(Joshua Lang laboratory)
Where are you from? Why Madison and the Cancer Biology program?
I am from Columbus, Ohio and went to school in North Carolina. I first came to Madison to work as a Research Specialist in an epigenetics lab here at UW Madison. I loved Madison because of its vibrant, active energy, and I chose the Cancer Biology program because of the people that I met. From students to faculty, the Cancer Biology program made me feel welcomed and inspired. UW-Madison is rich in collaboration and innovation, and I knew that this was my ideal learning environment for pursuing my PhD.
What was your favorite place/activity to hang out when you need to de-stress?
Anything with my cohort, from hiking to general socializing.
You came to Madison during a most unusual time, while the stay-at-home orders were still in place. What was it like trying to decide on and do lab rotations to find a home lab? How did you set those up and what was your experience like?
Jenny (Schroeder) [former Graduate Program Coordinator], Elaine (Alarid), and Dan (Loeb) were incredible in guiding us through the process. It was intimidating going into the rotation process without being able to meet anyone in person, but Jenny advised us to reach out to 5-6 professors and meet them over Zoom. That’s what we all did, and from there we coordinated individually with the professors to set up rotation schedules. I also reached out to several older Cancer Biology students for advice, and they were so supportive and helpful in figuring out what to make of everything. Overall, I was blown away by how hard everyone, from PIs to grad students, worked to make sure that we could really get a rotation experience. My rotations were a mix of virtual and in-person. Despite all my initial worries, I felt like I still got a real feel for each lab that I worked with. It was definitely odd deciding to join a lab without having met everyone in that lab in person due to the pandemic (or even the PIs), but I went with my gut feeling, and I am very happy with my decisions.
Any new advice for incoming students, especially under these new circumstances?
Make friends with your cohort. My cohort bonded so quickly in the fall semester, and we have been a huge support system for each other through all the new changes, big decisions, and Virology. Make friends with the older Cancer Biology grad students. They are wonderfully kind and helpful. Communicate. Open, frequent communication has been especially important during this time when you can’t see everyone in person all the time. These are new experiences for everyone, so just remember that everyone is doing their best, you deserve to be here, and don’t hesitate to reach out for support.