Introductions / Lab Life

A Day in the Life: Episode 1 – Michael Wisser

Author’s note: The purpose of the A Day in the Life segment is to give our readers a sense of what life is and can be like both in the D-Lab specifically and in graduate school overall.  Posts will generally summarize a representative day in the eyes of a single D-Lab member or focus on a single characteristic D-Lab event or tradition.  We hope you will find these useful as well as entertaining!

Day in the Life Episode 1: Michael Wisser

Going in order of decreasing handsomeness, our first episode provides a glimpse of life through the delicately-lashed eyes of Michael Wisser.  To briefly set the stage, Michael is a fourth-almost-fifth-year graduate student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.  He grew up in Minnesota (which, it should be noted, is a wonderful place), where he enjoyed fifteen years of Catholic school.  Before coming to Stanford, he completed his undergraduate education at Northwestern University.  He has brown hair, brown eyes, and genetically slender calves.

The day for Michael begins on average around 9 AM and nearly always in the same fashion: stumble into the kitchen, make coffee, and scramble eggs.  Most days he pretends to consider having only two eggs before proclaiming, “Gotta eat big to get big!” and, having convinced himself, cracking a third.  Scrambled egg sandwich in tow, he then begins the walk from his apartment in Escondido Village to the D-Lab offices.  Walking takes a little longer, but it allows him to more fully lose himself in his eggs and his music.

Like this, except with wheat bread and a hefty dousing of Tony Chachere’s Cajun glory (image courtesy of kitchen circadia.)

Once reaching the office, it’s time for Michael to check Facebook, get annoyed and consider deleting his account on Facebook, check email, and lastly spend a minute or forty on reddit.  He then heads to the toilet for what is typically the most productive part of his morning.  The toilet of choice requested to remain unnamed, but rest assured it’s not in Durand’s first floor bathroom, because pooping there requires a deep lack of respect for one’s self and his coworkers.


No poops here, please.

The next order of business is the gym sesh.  A trailblazer of sorts, his once lonely lunchtime sessions now see him accompanied by Tarun, Justin, Alice, and other lab members.  At the gym the gang enjoys an hour-long chorus of sweaty grunts, moans, and less-than-surreptitious butt-touches.  Next, they move from the locker room to the weight room and begin their respective workouts.  After lifting some heavy-ass weight, it’s time to go back to the office and actually do work.

“Yo, MTV, welcome to my gym … And this right here is where the magic happens” (image courtesy of Cardinal Rec.)

For Michael as for many lab members, “work” can constitute a variety of things.  Some days are spent almost entirely in the chemistry lab synthesizing nanoparticles or in the optics lab using lasers to study how said nanoparticles interact with light.  Other days may be occupied by using an x-ray diffractometer or an electron microscope to characterize the structure or the size and shape, respectively, of the nanoparticles.  And some days don’t involve nanoparticles at all, but rather are spent in the office analyzing data, using MATLAB for the first time, preparing slides for group meeting, or engaging in a misanthropic discussion with other group members about first-floor poopers, double-glovers, and pre-flushers.

Wet lab minus Diane butt

A good place to hang out and sniff chemicals.

MATLAB window

Sometimes in grad school you need to do math which is beyond the capabilities of your calculator.

Depending on the nature of the work/discussion, this usually continues until roughly 6:30 PM, although conducting some experiments or getting time on certain instruments might require staying much later (Michael’s latest being 4 AM during Packard Printer Battle I, in which he suffered a resounding defeat).  Overall, Michael tries to take advantage of the flexibility offered by graduate school life and tends to vary his hours pretty widely: he gets to the office anywhere between 8 and 11 AM and leaves between 4 and 9 PM (though occasionally much later if a deadline is looming).

After walking home and eating dinner, Michael will either continue working (if he has pressing non-lab work to do), play video games, or spend time with his girlfriend (not a pet name for his Xbox, actually a person).  Every other night he also devotes time to do ab exercises with his friend, Tony Horton.  He hates it, but he loves it.  Finally, at 1 AM on average, it’s time to shower and go to sleep.


Real person being real.


Tough choices.

About the author (Michael):

Sexy man

My science biography: I am a fifth year graduate student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering studying under the coadvisement of Jen Dionne and Alberto Salleo.  My work centers around utilizing strain induction to improve upconverting nanoparticles in the context of photovoltaic applications.  Originally from Bloomington, Minnesota (our mall is bigger than your mall), I graduated from Northwestern University in 2011 before beginning at Stanford in the same year.

My favorite place on Stanford campus: Gotta be the gym, obvi.  A more difficult matter would be choosing my favorite place to poop on campus.  The bathrooms under the main quad (you’ll have to find those yourself!) as well as those in the Littlefield Center would make the shortlist.

My favorite lab instrument: Is Songza a lab instrument? Mayo

A list of things I’ve been thinking about lately, in no particular order:

  • Whom Arsenal could feasibly purchase to improve their title chances
  • How I want to spend my time during my upcoming trip to Japan
  • Where I ultimately want to live when it comes time to be a “real person”.

Ask me about: lanthanide upconversion, Halo, structure-property relationships, soccer, how to get big


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