“Philadelphia Freedom! I lo-o-o-o-ove you, yes I do.” My friend Rodney has been singing Philadelphia Freedom by Elton John for the last 6 months, every time I talk about my new job. So now I have a mental soundtrack that begins anew whenever someone says the word Philadelphia. Yes, I just moved to Philly, and I do love it here. The city is beautiful. Things are happening everywhere, great food, great music. Killer art museums. And the public transportation totally works! I LOVE YOU SEPTA! SEPTA is Philly’s transit system, which I take 30 minutes each way every day to get to my job. People are nice on the trains. There is no pushing to be first on or off. The conductors will wait for you if they see you running to the train (I have tested this in repeated trials).
Here are difficult things: everything is paved, it is super humid right now, packages get stolen off your porch, my family is very far away, my house has 3 rooms on 3 floors and I keep tripping on the “cute” circular staircase. Haven’t tried going upstairs after a couple of glasses of wine yet but I see disaster looming.
Here are more wonderful things: radio stations (WHYY and WXPN are both incredible!), coffee shops, tons of murals, constantly tripping over historic sites, good bike culture, my new job.
I moved to Philadelphia for an Assistant Professor Position at Villanova University, in the NW suburbs of Philadelphia. The faculty and students here are incredibly kind and dedicated to service. The students are smart, work hard, and show up to class. And sometimes they think I’m funny when I am actually trying to be funny, which is nice. After 2 weeks of class, the first round of students came to my office today. I was so happy to see them! Coming from Colorado College, which I would guess has as much student-professor interaction as any college in the world, I miss talking to students as individuals and connecting with them as people. I guess I just need to trick these guys into coming to my office more often. Surely I will get to know them better as the class gets more difficult.
The drastic change in teaching format and amount has given me some much needed freedom, too. Freedom in the sense that I have much more time to spend on my research. Research life is exciting right now. This spring and summer, Chris Rasmussen and I worked hard to finish our paper classifying Picard curves with good reduction away from 3. We now have a little time to consider how we can build on this work, to classify curves of higher degree or to choose a different prime. In August, I led a project group at Sage Days 62 to generalize our code an create Sage functions to compute bounds involved in this classification. This was my first time leading a project in this setting and I was really really hoping it would go alright. Thanks to my kick-ass group (Alejandra Alvarado, Christelle Vincent, and Mckenzie West) we created some good code that generalized on what Chris and I had written for our project. Also, my project group from Women In Numbers 3 has been hard at work writing a paper about the automorphism groups and Jacobian varieties of some particular Artin-Schreier curves. This is a really impressive group of women (Irene Bouw, Wei Ho, Renate Scheidler, Padma Srinivasan, and Christelle Vincent) and I am honored to work with them on this project.
The last thing I want to say today is actually really sad. Arlo, my much-loved and wide-traveling dog, died last week in Laramie. He was nearly 16 years old and lived a really full life and, according to my mom, died almost in his sleep. Arlo lived with me in 10 houses in 4 different states and was the best companion I could imagine. He was a good dog. The hardest thing about moving to Philadelphia was leaving him behind for the first time in all my moves, because he was simply so old that I didn’t think he would survive the trip. I have been missing him every day here and I miss him all the more now. I am very grateful for all the years that we spent together.