Last month in Starkville. A farewell post…

It’s been real. Oh yeah. It really has been. Five years and a half in Starkville, Mississippi. Doesn’t get more real than that.  I am finally done with my PhD (yes, you can call me Dr. G. from now on), and it is time to move on.

On February 2017 I will be starting a PostDoc fellowship with the Institute of Conservation and Research at San Diego Zoo. I am super excited about it. First of all I will have the chance to keep working with iguanas! Second, the main project focuses on Galapagos iguanas (pretty darn sweet!!!). Third, I will be co-advised by two great researchers: Dr. Glenn Gerber (Institute for Conservation and Research, San Diego Zoo), and Dr. Gabriele Gentile (University of “Roma Tor Vergata”). That also means I will split my time between Rome, my home city, and San Diego, one of my favorite cities in the US. I couldn’t have hoped for a sweeter deal.

My last couple of months here at MSU have been really hectic. On the 28th of September I defended my dissertation. My committee grilled me for about three hours, challenging me on the weakest parts of my research (and unfortunately there were a few!!). At the end of the third hour of questioning I hear my advisor asking the rest of my committee “Additional questions or comments for Giuliano?”. I am not a religious person, but I would lie if I say I didn’t prey in that moment. I guess the gods were benign with me, or maybe the committee members were just tired.  My advisor told me to step out so that they could deliberate on my fate. My committee unanimously agreed that my research, and therefore I, was worth a PhD!!! They also were very pleased with the way I handled myself during the discussion. That was, probably, the most gratifying and intese feeling of relief that I’ve ever felt. Unfortunately it didn’t last too long. Comes the next day, and I started making corrections on my dissertation and dealing with the bureaucracy of submitting all the documents to the library and the Office of the Graduate School.

All of that is finally over and I will walk for commencement on the 9th of December. I am pretty excited to wear the gown, which I only know from the movies, and to take pictures that I will use to spam friends and family e-mail accounts.

Someone told me that becoming a Doctor of Philosophy is an honor and a duty (or, as uncle Ben would say, “With great power comes great responsibility”). It is an honor because other researchers acknowledge (and also challenge) your ideas, and your work can make a difference in many aspects of life. It is a duty because people will listen to what you say, and your words are going to weigh more than they used to. Exciting and scary at the same time.

Of course, a PhD is not the only thing that I take home from Starkville. In these 5 years I piled up memories, faces, tastes, colors, laughters, and regrets that will accompany me in my future wanderings. Writing about half of the things I have experienced while in Starkville would probably take more time than I have to spare. Suffice to say that, although I am so ready to move on and start a new chapter of my life, this little town in great state of Mississippi will always have special place in my heart.

Farewell Starkville

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