But humor aside, Greg's experiences at the U of C were good, by and large. Not only the professors but also the administrators demonstrated a sincere desire to communicate with and encourage success in the students, both grad and undergrad; and despite having pegged the geekmeter, the school was and is a pretty friendly community dedicated to learning. (Boy, does that sound corny... Please disregard this paragraph. But do consider visiting Mary Anne's U of C page for a more in-depth description of the University and its environs.)
Of course, not all cookies bounce. Greg discovered just prior to the beginning of his second year and after spending the summer working at Argonne National Laboratory that one week of studying for the Ph.D. candidacy exam just does not cut it. Fortunately he smoked the exam on the retry the following spring, but at what cost: he had to interrupt a blissful week-long dive trip to the Turks and Caicos Islands in the southern Bahamas in order to come back and take the oral half of the exam. As Counsellor Troi would say, "Oh, the pain, the pain!" (Or was that Spock and the Horta? We won't even think about about Troi and Worf...)
So it goes. After lots of courses, both as student and as teaching assistant, Greg finally connected with Professor Richard H. Miller in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and got down to some serious research. A lack of funding and a summer job at Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey, made things interesting for a year or so, but Greg did manage to find time to study chaotic surfaces of section for a number of simple dynamical systems.
The following year Greg managed to land a NASA grad-student grant at Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California; he promptly removed himself from the Land of Lincoln and some truly nasty summer weather. Little did he know that he'd discover the true meaning of ``rock and roll'' within a year of his arrival... But the shields held, and he survived a 7.1 with minimal damage.
As of 15 December 1995, our boy is finally done! Yes indeedy, the months following his successful defense on 27 July were filled with picky LaTeX formatting details, but he got the dissertation submitted on time and actually marched in the Autumn 1995 convocation:
That's Greg's advisor, the aforementioned Richard Miller, looking mighty relieved. He wasn't the only one... Yowza!