June 06, 2012

Still the same quirky scientist

Sorry for not updating sooner, but a lot has happened in the last few months!

I accepted a postdoc position the day before my defense (which definitely took some of the pressure off!) but I was disheartened that none of my committee members validated that accomplishment in my closed-door session. Luckily, my friends and co-workers were very excited for me. It's a tough economy and most of my friends spent months looking for a job -- and that was with the degree in hand!

Then in mid-May, I went through the commencement ceremony. I was #13 in the hooding procession, so the whole stepping up to the podium and shaking everyone's hands was a blur, but I'm glad I was in the beginning rather than at the end. My parents enthusiastically took pictures and cheered for me. The rest of the ceremony was rather long and boring, but I got to spend the time chatting with my adviser and giggling as people were gagged or smacked in the face with the Ph.D. hood.
I recently received my bound dissertation and it looks darn good. I'm surprised how professional and intimidating it looks, since all those hours writing it are just a faint glimmer in my mind. I was really impressed with the Karen at the binding company. She kept me updated during the entire process and notified me if she found anything unusual -- like an extra page.

Since then, I've relocated to another state. I will be starting my postdoc in a couple of weeks. 'Til then, I'll be at the beach!


Image courtesy of:

April 01, 2012

That's Ms. PhD, thank you.

I passed my defense and turned in all the appropriate paperwork to the graduate school. I thought I would feel immense relief and a sense of accomplishment, but the whole event was rather somber. After all the committee members had congratulated me and left the room, I found myself scrubbing coffee stains off of a table and thinking, "This is it? Huh ...."

Now I just have to incorporate all the committee's revisions by mid-April.

March 22, 2012

6 days and counting!

That's right, folks -- I'm finally finishing my graduate program! I've been planning, pushing, and pleading for this day for almost 6 years. I'm ready to be taken seriously, to be respected as a scientist, to have a voice in the discussion. And though I realize that may not happen everywhere I go, the power hungry will be a little tempered in their critiques.

Because I'll have the same PhD that they do.


Now if only I could get a job ....

March 02, 2012

Favorite quotes

As I limp toward the finish line of graduate school, I find solace in quotes others have written about this experience. I can relate to Gradhacker's explanation of how professors infantilize graduate students, denying our maturity and relevant previous experience so they can treat us like inept children. I can also relate to the mantra of smile and nod -- it seems to placate otherwise insecure individuals. [Though, truth be told, you have to eat your own pride in the process.] So in that vein, here are a few quotes that have cheered me up:

"The defense is the committee's last act of humiliation before they choke the graduate student at commencement with the hood."

"So long and thanks for the Ph.D.!" [Ronald Azuma's blog]

"Graduate school is like a stage 3 cancer diagnosis. You have to endure years of painful therapies (like prelims) before you graduate and go into remission. But the process of surviving changes you and leaves permanent scars." [A friend's perspective]

"I have met many a moron that had a Ph.D."

"And while it is important to be willing to learn, there is a difference between humility and humiliation." [Gradhacker blog]
Ronald Azuma's blog

Gradhacker blog

February 29, 2012

Playing the game

It seems that, no matter how far along you are in your graduate program, your only way to survive ... to keep moving forward ... is to play the game. I was reminded of this when a polite request I made to my committee backfired into a series of emails, in which members told me that my opinion was wrong and they would disregard it. I have to respect and follow their every whim, but they cannot extend me the same courtesy for this one simple thing.

What a bunch of crap.

January 24, 2012

Compassion in short supply

I watched a poignant documentary yesterday called "How to die in Oregon". It is about the law passed there that allows those with incurable diseases (late stage cancer, ALS, liver failure, etc.) access to a prescription cocktail that ends their life. It is a law that offers those with less than 6 months to live the choice to exert some final control over their bodies. I think it shows true compassion and applaud Oregon for having the courage to pass it. [Incidentally, the law has been held up by Oregon Supreme Court.]

I've always thought it peculiar that people have no qualms about euthanizing an animal that is toward the end of it's life, suffering in pain or has a poor quality of life. They base the decision on what is best for the animal, not on what is best for them. And yet those same people expect humans to let "nature take its course" even if that means the person declines over several months, is in constant uncontrollable pain, becomes incontinent, or is there in body only (i.e. mentally gone). What dignity is there in suffering like that? Shouldn't we have the same compassion and empathy for each other as we do for animals?

There is no shame in offering the dying a humane choice.
Death with Dignity, National Center

"How to die in Oregon" documentary

"The end is near" from the Washington Post Magazine (1/22/12)

January 23, 2012

Writing, writing, writing

I'm in the final couple months of my graduate program and have found my time consumed with writing. This is a good thing -- it means that I'm close to my long awaited goal and can get on with the rest of my life. I've been in school continuously my whole life and am eager for a change of scenery and responsibility. I've noticed, however, that some of my friends don't share my excitement. In fact, they seem to want me to stay exactly as I am. I suspect they are projecting their own insecurities onto me, but it is peculiar.

Do some graduate students really think that this is all there is to life? Being told by a committee what classes to take, what experiments to conduct, and what direction to take your career?

What about controlling your own destiny? I want to be wholly responsible for my own success or failure. I want to tell people what I do in a sentence, rather than have to explain for 10 minutes how, yes, I get paid to be a graduate student, but no, I don't really make any of the decisions, and yes, my committee holds absolute control over my educational (i.e. degree) and financial (i.e. paycheck) future.

It is a shame that when someone says, "I'm really excited about finishing up and starting the next chapter of my life" the other person doesn't answer with, "I'm excited for you too".

January 04, 2012

New Year, flannel sheets and venting

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2012 or, as I also refer to it, Goodbye-Planet-Earth since the Mayan calendar ends on 12/21/12. I'm not too worried about the hysteria since I have a Doomsday countdown calendar that provides useful news and depressing tidbits as the end of the world approaches. And although it is probably fruitless to set a resolution, I hope to complete my graduate program and gain employment.

In other news, I've discovered my love for flannel sheets. They are so warm and snuggly! I was given a plaid set for Christmas as a gift and decided to purchase another set for variety. I went with the forest plaid pattern from LL Bean. I was lucky to get this set too because it is only available from November and December, and there was only 1 queen size left online!

As my decade long foray into higher education (undergrad and grad school) draws near, I find myself having a shorter fuse for elements of the "normal human condition". So in an effort not to have my head explode, here are the things that have been driving me nuts lately:

1) People who drive the speed limit (or less) in the fast lane and refuse to move over.
2) People who take things without asking.
3) People who tell me to be a certain way and then prevent me from acting that way.
4) People who project their own issues and insecurities onto me.
5) People who treat animals as disposable.
6) People who use religion as an excuse to spread hate and lies.
7) People who think your career should be the most important thing in your life.