Greetings from London!

Hi all!

I’m John Gearig, a Roger M Jones fellow from 2020, who decided to defer one year. I studied as an undergraduate and master’s student at Michigan in electrical and computer engineering, and am excited to have the chance to study a topic that’s long interested me— philosophy.

As an undergraduate I declared a minor in philosophy, taking a variety of courses and solidifying my interest in the subject. Now, I’m very fortunate to study at the London School of Economics (LSE) in their master’s course in Philosophy of Science. I’ll live in London through August of 2022 while working on my dissertation over the summer. Generally, I’m interested in where machine learning and philosophy overlap. Recently, there’s been an exploding interest in machine learning ethics and algorithmic transparency, which I hope to study further and write my dissertation on.

So far, my life here has felt like a blur. I landed in London 36 hours before school started, as my student visa was delayed and I went to NYC to track it down and try to expedite it. Thankfully, I was able to attend my classes in person from the start of the term, but there was no time buffer to get settled in and explore. I had to enroll in 4 units (where each unit spans both terms and a half unit is a 10-week course). I’m living in East London, in the Borough of Tower Hamlets, in the district of Spitalfields. I chose to live in one of the University accommodations. It’s a beautiful area– close to the biggest skyscrapers in the city, but proximate to a number of cute markets, quiet lanes, and cool alleys. I have great views from my room and kitchen.

The cadence of graduate school looks like this. Each of my courses has a 1-hour lecture early in the week, which is generally recorded or taught synchronously via zoom. For each class, we’ll normally get assigned 3 readings which generally are journal articles of analytic philosophy, chapters from books, or encyclopedia articles. The majority of the time and effort is spent reading (20 pages of analytic philosophy takes a long time to read). Then, we’ll have a 90-minute in-person seminar with the professor, where we’ll talk about the reading, argue and ask questions. In the meantime, we’re supposed to explore and do independent reading for topics that interest us.

Thankfully, in the middle of the term, there is a reading week. A bit like thanksgiving break and fall break combined, it’s a week of no classes to allow students time to catch up in courses, write papers, and have a break. I went to Lisbon, Portugal with my girlfriend, and spent a few days exploring London. This was my time to finally catch up, slow down, and enjoy the city.

Now, it’s time for the second half of the term!

As Time Goes By

When I wrote my last post I told myself that I’d try to post every two weeks or so. Now, over two months later, I can only be thankful that I didn’t include that promise in my last post. Best laid plans indeed…

In those past two months, I feel like I’ve done so much and yet not enough. My classes started in mid-September and things have been nonstop ever since. I’m only enrolled in two classes this semester but it feels like my workload is so much bigger than in previous years. I suppose that’s grad school for you.

So what have I been up to these past two months? Schoolwork and seminars, club meetings and day trips, the list goes on and on. I’ve met so many wonderful people here. University College Dublin is a welcoming, yet challenging academic environment. I like to think that I’ve thrown myself headfirst into it, or perhaps more accurately, I challenge myself every day to do so.

In my time here I’ve seen a lot of Dublin and its surrounding areas. I’d like to share some of my experiences with you now. While you might not be able to join me here in Dublin, I can at least share some of the pictures I’ve taken.

This is a picture of one of the lakes at UCD, although the actual water is hidden by plants. Here you can find swans swimming around and seagulls lurking, waiting for a student to drop a piece of food for the seagulls to snatch up. As you can see, UCD is quite spread out, which is lovely for a casual walk and incredibly stressful when I’m late for class.

This is a picture that I took on a tour during Culture Night in Dublin. Culture Night is this really fun event that occurs all over Ireland where galleries, museums, theaters and more open their doors to the public for different free events. This year it happened on the 17th of September. I went with a group of friends from school. This is a photo that I took in Marsh’s Library, which was built in the early 1700s. This is one of the cages (yes, cages!) that the librarians used to lock readers in so that the readers couldn’t steal the valuable books. I know some librarians from my childhood that might have liked to do that to me.

Finally, a picture from my trip to the seaside town of Dún Laoghaire. This is one of the day trips that I’ve gone on while here in Ireland. I hope to do more in the future. While international travel is a bit difficult at the moment, there’s plenty to see in Ireland! I have preliminary plans to visit Cork in early December and Galway… sometime. I’ll keep you posted on my travels here.

I’ve had a great time so far in Dublin and I look forward to more new experiences. I look forward to sharing them with you. Hopefully, it won’t take me another two months!

See you in one month and three weeks,