Our Story … Or, Nerds in Love:

Once upon a time … in two states far, far away from each other … Jenni and Brad were born and raised (in California and Pennsylvania, respectively).  We grew and thrived on our respective coasts, little knowing that fate would eventually take us both to North Carolina, where we met on orientation day at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Epidemiology Department.

We each have vivid impressions of each other from that day … Brad remembers that Jenni “has been to all but one of the 50 U.S. states [sorry, Alaska]”.  In addition to traveling to 49 states before the age of 21, Jenni essentially “toured” California living in many of the state’s major metropolitan areas – born in Northern California, raised in the Los Angeles County suburb of Cerritos, she went to college in San Diego (UCSD, baby!) and graduate school in the San Francisco Bay Area (UC Berkeley – Go Bears!) before moving to Sacramento to work for the state health department.  Jenni enjoys watching college sports (Go Tarheels!), reading, and hanging out with family and friends (Rock Band anyone?).  Eventually, Jenni decided to expand her horizons and move to North Carolina, where she entered UNC’s Epidemiology PhD program.

Jenni remembers Brad telling her and all our classmates “I built my first computer when I was 14 years old”.  It was a while longer before Jenni found out that Brad is an accomplished musician who plays bass (electric and upright), with a Bachelor of Musical Arts degree from Penn State University (We are … Penn State!), or that Brad grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs (“H-town”).  After college, Brad decided to check out his roots and headed to Greenville, North Carolina where he went to graduate school at East Carolina University (Go Pirates!).  Brad enjoys relaxing (a graduate student luxury!), reading nonfiction, cooking, playing with the family dogs (… and hanging out with family and friends), as well as spending quality time with his precious MacBook Pro (or iPhone).  After graduating from ECU, Brad packed his bags, basses, and brains and headed west to Chapel Hill.

Following that pivotal orientation day, Brad and Jenni became friends, despite the constant demands of graduate student life – classes (epi methods, biostatistics) and jobs as teaching or research assistants.  As fate would have it, Jenni and Brad joined Aliza Liebman as lab partners for Charlie Poole’s EPID 715 course (the cornerstone of UNC’s epi methods sequence) during our second semester at UNC.  Unbeknownst to Aliza (or Jenni and Brad for that matter), love began to bloom amidst the SAS code.  By the end of the semester, Brad liked Jenni, and Jenni liked Brad …

In summer 2009, Brad developed a plan of action.  With the help of The Best Wingman Ever (aka Neil Gilbird) Brad invited Jenni to a baseball game (or, as Jenni later discovered, a secret double date).  We both had a great time and that game led to a week of long conversations with each other, culminating in the realization that we were mutually interested in each other.  Brad planned a very romantic official first date – picnic in the park while watching amazing acrobatic feats performed to the live symphony concert!  Of course, by virtue of Brad’s brother’s participation in the concert, their parents, aunt and uncle were in attendance too.  Oh, and it was his dad’s birthday.  But it all went off without a hitch!

From that moment on, we have been inseparable.  We have each found a partner to share our lives with, including professionally, as we support each other through the hardships of graduate student life.  We spend our free time together as well, taking occasional trips to Ikea or going to concerts together, watching Food Network or cooking, or sometimes hanging out with Watson, Jenni’s Chihuahua mix dog.

As a joke, at some point Brad began calling the dog “Watson Wheeler” … and ultimately, used this joke to his advantage.  On New Year’s day, Brad secretly switched out Watson’s tag, which read “Watson Baham”, with a new tag reading “Watson Wheeler”.  Watson came downstairs, and Jenni noticed that the tag sounded different.

After reading the tag, Jenni said, “Brad, this is funny, but it’s premature” … Brad replied, “Come sit down … there’s something I want to ask you.”  We went into the living room, and in one smooth move, Brad reached under the couch and pulled out a ring box and proposed!  [Jenni said yes, obviously.]

The rest is history … we are looking forward to writing the next chapter of this story with you at our wedding on August 7th … see you then!

– Jenni and Brad