As with day 1, we had to go at a couple of places before we could get down to the business of visiting UPenn, while knowing that Justin Khoury couldn’t be on campus on that day and that he was moving, with Mark Trodden being absent on that day too. I emailed Millicent Minnick, the “TGDE” (this is shorthand for the equivalent position back at my undergraduate department) at UPenn’s physics and astronomy department in hopes of salvaging the visit, just a couple of days prior to departure. Within Philadelphia itself, I was the one driving the rental car pretty much all day.
First, the Chinatown. In just about any major city, finding parking downtown during the week is difficult, so we had to circle around Race/10th in order to get the parking. We eventually found some, free for two hours, in a residential area next to a police station. My parents found Philadelphia’s Chinatown to be a little underwhelming and, when compared to even the Chinatown at home, let alone the ones in Toronto, somewhat overpriced. And we proceeded to visit Washington Square, a military graveyard that dates back to the War of Independence, and later, the Liberty Bell. The line was long, but not long enough to make us overshoot our parking allowance.
In an attempt to appease my sister, who insisted to shop at Macy’s next to the City Hall, we tried fruitlessly to find a parking slot in downtown Philadelphia, and, after much frustration, we made straight for “The Lab” (or, more precisely, the David Rittenhouse Lab) which, in fact, houses not only the physics and astro department, but also the math one. The physics departmental offices are on the second floor, the library on the third and the math offices on the fourth floor and, as well, the Center for Particle Cosmology.
And, once I am on the fourth floor, I started looking for the offices of graduate students, and my visit began with Christina, another particle cosmologist (I don’t remember who is her advisor but I know for sure it isn’t Trodden, Khoury or Cvetic) but I could only ask questions about safety around campus or livability on the $29,000 stipend before I could get to meet Khoury’s graduate student, Benjamin, where I could talk about my own background, as well as the questions pertaining to the life as a student at UPenn in a more extensive manner than I had the chance to do with Christina, like TA duties (at first one talks about 2 TA sections a semester, and, in theoretical particle cosmology, one continues carrying on TA, albeit at a reduced rate).
And he helped dispel a myth concerning TA duties at an Ivy League school, whereas students would complain because that one homework, or course, would ruin their future, whether their future means I-banking (investment and/or international) medical school (and more generally, healthcare professional schools, but, since they all seem to teach some aspects of medicine, from now on, on this blog, medical school will refer to any and all graduate education leading to healthcare professions) or, to a lesser extent, law school, if only because physics flies off the radar of most pre-law students. At UPenn, complaints directed to TAs for physics assignments are mostly about miscarriages of justice and not about begging for a regrade without due cause.
Given that UPenn is seemingly less high-pressure as UChicago (although how much pressure does the phasing out of the quals at UChicago take off the students remains to be seen, but I could say that the sort of quals-induced pressure increases until you actually pass them, and the pressure, while there, is not quals-induced anymore past that point) I can now say that I would attend UPenn over UChicago and not regret that decision.
And so, I would gladly leave UPenn behind (hopefully temporarily) and proceed to the Philadelphia Art Museum, where we saw, and climbed, the Rocky Steps and we parked behind the museum while the very steps were at the other end. A really long walk for my mother and her weary bones.