Thursday/Friday – Day 227/228

Posted on 20th March 2013

Thursday was packed full again! More interviews, more office hours, more project work and more of pretty much everything but Glee Club. I guess we needed at least a little break after the previous night. My tech interview today was with a firm called Palantir and ultimately unsuccessful. I was a little frustrated as I felt they had misplaced me during team evaluation, where they decided I’d be best of interviewing for the front end and design team, really not my speciality. Regardless the interview went ok, the interviewers were friendly but perhaps ultimately not the best fit for me. Thankfully, I still have a few more lines in the ocean. Finally, a huge surprise for Thursday came in the form of a meeting with a Professor I’d been trying to chasing up for around a month.

Prof. Matt Blaze, a somewhat colourful character, with an interest in computer security, had a well deserved reputation for being hard to track down. However, it was certainly worth the effort to do so. After a thorough grilling on my background, my knowledge and ideas and more importantly, my passion and my ability to innovate a spark seemed to leap into his eye.

“So tell me,” he relaxed back into his chair, “what do we have to do to get you to study your PhD here?”

I was somewhat shocked, as my intention in meeting him was to more scope out the field of Professors and Penn and find people working in my area of interest. And here was a potential supervisor!

“I want you to move in to my lab,” he continued and proceeded to give me the PIN code to the door, “and, when someone asks you what you are working on, you are to feel guilty until you have a good answer”.

Friday with no classes, I allowed myself a little sleep in. Then it was to my new office to settle in. I felt a little awkward and out of place, but hopefully over time, I’ll find my niche there. I’m still very uncertain about the whole PhD thing, and Philly is a long way away from home to go for five to six years!

The afternoon was a series of meetings again, first the TA meeting in which Val (our Professor) took some length to describe my potential as a PhD student, much to my embarrassment! Then a meeting with another security Professor, Steve Zdancewic, who specialized in language and verification security. Interesting stuff. Finally, to finish the daytime, was TA training, useless but fun as always.

After TA training, the facilitator, PhD student Peter Michael Osera, stopped me to talk about PhD and the troubles and dangers I might face. He made sure to introduce me to a friend of his who had been supervised by the same professors that seemed likely to one day be my supervisors. I took the warnings into account and also their advice to apply to a few more places as well. Perhaps The University of Melbourne should be on the books.

The evening wasn’t quite as pleasant, had somewhat of a strong disagreement with a friend I see a lot of, and that was most distressing, only to be calmed down by equally strong friends at Penn Hillel for Shabbat. B’H for that. Later in the evening the fight continued and I raced off to Steph Li’s waiting arms in tears, where time passed so quickly and my smiles returned. I had to be kicked out as the hour grew far later than I had paid attention to! What a blessing it is to have such good friends.


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