Feb 11 2012

The insanity begins

I’m part of a group of second year graduate students in charge of running my department’s recruitment weekend. Basically a gaggle of prospective graduate students fly in for the weekend and are shuffled around between interviews, food, and fun. Our duty is to answer any questions they have about the department, make them feel welcome, and make sure the shuffling occurs without anyone being left behind.

I’m less concerned with someone getting stranded during our scavenger hunt in Pike Place – the real labyrinth is the Health Sciences building, which is the world’s single largest university building. The floors of wings don’t match up – sometimes you spontaneously go from floor 3 to 4 without going up a flight of stairs. Some floors are only accessable via elevator if you happen to be in a particular wing. And the lettering system of the wings is nonsensical – you think something using letters would be vaguely alphabetical. I’m always expecting to turn a corner and see a graduate student who’s been trapped in its maze for years, with the stereotypical long hair, long beard, and worn clothes of a shipwreck survivor. Except that would be kind of hard to differentiate them from the regular graduate students.

Anyway, this all means that I’m going to be spending every minute of my day from now until Monday 11pm losing my mind. So, consider this an open thread!


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  1. 1

    We used to just take prospective students out to eat and show them around town. Your school sounds like a lot more fun!

  2. 2

    So a grad student is someone studying for a Phd?

  3. 3
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    A grad student is someone studying in a degree program they don’t generally let you into unless you’ve got a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, “grad student” may imply that the study is not in particular programs that have their own labels (IE, “law student” or “medical student”).

  4. 4
    'Tis Himself

    The floors of wings don’t match up – sometimes you spontaneously go from floor 3 to 4 without going up a flight of stairs. Some floors are only accessable via elevator if you happen to be in a particular wing. And the lettering system of the wings is nonsensical – you think something using letters would be vaguely alphabetical.

    This sounds like the very large building I work in. It was built in “phases”, with the phases numbered and sometimes lettered. However the number/letter scheme doesn’t always make sense. One large addition is Phase 6B. There is no Phase 6A and 6B was built before Phase 5.

  5. 5

    That’s so cool! I’m interviewing at a grad program this upcoming weekend!

  6. 6

    Sounds like BU. The main College of Arts and Sciences building has at least two distinct 5th floors, and the School of Education building has half-floors.

  7. 7

    Do an image search for UIC BSB. The first three photos (assuming our results are the same) should qualify as my contribution to the “students lost in the corridors” topic. What’s worse, it was built all at once, deliberately.

  8. 8

    Sure, the layout can be confusing but it’s been over 60 years and the Minotaur still hasn’t escaped. Architecture success!

  9. 9

    I did a workshop in that building a few summers ago and we couldn’t figure out why we kept getting lost. It was like a Mobius building! UIC BSB is also evil but in a different way. There isn’t a single right angle to be found.

  10. 10

    Are you at Hogwarts?

  11. 11
    Anonymous Atheist

    Wow, that’s a massive building! :) About 90% as large as the Pentagon!

    I dug up this directory and map of all the wings: http://www.washington.edu/admin/ada/magnuson.htm

    And these aerial photos of the whole thing, from opposite directions:

  12. 12

    When I was a lab assistant (cough cough) thirty years ago at the aerospace and energetics program, I sometimes had to get supplies at central medical stores (where lab supplies for much of campus were kept years ago). Each and every time I ended up going on a different route.

    One time I tried leaving, went into a stairwell that went up one story and ended in a locked door. Fortunately I was able to go back to the door I came through and finally find a way out.

    And they have attached more buildings since then.

  13. 13
    Snowshoe the Canuck

    Sounds much like the Bio;ogical Sciences building at the U of Alberta. Designed by the same committee?

  14. 14

    Hey, I’m totally organizing my department’s recruiting weekend in a month! Good luck with your cat-herding! ^_^

  15. 15

    Weirdest thing that ever happened to me in HSB was going down the long hall (My wife used to work F-wing) on the 2nd floor (I think.) I was walking to the Montlake Cut and decided to stay in the building until the end on the east side. I hadn’t known that you could just end up in the emergency area of the hospital by going in the back way – it was a little gruesome that day.

  16. 16

    You might like to read Connie Willis’s Passage, which is 1) a fascinating book, 2) that takes place in a hospital built to the same architectural standards, and 3) uses the hospital as a metaphor for the scientific method of discovery.

  17. 17
    Johnny Vector

    NOOOO!!! Don’t eat the prospective grad students! Wait until they’ve fattened up with a couple years of grad school eating habits.

    On second thought, better eat them now.

  18. 18

    You may want to make sure you chakras are open, so you’re open to receiving the vibrations of prospective grad students… this ad for Carol Tuttle’s 3 Minute Chakra Test appeared on the Blag Hag homepage.


  19. 19
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    …but she HAS a boyfriend. :P

  20. 20
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    So, a grad student could mean a Masters program, a PhD. program, a profesional doctorate program like law, medical, or D.Eng, and possibly one or two others.

  21. 21

    Hmmm… the link for the image of the ad goes to a page that says “Access Denied.” I also saved a screen shot of it.

  22. 22

    When I visited a friend at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, he showed me a bit of the tunnels in the basement, and pointed out that there are packs of food and drink at some corners, so people who got lost could sit and wait in relative comfort at these designated points and get picked up by maintenance crew, instead of wandering aimlessly. A guy he knew waited for over a day.

  23. 23
    C.E. Petit

    I always found the Health Sciences building easy to get around… because I always remembered who it’s named after. It’s not completely apocryphal that the order that the various letters appear in “Warren G. Magnuson” is a fair guide to the order in which the different areas were approved for funding — particularly since the order of the main (1970s) extensions was west, east, north, south, which follows that rule!

  24. 24
    Sheila Crosby

    And I thought the Isaac Newton Telescope was a labyrinth! Whenever I take a group of tourists in there I count them in and out very carefully.

  25. 25

    Strong Memorial Hospital is like that too. They added colored lines to the floors in an apparent attempt to make sure that everyone would get lost. The really fun thing was that you could accidentally find yourself locked into the psych ward if you went up or down the wrong corridor or stairwell. Such fun!

  26. 26
    Evil Mani Mani

    The UW campus has at least two infamously labyrinthine buildings (the other being Padelford Hall, which has driven many an English undergrad MAD). Is that typical? I’ve never spent time on any other university campuses.

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