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The New MCB Student’s Guide to the (Center of the) Universe

Aug 2010 | Michelle No Comment

Tips and tidbits for your new life in Seattle

Hello, incoming students! If you haven’t already, you’ll soon arrive in Seattle, eager to embark on your first year in the UW MCB program. You’re a smart and talented bunch, but let’s face it: unless you’re local, you probably don’t know jack about what to do with yourself once you get here. You have tons of burning questions about what life will be like for the next [insert optimistic number here] years you’ll spend in Seattle.

In anticipation of your inquiries (like, “Where can I get a decent cupcake around here?”), we surveyed current MCB students about life in Seattle, building a collective body of knowledge and experience that we hope you’ll find useful as you settle in. Here we answer (what we assume to be) your most urgent concerns.

Newbie: How will I get to Seattle? What do I do with all my stuff?

MCB: Overwhelmingly, most current students packed up their cars and/or UHauls and drove cross-country. Others flew, and some were already living here. One took an Amtrak train.

If students had to ship, they either sent items by mail or used shipping companies (such as ABF) that allow customers to pack and unpack their items from large storage cubes, saving money on moving costs.

Newbie: What’s with all the neighborhoods? How do I decide where to live?

MCB: Seattle is known for its plethora of neighborhoods, and to be honest, you’ll have to decide for yourself where you belong. Each has its pros, cons and quirks. The U-District will be close to campus, but you might not enjoy living in the midst of UW undergrads (we are sooo grown up now). Neighborhoods like Fremont and Ballard are farther from campus but have a more unique atmosphere. Capitol Hill has a fun nightlife, while areas like Queen Anne are quieter and more residential.

Students tend to move around between neighborhoods (67% of survey respondents don’t currently live in the neighborhood where they first resided). This is especially true when you look at the U-District. It’s understandable: if you don’t know the city, you might pick a place near campus to start out, and branch out as you’re more comfortable.

However, we advise you incoming students: take a risk! If you haven’t yet chosen where to live, do a little research (there are some good Seattle neighborhood guides online) to see if another neighborhood might be a better fit. You’ll get to know the city better and you may even save some money (many apartments near the U can be a rip!—check out the rents on Craigslist).

Newbie: How will I get to lab and class?

MCB: Seattle is fairly schizophrenic when it comes to public transit. We have the bus system (beware: sometimes you pay when you enter the bus, sometimes when you leave), the touristy Monorail, the Seattle Streetcar (officials didn’t like “South Lake Union Trolley”—something to do with the acronym), and the brand new Link Light Rail.

So how do we actually get from where we live to where we work?

Possibly because we are environmentally-conscious, but more likely to avoid the cost of parking, most survey respondents either bus, bike or walk to lab. If you live near the Burke-Gilman Trail, a bike path that encircles the southern edge of northern Seattle, biking is probably quicker than taking the bus. You may want to keep this in mind when choosing a neighborhood—Ballard and parts of Fremont and Wallingford to the west, and Sand Point to the east, all have easy access to the trail.

There’s also a shuttle that takes you between the Hutch and UW during the day, which will be enormously helpful commuting between classes and rotation labs in your first year. If you decided to rotate/join a lab at other off-campus locations such as Children’s or SBRI, there are shuttles that go there too.

We also want to note that you absolutely can survive in Seattle without a car. Depending on where you are going, the bus system may make for a longer or more complicated trip, but you can get pretty much anywhere within the city limits if you’re willing to take the time. Additionally, city buses have front bike racks, so it’s very easy to combine biking and busing wherever you need to go (which may prove invaluable if you’re not ready to scale massive hills on your fixie).

Newbie: Do students actually participate in any of the joint programs offered by the MCB program?

MCB: Our program is unique in that it recognizes that we’re not all destined for the same path after graduate school. We’re able to broaden our graduate education with a number of options. Since the programs have been available, 27 students have participated in biotechnology externships, 14 have earned their MS in epidemiology, and 7 have completed their MBA. The newest option, a certificate in molecular medicine, has been earned by two students, with many more taking courses and fulfilling some requirements.

We’re also very lucky in that we have great flexibility in how we fulfill the teaching requirements of the program. You will complete at least one academic TAship, which means you TA an undergraduate course for one of a number of departments on campus. The MCB program requires a second TAship, which can be fulfilled by another academic TAship or by participating in a number of outreach-oriented programs. We’ll discuss some of these in future issues of MCB Transcript, and you’ll learn more details in the spring of your first year.

Newbie: Will I…um…have a life outside the lab?

MCB: Regardless of where we’ll go after grad school, we’re here now, challenging ourselves to learn, to question, to push beyond our comfort zone, to do downright amazing science. Realistically, if you want to stay highly motivated, you need to recharge from time to time. So yes, you can (and probably should) have a life outside the lab.

MCB students enjoy a variety of hobbies. We all like eating, and some like cooking, brewing, and winemaking. Many students head out of the city to the nearby mountains for hiking, skiing and snowboarding. Other students participate in various club, intramural or individual sports. Regardless of the activity, it’s great to have things you enjoy outside the lab.

Say you’ve had a long day in lab and need a mid-week boost. Not to worry: Seattle loves happy hour, which makes for happy grad students. Most pubs and restaurants offer great discounts on food and drinks for at least one happy hour a day (some offer a late-night one too!). We polled students for their favorite spots and came up with lots of great options. We’ve posted them on our ‘MCB Favorites’ Google map.

Because sometimes we need to get away from it all, whether it’s heading to a different part of the city or beyond the city limits, we also asked current students for their favorite Seattle hangouts and northwest getaways. We’ve posted those on our map, too. Check them out—maybe some will become your new favorite spots.

View MCB Favorites in a larger map

Newbie: I have friends coming to visit two weeks after I get to Seattle. How do I show them around when I don’t know the city myself?!

MCB: We’ve got you covered. We asked current students for their favorite touristy spots in Seattle—places they like to go when friends and family come to visit. They’re all on our map.

Newbie: Seriously, where can I get a decent cupcake around here?

MCB: Cupcake Royale and Trophy Cupcakes, the major cupcake producers in the city, both offer delicious and delightfully creative cupcakes. It’s been pretty intensely debated which cupcake maker is superior, and we’re sorry to say we couldn’t resolve the debate with our survey: half of our cupcake lovers go for Royale, half for Trophy. However, we did find that when we threw Top Pot Doughnuts, a phenomenal doughnut shop, into the mix, we found that most students prefer Top Pot to either cupcake joint. The best way to find out for yourself is to try them all.

Newbie: Anything else?

1. Native Seattleites do not use umbrellas. Often they don’t wear raincoats. You can be like them and get wet, or you can at least wear a jacket with a hood. It’s up to you.
2. No one calls it “The Emerald City.”
3. Welcome to Seattle and the MCB Program!

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