Friday, June 27, 2008

Dr. Jennie

What fun.

My defense talk was around 15 mins. I had timed it at 20 but my normal talking speed exponentially increased. People don't complain about short talks but it would have been nice to include a few slides I left out because my talk was initially 45 mins. 20-30min is a decent length in my department. At my preliminary defense the chair of my committee commended me on my short talk.

A professor came up to me afterwards and said I did a great job explaining everything. He said one always worries about going to a talk that isn't their field and having everything go over their head but my data was well explained. I left out 99% of my methods, which I think it the part that can get confusing, and for my data it wasn't very important how the values were measured.

The closed committee part was great. It was a lot of fun to hear what everyone thought of my work and I feel I had good answers to their questions.

The outside member had a lot of comments that he said may not be necessary for the thesis but will be an issue for publication. In general I need to buff up the conclusion sections of all chapters and better describe the research objectives. I have until Aug. 15th to accomplish this. The final copy will be on a CD and I can directly mail that to the graduate school.

Tonight is a party at my advisers house that pretty much everyone I've talked to can't go to. Fun. Then I fly out early tomorrow and hopefully get on the road west on Monday.

It feels good to have this accomplished although I don't think I'll feel official until I've mailed in the dissertation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I feel nervous that I don't feel more nervous for my defense tomorrow. It will likely hit me when I wake up in the morning. However, I'm picking up my outside committee member in the morning and we are having breakfast at 8am so hopefully that will keep me distracted until 9am and then the talk starts at 10am.

I'm still futzing with the talk but I think that will go ok and I'm pretty excited to hear what the committee members have to say about my research.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Do you see the problem?

EcoGeoFemme made an interesting post about reading journal articles. The comments linked to a post from Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde.

I'm not going to summarize the post but you can go read them, what I want to point out is, um, let's call it irony. It seems that many scientist don't particularly enjoy the writing process. Some folks love it but I think many see it as a necessary evil. From the posts I've read on writing and now these on reading this is the process of events I see occurring to which I think a revolution needs to occur to change the process.

1. Scientist comes up with great idea* and does field/lab work** and has a lot of fun.
2. Scientist spends grueling hours trying to make an outline and eventually writes a first draft of a manuscript
3. Scientist has to try to incorporate ridiculous comments by co-authors
4. Scientist waits a long time for co-authors to read second draft (repeat steps 3 and 4 as necessary)
5. Scientist submits manuscript and waits a long time for revisions
6. Scientist makes revisions (or submits to new journal) of manuscript
7. Scientist finally gets paper published and feels on top of the world, decides that writing papers is the best part of science.
8. Scientist #2 reads abstract of Scientist's paper and thinks paper is interesting.
9. #2 prints article
10. Article sits on desk, then gets dusty, then gets moved a few places in the office, then gets put in the book bag and taken to coffee shop, then goes back on the desk.
11. #2 decides that there is just no time to read article
12. Enough guilt has ensued that #2 reads article


So it seems that all this agony and effort is put into a piece of work that no one feels they have the time to read. I find this depressing and think there has to be some way to make journal articles easier to read or the process of writing less labor intensive.

*I understand that one has to read articles to come up with an idea so you can see I don't necessarily start at the beginning
** I know field/lab work isn't always fun but my feeling is that most people enjoy this stage the most

Confession Week 3

As part of the No Eating Out Challenge I am having weekly confessions. This was week 3.
It's been a bad week.

Husband and I went to dinner Thurs. with friends. This was my allowable eating out. I did, however, have two social food encounters this week that involved eating at a home-these don't count as eating out but they as just as much fun.

Then this week-end went all downhill.
Friday my three friends from dissertation town arrived. We had pizza for lunch and I later realized we never ate dinner but I drank enough alcohol to make up for that. In fact I drank so much Friday that I didn't drink the rest of the week-end. Saturday we had a bbq in the parking lot of the stadium that the rugby tournament was at. I bought a water and gatorade in the stadium because it turned out to be a really hot day and they don't allow you to bring things in. Then we all went out to dinner. Sunday I offered to make eggs but we ended up going out to lunch at Subway and then I ate dinner at the airport. Blah.
So for those counting I ate out FOUR EXTRA TIMES THIS WEEK, plus a few too many beverages, plus an ice cream purchase Monday.

What a failure.

This week I'm in dissertation town and I ate out for lunch already. I didn't have any food to bring to the conference for lunch so I went to a local dinner with my adviser and two of his other students that I know but wouldn't call part of my group/lab. I was able to have oatmeal for breakfast since I still had some in my office and I made a trip to Trader Joes so I had microwave mexican for dinner. I am proud that the people I'm staying with wanted to order pizza and I refused. So they ate their leftovers and I microwaved my dinner. I had the excuses that I was tired of eating out-which was so true. I wonder if this week away from home could be any worse than last week . . . . you will have to wait until next Sunday to see.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Confession Week 2

As part of the No Eating Out Challenge I am having weekly confessions. Week 2 just ended.

It went well with the eating out part, however my grocery challenge didn't do so well.

Thursday night my husband and I went to dinner with a friend. It was fun. We also found out she got a professor position at a University in Canada she is excited about. The three of us shared a bottle of wine and a tiramisu dessert.
That was my once a week allowable eating out event. I wanted to go to the Indian Buffet on Sunday but my husband didn't want to. He saved me this week because that would have been eating out #2, not allowable.

As for grocery shopping both Tuesday and Wednesday I went to the store and bought a half pint of ice cream, which I promptly ate after purchasing. I have to admit the hardest part of the challenge is resisting the urge to go to the store and buy something sweet to eat. Last week I faltered twice but the craving was there every day of the week.

This week I have two lunch/dinner plans but one is at my house and the other at a friends house, so I won't be eating out.
Friday three of my friends are arriving for a visit. I imagine we may eat out more than once. Friday we are going to the city and it could be that only lunch will be eaten out. Saturday is a huge rugby match near by and we will be having a bbq in the parking lot so I maybe able to go all day without eating out. However, I doubt I'll be sticking to a two drink minimum.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It is Official!

At 10am Friday the 27th I will be defending my dissertation.

I was sweating a little because my outside committee member needed to book his plane ticket but the chair of the committee was out of town. The outside committee member went ahead and started a dialog about a day and time and my adviser said let's go with this day and time even though the chair had never responded to the e-mails. Well the chair e-mailed this morning (or last night) and said sorry she hadn't responded and that the time worked for her. Yeah!!
Now, as long as I pass I can go to the West Coast a happy person.

Again, thanks for the comments. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks the co-authors need to approve a manuscript before submission (silly husband).

I do think part of my funk is working from home in the Midwest. I don't think all of it is due to being away from the department. I think department activities would suck up time and possible make me take longer. However, I do miss social interactions. So I think missing the department would be ok if I had more friends in this area to hang out with. This is why I talk EcoGeoFemme's ear off every time we meet for lunch.

And I should get more excited about new projects. Good idea. I don't know what I'll be doing when we move and there are no positions right now I'm excited about but I should just dive back into the literature and see what's hot. Maybe read the -ology of where I will be living.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Thanks for all the comments on the last post. What started as a surprising result to an internet quiz turned into me lamenting again about writing. It is easy to do, I guess.

To answer unbalanced reaction's question. I have one publication in an obscure and local journal. It's nothing I feel very proud of. It got rejected from two other journals before we gave up and submitted to the local journal. The letter said it was peer reviewed but I didn't get any comments from reviewers about it. I have a lot of non peer reviewed items on my CV, a few government reports of which I'm first author on one of them and about one and a half pages of conference proceedings and I'm first author on 90% of them. I didn't do any collaborating as a graduate student so I didn't get a change to "share" publications with people (including my adviser who does none of his own research anymore).

I also wanted to clarify that I mostly enjoy the beginning stages of a manuscript. The organizing and coming up with what to plot and what to talk about. I dislike the review stage and not so much the journal review stage (since not many of my papers have even made it this far I don't have a good idea of this stage) but the adviser review stage. It's long and drawn out and I don't always agree with my adviser. I just want to get the papers submitted so they get to go through the "real" review.

What has inspired me to write today is my husband. He has been telling me that I need to get into a better mood. That I have nothing to complain about. It's like what Candid Engineer said in the comments, I need to have a good attitude (to paraphrase).

I've been in a funk for the past couple of months (maybe counting nine now) and I don't know how to get out. I've always been that person who looks at the brighter side of life. The go getter. The happy girl.
Maybe I put on that persona for too long now I can't hold it up any longer?
Maybe I truly just don't feel that way anymore?
Maybe I'm just being lazy?

I think it's the lazy part. I think my adviser has taught me that things take forever so why rush them. But maybe that is me being lazy again and blaming my laziness on someone else.

I've been doing this food challenge in hopes of helping me loose weight by not buying junk food. Well, both Wed. and Thus. I went to the grocery store and bought a pint of ice cream and ate the whole pint in one sitting. *Sigh*
I need to loose 20 lbs and just can't seem to do it. Even when I think I'm having a great week the scale doesn't show any difference. *Sigh* Ok this post is getting depressing.

What I want to say is that I need to have a better attitude on everything not only for my own mental sanity but for the sanity of my marriage. My husband also has a lot he is going through but he stays strong and it doesn't help for him to come home to a gloomy household.

He also keeps telling me that I need to submit manuscripts without worrying about my coauthors. This seems unethical to me.

My feelings of depression this week come from lack of direction. I have two talks I'm working on: conference talk and dissertation talk. Other that this I don't know what I should be doing!! I sent my adviser, what I feel is a final draft of our resubmit and then what. Should I be working on making the chapters into manuscripts? If so how? The chapters are in pretty good shape from my end I feel I need the coauthors (or committee) to give me comments for improvement. Or should I just prepare and submit one without any one knowing?

[thanks for reading this long post, which I feel likely lacks a theme or direction]

Monday, June 9, 2008

Holy Crap

I was going to write a post about how I'm bored with my research when I saw this Quiz at Propter Doc and decided to give it a go.
You Should Get a PhD in Science (like chemistry, math, or engineering)

You're both smart and innovative when it comes to ideas.

Maybe you'll find a cure for cancer - or develop the latest underground drug.

What Advanced Degree Should You Get?

This is just scary. So much over the past year I've thought that maybe a Ph.D. was a waste of my time, that maybe I'm only cut out to do other peoples research and that I'm so bored of sitting at my desk and thinking and writing.

I'm still working on the resubmit. I'm going to discuss it with my adviser tomorrow but I don't think it needs anything more. I'm sure he will disagree. It is this paper that I'm mostly bored with.

I still have a letter in review. We submitted it as a letter because those are suppose to have quick turnaround time. We submitted it in early February.

There are two chapters of my dissertation (besides the letter) that I believe are important to the scientific community and would like to submit. There is another chapter that is exciting but I'm not sure I have enough data to warrant a manuscript. Then there are two other chapters that I could give a crap about. This makes me sad. I also feel that the two chapter worthy of publication (in my eyes) will take too much time and thus frustration to polish up for journals. One of them I've been trying to submit since December but there has been so many revisions we decided to just call it quits until the defense.

I've spent so much time with this data. Designing the projects. Executing the field work and lab work. Thinking about the data. Collecting more data. Presenting it at conferences.
Then I got to sit in my house all alone for 10 months and write, and write some more, and have my adviser tell me we need more data, or that we need to reinterpret the data.

Argh. During this process I've become less and less in love with my research. It is more like the red headed step child (sorry if you are red headed, but you get the analogy). I just want to ship it off to boarding school and move on with my life.

But I've discussed this before. Is this process of writing the same for everyone? with all advisers? am I just a horrible writer? am I not a dedicated scientist? I don't know. What I do know is that I hate this feeling of boredom. This lack of focus. It makes me unhappy. This makes me then eat and drink more than I should, which makes me fat, which makes me lazy and then, yes, more unhappy.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Week 1-Confessions

As part of the No Eating Out Challenge I am having weekly confessions. Today is the last day of the first week so if I falter between now and falling asleep I'll have to amend my confession.

I did very well with the eating out rule.
1. We are allowed to eat out once a week as a social outing. This means that it has to include more than just yourself or yourself and your significant other.

My husband and I went out to dinner only once this week, on Friday, with the couple that we hang out with here. We celebrated that I turned in my dissertation on Monday. I stuck with my two drink minimum for dinner and my husband and I shared some bread pudding. Yum! Then the four of us walked around the town. There was a car show and a band playing. We then decided to hit up the wine bar and we shared a bottle of wine. So, technically I exceeded by two drink minimum. :(

I almost broke the challenge by going out to eat on Saturday with my husband to celebrate our 5-yr anniversary. We had gone grocery shopping that day and I thought it would be nice to stay home and eat. So we did. And it was so much fun. We watched a Hitchcock movie, made Phai Tai, drank the bottle of sparkle wine we got a local winery last month, and we got to stay in our comfy clothes and just chill out. My husband and I are true homebodies.

My last confession is at the grocery store. It was Tuesday or Wed. and I bought a chocolate muffin and a donut. I really desired the yummy chocolate and the carbs. *Sigh* So that broke my Rule B, but I'm not that disappointed about it because it was only once. In previous months I would do this multiple times a week.

I'm going to Trader Joes today so hopefully I'll stick to my list and not have to confess anything more.

How did you do this week?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Give away

A women just left my house. She took my Target bookshelf, office swivel chair (i'm now sitting on my balance ball), office supplies, random kitchen things, a magnetic dart board (cheesy kind) and my box full of goodwill clothes (mens and women). When she was leaving she was talking about eating on styrofoam plates which reminded me that I still have plastic plates, cups, bowls and silverware that we used/reused when we first moved here. I gave those to her as well. After she left I was sad I didn't offer her all of my half used bathroom items such like aspirin, Mylanta, some lotions, ect.

You maybe saying, Jennie she isn't your dumping ground I'm sure she wouldn't take half used bathroom supplies.
And you would say that because you don't know the background of this women. We met via craigslist because I posted about my bookshelf and chair. It seems in the 30 mins we were together I learned her entire life history, the abridged version.

Recently her apartment caught on fire. It was electrical and she had been complaining to the land (slum) lord about the problem for months. Her microwave caught on fire which wasn't enough to get the landlord to fix the issue. Then, one night when she and her family were home sleeping the entire complex caught on fire and after she tried to put it out and couldn't she had to get her <6yr old son and daughter out of the place then carry her husband who is in a wheelchair down the stairs.

Her husband is in a wheelchair because a few years ago on their sons birthday he was outside fixing the tire on their car and heard another car pull up. As he stood up to see what was happening he got in between a fight that ended with a gunshot in his spine. Paralyzed for life.

She told me that she moved around a lot as a kid because her dad was a good for nothing alcoholic and that she isn't very close to her mother and that she is the black sheep of the family because she is really the only one that turned out half way decent.

She had such a positive outlook on life. She now lives in a decent neighborhood where a pastor runs the apartment complex and gave her the position of apartment manager which takes off money from her rent check. She just has an empty apartment.

I was sad I gave away my books already because she said her and her son love to read.

She also keep saying how much God has blessed her. She asked if I believe in God and I had to say most of the time. So we talked a little about our faith.

I don't have a lot of reflection about this post. I mostly wanted to share my experience.

I still can't help looking around at my things wondering what else I should have given her.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Step 1) Give dissertation to committee members. CHECK

Yes, I just e-mailed my dissertation, all 136 pages and 7 chapters to my five committee members. It was so nerve racking. I kept thinking, “I should read through it one more time.” However, I don’t think my brain could pick up any more grammar or editing errors. The dissertation needs fresh eyes. I’m very happy with the content but I’m extremely nervous about careless errors. I don’t want my committee to think I’m careless.

But it’s in the past, now I need to focus on the future.

Step 2) Make power point presentation. Needs to be 20-30 mins long. I love this part and am not too worried about it.

Step 3a) Cross fingers and hope committee is on top of things and will chose June 26 or 27 like we previously discussed. Otherwise I will have to fly to dissertation town after I move out west.

Step 3b) Fly to dissertation town.

Step 4a) Defend dissertation.

Step 4b) Hopefully pass and celebrate.

Step 5a) Make suggested revisions.

Step 5b) Turn in dissertation to graduate school by Aug. 15th. I’ll need to double check with the graduate school about all the requirements since I won’t be handing in my final copy but my adviser will. I will need to make a folder with all such paperwork and tack it up to advisers wall so he won’t loose it. My school now does electronic submission so I’ll probably burn the CD’s myself and FedEx them to adviser.

Step 6) Pass out.

I know list are boring but I need to get all of this out of my head.

Additionally this month I need to


1) Make power point for conference in dissertation area June 23/24th. I’ve given a similar talk elsewhere so I’m not worried about this. P.S. if my defense date isn’t June 26/27 I am withdrawing from the conference since I don’t want to pay to fly to dissertation town twice this summer. My adviser could just give the talk.

2) I’d like to sort out all the references in my dissertation and make sure I’m fully acquainted with them.

3) Apply for a few internships, job stuff***


4) We need boxes. This was a worry but I think this is covered now. I’m not too stressed about packing because we have sorted through our belongs pretty well.

5) Sell my desk. It hasn’t been very popular on craigslist and I’m attached enough to it that I don’t want to give it away to someone unknown. I’m still posting ads and if it comes down to it not fitting in our POD I guess donation will have to work. No one has been interested in our guest bed. I even posted an ad at my husbands job. So we are moving that to give to my sister. She sleeps on a twin and this is a full size and the frame has four drawers for storage.

6) Do change/forward of addresses and transfer of utilities. I should start that today.

There maybe more but I’m going to try not to worry.

*** Husband has a temp. job where we are moving to. A friend of a friend of a friend (that's all) owns a consulting company there. My husband has been e-mailing with him and it turns out the company got a new piece of equipment that they'd like help on. The company knows my husband will likely be going back to school and that this might not be a long term position so it's great they are willing to invest time training my husband despite this.

I'm also happy that it means we will have some type of income when we moved, plus I'm still paid as a student until Aug. 15th.