San Francisco Symphony

Life of a Grad Student

Jenny Qi's picture

By Jenny Qi
Executive Editor

“How many graduate students are here — a few hundred?” a Dental student recently asked me.

You may be surprised to learn that the Graduate Division is the largest school at UCSF, including more than 1,000 students in 26 programs ranging from basic sciences to anthropology.  (To compare, there are about 500 medical students.)

Graduate students are the silent majority, stereotyped as socially awkward humanoids obsessed with science and little else.

In truth, grad students are as diverse and complex as their programs. There are triathletes, MDs and Army vets. Grad programs are also uniquely independent, which can be exhilarating but also painfully isolating.

In grad school, you learn to identify and tackle important questions, one tiny step at a time.  You have the freedom to explore one subject in great depth and with remarkable autonomy. 

You no longer need to — and cannot — compare yourself to classmates as you separate into different labs.  Hours are flexible and post-grad options are endless.

These freedoms, however, can be costly. As our paths diverge from those of our classmates, we no longer have a peer group sharing our triumphs or our tribulations. Or so we may believe. 

Although no two grad experiences are identical, there are many common threads that simply aren’t verbalized. In this new Life of a Grad Student column, we hope to illuminate some of these similarities. 

Grad students from all walks of life and all stages of their education have agreed to anonymously, candidly speak with us.  They’ve shared stories about the difficulties they’ve encountered as well as the great passions driving their work.

We hope to highlight the incredible people working in UCSF laboratories.  More than that, we hope readers will learn from the experiences of their peers and realize that we are not so isolated from each other after all.

Jenny Qi is a third-year BMS student.

PROFILES (click on the titles below to read the profiles)

1. Entering Class of 2011 (Third Year)

2. Entering Class of 2009 (Fifth Year)

3. Entering Class of 2009 (Seventh Year)

4. Entering Class of 2012 (Second Year)

5. Entering Class of 2010 (Fourth Year)