Member: Jamie Morgenstern

Name: Jamie Morgenstern
Hometown: Bigfork, MT
High School: Bigfork High School
College: University of Chicago
Occupation: Computer Science Researcher
Personal Bests: Mile – 5:06 (2014); 5k – 17:29 (2015); 10k – 36:14 (2014); Half Marathon – 1:19:13 (2015); Marathon – 3:00:59 (2012)
Running Goals: Mile – sub 5:00; 5k – sub 17:00; 10k sub – 35:00; Marathon – sub 2:50
Running LogRunning Ahead

Member Spotlight

Interviewed by: Paul Matuszak/Jamie Morgenstern (03/08/16)

In an unfortunate string of events, the intended author (i.e., the interviewer) of this piece forgot his laptop, cell phone charger and much more (e.g., his entire travel bag) on his weekend adventure to State College. As a result, the intended author asked just a single question to the interviewee.

Question: Jamie, I am turning my cell phone off airplane mode for one minute (trying to preserve battery) to send you this text. No need to respond since my phone is going back to airplane mode. But could you do a huge favor and self-interview yourself for this week’s weekly email?

There was no answer, but the editor of this email was delighted to see a “no subject” email in his inbox upon return to Philadelphia at 8pm on Monday evening. So yet again, we have the member spotlight section with the author interviewing herself.

So, tell us about yourself.

Uh, so first things first, I’ve never interviewed for a “proper” job, so I have no canned answer to this strange question that I hear is the start of most job interviews. Beyond that, I guess I could say that I’m a postdoc in theoretical computer science, I’m from Montana, I like to run, and I really like vegetables. I also enjoy almost any running-related endeavor which involves alcohol (my former team still hosts annually the Tequila 10k, my own perverse brainchild).

What do you mean by “proper” job?

I’m an academic (in training); I went straight from undergrad (UChicago 2010) to a Ph.D. program (CMU 2015) to a postdoc (UPenn, currently), and have been living off the government welfare program known as the NSF for my entire adult life.

Was that a hint of sarcasm or self-hate in that description of scientific funding in the US?

All I can say is that I think we spend far too much money on studying fruit flies (who gives a damn about them anyway, amirite?) and far too little on finding more effective ways to blow stuff up.

How did you get into running?

I started running as a freshman in high school because I didn’t think I’d get into good enough colleges without a sport. I was from a shitty rural high school that no one had ever heard of at proper colleges, so I assumed I needed to at least be well-rounded. I wasn’t a particularly good runner in high school; I was somewhere between our 5th and 8th runner on a cross country team that won states when I was in 8-10th grades. I think my PR for the 5k was 21:00ish.

I didn’t run in college (for the team) and only got back into racing during grad school when I needed a hobby and a way to meet people that weren’t staring at a whiteboard. It was a few months later that I realized that aging 6 or so years had made me a lot faster for no apparent reason.

Pet (running related) peeves?

Improper track etiquette, and those bathrooms under the Walnut Street bridge, which have been open exactly 1/300 times I’ve attempted to use them.

Favorite phrase to have gone out of style since HS track/XC?

“Man up”, or “sack up” or “balls out”: we had an assistant coach who really liked this kind of verbiage. My response was always “woman up”/”ovary up”/”uterus out”. He quickly stopped using these phrases around me, and now urban dictionary even has a page for “ovary up”!

What type of distribution do you (mistakenly) believe your running fastest possible times are distributed as?

The exponential distribution, because the distribution is “memoryless”. In informal terms, this means I don’t want to believe in decreasing marginal returns: the probability of cutting off 30 seconds from my 5k PR should be as likely if my PR is 24:00 as if it were 14:00.

Mustache-related anecdote:

My boyfriend has no uncertainty about how I feel about his strong desire to sport a ‘stache– he had a trucker stache for a single afternoon not long after we started dating and I told him I refused to be seen in public with it. Our pick-up ultimate team has never forgiven me for this stance and the mustache’s ultimate demise.

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