I don’t often write personal blog entries, but this warranted it. As of just a couple weeks ago, I am officially not a student anymore. I am not a student. I’ve been a student for, what, 25 years straight? To suddenly not be a student and have the freedoms (and salary) that come with that is jarring. And to top it off, not only am I not a student, but I now have a Ph.D. People can call me Dr. Geoff.

dissertation page 1 Here are some stats on my dissertation, titled Improving Disease Surveillance: Sentinel Surveillance Network Design and Novel Uses of Wikipedia:

  • page count: 151
  • word count: 34,573
  • character count (with spaces): 222,941
  • number of references: 198
  • number of tables: 10
  • number of figures: 16

The dissertation will be posted on The University of Iowa’s Institutional Repository some time soon. It’ll be open access. I’m really proud of it. Once it’s published, I’ll post a link here in case anyone wants to read it.

My defense couldn’t have gone better. All the publicity our Global Disease Monitoring and Forecasting with Wikipedia paper has gotten, which just so happens to be chapter 3 of my dissertation, couldn’t have been timed better. I may be a little biased, but chapter 4 of my dissertation, which uses some natural language processing techniques to elicit disease information from article content, is pretty damn cool stuff too. That paper should be submitted in about a month.

I’ll be sticking around Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). I’ve become quite fond of this place. I work with some amazingly talented people on some extremely cool work. I mean, we did a Reddit AMA that hit the front page! Besides that, LANL is located in a really neat little town that suits me perfectly; it has one of the best climates I’ve ever experienced, and it’s great for biking in the summer and snowboarding in the winter.

Overall, I feel like a tremendous stress has been lifted from my shoulders. I can now work with fewer distractions and more tenacity. Perhaps more importantly, I no longer feel guilty for doing fun things in my off time. Grad school has this inherent ability to make you feel guilty when you’re not working. It’s certainly nothing my advisor (Alberto Segre) or LANL mentor (Sara Del Valle) pushed on me; it’s just something all grad students feel. I’ve always maintained that’s it’s incredibly important to separate work from life, but when you’re in grad school, that’s often easier said than done.

During the decompression phase after my defense, I realized that I’ve never gone on a vacation. Sure, I’ve done little weekend snowboarding trips or backpacking trips, but I’ve never taken a real vacation. How could I? I’ve been a student practically since I was born! In the short term, I’m going to be snowboarding a lot. I’m going on a cruise with my sister and some good friends in late January. I want to travel a lot next summer; I’m thinking about a long motorcycle trip with my buddy Rajeev.

Whatever happens, I am done with school. Forever. Here’s to the next phase of life!