Sunday, June 23, 2013

Things to do in Pittsburgh or a PhD Student's Life is More than Research

I spend a lot of time doing research: reading books and journal papers, writing grant proposals, running my beamforming array multiple times, writing conference papers, and so forth. However, like most PhD students, I need to spend some downtown otherwise I'll burn myself out. There are plenty of things to do in Pittsburgh because the city is lively. The tricks are not to spend too much downtime or too much money, as a PhD student stipend is limited.

Luckily, there are plenty of things that can be done on a budget in Pittsburgh. I'll start with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates have not won a penate in over twenty years, and they haven't won a World Series since 1979. In other words, the Pirates pretty much suck. However, if you like / love baseball and want something to do on a Friday night or Saturday, this means that the tickets for Pirates games are very cheap. Seats on the lower levels pretty close to the field cost around $20 to $30, and you can sometimes get them cheaper on Groupon. The ECE Graduate Student organization (or EGO, for short) gets group tickets once a month from April to September each year and sells them to ECE grad students for $10 to $15 depending on whom the Pirates happen to be playing. This is great because you can go see a game with your classmates and friends. I've included pictures of the stadium and a video that I took last year below. As you can see, the Pirates baseball stadium (named PNC Park) is located next to the Allegheny River in the North Side of Pittsburgh across from Downtown Pittsburgh.

PNC Park, Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates (Copyright Jonathan Becker)
Pirate MLB Baseball Player at Bat in PNC Park (Copyright Jonathan Becker)

The video is from the May 8, 2012 game against the Washington DC Nationals. Although the Pirates haven't won a World Series in over thirty years, they win games, and this game was very exciting indeed. The Pirates were trailing the Nationals by the ninth inning, and people were already leaving the stadium thinking the Pirates were going to lose. However, Rod Barajas hit a homerun for an upset win 5 to 4. Considering that I love baseball, this turned out to be a great evening with my friends.

Of course, there is more than baseball in Pittsburgh. If you are a hockey fan, you will love the Penguins. Same goes for the Steelers if you love football. However, tickets to these games can get expensive because both teams have won their consecutive tournaments (Stanley Cup for hockey, Superbowl for football) in recent years. Luckily, there are plenty of fans in and out of CMU, so you can easily get together at someone's home or at a bar / restaurant to watch a game.

If you're not into baseball, football, or hockey, there are plenty of outdoor running trails in Pittsburgh. I love to run myself, and I quite often run through Schenley Park on both the Panther Hollow and Bridal trails. I've also run in Frick Park on the east border of Squirrel Hill. Although both parks are very nice, Frick Park is like a forrest in the middle of the city. When I run there, I forgot that I'm in the middle of a city. I am surrounded by trees, and I cannot hear any cars.

If you're not into running, there are plenty of activities you can do in the Pittsburgh Parks and in the neighborhoods. Every summer, the city has its "Dollar Bank Cinema in the Parks" series that runs from the beginning of June until the end of August. Movies play on Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park and Sundays and Wednesdays starting at dusk. You can also see concerts every Wednesday at Flagstaff Hill from 7 to 8 PM.

In addition, Shadyside is a very vibrant neighborhood with its own set of activities you can do. Start with Walnut street. You'll find a variety of shops and restaurants including the Apple Store, Sushi Too, Banana Republic, and Marios Eastside Saloon. Shadyside also has fun events including Jam on Walnut, the Great Shadyside Yard Sale, and Independents Day. If you love classic cars, Shadyside also hosts the Vintage Grand Prix Auto Show on Walnut. This last even is also called the Walnut Street Car Show in Shadyside. These are great events to attend with a girlfriend / boyfriend / significant other, and I plan on going to them with my girlfriend as they happen.

Finally, there are plenty of movie theaters and shops surrounding the city. I suggest that you be adventurous and take a bus ride or the T and explore areas outside the city. You can take the T out to the South Hills Village Mall, the 61C bus out to the Kennywood amusement park, or the #12 bus from 6th & Wood (in downtown Pittsburgh) out to the Ross Park Mall. There is so much you can do in and outside Pittsburgh.


Jonathan Becker
ECE PhD Candidate
Carnegie Mellon University