My visit to the University of Pittsburgh Department of Biological Sciences differed from other graduate school visits in a few ways 1) it was my first graduate school recruitment event that included a hotel stay (Others, due to department or POI preference, had me stay with current students in the lab I was interested in), and 2) it was the first school where I felt campus was in the heart of a city.
I arrived to my hotel in Pittsburgh the afternoon – hotel accommodations were very nice: apartment-style complete with a kitchen and sitting room. I took a shuttle to a reception in Langley Hall, where I got to know faculty and grad students over a light dinner. Many in this group of prospective students – including me – were on their very last graduate school visit. The next morning, we were introduced to the department, then whisked off by our grad student “liaisons” to faculty meetings. I met with 5 faculty for one-on-one sessions, and I found our discussions about ecology and research to be delightful. I was very pleased to also meet with a faculty that specialized in education to learn about the teaching minor that was offered to graduate students.
For lunch, my liaison showed me the city on the way to an Irish pub. He explained his research and the resources available through the department. After, we attended a student poster session, which was geared toward more molecular/cellular projects, and I chatted with grad students. The prospective students interested in ecology and evolution were shuttled to a professor’s house for a night of relaxed conversation, too-spicy Indian food, and the coaxing of resident cats. On Saturday, I was part of an exciting field trip to the Powdermill Nature Reserve, a site which has several ongoing projects that monitor community composition and recovery after windthrow and salvage logging. I met several scientists and collaborators at the field station, including the director, and was able to learn about research and outreach opportunities. We observed porcupine damage to trees, and the director pointed out the largest Ostrya virginiana I had ever seen. I ended my afternoon back in Pittsburgh with a visit to the National Aviary, where I sat down and observed birds in all three themed rooms (tropical, wetland, desert). My visit ended with dinner and discussion with my POI, then I was off to Tennessee the next day.
This was my last visit to potential graduate schools; my previous visits included UGA, LSU, and UNC. I will make a final post once I decide where I will attend graduate school. To learn more about my research at Sewanee, visit my personal website.