Settling in London

Hello Everyone!

Sorry for the delay in posting, I was waiting until the end of LSE’s Welcome Week so that I would have a better idea of my course schedule.  

First I’d like to give an overview of my Master’s requirements.  I’ll be taking courses during the Michaelmas and Lent Terms, which run from September – December and January – March, respectively.  During this time I’ll also be working on my 10,000 word dissertation, which is on a topic of my choice and is due at the end of August, 2017.  During the next two terms I’ll have to take three units of courses in philosophy – this can be any combination of full-unit courses (taught during both terms) and half-unit courses (taught only during the Michaelmas or the Lent Term).

I have until October 10th to finalize my course selection, but my preliminary choices for my three units are below.  Note that I have two options listed for one of my half-unit slots because I haven’t decided whether to take a course in Psychology or to stick to Philosophy and audit the Psychology course.  I’m thinking about this course because it considers societal opposition to scientific development, which is very relevant to my proposed dissertation topic (which at the moment vaguely involves non-scientific influences on science).

1 Rationality and Choice (Full-Unit Course) – Department of Philosophy

An examination of probabilistic thinking in risky or uncertain circumstances, solution concepts for games, and bargaining theory

2 Set Theory and Further Logic (Full-Unit Course) – Department of Philosophy

An introductory course in both ‘working’ and ‘conceptual’ set theory for their applications in logical philosophical reasoning

2.5 Evidence and Policy (Half-Unit Course, Michaelmas Term) – Department of Philosophy

An examination of how rational thinking and the interpretation of evidence can inform policy decisions which bring about intended outcomes (and how misinterpretations and poor evidence can inform policy decisions which fail to bring about intended outcomes) 


3 Science, Technology and Resistance (Half-Unit Course, Lent Term) – Department of Psychology

A psychology course examining public resistance and public engagement with science, and public impact on such scientific developments as nuclear power and genetic engineering


3 Physics and the City: From Quantum Jumps to Stock Market Crashes (Half-Unit Course, Lent Term) – Department of Philosophy

An exploration of the philosophical implications of similarities between quantum physical theories and financial theories (as many modern models in both fields examine meta-effects of many, singular, random moving parts, whether theses parts are atoms or stock prices)

[above course descriptions paraphrased from the LSE course guide available at]

In addition to selecting my classes, I’ve also used the past week to get more accustomed to London.  I’ve been getting used to my neighborhood, which is a pretty non-scenic array of large housing complexes north of Kings Cross station; I’ve been scouting gyms to join (the LSE campus gym is expensive yet unimpressive and I’d like to find a gym with a pool); and I’ve been meeting my classmates and flatmates.  I was relieved to learn that many of my classmates similarly come from backgrounds of little or no philosophy exposure.  As for my housing, I’m super excited to have a kitchen and a private room again – as fun as traveling is, I can only handle the “social proximity” of 10-bed hostel rooms for so long before I need my own private space to exist in.  

And as for the future, I can’t wait to start my studies tomorrow, to get to know London better, and to do my very best to score tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which appears to be sold out through 2017, but I’m not giving up yet (on a side note, Pottermore informed me today that my Patronus is a Siberian cat, I’m not sure what to make of that).



Excursions in Ireland

Hello everyone!

I’m writing my second post from my final stop in Ireland, Belfast.  I’m here until Saturday and then fly back to London for move-in to my student housing on Sunday.  I thought I’d update you all on my first few days in Europe!

I started out with two days in Dublin, then had two days in Galway, and now I’m finishing up in Belfast.  When I travel, I like to spend one day in town and another day seeing the landscape, and that’s what I tried to do.  I’ve had some great food (and Guinness, of course), while here, and according to my phone have been walking 12-15 miles per day – probably due to my admittedly excessive opposition to taking tour buses.

In Dublin I spent my first day walking around the city.  I saw an interesting exhibit at the National Museum of Ireland.  As it’s the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, there was a large exhibit on the event.  During the rising advocates for Irish independence revolted against the British during WWI.  The rising was suppressed and many of its leaders executed, but the high number of civilian casualties as well as what was perceived as a harsh British reaction led to increased support in Ireland for independence – achieved later, in April, 1949.  After the museum I walked through some parks and happened upon a league polo match, which was really great to see (in part because it highlighted how terrible I was at polo when I played for a short time at Michigan).  I had also planned to stop by the Guinness distillery and the Kilmainham Gaol, but I decided instead to go hiking at the Wicklow Mountains, outside of Dublin.

At Wicklow I hiked around Glendalough, a collection of two lakes surrounded by mountains and the site of a monastic settlement dating to the 6th century.  I took a hiking path up behind the larger lake that traced in a u-shape on top of the mountains back to the other side of the lake.  There was no fence on top of the mountain, and besides having to sit next to the path a couple of times when it got too windy it was probably the best hike of my life!  The weather was a perfect mid-60’s with clouds and a bit of wind, and the view from the mountains was spectacular.


In Galway, apart from walking around the town, I walked out to a lighthouse along a causeway outside the city.  I saw some black birds (I later found out they’re rooks) pick up snail shells from the beach, then fly over the sidewalk and drop them on the pavement to break the shells open and get to the snails inside.  Apparently it’s a form of adaptive bird behavior, where the birds learned to use manmade objects (here the sidewalk) while foraging and then passed down the skill to subsequent populations.  Maybe it’s a common sight, but I’d never seen it before, and I thought it was interesting.  Herring gulls in Jamestown, VA have adapted the same skill, as reported in the LA Times:

On the same causeway I got a really pretty view of the sun setting over the ocean, behind the Galway skyline, included below.


The next day I took a bus tour to Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands.  I saw the wreck of a ship that washed ashore in 1960, played fetch with some local dogs on the beach, and had some Baileys-flavored fudge (intimidating yet beautiful, a bit of fun, and delicious, respectively).  Then I took a ferry back to Doolin, on the mainland, and a bus up to the top of the Cliffs of Moher.  I’ve attached some pictures of the cliffs, but it was probably one of the first places I’ve been to where no photo has lived up to the actual sight.

Today in Belfast I walked to the castle in Cavehill Country Park and then walked up the mountain a bit to see what’s left of an old fort and a small, manmade cave in the side of the rock (I didn’t realize that Belfast Castle was 6 miles from downtown, so I did a bit more walking than expected!).  I also finally gave in today and had my first non-Irish meal while in Ireland after I stopped for a heaping plate of pasta on my way home from Cavehill.  It was great, though my favorite food while here remains the lamb stew I had in Dublin.

Tomorrow marks my last full day in Ireland and LSE orientation begins next week, so I should know my course schedule by my next post.



P.S. here’s a picture of the aptly named “big fish” statue and  a picture of the cutest dentist’s office I’ve ever seen, courtesy of Belfast:


Meet Ashley!

Hello Everyone!   Sorry for the delayed posting.  I’d meant to get this up two days ago from Minneapolis but had some difficulty figuring out WordPress.  Below are my thoughts from before my flight (some words on my first day in London are to come soon):

This marks my first blog post as the new Jones Fellow, taking over from Allison and her studies in Germany.  I’m super excited to finally get going after a long summer of vicious over planning (note the two copies of a fifteen page arrival itinerary currently in my carry-on bags).  I can’t wait to get to Europe and to start sharing my journey with you!  As far as this blog goes, through advice I’ve received from Allison I’m going to try to post frequent, shorter blog posts with a few long posts here and there to try to send a constant flow of information from me to you without things becoming overwhelming for either of us.

About myself: I grew up in Maple Grove, Minnesota and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan after high school to get my Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering with a Minor in History.  I know I have to thank my history minor for its large role in my receiving this fellowship (as it led me to pursuing a more varied array of interests at Michigan), and I know I have to thank my accidentally taking a course on Scottish politics for my getting a history minor.  My sophomore year, having signed up for a history course on jazz music to fulfill my Michigan Engineering humanities requirement with a course I was told by classmates would be an “easy-A” (and this was to be my ONLY humanities course in college, I’d assured myself), I arrived to class to find I’d accidentally chosen a course on the Scottish referendum!  Realizing that a last minute change to my schedule would only further complicate things, I decided to stick with the course.  During that semester I read more books than I had in the collective two years since high school, but I also realized how much I missed the subjectivity of the humanities, where, according to Nietzsche, 2+2 equals whatever best suits your purposes (not something you’d hear in an engineering classroom).  Two years, six more humanities courses, and a history minor later I graduated from the University of Michigan with a much fuller education than I could have expected my sophomore year.  My minor reunited me with my love of philosophy and literature.  I learned to consider the reasoning and the consequences of what I’d in the past considered to be purely mathematical problems, and I think I’m a better person for it.

This fall I’ll be starting a one-year Master’s program in Philosophy of Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science (generally referred to as LSE).  I applied to the Roger M. Jones fellowship as means of creating a gap year between my bachelor’s degree and the start of a doctorate program.  This time in London will allow me to further consider my motivations for obtaining a Ph.D. and to choose how I want to focus my efforts as a researcher in engineering.  I plan to focus my Master’s studies on the influences and consequences of modern technology, especially as they are influenced by politics.  I hope to get a clearer picture of my Master’s dissertation in the coming months and will surely keep you updated as that evolves.  Following my fellowship I’ll be starting a doctorate program at the Johns Hopkins University Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

As a shortened form of my September schedule, here’s what I’ll be up to in the coming weeks:

  • I arrived in London September 7 and spent today seeing the city, spending a couple hours at The British Museum (but more on that next time)
  • This weekend through the end of next week I will be traveling through Ireland; mainly Dublin, Galway, and Belfast
  • The week of September 19 I’ll be attending my program orientation at LSE, and classes begin the week of September 26.


I hope that my penchant for run-on sentences is decipherable to you, and I look forward to including you in my program this year!  As I don’t have many quality, recent pictures of myself, I’ve included here the picture taken for my LSE student ID card.


All the best,