Dissertation Day, illustrated

To paraphrase one of my favorite movies ever, 

'I can write a hit play dissertation. Why can't I have a little drink when I want to unwind myself?'

Brownie points if you can name it! 
Also, I didn't really drink out of the bottle. It was staged....and, sadly, empty.

Finally Dr. Albatross!

I successfully defended my dissertation on Friday! The public talk was well attended* and not too long **. I didn't really get nervous, in fact, after finishing it on Wednesday I was sort of at a loss for what to do with myself. Luckily, my mom was in town to distract me! 

The actual defense part was not what I expected. It was not an exam so much as a conversation with a number of suggestions. My advisor was very diplomatic in figuring out what will actually need to be done vs. what all was talked about. After an hour in the room with my committee, I have to add a descriptive section (2 pages or so), 2 new stats test, and a reorganization of Chapter 3. It is all very doable in the 2 weeks I have until the Graduate College deadline! Yay!!

There was a little cake/champagne thing at school, happy hour and fancy dinner to celebrate on Friday. Since then, we have been lazing around, enjoying drinks, food and the company of my mom and the Grackle. Today I am watching my Fantasy Football players rack up my second straight loss*** and trying to stay warm. I haven't been outside really in 3 weeks- when did it start feeling like January?!

* I thought it wouldn't be. There was a training/seminar series for some new departmental equipment, however it was cancelled the day before.
**All my practices were really long (over an hour).  
***But I'm still in 1st in my league and have already clinched my playoff spot. 


Meme time

Karina tagged me for the 5 things meme that is going around....

The rules:
~Complete meme and post.
~Email the person who tagged you to let them know it's up.
~Tag 5 others and email/comment to tell them so.

5 things I was doing 10 years ago:
-Living away from home for the first time (I was a freshman in college)
-Being introduced to my field and being inspired by the professor 
-Planning to be a high school biology teacher
-Celebrating my 18th birthday by going to see my favorite band on Halloween in Vegas
-Hanging out at fraternity parties

5 things on my To-Do List Today:
-Pick up my mom from the airport
-Practice my talk
-Go to a seminar
-Happy hour/dinner at my favorite restaurant
-Do some reading vaguely related to my research but very related to faculty research

5 things I would do if I were a millionaire:
-Pay off all of our credit cards and student loans
-Donate more to a number of good causes
-Move to a safer neighborhood
-Start some sort of award or scholarship for young women in my field
-Travel more with the Grackle

5 places I've lived:
-Midwestern suburbs
-Rural center of Midwest State
-Northern England
-Blue capitol city of a Big, Red State
-Small Mid-Atlantic city

5 jobs I've had:
-hardware store checkout person
-dance teacher
-1 hour photo technician
-cowgirl at a wild west theme park

Blogs I tag: This has been going around so if you haven't done it- consider yourself tagged!


InaDWriMo and Presentation

For all practical purposes, I've reached my goals and am done with InaWriMo for this year. My gratitude to Dr. Brazen Hussy for organizing again this year! The friendly competition added just a little extra to my deadline driven motivations to write. Plus, I wouldn't have counted words without it and seeing my progress also provided a little boost of much needed confidence each day. 

Since sending the document to my committee, I have been putting together my talk. In my department, there is a public lecture followed by a private defense with the committee. I really enjoy giving talks, but this one is particularly challenging because it requires a lot of balance. 

The department is very broad so I need to make sure everyone understands it without compromising the complex theoretical underpinnings of the research. Also, I need to balance the details with the big picture. My number one complaint about defenses I've seen is that they do not effectively convey why I should care about their research or where it fits in the greater scheme of our field. Now I am seeing how difficult it can be to compromise another slide of data for this larger background. 

Then there is the PPT issue. I'm very picky about the aesthetics of presentations and am not 100% happy with any color scheme I've tried thus far. I really like the dark grey background with green and blue text and highlights that I've been using for about a year now....but it isn't new and fresh since I've used it for the past year. I even tried to make a color scheme that resembles to blog here! Unfortunately, it makes my figures look bland. 

So, great interwebs...I ask your advice. What is the number one recommendation for the content of a dissertation lecture and what is the best PPT color scheme you've ever used?


Secrets to my InaDWriMo success

ScienceGirl wanted me to post about how I am getting so much writing done for InaDWrMo.
I've already fulfilled more than my 8000 words and it is only the 12th! 
Here are the keys to my success...
1) My committee wanted my dissertation last week. Literally, I had a guy say, 'Well if I could have it right now, that would be cutting it close." and that was last Thursday. 
2) I had a meeting to turn it in today!  
3) I don't have anything else to do. I'm not teaching, no lab work, only 3 hours of seminars/meeting a week. 
4) The Grackle brings me food, coffee and beer so that the only reason I move from my writing chair from 10 am till midnight is to use the bathroom. This is on weekends only. On weekdays, I have to get my own lunch (which I usually skip) and coffee.
5) I didn't go outside during daylight from Thursday till Monday. 

Ok, while all of those things are true, they aren't really helpful for anyone else trying to write. Here are just a few things that have been really helpful:
1) I have most of my reprints on pdf. Jumping from paper to paper to check details at the click of a button without having to rummage in the cabinet or my backpack has allowed me to move quickly through heavily referenced sections of writing.
2) Write a lot and then revise later. In fact, on Sunday night, I had sat in my chair working for 14 hours and had only increased my word count by 156.
3)  Remember that writing has to be simple. Topic sentences for each paragraph, very simple sentence structures, re-stating complex ideas in clearer terms or examples are all things I try to remember.
4) Classical music seems to help. I have been listening to Vince Guaralidi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" all week!
5) If someone (my advisor) is confused by what I write, I try to talk to him about it. If I can explain it in a conversation, I start over by using those exact words in the paper.

I am pretty close to being done with it! I turned in the whole thing to my advisor today and am waiting for comments. It will go to the committee tomorrow or Friday. My defense is official with a room and a flyer and everything. 
Printing it out today was pretty cool. Seeing it in print was rather overwhelming....at least until I got butter from my bagel all over the title page...now on to the presentation!


InaDWriMo update

I am zooming right along with the ol' word count for InADWrMo. In fact, my goal will probably be reached today. 

The third chapter is much larger than I thought...I predict that my committee will want it cut into two chapters but I will wait for them to tell me that. I am sending a full draft to my advisor today and then hopefully can finish revisions on the other two chapters while I await his comments.  

I'm also fighting off sickness. It sucks. Coughing, tired, achy, ugh! On Friday night, my advisor asked me if I was sick or going through puberty because my voice is all crazy. The Grackle has me on a steady stream of vitamins, zinc and Day-Quil. 

In other news, I am appalled by the behavior of some folks in my department. Grad students, postdocs, faculty- they are all crazy! The unfortunate thing is that I am leaving and can't do or say anything about it because it doesn't affect me personally (but at least I get to leave!). I wish I could help all my friends (and husband) who have to stay and deal with all these crazy people. I can only take what I've experienced and use that to make me a better postdoc/advisor/PI when it comes to be my time. Here are some of the things I will or won't do*: 
  • won't drink in my office
  • won't drink in my lab
  • won't drink at lunch before coming in to do lab work
  • won't try to steal projects from other people, behind their back
  • won't give people who make me mad the silent treatment
  • won't expect my hand to be held or be told how to do things more than twice
  • will set standards and expectations for all lab personnel
  • won't change those standards due to personal relationships
  • won't actually cut and paste my expectations and lab philosophy from someone else's and put my name on it as author
  • won't forget to change the details to be specific to my current institution and research organism if I do use someone else's materials
  • won't live with my boss or someone who answers to me in the lab (except maybe while I look for a place of my own)
  • will accept that different things are accepted and expected at each institution. No matter what the ranking of that institution 
  • won't think I'm better than anybody simply because I finished my degree
  • or because I came from a certain school
  • or because I'm a centrist about my subfield
  • won't be a condescending asshole to everyone I meet, even if it makes people think I'm funny
Wow, that felt good. Time to get back to work now!

*Not all of these occur at my current institution. 


Duck! Here come more bullets!

Just time for a quick update!
  • The last project from my time doing my MS (data collected Summer 2004) got accepted for publication this week! Yippee! It was a long struggle with horrible reviews along the way and 3 (I think, can't remember...maybe only 2) submissions. 
  • I am supposed to defend 2 weeks from today. 
  • 2 freakin' weeks!
  • I am going to try on my defense outfit today. If it doesn't fit, I am buying this.
  • It might not fit. I have given up time to workout and have instead focused my stress relief efforts on eating lots of cheese and ice cream. And cookies. And breakfast sandwiches.
  • Have an appointment on Wednesday to give a draft to the dean. The committee needs it by next Friday or sooner. I am really appreciating that they are honest about the fact that they won't read it till right before the defense anyway.
  • I'm trying to finish the 3rd chapter still....am planning on sending everything but the discussion to my advisor today.
  • If I get that far, I am going to a dinner at my advisor's house for an invited speaker/ ex-student. Free food is a good motivator...must get back to work now...


InaDWriMo 2008

That's right, it is International acaDemic Writing Month again!

My goal is to finish Chapter 2 and 3. And write an introductory chapter. Basically, finish the dissertation. I am really not sure about word counts since I have a lot of revising to do but I pledge to write at least 8000 words. 

Time to get started!