Points of View

The winners of the graduate student life photo contest show off their work

For the past five years, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences students and students from the graduate programs in the School of Engineering have submitted photos as part of the graduate student life photo contest.

What follows is an inside look at the graduate student experience on the Medford campus and beyond. The photos range from the lab to the library, long-needed vacations to the Hill in winter.

Graduate students can take part in this year’s contest as well. The Office of Graduate Studies has the full details here.


“I was always taught that apart from their usefulness, equations can also be artistic. It’s not easy to capture that on a static photo and make it interesting for people with little or no mathematical background. So I added the human parameter by handwriting the equations. The ring was not part of my original thinking, but since I always wear it I decided to include it. I used the hdr tech­nique—three different exposures—because of the live and artistic result it produces.”—Eleni-Alexandra Kontou, physics graduate student



“I took this photo in Costa Rica at about the time I was writing my thesis on climate and shoreline change. I was inspired by the beauty of the beach, but more important I was concerned about how climate change would affect the beauty of the landscape if left unmitigated.”—Donna Au, A07, G11 (economics)



“My research focuses on characterizing the microbes of novel habitats and inves­tigating the relationships among microbes and between microbes and metazoans. In this photo, I’m using pantyhose to handle house flies used in research and housed in an aquarium. The pantyhose decrease the likelihood of escape.”—Anne Madden, biology graduate student


“Volunteers at the Massachusetts Audu­bon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary have been monitoring the population of the Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) for several years. Owls are lured in by playbacks—audio recordings of conspecific owl vocalizations—and captured in mist nets. After capture, volunteers take the stan­dard morphometric measurements (in this photo, wing length) and then give the birds some jewelry: a silver United States Fish and Wildlife Service band.”—Jennifer Mortensen, biology graduate student


“This is the impressive entry to Ballou Hall on a cold winter night. I tried to give some extra toning to the photo using vivid colors and taking advantage of the existing light.”—Konstantinos Metallinos, physics graduate student


“While I was a graduate student, baby­sitting was my part-time job of choice. In between courses and research, I found babysitting to be a welcome reminder that my original motivation for pursuing a degree was to specialize in infant develop­ment and help infants at risk.”—Sarah Frederiksen, G09 (child development)


“I took this photo in my office in Robinson Hall. It includes an old sign; physics books; a telephone; experimental physics instru­ments; and an image of Dirac, the founder of contemporary quantum physics. The computers—the background for any science created by physicists—and the very new theories on the screen of the laptop bring us into the new physics era.”—Konstantinos Metallinos, physics graduate student


“I took this photo on a cold February 2011 night in the small, empty basement of Tufts’ Tisch library. Several friends have told me that this is often how they feel during graduate life.”—Gregory Meyerhoff, mechanical engineering graduate student


This photo is a visual representation of what goes through the minds of many science graduate students when studying for doctoral qualifying exams. Graduate school often feels overwhelming and pres­ents many potentially insurmountable challenges. When there are research papers to read, exams to grade, grant proposals to write, classes to teach, exams to study for, manuscripts to write, and meetings to pre­pare for, it’s hard to believe anything will ever get done. At this point, the only way to move forward is to embrace the words of Gloria Gaynor and say to yourself over and over again, ‘I will survive.’ Because we will, right?”—Anne Madden biology, graduate student



“As a traditional Asian girl, I’ve experi­enced a lot of distressing but somehow fun culture shocks since I came to the United States for my graduate studies in 2009. My dear friends—and many valuable sources of news—have opened the door to an interest­ing new world for me to explore.”— Chongyang Wang, chemical engineering graduate student


“If I were to give this photo a title, it would be ‘Incubation Time.’ Incubation time is extremely important for graduate students, who typically have to handle multiple things in between planning and execut­ing their research. I believe inspiration and breakthroughs mostly happen in between the numerous PCR reactions, heat-shocks, matings, gel runs, and fly crosses involved in research. This picture sums up the spirit of incubation time—if you are not busy setting up an experiment, you are actively doing something else equally productive.”— Ranjith Anand, G10 (biology)


“Walking home from my office in Anderson Hall, I passed the Nathan Park in Powderhouse Square. I was fascinated by the beauty and purity of the undisturbed snow in the park, so I went home, picked up my camera, and returned to the park a few hours later, after midnight. It was bone-freezing cold outside, but worth it!”— Ali Boroumand, civil and environmental engineering graduate student


This article was first published in the Winter 2011-2012 issue of Alma Matters magazine. 

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