Monday, May 24, 2010

Pomp and circumstance

Almost two weeks ago, I (officially) graduated from Penn and participated in the 254th Commencement ceremonies. Though my initial interest in donning the cap and gown was related to my parents' wishes, now that it is over, I am very glad that I did.

Penn has a parade of the graduates to kick off the university-wide ceremony at Franklin Field. (Can you find me in this picture? I'd say it's just like "Where's Waldo?", but I am so pale that I am much easier to find in this sea of black gowns than Waldo is in those puzzles.) Being a part of this parade was a truly amazing experience. As the parade moves through campus, family/friends/faculty applaud and say nice things as you walk by. It was during this parade, when a random stranger said to me, "Oh - a PhD grad - congratulations, what an amazing achievement!", that it really sunk in that I did achieve something to be really proud of. I suppose that it is strange that it took words from a total stranger to realize this - my family and friends have all expressed their support and pride over the past few weeks (and thank you everyone, really!) - but it still hadn't sunk in until I heard that nice woman's comment to me during the parade. I think sometimes in the day to day shuffle of my laboratory life (and especially because I am also married to a fellow PhD), it is easy for me to forget that getting a PhD degree isn't this thing that everyone does all the time, every day.

The parade was led by bagpipe players, which to me just SCREAMS, "The members of this parade are graduating from an Ivy League school, just in case that wasn't already clear." However, despite this, the bagpipe players were pretty awesome.

David got a great picture of the Penn President, Dr. Amy Gutmann, as she passed him in the parade. Her graduation speech was pretty fantastic, and encouraged all of us to pursue the things we are most passionate about regardless of whether or not they fit into the "perfect path" we envision for ourselves. Call me incredibly cheesy / dorky, but I did feel in that moment that she was speaking directly to me and my type-A+ personality (even if there were 4,000 other graduates there with me). And her speech included a spontaneous "Hell no!" If only our commencement speaker, Jon Huntsman Jr. (former Utah governor, current Chinese Ambassador, and clearly aiming for the White House) had been so interesting and compelling.

And now, for the family photos, taken outside of the Penn Museum before the departmental ceremony...

David is smiling in this picture because he now has his real wife back, and no longer has to live with that crazy person that took over my body during the winter and spring months.

Posing with my parents and Jenn. They all gave me the beautiful flowers that you see in this photo, and surprised me that evening by giving me an iPad! I am SO excited and grateful, and I can't wait for FedEx to deliver it on June 2. I am sure when it arrives I will write a(n) (obnoxious) blog post about how cool the iPad is.

Me with my grandparents. I was thrilled they came for the ceremony too, and I think this is a great photo of us.

That night we ate pizza for dinner here. Marc Summers ranked their pizza the best he'd ever ate (on the Food Network show with the same title), and I can understand why. It was delicious.

Now that I am all done at Penn, I have moved to the Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department at Cornell, where I am working as a post-doc for this guy. The Crane laboratory is a really nice place to work so far, and I am loving living in Ithaca with David. We even ride the bus to work together every day - how cute! :)

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