
    October 29, 2009

    Do go off base and visit the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge just north of Fort Sill. One of the great places in the State – bison, elk, pure bred longhorns, prairie dogs, burrowing owls,deer, wild turkeys,good scenery, etc. This is one of the gems in the national refuge system, established by T. Roosevelt early in the 20th century.

  16. #16 Wes
    October 29, 2009

    As are most military towns Wes. The bright spot will be me not goin off base. How the he’ll much snow and what temps can I expect ?

    Posted by: Firemancarl | October 29, 2009 9:29 PM

    OK winters are usually mild. We usually get some snow and ice, but not a lot. It’s not unknown to have sunny, 60 degree days in January. Just watch out for the annual ice storm. When that happens, it’s best just to stay inside.

    And Vic is right. If you get a chance to see the Wichitas, make sure to do that.

  17. #17 firemancarl
    October 30, 2009

    Thanks Wes, and Hutch.

    I am not sure how much free time there will be. The course is for us prior service types in other service branches ( I’m ex Navy ) so, I am sure it’s lots of shootin’ and lootin’, so to speak. I used to live in Colorado ( Go CU!) so I look forward to seeing mountains and western wildlife again.

  18. #18 Jon H
    October 30, 2009

    For what it’s worth, I work in an HHMI-funded neuroscience lab at Harvard Med (ie, Cadillac funding $$), and we often order surgical supplies that other poorer labs in the department will be using, lend out pricey equipment, etc.

    I don’t know what the deal was with the azide, which was in another building across the street. Might have been professional rivalry. Might have been animal-rights kooks. Might even have been an ill-considered, overly-complicated attempt at committing suicide in a non-obvious way (to get the insurance money?) There was a suicide in the same building a year or so ago, but that person used some kind of fume-emitting substance, and I think had a bag over their head.

  19. #19 Prometheus
    October 30, 2009

    firemancarl @ #17

    Don’t miss out on a burger. This place is the kind of Oklahoma weirdness I love:

    http://www.meersstore.com/menu.html

  20. #20 firemancarl
    October 30, 2009

    Thanks Prometheus, a Meersburger and in the same state as Abbie (woot!)? Could it get better?

  21. #21 Cain
    October 30, 2009

    In my head, Firemancarl’s comments are always in the voice of Sarge from Red Vs Blue.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sx_3m-FhAI

  22. #22 Wes
    October 30, 2009

    “Stop making up animals!” is my favorite Sarge moment of all time.

  23. #23 firemancarl
    October 30, 2009

    Actually, heres what I sound (and look like ) fer realz. http://www.cfnews13.com/News/Local/2009/10/22/staffing_issues_close_volusia_fire_station.html

    I am one of 4 vice presidents for my union IAFF 3574

  24. #24 Cain
    October 31, 2009

    @22 firemancarl
    Thanks but no thanks…I’m sure I will perfer you like this

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veGv0A-ewQg&feature=related

    …only drinking the blood of your enemies(and sometimes a strawberry yoohoo)

  25. #25 Firemancarl
    October 31, 2009

    That was pretty damn funny Cain. And I promise to make you proud when I get to Ft Sill, especially if I spot one of those mythical “Pumas'”

  26. #26 Mobius
    November 1, 2009

    Don’t miss out on a burger. This place is the kind of Oklahoma weirdness I love:

    http://www.meersstore.com/menu.html

    Posted by: Prometheus | October 30, 2009 1:37 PM

    And then there is Weber’s Root Beer in Tulsa. A quaint little drive-in stand with great burgers and absolutely fabulous root beer.

    http://www.webersoftulsa.com/

  27. #27 Pete
    November 5, 2009

    It sucks that researchers at universities, basically the best hope going forward for maintaining and improving the welfare of humanity, are paid like shit.

  28. #28 Eric
    November 7, 2009

    Glad to hear there are more pro-science people at OU. I’m actually attending OU for the Bachelors in Comp Engr. I am seriously surrounded by so many people who will deny science at the drop of a hat, just because it conflicts with their religious beliefs. I feel almost suffocated by it, but i guess that’s just the engineering field. CFI on campus never seems to do anything, or if they do i dont hear about it. I havent heard much from Darwin Student society (just got added to their email list though so we’ll see…). But I always hear crap from IDEA. But it is still good to hear of active pro science people at OU.

  29. #29 Kemist
    November 11, 2009

    It sucks that researchers at universities, basically the best hope going forward for maintaining and improving the welfare of humanity, are paid like shit.

    What Abbie receives now is a stipend, because she is still a PhD student (PhD students do novel research under direction of their professors, with more or less license to develop their own ideas – think of a PhD as on-the-job training for scientists).

    She will get a little more as a post-doc (post-doctoral training, that’s the road you normally take if you want to become a professor or a senior researcher, but there are other ways, depending on your field), and probably a more decent pay in the industry (if the economic conditions are favorable).

    Where I am the most well paid and secure position is university professorship, which is however hard to obtain (about 2% of PhDs succeed in getting academic positions). There is also the occasional scientist with a flair for business who succeeds in securing investors for his/her own company.

    But it should be stressed that all these jobs are highly demanding in time and efforts, and are rarely worth it in terms of salary/investment of time.

    Bottom line – go professionally into science only if it’s your passion.

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