Taking the Next Step: A Day in the Life of a New Bostonian Researcher

I haven’t talked too much about the typical day for me in Boston. I am sure this description will continue to evolve as this town becomes less new and more like home. I’ll tell you about last Wednesday.

I have no A/C, and it’s been SO hot here, so I sleep with the windows open. It isn’t too loud at night except for the occasional person who thinks it’s a good idea to yell at 3 AM. I hear the cars driving past on the nearby road, it’s actually quite peaceful. A little noise isn’t enough to keep me from sleeping.

Sometime around 6 am, the street wakes up so I wake up. But, instead of getting ready for the day, I lie in bed trying to sleep until 8 AM. I check my phone because my post doc has probably sent a text with a list of the tasks for the day.  I read a passage a bit where I left off. It was Psalm 46, “God is Our Fortress.” I read it the night before because I had so much trouble sleeping (unusual).It’s also my favorite psalm. Source of stress? I remembered that my Step 1 score would be released the following day.

Depending on whether or not I took a shower the night before, I shower, grab a snack for the road and walk to work. Checked Step 1 score. No email yet. Server is down, it seems, on website.

I walk past the School of Public health and Harvard Medical School everyday on the way to work. These are beautiful buildings, but in my imagination, I had thought of them to be grander. I suppose after University of Chicago’s campus, and traveling to Italy in the spring, one’s expectations can be a bit exaggerated. I still need to see Harvard’s campus in Cambridge properly, and I am sure it’s very  beautiful. I see Dana Farber, Brigham and Women’s, the children’s hospital, and Beth Israel. World class health care/research facilities, that are unassuming in appearance in comparison to their reputation. It is the people inside them that make them special. Not the architecture.

Longwood crosswalks confuse me. I am used to green meaning go for one side and red meaning stop for the other. But, a few crosswalks here are different. When the light turns red for ALL directions, people cross at different angles.

The lab building looks a lot like those at Knapp Center Biomedical Discovery at UChicago. Humming of machinery and the increase of infrequent conversations as it gets closer to 11 AM. In the tissue culture, I am learning how to manage and differentiate different types of cells, and it is a bit tricky to keep all that I am doing straight. I need to ask more clarifying questions.

I make perhaps the mistake of telling others that my step 1 score is coming out that day. There is now sympathetic apprehension.

LUNCH is with two friends: Charis and Isabel who work together but I know from undergrad and medical school respectively. It’s crazy how our worlds can collide. We get lunch and head to grand rounds, which is actually a lecture and not that exciting. The topic is on the causes of premature infant mortality in under-resourced areas. The speaker had an MD, PhD, MPH, and maybe an extra degree, I cannot remember…Talk was okay. Not amazing to be honest. It’s interesting, though, how we still are trying to understand the mechanisms behind pre-term birth in developed countries. If you haven’t seen it, you should watch Unnatural Causes: How Racism Impacts Pregnancy Outcomes. Black women with a college degree are more likely to go into pre-term labor than white women who did not finish high school. The video discusses the potential impacts of racism on health. #endplug

What I love about this area is how bells toll every 15 minutes. It’s a great way to tell the time, and it makes me feel connected to this area in an odd way. It a reminder that we are all confined in time and space…

I attempt to check my score a few times during lunch but serve is STILL down. I call NBME and they say they are having an issue with the server and to keep on trying. They also cannot give scores over the phone…!

Post doc, fellow lab buddy, and I head to Boston Children’s for some Red Mango. Internet still won’t load.

I get back to lab: SCORE IS UP.

I’m not amazed. A little disappointed, but happy enough. It’s over and I can move on with my life. Even now, I feel that tension about how to respond to it. I wanted a score where it is easier to feel confident that all doors will open for me. But, with this score, I know that wherever I end up it is because that is where I am meant to be. It will be a detail in my application, not the star and I think that will be okay. In fact, I know it will.

To celebrate, my fantastic post doc takes me out for oysters at Citizen’s Oyster Bar. It’s the first time I’ve tried them! I did not even know how to eat them, and I didn’t mind the cold, unusual texture at all. In fact, it was quite refreshing on such a hot day.


After dinner, I walked home and chilled online, read some of The Lady and the Unicorn (I love historical fiction and plan to read a lot in this year) #SummerReading, Skyped with my sisters.

Turn off the lights and lay in bed listening to the occasional car driving down the street. It’s 12:35 am.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah



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