The other night I went to a fascinating lecture by Dianne Newman, PhD of MIT. The lecture was called "Bacteria are Beautiful" and it was a general overview of bacteria that didn't get too technical, but contained enough sciency stuff to satisfy the academics. One of the things Dr. Newman mentioned was magnetotactic bacteria. She showed us a video which took us on a "tour" of a Magnetospirillum cell, both in cross-sections and then inside the cell, where we could see the magnetosomes connected to the inner cell membrane. I'm pretty sure I sat there with my jaw on the floor...
I also got to attend an informal luncheon with Dr. Newman and about 15 female science students. We talked about what it's like to be a woman in a science field, how Dr. Newman made her first big discovery and how her career progressed. One of the questions I asked was "did the work that graduate students and PhD students were doing seem out-of-reach and more complicated than you could handle as an undergraduate?" The question sparked a good deal of conversation and I got a lot of good feedback from many of the other students, who, though younger than I am, had finished more of their undergraduate studies.
Another thing we talked about was financial aid for graduate school. I was under the impression that graduate school worked a lot like undergrad school as far as finances were concerned. Instead, I was told that science graduate students don't pay for their graduate degrees... they are funded by the professor/advisor they are working under. Is this true? Is it possible that I could end my educational career with undergraduate debt and a minimal amount of debt from graduate school? It seems too good to be true.
Serious Questions I Would Like to Have Answered:
1. How does the graduate school financing thing work?
2. How does the PhD financing thing work?
3. Did it seem nearly impossible, as an undergraduate, to ever achieve the things that graduate students and PhD students were achieving?
Not-So-Serious Questions I Would Like to Have Answered:
1. How did the woman who used the toilet before me manage to get 5 pubic hairs on the toilet seat?