Friday, February 26, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

You want to eat dinner at my house tonight.

I made some freaking awesome butternut squash soup.  Behold!













OK so my blackberry photography skillz could use some work.  But that stuff is mad delicious.  I took some liberties with a recipe I found from Michael Chiarello, who is a celebrity chef LB and I like to keep an eye on.  Here's my version (it's super easy):

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm so dead

Is your cat plotting to kill you?

Considering I have two, I think they're conspiring against me.  I did first grow suspicious when Milo distracted me with his cuteness, then Max made a flying leap in front of me, almost as if to trip me down the stairs.  Hmmmmmmm.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Senior Grad Student Invisibility

When I was a wee baby grad student, I noticed that the vast majority of students that showed up for journal clubs, workshops, seminars and social events were third year or under.  "How terrible!" I thought, "When I'm a senior grad student I'll be sure to participate!"

Now, as a senior grad student, I find myself showing up to less and less of the grad school functions.  First to go were the unnecessary social events.  Then the seminars.  Workshops became spotty, though I still try to attend journal clubs (and my institution is fond of nannying us taking attendance).  Increasingly I justify this absence to myself with "This is a waste of my time!  I could be at the bench!" or "I have too much to do today!" or "The kids these days suck at presenting a journal article!"  My favorite justification for the social functions is "Bah!  Kids!  I'm too old for this crap!"  (I have grumpy old man syndrome at 28, and female).

Now, some of this is certainly just excuses (although the kids these days do put on a terrible presentation, but I should probably show up to heckle give constructive criticism). But I did fail to realize in my early career just how time-consuming full-time bench work is.  If there's a seminar at 11, but I have to submit a 6-hour stain to flow lab by 2PM, well chances are the seminar will get skipped.  As a young grad student in classes, your eyes are constantly on the clock so you can maximize your lab:class time ratio.  I also failed to realize how one can lose track of time during a busy workday when you get in the groove.  "Crap!  It's 5?  I'm going to miss the bus!  I swear I looked at the clock an hour ago and it said it was noon!  CLOCK, BANE OF MY EXISTENCE, YOU LIE LIKE A LYING DOG!"

Hoo, back it up there QR, breathe.

Ahem.

I get the feeling a research career is like this; early on, you have a lot of time for non-bench stuff, so you go to more non-bench stuff.  Then you get busy at the bench and forget that the world around you exists.  Then you get tied to a computer paper or grant-writing and get bored out of your mind with the constant streams of text so you show up to seminars and heckle constructively criticize baby grad students with terrible presentations.  I'm hoping to move to this third stage quite soon, provided the luciferin cooperates.  Mwuahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hindsight -or- Choosing a Research Mentor

The single most important choice of graduate school is choosing your adviser/research mentor. Your adviser affects nearly all aspects of your career:
  • Science - Not only will your choice in mentor shape what projects you work on, but part of the job of the mentor is to train you in both scientific thought and methods. A good mentor will be able to train you to recognize the difference between good research and bad, when to stick with something or give it up, when to publish, and how to produce quality data.
  • Continuity of Research - Your mentor will provide partial or total funding for your project through her grants, depending on institutional policies. It is critical you have the funds available to complete your thesis project; without them, there is no project!
  • Writing - Your mentor will also guide you to learn scientific writing for meeting abstracts, thesis preparation and publication. It is crucial to learn good written communication skills; they are the bread and butter of science. Without quality publications, your hope for getting a J-O-B is practically nil. A good mentor will produce easy to understand, quality publications and help you to refine your own writing skills.
  • Visibility - Related to the above, your mentor can determine how seriously your communications are taken, and whether they are even in existence. A good mentor will encourage your participation in national meetings and timely publication. Your mentor can provide you with contacts to people who work in your field of interest and can advise you on which academic societies are worth your time (and money!)
  • Leadership - Your mentor also serves as a model for how you might run a lab in the future. She may also provide you with leadership opportunities within the lab so you can start to develop your own style. Leadership styles differ greatly; try to pick a mentor who is similar to the style you would like to emulate, but not exactly the same. You might learn something from the differences!
  • Graduation - Your adviser should always have your graduation in mind. A good mentor will make sure you stayed in school long enough to get the skills necessary to do a postdoc, but not so long that they're taking advantage of cheap labor. They will press you to make progress, without demanding too much or allowing you to fizzle out and get a terminal Master's.
Given how very important your Ph.D. adviser is to your future career, choosing one can be very daunting. You might ask yourself, how do I rank potential advisers? Funding? Science? Personality? Success graduating students and placing postdocs? These are all important; only you can decide which is the most important for you, given your situation. For me, all the mentors I rotated with had interesting science with established projects, so I could eliminate that from my final decision making process. I made my initial decision based on appearance of funding (more on that) and leadership style.

But as you may be aware, I encountered some bumpsLots of bumps.  I chose my first mentor poorly and had to switch labs. My purpose, chickadees, is to prevent future baby Ph.D. students from choosing poorly.  Given my methodical mentor-choosing process, where did I go wrong?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Time for Change

Sometimes what we start to do doesn't end up matching what we need to do. When I started this blog, I didn't really have a clear goal or mode in mind...I just thought, "Hey, this will be where I put my thoughts down lalalalalala!" This led to me getting distracted and not posting.

I have recently put a lot of thought into what I want this blog to be. I would like to focus more on science and social justice - things which are very important in my personal life, but that I have been ignoring here (don't worry, you'll still get my self-depricating sarcasm and animal stories, for suresies). To that end, I need to do three things. First, I'll need to overhaul this blog. There will be arcives, for sure, but I have reorganized them a bit. And with new content there must be a new look! The second, and much harder one, is I need to break out of my shell. I need to stop being afraid of criticism. The third is to fully commit to regular posting, at least once a week. I'm scheduling it!

Enjoy!