Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

This weekend at UM Neuro, we’re getting our first group of interviewees to the PhD program. I usually volunteer to host a “recruit” because, not only do you get to meet interesting people, you get a slew of fancy dinners all paid for by the program! Woohooo! It is a bit intensive for the host though, the trips to the airport, and taking home of leftovers, the free hockey tickets. One catch though, the department won’t pay for booze. I suppose its completely reasonable, I mean federal funds and all that. And we wouldn’t be wanting to make those major decisions, oh like where to go to grad school, when we’re a bit tipsy, would we?

These weekends also bring back memories for me, of my own miserable interviews (yeah, I know its suppost to be fun, but i was trying to finish my senior thesis at the time). Some of these kids are so nervous and shy, while some are almost overcompensatingly outgoing. We try to make them feel at ease, but there’s always an undercurrent of judgement there: they’re judging us, we’re sizing them up as well. It is exciting to see this process though, where so much of your future career and life hinges of the span of a few conversations with a few people across the nation. Its usually seridipity where you go, what you choose. And the reasons you stay are usually different from the reasons you thought you’d stay.


  1. #1 Abel Pharmboy
    January 26, 2007

    My how times have changed. My one-on-one interview with the graduate coordinator was prefaced by his question, “Abel, do you drink beer?”. Upon my answer, we commenced to the hotel bar across from the medical center. At one of my other interviews (at the University of Arizona), I was treated to this Jersey boy’s first venture into a cowboy bar – longnecks and folks who looked like they wore cowboy hats for real.

    Some of the best and most frank scientific discussions I’ve ever had have included some quantity of good drink. Pub talk over science is a time-honored tradition but I understand the reluctance of state institutions to formally underwrite booze purchases in today’s litigious society. So, I’m sure that you clever UMich hosts are creative; just be gentle on their poor little livers.

  2. #2 Helen
    January 26, 2007

    We recently entertained candidates for lecturer posts like that – I had to take them on tours of the campus (individually because they were all arriving to do their presentations at different times so I had to do three laps of the campus – in heels!) and then we went to the pub with them all in the evening, then on to a meal, and then back to the pub…
    And they had their interviews the following day!
    My boss is a particular believer in the ‘the best science is discussed down the pub’ philosophy and for these candidates the pub/meal bit was essential – particularly for one guy who had seemed nervous/stuck up the rest of the time but he relaxed a bit at the pub – and in the end he was offered a position!

  3. #3 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    January 26, 2007

    not only do you get to meet interesting people,

    If you really want to meet the most interesting people, ride Greyhound buses.

  4. #4 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    January 26, 2007

    Another benefit of playing host: it’s a good opportunity to spread propoganda. The grad school I attended paid considerably below the going rate at competitive schools. So we told the interviewees: if you end up turning this school down, tell them it was because of the money.

  5. #5 Shelley Batts
    January 26, 2007

    Well, I think that the stipend and benefits at UM is really generous, so I don’t think that should be too much of an issue. The nasty slushy snow might be though!

    And don’t worry, we certainly find ways to get those kids in a pub or two. We have a potluck dinner at the chair’s house and there’s always booze there, and we usually take them to a couple bars where they don’t really mind getting their own alcohol. And there’s always flasks!!!

  6. #6 romunov
    January 26, 2007

    An idea for a reality show!

  7. #7 BenP
    January 27, 2007

    I should think to apply next year ! It seems pretty funny, the interview and everything !

  8. #8 Cameron
    January 30, 2007

    Going through the interview process this year. Waiting to hear from schools can be pretty nerve wracking, but I’m having fun with it overall.

    I’ll be interviewing at Michigan, but through MCDB.

  9. #9 Shelley Batts
    January 30, 2007

    Hey, give me an email when you’re in town! I can put in a good word as the head of MCDB (Rich Hume) is my buddy. 😛

  10. #10 Cameron
    January 31, 2007

    Definitely! I’ll be in town around the ides of march, so I’ll get in touch with you around then.

  11. #11 Rabbit
    February 1, 2007

    I’m going to my first interview weekend in a few weeks and I’m very nervous. I had the choice between UPenn and Emory (what’s with the one weekend only thing? A number of applicants must get conflicting offers) and I decided to visit Philadelphia. UPenn puts you up in a hotel but Emory does the hosting thing and I have to admit I’m kind of disappointed about not getting to stay with a student.

    Anyway, as another African gray loving (I have a timneh) scientist I just wanted to say I enjoy your blog.

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