The road to graduate school: Version 2.0

As I allude to elsewhere, my second round of searching for a graduate program has fallen back to my research with Dr Papineau back in the Spring of 2012. During that spring, a new and exciting world was illuminated before me as I learned about the global chemical cycles and how our world has shaped them and are shaped by them. This area of study is rationally called Global Biogeochemical Cycles and represents an interdisciplinary niche between the three de nomen fields of biology, geology, and chemistry. Before I get too technical and boring let me explain why I was left without a mentor in this newfound discipline by the start of the Fall semester.

While seemingly a pretty normal and typical college professor, albeit a tad eccentric as all good college professors are, Dominic Papineau managed to—in less than 72 hours I might add—threaten tribal leaders, verbally threaten acts of terrorism, and get arrested in northern Quebec. So in way of context let me just say that five of us went with Dominic on a field expedition to Schefferville which is this small mining town of perhaps 300 indigenous peoples in northern, and I mean NORTHERN, Quebec.

Location of Schefferville, QC.

En route Dominic show signs of becoming unstable, and then once there he managed to threaten the tribal leader and get arrested in less than 12 hours. That has got to be a record! While many of the details will not be appearing here, and the Globe has run an article based on even fewer facts (also here and here), let me conclude this saga by saying that Dominic was not permitted back at BC again afterwards.

So where did this leave me? I was without a mentor in a niche field with little prospect of being able to continue any similar research in the future, so I was rational about it and gave up on that avenue of research in favor for more “established” sorts. Looking back at it, this was an understandable but regrettable choice; especially because I am now applying to Biogeochemistry programs all around the country.

I have applied to a small cohort of programs which I would like to share with you now. The first, and these are certainly not in any actual order, is the most proximal biogeochemistry program I could find and that is the Oceanography program at BU. Oceanography is a typical home for interdisciplinary chemical cycling research and represents the closest match to my research interests in nearly every university. While BU is close to home, it lacks a bit in the ‘appeal’ category. Perhaps I’m just my prejudges based on my alma mater, but their program seems less enthusiastic than the rest.

The second program I want to share is the Oceanography PhD program out of the University of Maine. UMaine has a lot going for it since not only does it host one of the premier oceanography programs in the country, but much of its faculty focus on areas similar to my own. Location in New England is certainly also a plus not to mention the great location for many winter and summer time adventures.

The third program his is perhaps my favorite program, or should I say programs? It is a joint degree program out of the University of Rhode Island that combines a PhD in Oceanography with an MA in History. While these two subjects may first appear quite dissimilar, in fact this program brings them together in oceanographic archeology. While this program is also the furthest from my state research goals in terms of Biogeochem, it is the sexiest program around for me. I would love to be accepted to this program.

The fourth program here is a bit more distant but hosts one of the other best oceanography programs in the United States. The oceanography program out of Florida State is similar to UMaine in that it is well respected and in line with my own interests. While the location is quite far afield, the program more than makes up for it with a large and diverse faculty who sport some of the best equipment and tools around. This program would certainly be a spectacular opportunity!

The last program I’ve applied to is an MS degree program located in Alaska. Yeah, I know, Alaska… While it is a fully funded MS program (so that is just two years) working on a very innovative and potentially important project in setting up and designing uses for a suite of new equipment on board the UAF’s newest ice breaker. This program would mandate a ton of shipboard time, which frankly is a plus from where I sit, as well as a promise to use a number of my skills including engineering, programing, math, and general practicality.

I suppose we’ll all just have to wait and see where all of this leads.