Looking for a place to live in Bloomington

If you have accepted an offer from IU, you should use the last bit of time between now and when you move to Bloomington to relax and try to spend as much time as possible with your family and friends. On the other hand, you want to be prepared and start making arrangements for life in Bloomington so you don’t feel lost when you move here. Housing is one thing that you need to start thinking about before you come.

When looking for housing, ask yourself these questions: Do you want to live by yourself or share an apartment/rental house with one or more roommates to cut down your cost of living? Do you have dependents who will move with you to Bloomington? Do you need a day-care/nannies for your children? Do you want to have pets? I would recommend on-campus housing if you anticipate living here without a car, with your children, or having to work late nights in the lab. There is an excellent transportation system in Bloomington consisting of both IU campus bus and city buses that go by all the on-campus apartments as well as the major grocery stores. There is also two day-cares located on-campus. If you work requires some night hours in the lab, you could request safety escort for free (http://safety.indiana.edu/).

There are several ways of looking for housing in Bloomington:

1. Apartment guide: It has a website as well as hard copies of housing info that you can pick up from grocery stores like Kroger.

2. Craigslist: Useful for sublets and roommates

3. OneStart: Once you have created an IU username and passphrase, you can log on to OneStart.iu.edu and go to the classifieds where you can post and search other peoples’ postings regarding sublets and roommates. This is how I found the apartment that I’m currently live in.

4. If there is an particular area of town that you like to live in, walk around and you’ll find phone numbers to call for rental inquiries.

If you choose to live off-campus, make sure you ask around about the property management’s reputation. Good luck!

IU Outdoor Adventures and the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour

Every year the Banff Center located in the Banff National Park in Canada brings the Banff Mountain Film Festival to more than 300 locations all over the world. This year marks the World Tour’s 10th anniversary in Bloomington! Sponsored by National Geographic, The North Face, Parks Canada, and hosted by IU Outdoor Adventures, this Mountain Film Festival screened 17 films over the weekend of March 31-April 1 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in downtown Bloomington. The award-winning films ranged from 4-46 minutes long, covering inspring stories about outdoor sports and adventures, nature, and environmental issues. Tickets are $17 for a festival pass and $10 for a day pass for students.

If you are an outdoor person, definitely check out IU Adventures’ website: http://www.imu.indiana.edu/iuoa/. They offer classes, trips, gear rentals, as well as custom trip planning for your specific needs.

IU’s iPhone App

The IU technology team has developed an iPhone app called “IU Mobile”, which is a very information-rich tool. They are currently working on the Blackberry version so more people can access this great app.

This app allows you to browse the campus maps, academic and cultural events around campus, check to see if there are empty seats in the many computer labs located throughout the campus, look up people’s contact information, and track the five campus bus routes in real-time, and so much more! Let me show you some examples.

If you have any questions you can’t find answers for, you can access the IU Knowledge Base through this app too. For instance, you are driving to Bloomington for an interview, you want to find out the parking situations for visitors, just type in parking into the Knowledge Base, and it returns exactly what you are looking for. This is also available at kb.iu.edu.

The app is also constantly being updated. For the upcoming Arts Week, it added an additional entry for this event, with detailed information that you can access at your finger tip.


Summer in Bloomington

Summer came earlier this year in Bloomington and the weather has been so nice! That’s not entirely true though as we just had a tornado last Friday. It brought a big dark funnel cloud and lots of hail.

Photograph by Chenglei Li

It came right before I was on my way to the Ballet “The Sleeping Beauty” at IU’s Musical Arts Center. I got a ticket for only $5 for a pretty good seat at the back of the orchestra level through the Apartment and Family Student Council. The regular price for this seating area was $20 and AFSC subsidized $15 for each ticket purchased by a campus housing occupant. So I thought, this was a great deal, but it would have sucked if I couldn’t make it because of the tornado. I could have watched the live streaming of the Ballet online though, which is a new feature that the IU Jacobs School of Music started providing last year. (http://www.music.indiana.edu/iumusiclive/) Luckily, it came and went pretty quickly. On the way to the MAC, there were flower pedals scattering under the trees, creating an even prettier scene on the campus. I liked how these little things could uplift your day after a horrible tonado.

The three-hour long Ballet turned out to be a big success and well worth of the money! I look forward to the many performances/shows/festivals upcoming this summer.

Reporting from the 2012 AAAS General Meeting

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the largest general scientific society in the world and is the organization that publishes one of the most reputable scientific journals – Science Magazine, with an impact factor of 31.36 in 2011. The 2012 AAAS General Meeting is being held from February 16 to 20 in Vancouver, Canada. The meeting covers a broad spectrum of topics ranging from climate change to renewable energy, from gene therapy to biodiversity, and from food safety to scientific communications. Here I want to highlight some of programs at the meeting that I found very inspiring:

  1. Student session aids. Undergraduate and graduate students can sign up to serve as session aids and get free registration. Each session aid is assigned 2-5 sessions with a total of ~7.5 hours of work load. The duties include time keeping, loading speaker’s presentation, getting tech support when there is technical problems with audio or video, etc.
  2. President’s address. The current President of AAAS  Dr. Nina Fedoroff gave an extraordinary overview of her scientific career path. She managed to complete undergraduate education as a teen mom and got inspired by Barbara McClintock (who was later awarded a Nobel Prize) during her graduate years and eventually grew into a leader scientist serving as a Professor at multiple institutions as well as the National Science Board of the US.
  3. Career Development Workshops. I attended one of the workshops entitled “Sharing Science: Presenting Yourself and Your Work”. During this 90-minute-long interactive workshop, exercises and instructions were given on how to convey your research to a general audience in 90 seconds in plain language. Attendees worked in groups to  practice and critique on one other’s mini-speech and were encouraged to practice talking about it at home until you make it simple enough that your grandma would understand it.
  4. Family Science Days. Over the weekend, families with children of all ages have the opportunity to come to the meeting and learn everyday science through different interactive demonstrations provided by various public outreach programs and organizations. The exhibition hall has been packed with eager kids and their parents who learn together with their children.

    A scientist showing a girl how solar panel powers a wind mill.

I’ve been going to seminars that are not only related to my graduate research, but also those that cover topics in education, healthcare, medicine, and energy. I have been learning so much about different disciplines in Science and the different approaches the scholars take to make our earth a better place. I was also able to get to know some great human beings who not only do great science, but also promote human well-being through collaborative efforts. (If you are intersted, Google these names: )Hans Rosling, Mike Lazaridis, Michael Hayden, just to name a few) It has been a great conference and I’m going to enjoy the rest of it!

For more news on the 2012 AAAS General Meeting, visit http://www.aaas.org/.

At IU, funding is guaranteed for PhD students in Chemistry, Biology, and Biochemistry for 5 years

PhD students in the Chemistry, Biology, and Biochemistry programs are guaranteed to have funding for at least five years in the form of Research Assistantship (RA), Teaching Assistantship (we call it AI-ship here, AI for Associate Instructor), or Fellowship. All applicants are automatically entered for any eligible University/Departmental fellowships during the application process. What all these mean is that if you get an offer from these programs at IU, you receive tuition remission, health insurance, and a good stipend for at least five years.

For Master’s students, teaching positions are always available too as we have lots of undergraduate level classes that need AI’s majoring in these fields.

Now if you are brining your own external funds, that would be even better because you wouldn’t worry about having to teach at some point during your graduate career and would be able to focus full-time on your research. One to two semesters of teaching experience, however, is part of the requirements for your degree.

Presenting at My First National Conference in Microbial Signaling

Last week I attended a five-day Gorden Research Conference (GRC) in Ventura, California. GRCs (https://www.grc.org/) are small and prestigious scientific conferences that cover a broad spectrum of STEM disciplines. Three weeks before the conference, I received an invitation from the conference chair to give a 10-minute mini-talk. As the majority of the talks were given by faculties, I was very honored to be one of the 5 graduate students/pos-docs selected for mini-talks. I put a lot of time and efforts on my presentation slides and practiced once in front of my research advisor, once at our lab meeting, and probably 10 times in my hotel room in Ventura. Ten minutes is a very short time for a science presentation, especially to an audience that may not be familiar with your work. I wanted it to be an informative and well-organized one as well as demonstrate the high impact of my findings to the cell biology field. My talk went pretty well and I received a lot of compliments and most importantly some feedback, comments and even critics. One of the professor from Germany even offered me a post-doc position in her lab. Being able to communicate with my peers working in the same field and exchange ideas really helped me better design experiments to complete my project. I also got to know many outstanding professors and students personally from all over the world. It was a very positive experience for me and I would definitely encourage you to attend conferences and meetings to advance your knowledge and open up your horizon.

Here is a picture of a Pacific Gray Whale that we spotted on a whale watching tour between the Channel Islands and Ventura harbor, which was the second best thing that happened there.

I wish I had the chance to visit campus before I accepted/turned down my offers

I did my undergraduate in China and was in my last semester of my senior year when I received offers from four different schools in the US. Our senior year was pretty intense and because America is so far away so I wasn’t able to do the campus visits. Instead, I went to the IU website and did the virtual tour online. The beautiful campus and the limestone buildings attracted me a lot so I decided to leave Beijing and come to Bloomington for Graduate School. I didn’t have the chance to meet the professors in person or talk with the graduate students to get the first-hand information about the program. With limited information from the department website and from the offer package, the decision was kind of arbitrary. After I came to IU, the town and the campus was exactly what I had imagined, only better. The program I initially applied for, however, did not fit my interests very well. So a year and a half later, I transferred to a different program and have been very happy with my research and the resources that are available to the graduate students. So I would have loved to visit the campus in the spring so you have all the information you need to make an educated decision. Five years or more in graduate school is a long time so it would be worth spending the time and money (if you don’t get reimbursed for your visit).

Worried about financial support for graduate school? GradGrand Center can help!

I know for many of you funding is a very important consideration when applying for graduate school, especially if you are still paying off your student loans for college. Although not all departments offer full support for Masters or PhD students, there is a fantastic service that is available for all IU students for free offered by the GradGrant Center at IU. Check out their website: http://www.indiana.edu/~gradgrnt/. It’s very conveniently located in the main library (the Herman B. Wells Library), and is open every day Monday-Friday. They have access to search databases that cover all the disciplines. They also provide assistance for grant writing! The staff themselves are IU graduate students who have successfully written grants and got funded through various organizations, so they have first-hand information on how to secure funding from external sources.

Hard work pays off – application essays

If you haven’t submitted your applications yet, make sure you work hard on your essays and polish them before you submit. A well-written essay will give the admissions committee a very good first impression. Make sure you spell check, correct for grammer and punctuation errors,  and have some of your friends proof read your essay too. Sometimes another set of eyes catch things that you normally don’t. If you can find an editor, by all means have it professionally proofed. At IU, there are English majors who do editing on the side and offer very affordable prices (a friend of mine got one for $10/page, single-spaced). And it does make a difference!