Tag Archives: Hiking

Why I chose Boston (and you should too!)

Written by Ece Gulsan, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student

If you are new to Boston and have no idea what to expect from this beautiful city, chances are high that you are already confused because there are many different views about Beantown. Some people will tell you about the wicked cold winters and some will claim there is nothing to do here, but a considerable amount of Bostonians will try to prove to you that Boston is the best city in the entire world. For me, it was love at first sight. The historic red brick buildings, Fenway Park, beautiful public gardens, wide variety of restaurants, and iconic identity stole my heart. I had a chance to live in many different countries, but Boston is by far the only place I feel home away from home.

First of all, it is not Beantown: it is Braintown. The greater Boston area hosts many world-class colleges, which means thousands of smart, well educated, and intellectual people live within a couple of miles. While hanging out at your favorite brewery, you can meet someone who might be curing cancer for a living. You will learn a lot from your upstairs neighbor who is getting her Ph.D. in a comparative study of Turkish and Japanese Occidentalism. Or you can see a stranger reading a book about Marxist Histography on your subway (locally called the T) ride back home. Everybody is passionate about something, and the variety of their interests is mind blowing. Boston is obviously the learning capital of the world; living in such city always challenges you intellectually and keeps you stimulated.

Speaking of people, you might have heard that Bostonians are not as friendly as people from other parts of the country – which I strongly disagree with. Most of them are nice, say “thank you” and “excuse me,” and are happy to help you whenever you need. They say “stay warm!” during the winter as a way of saying “goodbye”, and I think this is the cutest and the most Bostonian thing ever! They just do not always look friendly from the outside, because you cannot possibly smile and survive a New England winter at the same time. Everybody minds their own business, which is pretty fair, but once you get to know people, they’re kind and helpful.

Fun fact: GQ once ranked Boston as the “Worst Dressed Town in America”. In my defense, I love wearing my Red Sox cap and Tom Brady jersey together, knowing that people will not judge me by what I wear, but by who I am. Plus, in the winter, it is way too cold to care about what I wear anyways. The first thing my Bostonian friends taught me was that layers are your best friends.

You will always see people going for a run early in the morning, and a snow storm is never an excuse to skip leg day. My 6:00 a.m. Rise and Shine yoga classes are always almost full, and I think this is refreshing. Boston locals are very health-conscious and it is very inspiring to live in such a community.

If you enjoy trying out new restaurants and bars, the city has a lot to offer. From authentic Vietnamese to hearty Mediterranean cuisine, you will find anything that you are looking for. Still not satisfied? New York City, the gastronomic capital of the East Coast, is just a bus ride away. 

You will never run out of things to do in Boston. If you are interested in art, the museums have a lot to offer, not only because they have magnificent collections, but also because they organize a lot of great events regularly. Check out Third Thursdays at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where you can learn how to make a Venetian mask or craft a Caribbean cocktail. Go to movie nights on Fridays at the Museum of Fine Arts. Are you more into self-development? Attend public courses organized by local universities. Attend Harvard’s mini-med school program for the public and participate in discussions with brilliant professors. Become a member of MIT Waste Alliance and meet ecologically conscious people. 

If you need a change on weekends, Boston’s location is hard to beat. Do you want to see fall foliage? Head to Vermont for a romantic weekend getaway, and stop by an apple farm on your way back home to pick some tart Granny Smiths. Do you want to ski? The mountains you hiked in September in New Hampshire turn out to be a fantastic ski resort. Is it starting to get warmer up here? Hop on the commuter rail to visit Rockport and take long walks right by the ocean. Is it beach time already? Cape Cod is waiting for you with its beautiful coastlines and amazing seafood, only a two-hour drive from Boston. 

Before I conclude, let me describe my perfect Sunday in my favorite city. Have a long brunch in Cambridge with your loved ones, and head to the Harvard Book Store to wander around bookshelves. Go downstairs for the used books section, leaving your expectations behind. Once I ended up buying a book about the feelings of octopuses, and now I know way too much about them. Stop by Tatte Bakery to grab a cup of coffee, and find a spot to enjoy your new-old book. Visit Somerville Farmer’s Market on your way home to buy some fresh produce for the week. 

You never know what you will find in Boston, but I am confident that you will love it here as much as I do. If you’re very lucky, you might even meet philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky while waiting for your coffee (trust me, I’ve met him!). 

Boston: the city of sports

Written by Brenna Gormally, Biology Ph.D. candidate

One of my favorite things about living in the greater Boston area is all the incredible opportunities there are to be active in the city. It’s no secret, but I’ve found that getting outside the lab can make me feel so much more productive—and happier! Here are some of the great spots I’ve found to play and be active in and around Boston!

Yoga Right on Campus!

One of the easiest ways to be active on campus is to sign up for the mini courses offered each semester. I love these 10-week classes that are taught by fantastic instructors and are reasonably priced. It’s so much more fun and motivating to work out in a group. It can also be really hard to find affordable group classes in Boston, so this is a lovely option to have right on campus!

Inner tube what?!

In college I played a lot of sports, including in intramural leagues. When I arrived in Boston I was delighted to find that there are a ton of adult sports leagues in and around the city. Most exciting to me was that there was an inner tube water polo league! I had played this crazy sport in college so I was stoked to find out that there was an adult league—I never realized that it even existed outside of Pomona College. Here’s how it works—basically, you just sit in an inner tube and play water polo in a pool (see photo evidence). It’s loads of fun and I’ve met some incredibly awesome people through this experience.

Beyond ITWP, Social Boston Sports, Boston Ski and Sports Club, and Clubwaka all offer a ton of other adult sports options. These are fantastic opportunities to meet other young people around the Boston area and be active while doing it!

Running around Boston

If you lived in Boston and didn’t run along the Charles, did you really live in Boston? Even though I was an athlete in college, I never really enjoyed the whole running side of the sport. I’ve slowly come around to running during my time in Boston, however, and right now I’m training for my first half marathon! Boston is an incredible city to train in and there are such amazing and enjoyable routes. My favorite place to run right near campus is around the Mystic Lakes, but you can’t beat the Charles River. It’s only a few extra miles to get to the river and totally worth the view and running paths that are a bit kinder on your ankles than the sidewalks of Somerville.

Hiking outside the city

Lastly, there are some great spots to hike right around Tufts. The Middlesex Fells are just a short ride from campus and you can find a bunch of great trails that are perfect for a short hike. You can travel a bit farther from Medford into New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine for some more difficult hikes. Some of my favorites are in the White Mountains—I recently did Mount Washington with a bunch of friends. The greater New England area is beautiful, particularly during the fall—be sure to get out and enjoy!

Weekend trips near Tufts – the best places to hike and explore!

Written by Ece Gulsan, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student

Let me tell you something that you’ve probably never heard before: grad school is tough. It requires hard work, dedication, and spending most of your time deep-diving into whatever you are working on. Even though we are lucky enough to perform our studies on a truly beautiful campus, we spend most of our time in our classes, labs or study areas. Because of this, removed from nature! Along with the significant health benefits of fresh air, nature has a lot to offer us. Spending time outside provides physical (and mental) rejuvenation, helps you to cope with stress, enhances your mood, reduces anxiety, and muscle tension. You focus better, become more creative, and improve your problem-solving skills. Luckily, even grad students have weekends, and the Greater Boston Area couldn’t be located in a more strategic position for weekend getaways. It doesn’t take more than a couple of hours to drive to get to the most beautiful mountains of the East Coast, stunning lakes, and gorgeous national parks. Here are my favorite destinations to spend some quality time in nature, which are very convenient to visit either as a day trip or overnight stay.

What to bring:

  • Hiking gear, sturdy shoes
  • Water
  • Lunch and some snacks
  • A light jacket, it can be windy up there

White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire

This state offers shopping with no sales tax and many mountains with several trail options for hiking. It takes approximately two hours to drive from Medford, depending on where you are heading. White Mountains National Forest is a personal favorite, as it houses the majority of 4,000 footer mountains in the area (mountains which have an elevation of at least 4,000 feet). Mount Washington, the tallest and the most famous one, is definitely a must-go, but there are some other options for those who are not very experienced in hiking.

Cannon Mountain is 4,100 feet high, and very convenient for visitors since it has a parking lot right next to the beginning of the hike. The hike is steep, and offers a fascinating view if you can make it all the way up to the summit. Even if you cannot, the mountain has some sub-peaks called “The Cannon Balds,” which are great places to have your lunch in the woods with an awesome view of mountains. If you feel lazy, but still want to see the view, there is a family-friendly cable car which can carry you up to the top, but I highly recommend you to take the high road and reward yourself with well-deserved cold beer at the observatory. If you are an experienced hiker, you can try a steep trail loop to North and South Kinsman. To turn your day trip into a longer visit, stay at the affordable and convenient Fransted Family Campground nearby and stop at Franconia Notch State Park and Echo Lake for more hiking and sunset views, and One Love Brewery for food and fun. 

*Pro-tip: It is awesome to watch sunset on the mountains, but be prepared to go all the way down in pitch dark.

Acadia National Park, Maine

For a longer trip, I recommend Acadia National Park in Maine. It takes approximately four hours to drive there from Medford. If it will be your first time in Acadia, I suggest you camp in Black Woods,since it is very close to the main trails and mountains.

*Pro-tip: Book your spot in advance! They are very likely to be sold out.

The best time to visit this mountain is late summer and early autumn. Maine is a very cold state, so bring some warm clothing in addition to your camping gear—I wore my Christmas socks at night to keep myself warm… in August!

Start exploring with Ocean Trail, which is the most popular and easiest trail of the park, and runs along the beautiful Atlantic coastline. You can hop on the rocks if you feel adventurous to get closer to the water.

If you are in Acadia, you must watch the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain – you will be the first to watch the sunrise in the entire country! Start climbing at 3:00 am (or drive up later) and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views around.

If you want to challenge yourself, Beehive trail is a two-hour, strenuous climb offering crystal clear lakes and a beautiful view at the summit.

Another steep trail is Precipice Trail, which is more demanding than Beehive but more beautiful. Avoid this trail if you have fear of heights, as you will be climbing over rocks and walking along the edges of cliffs. Prepare yourself mentally and bring a lot of water if you feel comfortable tackling this hike.

There’s nothing better than taking a dip right after a long and exhausting hike! Take a break at Bar Harbor Beach and enjoy the sun on the sand after swimming in ice-cold ocean. Follow your beach break with some seafood in Portland, Maine, on your way back to Medford.

There are many other places New England offers to us. A weekend trip to Cape Cod to enjoy beautiful shore and the national park before it gets bloody cold is a great idea, and it is only two hours away. Take the ferry to visit Martha’s Vineyard for even more. Vermont is a bit further away, but southern east part of this state has amazing mountains where you can witness stunning fall foliage. Check out the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes for a day trip.

Boston is beautiful, but it doesn’t hurt to travel away to spend some time in nature. Your body and your mind will thank you!

Why Tufts? Part 3

   Written by Rachael Bonoan, Biology Ph.D. Candidate


Collaboration, community, and teaching at Tufts

There are two main reasons why I chose Tufts: collaboration and community. When picking my graduate school, I chose based on the Biology Department specifically. Now, after having been at Tufts for four years, I can say that these two reasons also apply to Tufts in general.

Collaboration: I loved that the Biology Department was collaborative, not competitive. Since we are one Biology Department, there is a range of expertise: from DNA repair to animal behavior, there is likely someone that can help with any project you propose. There are grad students that are co-advised and many labs collaborate. I am currently working on a project with the Wolfe Lab, a lab that studies microbial communities in fermented foods! I am working with the Wolfe Lab to determine if honey bee diet affects the community of microbes that live in the honey bee gut.

In general, I find the atmosphere on the Tufts campus to be a collaborative one rather than a competitive one. There are opportunities for grad students to collaborate with labs outside of their own department. Tufts even has an internal grant, Tufts Collaborates, which is specifically for this purpose! In my department, I know of biologists who work with chemists, engineers, and computer scientists.

Community: Even though we are divided into two buildings, the Biology Department strives to stay united. Every Friday, we have a seminar with cookies and tea before, and chips and salsa after. After seminar, I have the chance to catch up with faculty, staff, and students that work in the other building.

Outside of my department, the Tufts Graduate Student Council (GSC) strives to create a sense of community within the grad students. There are monthly GSC meetings where you can meet other grad students, hear about things going on, and voice your own opinions. The GSC also hosts academic, social, and community outreach events. Just last month, the GSC held their annual Graduate Student Research Symposium (GSRS). This symposium is for all grad students on the Tufts University Medford/Somerville campus and School of the Museum of Fine Arts. The GSRS is not only a place to meet other grad students, but it’s a place where you can learn about all the cool research happening at Tufts, and maybe find a collaborator!

A couple other reasons specific to me: I grew up in a small town and while I enjoy visiting the city, I am not much of a “city girl.” The location of Tufts is great for the small-town girl in me: it’s easy to visit the city but it’s also easy to find beautiful places to hike and enjoy nature. Just about an hour south of New Hampshire and an hour east of Central Mass, there are plenty of gorgeous hiking trails and mountains within a manageable driving distance.

Since I would one day like to teach at a primarily undergraduate institution, I also like that Tufts has unique teaching opportunities for grad students. There is the Graduate Institute for Teaching where grad students attend workshops on teaching during the summer, and then co-teach a class with a faculty member during the fall. There is also the ExCollege which awards Graduate Teaching Fellowships for students who want to create and teach a class on their own. This coming Fall, I will be teaching my own class on insect pollinators and applying basic science to conservation practices!

Enjoying the talks at the 2017 GSRS.

Enjoying the poster session and reception after the 2017 GSRS.

Hiking Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, equipped with my Tufts Jumbos winter hat!

Enjoying Boston Winter in Downtown Boston! (I also have my Tufts Jumbos hat on here but it’s covered by my hood.)