Springfield, IL
Born and raised in Springfield, IL. I lived here until I was 18 and moved away for college. I went to Catholic school my entire upbringing, starting at St. Agnes for Kindergarden and 1st grade, Christ the King for 2nd through 8th grade, and Sacred Heart-Griffin for high school. I don't think I've attended church more than a handful of times since then.
Most of my work experience in Springfield involved paper routes, baling hay on farms, moving furniture, printing T-shirts at the state fair, janitorial work, etc. I'd never used a computer to do anything more complicated than word processing or email until I went to college. Who knew I'd eventually become a computer scientist...
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Chlorophyll - more like Borophyll. No, it really wasn't that bad at all. Just a small engineering school in Terre Haute, Indiana. I didn't know any better but to go here at the time, and I still think I got a really good education out of the place (just not much life experience). I lived here off and on for 4.5 years, with a small stint in Ft. Lauderdale my first couple of summers and a little place called Casa Grande, Arizona my last summer. I don't keep much contact with many of the friends I made here, but the ones I do keep in contact with are still really good friends to this day.
Couch Surfing
After finishing at Rose, I really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I took 7 months off and traveled around the US visiting friends and living on people's couches for a while. I managed to rack up an $8000 credit card bill that took me years to finally pay off. Once this trip was over, I took an internship at John's Hopkins Applied Physics Lab for a few months, before heading off to grad school at Wash U in St. Louis. One semester later, I'd dropped out of Wash U and found myself heading for Berlin...
Ah, Berlin. Still, by far, my favorite city I've ever lived in. I could never adequately describe my experience here, so I won't even try. Suffice it to say though, that everything that's happened in my life since moving there is a direct result of having been there. While in Berlin, I lived in the former East (in Kreuzberg) and worked / studied in the former West at the Technical University of Berlin. The only reason I came back to the US was because I decided I wanted to do a Ph.D and saw more flexibility in receiving a degree from the US than from getting one in Germany. I don't regret coming back to the states, but I'd move back to Berlin in a heartbeat given the right set of circumstances.
Washington University in St. Louis
I'll never understand why I came back to Wash U after having spent so much time in Berlin. I think maybe I did it because it was the easy answer. I had already gone to school here for one semester, so I didn't even really need to reapply. I simply had to fill out a few forms and voilà - instant grad student again. I spent 2 years here, left with a Master's degree, and have never looked back. In retrospect, it probably wasn't really that terrible of an experience. At the time, I just felt like it was a huge step backwards from what I'd spent the previous 3 years doing. Either way, next stop - California.
From June 2007 - June 2008 I worked at Stanford as a research assistant, basically living the life of a grad student, but getting payed a substantial amount more. I lived in San Francisco and commuted down to Stanford everyday via Cal Train. While working here I applied for my Ph.D at both Stanford and Berkeley, eventually deciding to go to Berkeley. I really enjoyed the time I spent here, but I'm also very happy I decided not to stay - Berkeley is just more my style.
Berkeley is great. When faced with the decision to come here or go to Stanford, my final decision was ultimately based on how I perceived the character of each city, rather than on the quality of the research I might do there. I mean, both schools have great reputations, and I knew I'd like both equally from an academic perspective. Berkeley just has more character than Palo Alto, so here I am. That said, my affection for Berkeley didn't stop me from taking a 7 month leave to do a stint of research at the CSIRO in Brisbane, Australia from May 2010 - January 2011.
Brisbane, Australia
Coming to Brisbane was actually a pretty random occurrence. I had already accepted an internship at Microsoft for the summer, when the opportunity came up. On a whim, I replied to a job announcement email sent out on the developers list of one of my former projects. I was actually uniquely qualified for the job, but didn't really have much interest in going back to work on the project - at least not until I heard how much I was going to get paid. This, combined with the fact that I had friends in Brisbane from my time spent in Berlin, caused me to cancel my internship at Microsoft and take the job down there. I'm back in Berkeley now, but I'll never forget the time I spent in Brisbane. Who knows where I'll end up next...