By Jan Hanspach
I am on a short visit to Stanford University and I invite you to share last week’s experiences with me. (This is my first time in the US and as you’ll see I am quite staggered by its cultural peculiarities.)
Monday: Getting in touch with Stanford
Stanford University is one of the most prestigious places in the academic world and you see me standing at the very heart of this institution: the Main Quad. You now may think the same what that I did at that moment: ‘Supercool. This guy really made it.’ … But hang on, if we look at the facts, it’s not as cool as it looks like. It rather seems to be second-rated place. For example, in the last year’s university ranking it was rated second best. Its campus is only the second largest in the World (after Moscow) and its most famous alumni (beside Sigourney Weaver) is a former president who would be long forgotten if there wasn’t a dam named after him. But still, it’s not too bad to be here and we have sunshine and 18°C and I can stand here while Germany and Romania have -20°C. So, heads up, and to be honest, I did not want to appear like an overachiever.
Tuesday: Getting even closer with Stanford University
Every American university seems to have an own department where merchandising articles are designed and produced; so in Stanford as well. With these articles you can cover all your everyday needs from key rings, over soft toys to waste baskets. Apart from these valuable goods, the clothing section is the most stunning, since it is by far the largest and provides you with anything you can enrobe yourself with: T-shirts, sweaters, caps, trousers, dresses, socks, scarfs, ties, flip-flops and any kind of sportswear. Here at Stanford (and probably at all other US universities too?) there is even a section for children clothing with body tights, bibs and romper suits (plus the usual stuff only kid sized). It’s amazing. And you even can get Stanford undies, if you like.
And here is my most favorite article: genuine Stanford gum boots (best to get those in combination with the Stanford poncho):
Wednesday: Meeting Gretchen Daily
At Stanford University you can meet great people – people that have become institutions themselves : Paul Ehrlich, Hal Mooney, Gretchen Daily. I met Gretchen and she is extremely nice, brightly spirited and very enthusiastic. The only thing is that she is very busy all the time. Therefore she has developed strategy to spread her word not only in the academic world but also in the general public (see here or here). Most amazingly she even has her own press media empire, publishing daily, of course:
Thursday: Saving the planet
Ok, Thursday is not too busy, so I’ll document my efforts to save the planet. You (and I) would not suspect it, but I did a good part to it by drinking my water from that plastic bottle that contains “an average of 20% less plastic than” some other bottle they used to produce before. That’s something, isn’t it?
Friday: Beer o’clock
Ok, no picture from today. It’s better like that. Friday’s is happy hour at 4.30 pm. At this time the department is encouraging people to communicate with each other, successfully by the way, and this is not only among people of one lab (which would be a good start) but even among people from different labs. All those of you familiar with the habits of academia know very well that this is quite an achievement, but Stanford is not Stanford for nothing. It’s really amazing and this special event comes only for a few bucks a week. I only wonder why this is not possible at a German University. Too many forms involved, I’m guessing.
Sunday: Service time
A scientist’s life is packed with facts and statistics and reasoning and logic. So, it is no surprise that at least once a week one is craving for spirituality.