Thanksgiving plans

With our families a 13 hour drive away, Grackle and I haven't been 'home' for Thanksgiving in about 5 years. Our second date was Thanksgiving dinner at a friends' house so we typically use it to celebrate our dating anniversary*.
The day is usually pretty relaxing. Grackle makes sure the kitchen is filled with good music so I can dance around while I cook, we eat our big meal (and usually too much pie), watch football and I usually do some crafting. It was after a particularly wine filled Thanksgiving meal that I decided to knit a cat sweater**...
Our menu is always filled with standards and Midwestern favorites: honey-brined Turkey breast, stuffing, green bean casserole and mashed potatoes. This year I am also making a butternut squash side dish, baking bread from scratch for the stuffing and trying out a new pie. It is the first time I'm making pie crust from scratch. I doubt I'll knit anything crazy, as a friend has a baby on the way that needs a finished blanket. But I also have a strange desire to do some Origami...

I hope everybody (if there is anybody still around reading this) has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

*Despite being married we still celebrate this in addition to our wedding anniversary. I'm not one to get rid of celebrations.
**turns out, cats really do not like wearing sweaters.


Dr for a year

Saturday was the first anniversary of defending my dissertation.

This milestone seems pretty unreal but also worth mentioning. I never had any expectations that finishing my degree would translate into anything meaningful in my day to day life and it hasn't. Even in my daily life doing science. Compared to the last year or so of grad school, my first year as a postdoc has been more challenging intellectually and I've become more convinced than ever that I really know very, very little.
This isn't surprising given that I made a pretty big leap in subfield between grad school and postdoc. And I know that my degree gave the experiences and knowledge necessary to be able to forge ahead in these new areas.
But still, there is some sort of dark humor in that getting the phd establishes me as an expert of some sort in what I worked on but my postdoc requires that I become incredibly comfortable acknowledging my vast intellectual shortcomings in the new field.

At least it gave me a good excuse to cook a fancy dinner!


Ball dropped, again.

Alright! 21 days into InaDWriMo 09 and I have yet to update. It might not turn out so well this year. But things are still getting done- just different things!
The official update on projects:
1) Decent progress made. I've got 1700 words or about 5 pages of...stuff. Hopefully by Sunday night it will be in some sort of readable form since I am sending it to Rt-H at that point. It is really similar to a proposal that was funded a few years ago and I am struggling to make mine different at least in wording and structure. The best argument is x, y and z. But I have that other grant, which also sets it up as x, y and z. I feel like I am copying but there is no other way to say it!
5) Since this is the same as 1, I have made 1700 words of progress! Woo!
2 and 3) Haven't touched them.
4) Also haven't touched but should get to it this week.

So, what HAVE I been doing? There was another writing task that didn't make my list. A revision of 'paper with too many authors.' I am first author on this thing but my PhD advisor wrote it and is last/corresponding author. It is a weird situation but he doesn't want to be first and out of all of us, I had invested most in it. I get the paper, thinking that I would have to add a couple references and that would be it. Nope. It took over a week of re-writing to make sense of some new data that he added and negotiate how to say many of my critical comments in a way that will hurt no ones feelings. 'Paper with too many authors' indeed.

I also started working on a new project to get preliminary data for my grants. It has been so long that I forgot the voodoo that is bench work. It is really cool when it works though! I also gave an invited seminar (more on this later), spent a weekend doing awesome-physical-activity in a wild and wonderful state, applied for a bunch of jobs and am now working from PhD Town home for the rest of the month. Writing is always better when surrounded by pets, right?


Writing Month returns!

That's right it is InaDWriMo 2009! Last year was pretty awesome and it helped me graduate in time to start my pretty, pretty postdoc.

This year, I am going to
1) write a fellowship proposal- Due Dec. 1. and is 10 or so pages.
2) revise chapter 1 of my dissertation for publication- yikes! After writing it last year it is still not out. Been submitted and rejected once. Gotta get this baby out again this month!
3) revise chapter 2 of my dissertation for publication- Needs a few things- a new graph, an new spin and some references. Should be a gimmie!
4) write first major postdoc paper- I am working on analyses right now but that shouldn't keep me from getting the methods, and intro done!
5) write small grant- this will be very similar to the fellowship proposal so shouldn't be too big a thing

Even though it is the 3rd, I haven't done much. A page of #4. Hopefully I will rock some of this out the rest of this week!


Also in my absence

A few other things that happened when I was gone:
  • I cut my hair. Probably about 10 inches off and above my shoulders for the first time since my first year of grad school. I had a serious case of hipster-hair and needed some new (although belated) postdoc hair. Of course, it has been 2 (+) months and I haven't had it re-cut but I want to keep it short and sassy for a while!
  • I started getting into awesome-physical-activity in a more serious way, getting all my own gear and making a commitment to a year of partaking in the fun. A-P-A really requires a lot of focus and thus, is worthwhile pursuing while I am in Postdoc City. Often I come home from lab, eat and open my computer to work some more. Now at least there are a few hours every few days that I am completely away from the computer and restricted from even thinking about work. It is good for non-work related life difficulties as well. Working through my A-P-A related goals helps keep me positive despite missing the Grackle and Company. Plus, my guns* are as sweet as ever!
  • I got a Mac. It was time to finally make the switch and time to have an apple in the family. The switch itself is still underway. Two important programs are missing from the new machine and I need to secure them asap. Other than that, I love the design and how it works. Luckily, my MS lab was mac and I use them currently in my lab so I am familiar with the finer points of using these things. My machine is great!
  • I got an iPhone. Continuing with the materialistic theme, this phone is amazing. I'm still in the honeymoon phase and hope that I don't continue to be that obnoxious girl with her phone. Or at least I hope I stop being self conscious about it. The best thing yet- I use it to take notes during seminars and lab meetings. My handwriting is atrocious and it is so nice to be able to make sense of my notes post meeting!

*'Please stop referring to your arms as guns'


Questioning your research

Today one of the senior grad students in my lab asked me if, when I was a grad student, I ever felt like my research was crap and questioned if the hours, weeks, years of effort put into the research was really worth it.
Obviously she doesn't read any blogs.
My answer was a resounding yes. Having not yet published my dissertation, I'm still half convinced that it isn't good enough! Anyway, I tried to reassure her that pretty much all grad students question their decisions and research at one time or another. Even the confident, brilliant, successful ones (I'm lucky to count some of them as my friends). At this point, another grad student, a 2nd year who is just starting to figure out his research plan, skeptically asked, 'Everybody? So you think I will too?'
Seriously, does no one read blogs?
My answer was, again, a resounding yes and that it would probably be when he and his fiance want to start a family but he has 2 field seasons left that will require long trips and long hours in the lab with no weekends off. The look on his face told me I nailed it.

Having dealt with impostor syndrome, questioning my research and thinking it is crap is pretty second nature to me. I want to know what these students are doing to get through grad school without second guessing themselves!


Moving forward!

Today, I finished a major step of my data analysis for the first project I have been working on for my postdoc. I've avoided the temptation of graphing out the data as I was analyzing it to avoid having to re-do it and get an incomplete (or wrong) picture of what is going on. The first glimpse of what my numbers are and how they are falling out with my treatments was awesome. Totally hot science! Getting through this tedious task helps me really feel like I am moving forward with my project as well. Finally!
Of course, moving forward = finishing something = moving on to something else. This final step is all wrapped up in its own little ball of strife, but we'll get into that next time...I got up ridiculously early to bake a pie this morning for a dinner party and need more sleep.



Just to make sure you know nothing has really changed around here today I worked from home (the real home in PhD-Town, not my apartment in Postdoc City) and planned to get a lot done. Including....
Finish getting old data
Start analyzing new data
Do laundry
Cook a nice, healthy dinner for the Grackle and I

What I actually did...
Didn't really get dressed all day
Read journals/books about new-research area
Started catching up on blog reading
Analyzed a tiny bit of old data
Discovered we are out of fabric softener
Am now waiting for the Grackle to get home with pizza and beer.


An overdue congrats!

During my blog absence, the Grackle successfully defended his dissertation proposal and advanced to candidacy!

Due to the timing of things, I wasn't able to be around leading up to the defense, which sucked. I really wanted to be physically present to help support him by lessening his work load around the house and with our pets. He was able to keep the pets happy, the house clean enough, not resort to eating only pizza AND put together a fabulous proposal and presentation!

Congrats Grackle!

back to blogging

So, it has been a while hasn't it. My absence was much longer than planned but I think I am ready to get back.

When I left, I had just returned from a conference. There was a big focus on my new work there and I didn't feel like I kept up or fit in or was well received whenever I tried to get my foot in the door or talk to bigwigs about my project. On top of that, I was in this competition and my talk didn't go very well. It was important for me to talk to some of the judges about my new work and I couldn't shake the feeling that they were judging me about everything. Because they were! Personally, it was a wonderful time catching up with good friends but professionally, eh.

Upon returning, I went into the field. It was a productive trip with a lot of pressure. It was on a new system that Rt-H hadn't worked on before. New places to work, with a different combination of students. There was one major blowout, which was due to my own leadership failings. 10 hours in the field + 7 hours driving + no food = unhappy Albatross. I got pissed at the actions of one student and the other had a compete breakdown. We worked through things and moved on with the trip and the work once we returned, but one of the students is still harboring some resentment about it all which makes it hard to learn from our mistakes and move forward.

After that trip (in July), with the students working away in the lab on our side project, I was supposed to visit to a lab for training related to the next portion of my project. This fell through and after a bit of floundering, I finally visited a different lab this past week to do the training. Things are starting to get back on track, some unbloggable situations have resolved themselves and life is becoming a bit more manageable again.

While catching up on my 1000+ posts in my reader, please feel free to let me know major happenings that I've missed in the comments. If anyone is still here reading, that is!


Stopping by

Just wanted to pop in to say that I am alive and well.
I made it to exotic conference location and back and have been frantically preparing for the next stage of research and upcoming field excursion. We leave on Monday but the plans for my research have started falling though and so I might be in for a major project reassignment. All my time is spent trying to catch up on 3 bodies of literature because I need to act fast once we (or really just my PI) decide(s) what I will do. I've been feeling very, very imposter-y lately and the whole prospect of not having a project doesn't really help.
I tend not to blog when things aren't going well. Hopefully, I'll be back soon...


Great non-weekend

Although my weekend was spent working, I made up for it by having some fun this week. After taking care of a bunch of paperwork for my upcoming conference, Grackle and I went to go see a band. I've wanted to see them for years as they are one of my favorites but it just never happened because they are always sold out. Well, the Grackle finally called in the big favor and got us tickets to the show as he used to live with the drummer. They hadn't seen each other in 15 years, but it was like only days had passed.
It was a great show...followed by an awkward afterparty...which we left to go to a basement bar... where I drank lots of fantastic tequila...resulting in a whole lot of dancing....next thing we knew it was 3am. I really enjoy knowing that people in hip bands are no better dancers than scientists!
The following day, we nursed hangovers and did a bunch of touristy things in Postdoc City . It was so relaxing to just hang out with Grackle and not think about the lab.

Of course, that was when I got the text message from my PI......


Bad idea

This morning, as I was grinding coffee beans, I got fed up with my extra shaggy, eye-covering bangs. I decided I must cut them. That. Very. Moment. 

It worked out well except for the big section I missed that ended up being an inch longer than the rest of my bangs. It was fine. The section was sort of on the side and blended in to the rest of my hair. Plus, the only lab member who would hassle me about it is on vacation this week. 
It drove me nuts all day though! 
Now, I want to fix them but I already drank a glass of wine. I guess I should wait till tomorrow morning. Post coffee.


Conference competition

I'm going to a conference next month. This conference is one of my favorites, but I haven't been to it in 2 years. It is always a great group of people. Plus, this year it is in a fabulous, exotic location. 

This year, I am competing in the best student talk competition. I've done this sort of thing before and have enjoyed it. One side effect is that the talk itself is better. Being comfortable giving talks is an asset but that also means that sometimes I don't practice or prepare as much as I should. When I know that there is more on the line- being judged, being in a special session, money (!)- I prepare and practice a lot more. Depending on the meeting, participating in these competitions can also give you leverage for networking. If there are limited numbers of students, either through an application process or just because few bother to apply, there is a greater chance someone important might take notice of your name, see your talk or be more receptive to your intellectual advances later. 

My ex-advisor thinks I am all cutthroat about winning because I've done these competitions. Maybe he doesn't realize that I put my participation in them on my cv! I admit, there were a couple conferences where I was all about winning, but I was required to go to these and really just wanted some prize money to offset the cost of travel. This upcoming one is the last one I will do as a student and at this point in time, I am really in it for the game instead of the prize. That doesn't mean I'm not going to work my ass off to give a good talk. But I will be happy knowing that I've done my best and will value the indirect benefits (like the networking) and experiance more than a prize. 


Beautiful weekend

It looks like it is going to be a beautiful weekend...that I am going to spend working. I am on track to finish one task (my data) before the Monday deadline but I have slacked on the other (my writing).  Trading this beautiful weekend for my time at home the past few weeks is easy and completely worthwhile. Plus, most of the people I know in Postdoc City are travelling this weekend so I won't even be tempted with fun distractions.  
The only question left is where to work? My options...

1) Apartment. Not much natural light, but it is quiet, comfortable and I have a fully stocked kitchen. Plus crafty distractions if I need a break!
2) Lab/office. My chair sucks but it is open and airy with giant windows. It should be quiet (no one else in my lab comes in on weekends) and being on the campus network will help with easy access to papers. The major drawback is well, it is the lab and I'm there most days. 
3) Elsewhere! I don't have a go-to coffee shop in Postdoc City yet and it might be time to find one! Of course, I might spend more time finding one, trying to get there, getting lost and then enjoying it than actually, um, working. 

Any other suggestions for where to write on days like this? 



We are celebrating our two year anniversary today! Always the science geeks, here were our centerpieces...
It has been a wonderful 2 weeks at home and I am sad to head back to Postdoc City tomorrow morning....


Coming out of the fog

I guess I have been suffering a hooding hangover. It went well and it was nice to see ex-advisor for a few hours. He couldn't put his own hood on beforehand and put mine on upside down. Better than backwards at least! While it was good to take part in the ceremony, it was a little weird. Like a bridal shower. I'd encourage others to go to it, but I didn't get the tingly I'm-really-a-Dr-now feelings from it that I was set up for. There was free-flowing champagne afterwards though which was a lot of fun. It made me really miss my old lab. Well, part of it anyway.

After my Mom went back home, I got down to work. It is really more likely that I am suffering from a data hangover. The analysis I'm doing is intensive and mind numbing. It is going about half as fast as I planned. Working from home is great, but after 5 hours of analysis I can not even see straight! Still, spending time in my own house with the pets and being all domestic-like with dinner ready when Grackle gets home from the lab has been lovely. It feels like a break but I am still getting more done than I would in the lab! 

Both Grackle and I are coming under the gun and have to prepare data for conferences that are within a month. Today, he is at the lab and I am analysing. It isn't all work around here though. We are headed to the drive in tonight! Yay! I hope everyone is having a good holiday!   


New kicks

I tried to talk myself out of getting anything new to wear to hooding. I made a cute, new skirt (with lemons on it- so summery!) but then didn't have a non-t-shirt top to go with it. A t-shirt seems a little casual for hooding and sooooo my mom talked me into getting a new dress (it is prefect for 2 weddings this summer too). I also got some new kicks since no one will see the dress anyway! 
I am in love with them....


Most expensive outfit ever

The semester is wrapping up at Postdoc U. The rotation students are finished, my undergrad had her last day and the normal services (like the coffee place) are starting to decrease their hours and will soon be shut down for summer. Except for the lack of coffee, Postdoc U seems like it will be a nice place for the summer. I'm forming a writing date group and am looking forward to finishing up current data and starting new projects. It is all going so fast!

I am back at the homestead (yay!) for my graduation ceremony this weekend. I am going to the hooding ceremony but not the actual commencement. It seems like a nice ceremony which is always followed by lots of champagne...
My mom is flying in today and we are having a little party afterwards. Things have been so busy with the new lab that I haven't seen any of my school friends since February...

I picked up my regalia this afternoon. They are just rentals but I hope to buy my own fancy set someday when I get a job and have my own students. Those things cost more than my rent! The day they are delivered, I am going to put on my wedding dress and my robes and just hang out around my house in the most expensive outfit I will ever wear. 


Held hostage

When I moved to Postdoc city, it was important for me to have a place where my pets would be welcome when Grackle had to travel for work. He is travelling this week so both cats and the dog are with me in my small apartment. Things seemed to be fine until the landpeople showed up this morning and now I am held hostage in my apartment. This is the first time that they have been here since the pets have been here and of course, they rang the doorbell and are very loud in the basement so the dog is going nuts. He is barking for the first time all week, whining, and running around. I was planning on going to lab and for a run but now as soon as I walk out the door the dog gets even louder and fairly annoying! When I was down in the basement with them, the landlady said that my dog must be clawing at the door. First, he is well trained and doesn't claw at doors. Second, he is 100 lbs and could break down the door if he wanted to. 
So, here I sit, trying to keep my dog quiet and waiting for the landpeople to leave so that they don't freak out about noise or worse, come upstairs to see the zoo! Good thing I don't have to go to lab today...


My non-world

With my PI on maternity leave, the definition of my postdoc position as not-student and not-faculty has become obvious. Most of this come from intralab interactions. The students come to me to discuss experiments, get papers, ask questions, etc. instead of constantly emailing Rt-H.I even sign their time sheets! While it is great that I am getting a bit of mentoring experience, the fact that I am not faculty means that the students don't have to listen to me and have on a few occasions ignored my suggestions completely.  Rt-H and I usually have the same suggestions so the students end up doing what I said anyways, but it is frustrating to be pestered by them all the time when they don't trust what I have to say. 

I'm also relied upon by Rt-H for experimental design assistance. Reading over a protocol, I found an error that would result in a fatal flaw in the design. After pointing this out to her and the students, there was a big email flurry to solve the issue. Since I am not the students doing the experiments, or the advisor I was not in on the solution. It took me two days to track down a student and get the story on the outcome.

These things are just small annoyances really, but they make it clear that my position in the lab is very well, un-clear. Defining my place in the lab by all these things that I am not has got me me wondering exactly what I am in the lab...On a related note. Geez, grad students take up a lot of time!


What?? Is it really May already??

To get back in the swing of things*- bullets!
  • I finished all my data collection on time. It is so good to be done with that portion of the project. Up next, my deadline to analyze all that data is the end of May.
  • I had to give a journal club presentation about a topic that I really don't like. I was volunteered for it against my will. It went alright, I think. This journal club is so weird. There is never any discussion. It is really just a space for students to practice presenting by presenting other people's papers. My topic required discussion and was far removed from the theme of the journal club. I think this made it more enjoyable for the students but it all made me very unsure of myself. I didn't know if the profs would dislike the sudden change in format. It was the last meeting of the semester so at least we ended with some fun discussion.
  • There is another presentation coming up this week. My big, 5 months late introduction to the department by way of research seminar! I am really, really excited to share what I did for my diss with this department. It is very different from what I do here and no one really does anything similar. Hopefully that will make it a fun talk. I am planning on giving my dissertation defense talk with a few slides added to tie in how I got to the lab I am currently in. Can't wait for Wednesday! Oh, and my PI is coming in for the first time since she had her baby! 
  • The Grackle is currently in the deep south doing work. A 100 lbs dog, two cats and I are all smooshed into my tiny apartment for the week. My downstairs neighbor doesn't hate me yet, but let's see how she feels by Friday!
  • The circle of friends from work that I have fallen into continue to amaze me. They all do so much more stuff than I ever did as a student. Pretty much every day that I am in town, someone is doing something. Be it potluck dinner parties (once a week), rock climbing (once or twice a week), crafting (usually weekends), meeting up for certain TV shows or this mornings' farmers market there is always something to do. I am enjoying the company and doing new, fun things but I have no idea when these people get work done! 
  • So many postdoc-ing things going on in my head. Please, stay tuned!

* I really need to figure out how to blog regularly or give this up. I hate the cycle of not posting, then feeling guilty for not posting then postponing posting even more. Ugh. It sucks. I'm going to try to post everyday this week. Hopefully that will snap me back into things here.


Escaping the lab

This weekend was so nice, I actually spent only 10 hours at the lab! I went outside, there was sun and it was glorious!
So glorious!*
The intense data collection period for my project is almost over. My deadline is Friday. There will be some long hours this week but hopefully things will return to normal soon (and return to blogging!). This weekend really reminded me how important it is to balance work with a non-work life. It was great to foster new friendships here and have some fun but I missed the Grackle. He came to visit me last weekend , but between my data collection and the Grackle writing his proposal, we mostly worked. 

I can't wait till my weekends involve both the Grackle AND escaping the lab. 

*One of my adventures. Anyone recognize the band? It will disappear soon....


Lab baby

My PI had her baby this week!!! In a ridiculous display of professor geekdom, she texted us 2 hours after giving birth. We got 3 emails that night and all were about lab stuff and journal club. Not even a single baby picture yet! 

A couple other professors have asked me how things are going now that I am 'running the lab.' It is funny because I'm really not. All the grad students are pretty independent and the lab tech ends up with more responsibility than I have for the daily ins and outs of the lab. Plus, Rt-H is ridiculously plugged in. So far, the students have bounced a few more questions off me than normal since it is easier to ask and get an immediate answer than email Rt-H but nothing too out of the ordinary. We will have to see how 3 weeks of absence differs from 3 days....


Back off, bitches!

The Grackle was propositioned today....for our dog! Despite being in school with this woman for 5 years and TA-ing together she never knew about our pooch. Our dear doggie is a beautiful, ex-show dog German Shepard. Apparently, a normal 'oh you have a dog?' conversation quickly turned to 'does he have papers?' Pretty soon she was asking if we would breed him to her dog! 
Grackle politely declined the offer but I am still laughing how quickly office conversation can turn strange! Not that any ladies could resist this face.....


Waste of a day!

Today started out slowly. The facilities guy had to do some work in my research room so I waited till he was done to start work. Right as I start doing my first 2 hour data collection, the lab tech tells me about a power outage to our floor. We freak out and get all the essential equipment for my data collection switched to the back-up power system. After 20 minutes, everything on the back-up power system shuts off but the normal power remains working. I give up on the data and unplug everything. 
2 of our 3 big, fancy machines which must run constantly have quit since they are also hooked up to the back-up power. Freak out number 2. We get the facilities guy to check it out and find out that we blew the fuse on our back-up circuit by adding my equipment to it. Now, the 2 big machines are running again, but we are still waiting for the regular power to go out. Big machine 3 is still hooked up to regular power. I run to a hardware store so we can string a contractor-grade extension cord across the hall to tap into a different back-up power circuit. Eventually, the regular power goes out. But big machine 3 still isn't working! Freak out 3 that the outage itself could have fried the machine. 5 hours wasted since finding out the power was going to go out. Lab tech realizes that each big machine has multiple cords. All must be on back-up power. One is labeled with tape saying "must be on back-up power" but is not even plugged in to anything. The grad student trying to figure out that part of the system didn't bother to read the tape. Grrrr. 

When I left, everything important was working. Hopefully it will stay that way. 

Today was the first day that Rt-H stayed home due to her impending baby. Things without her around better get easier!


Back again!

We made it back, again! Actually, we were back a week ago but I've been locked away in the lab since then. This trip was easier that the first because it was shorter but held its own challenges. We drove into tornadoes (but didn't have to camp in the rain!) and pulled a couple of 18 hour days but ultimately got our work done. Given that this was the second trip for the students, they were not in as good of spirits as they were for the first trip. This time, they knew what they were in for! There was a feeling of quiet determination compared to the first trips' feeling of a boisterous, big adventure. 

The worst part of the trip for me was getting injured. I took a couple of hard falls landing on the part of your hand where the index finger meets the palm both times . It was purple within a minute and painful to the touch. I tried to finish out the work we were doing, but had to take a breather so as not to scream, swear or cry in front of the students. It was all I could do hold it together. My old labmates, advisor and current advisor have all seen me upset to the point of tears. Heck, I was crying when I passed my proposal defense. It is like crying is my only stress response. But for some reason, I really didn't want to lose it in front of students when I was suppossed to be 'in charge'. I just kept replaying Tom Hanks in my head telling me that there is no crying in science. It worked. In the end, there was a whole lot of cussing when out of earshot, but no crying. Is this what it means to be responsible? After more than a week, my hand is still bruised and puffy but I feel pretty good about being able to handle such an obstacle. 

Anybody else had to learn to censor themselves in front of students?


I'm back...but just for a second

Everyone survived the research trip! Being 'in charge' was really not too hard. Rt-H was accessible via text/phone when I had major issues (like getting locked out of our van due to key fab failure in the rural deep South). Despite bad weather and bad equipment we got more work done than planned and returned a day early. I got slightly annoyed around day 5 at the 22 year old first year. She had warned me that she complains a lot....and boy was she not kidding! That and her 'what I know is right and anything new or different is wrong' attitude just got to me. Smooth sailing other than that.

Research-wise it was a super successful trip and I have been locked in the lab since our return. This science is so, SO hot you guys!! I am just at the very start of the project, but can already see that it is going to be fabulous data to work with! 

We leave again tomorrow morning at 6:30 for another trip. This time I've got the 22 yr old, a guy (another first year) who asked if his girlfriend could come along because she doesn't want to be alone for 4 days (she is not coming due to her work schedule, space limitations and the ridiculousness of complaining about getting lonely when you have to spend 4 days with yourself. Doing so to a postdoc who hasn't seen her husband in a month doesn't help!) and a second year who was so anxiety-ridden on our trip in February that she broke down crying at dinner because of the prospect of driving in snow flurries. Thank goodness it is only 4 days this time! 

Hopefully on the other side of it, I will get to return to some semblance of a real life. 
Off to pack...


Headed South

We are leaving in about 9 hours for the research trip. I've got a sweet rental van, all my equipment and the promise of bad weather. Now if only I would finish packing...

I hope everyone has a great week! See you when I get back!



  • An rboc post is better than no post, right?
  • I have been trying to write a post about students, their hang-ups, anxieties and how to deal with them. I have my own as well, but they have never kept me from doing my work (they'll keep me from submitting my work, but even that gets done- see next bullet). Really, I just want students to take responsibility for their own work. I don't care if you are afraid of driving in any type of weather. If you have experiments to do, you better figure out how to get over it and show up. 
  • My first paper from my dissertation got rejected today. It wasn't even reviewed. I suppose I should follow my own advice- figure out how to get over it and resubmit the thing. This won't happen for at least 3 weeks.
  • I leave in less than 36 hours for my research trip. Things are not exactly ready. Tomorrow is going to be a long day of arranging details. Methods for the intensive research scheduled for after the trip are also not ready. I thought I had ironed out all the details last week, then trying to replicate them today was a total disaster. 
  • These two previous bullets are serious bummers. Getting out of here and getting some research underway will be a major improvement!
  • One little thing I haven't mentioned yet-- my PI is pregnant! This is the real reason I am leading the research trip on my own. Rt-H is due in a little over a month. It is really inspiring to see how it is possible to be pre-tenure with a young family (this is her second in under 2 years) on a day-to-day basis.  More on this in the future. 
  • I have to get back to packing! 



EcoGeofemme was kind enough to interview me. 

  • You’ve mentioned that you are very tall.  What’s that like?  Name the best thing and the worst thing about it. 
  • I really enjoy being tall (I am 5 ft. 10.5 inches) and I have no issue wearing heels, as the Grackle stands a mighty 6 ft. 5 inches. The biggest perks are practical. Being able to reach high shelves and being able to see over other people at concerts. The worst part of it is when people in front of you on an airplane try to recline and finding pants that are long enough. I wish I could say something deeper about how my height has shaped (ha!) me as a person but while it describes me, it has never really defined me. It never really hindered me. I could still blend in when I wanted to and was fine dating shorter or at least, not much taller guys (Grackle was my first over 6 ft boyfriend). It didn't help me that much either-never facilitated a fabulous sports career or anything. While I did play volleyball in middle school, I was a setter! 

  • Is it harder or easier than you expected to be in a long distance relationship? 
  • This is a difficult question, so I am going to focus on the specifics of our current long distance situation vs. previous since the Grackle and I are in our third stint as a long distance couple*. I'm pretty sure you have to talk yourself into thinking it will be easy, otherwise no one would ever do it! This time it would be easier for a number of reasons: 1) We are closer (170 miles vs 3000 miles) so visits are more frequent. 2) My schedule is a bit more flexible. 3) We have more available technology (internet with video chat vs. no internet). 4)  We are in the same time zone. Now, whether or not it is actually easier- it is too soon to tell. Seeing Grackle with the cats on the video chat just fills me with happiness every time. On the other hand...new challenges  continue to blindside me and make me want to pack up and move home.   

  • Do you ever imagine doing a different kind of science?
  • Not really. I was crap at the only other sciences I took in college (Chemistry and Physics) and more importantly- wasn't inspired by them. Perhaps, I just didn't find the alternative science that would make me happy. I could conduct research in a related subfield but would never want to deviate too much. If I couldn't do my kind of science, I'd probably do something related to the application of or public outreach for my kind of science. 

  • What’s your best-ever Halloween costume?
  • Overall, I think the best Halloween costumes are homemade. My favorites would include a mermaid (198?) and Glenda the Good Witch (high school). Here are a couple recent favorites...
    Keiko the Killer Whale (2005) and made by my mom.
    Bee Girl from Blind Melon video (2008) made by me!
    • Suppose you are offered two jobs with equally interesting science/colleagues/prestige/etc.  One pays really well but is in a crappy location and the other has lousy pay but in a fabulous location.  There is a position for the Grackle at each of them. Which do you choose?    
    Well, I think we have managed to live pretty well as grad students and honestly, I am not really sure what we will spend 'real' salaries on!** Based on this, I would pick the fabulous location. We don't need a lot of stuff if as long as we are together- being in a great place is even an extra bonus! 

    If anyone wants me be interviewed- let me know in the comments!

    * Only six months after we started dating, I moved to PhD town and it was 8 months before Grackle joined me. We had another 8 month stint while I was doing field work and were married 5 months into that separation. 
    ** I lie. We'd go on vacations, get jeans without holes in them and probably more pets.



    I drove home to the husband and pets tonight. I'm surfing blogs and finishing a beer before collapsing into the most comfortable bed ever*.

    I love being home so I can catch the Grackle when he does things like Google "What is your freaking problem, Facebook?" and follows it up by clicking on "Monkeys ride giant rodents." ** He says...."if monkeys can ride giant rodents, why can't we all be happy?"
    He knows I'm blogging this and just made a Grackle sound.  

    * seriously, my bed in Postdoc City stinks. It is small and not soft. Home bed is a king with a pillowtop. 
    ** it is worth watching just for the music.


    We are officially underway!

    This past weekend, I went on my first research trip with the new lab. It was me, Rt-H and a second year grad student on a 36 hour trip, 22 of those were spent driving. The others were pretty crappy sleep and hard labor. I've been on research trips with Rt-H before, and we get along great so it wasn't too bad. The grad student kept to herself, listening to her music most of the time. She will be the topic of another post this week. 

    For me, this was practice for later in the month. I will be taking 2 grad students on a ten day long research trip into the deep South. We will be doing a lot of driving, physical work and camping. It is the first research trip of its kind for both of these students and only one of them has camping experience. Should be interesting! 
    In addition to the firsts for them, it will be my first time really being in charge of more than myself. I've had field helpers in the past, but they were other grad student friends (and often my husband) or undergrads tagging along with professor friends of mine. The big difference is that I am responsible and really leading the trip. I guess this means I have to be on my best behavior, set a good example and say, for example, not try to scam 5 more minutes of sleep in the mornings. The increased responsibility goes not only for the day-to-day aspect of making sure things run smoothly and paying for stuff but also for the work. It isn't just my research and graduation date depending on my abilities this time. It is my PI and all the students in the lab who depend on this work. Having the pressure turned up is actually a pretty good motivator. I am more prepared for this trip than any other and am planning on kicking ass.


    My undergrad- Updated!

    I was assigned an undergrad to work with on my new project. Let's call her Kori*. At first, it was great to have someone to work for me but I was concerned about finding meaningful tasks for her to do. It sucks to process data files but on the other hand- I don't have to do it! Yea!!
    Rt-H agreed processing was good for her to start with and she's been doing this for the past 3 or 4 weeks. Things were going smoothly, but she is crazy slow at doing anything. It sort of works out because it keeps me from having to find more work for her to do. Perhaps her slowness is balanced by her attention to detail you say? Nope. She skips files and overlooks important coding. I also have to work on the computer next to her (the only computer with my analysis programs) to ensure she doesn't watch too many music videos. Up to this point, all these things were merely annoying. Kori is nice, helpful and I appreciate her work. Her presence allows me to be doing other things and this is priceless.  

    Well, today Kori took it to a new level. I asked her (via email because I was driving back from a weekend with the Grackle when she was to be in the lab) to cut and paste data from a bunch of files into one spreadsheet. In my email, I set up what the spreadsheet should look like. When looking over her sholder today, I see that she just made a list, in a spreadsheet, of the file names. No data anywhere. Nothing like what I asked for. Ugh. Luckily, it wasn't anything too important. 

    How long does it usually take to know what a particular undergrad can be trusted with? Perhaps almost a year without dealing with students has skewed my ideas of what to expect and how much hand holding I need to do. If nothing else, I need to communicate a bit more about specifically what I need from Kori. Hopefully we will go back to moving forward, despite doing so at a snail's pace.

    *After the Kori Bustard. Bustard come from the latin for 'slow bird'

    UPDATE: Some of Kori's slowness and flakiness could be because she is a graduating senior this semester! If nothing else, I only have to work with her for a few more months. Rt-H was telling me about the young woman she is hoping to lure to the lab next year. She sounds really amazing student! 


    Not that I'm counting...

    I have officially been employed as a postdoc for 39 days. Tomorrow, on day 40, I will finally receive my first paycheck. 
    My last grad student paycheck came right as I started the new position so it easily could have been a longer period of time between paychecks. My grad department was one that always supported me during the summer and so I haven't had this sort of drought for a long time. It might have been easier had I known it was coming (I wouldn't have spent a ton of money at Ikea the weekend before I started if I knew it was going to be so long), but I doubt it is ever easy. 

    In celebration, I am going to pay my utilities! And part of the credit card I've been living off of! 


    roller coaster week

    This postdoc thing has got me up, down, upside-down and sideways. 

    Up: Since last week, things have gotten better. I figured something out on my own, which really helped increase my confidence. I was able to finish up analyzing my first data set and now...

    Down:  ...the second has not been as kind. I am slooooowly working through it but seriously, does anyone have any tips on how to remind yourself to eat when you are in the lab 12+ hours? It is really inconvenient when you are in the middle of something and have to leave to actually do it!

    Upside-down: My progress is at a dangerous stage right now. I know just enough to know when something is new and different, but I don't know how to deal with it yet. Some of what I'm finding is completely unexpected (and therefore totally awesome). It is enthralling and frustrating all at once.  Tomorrow I actually get to learn how to take my own data (yay!) but for now...
    Sideways: ...I'm going to go crawl into bed with some pdfs.


    My real Darwin Day celebration

    My previous Darwin post felt a bit forced. I do think there are small and easy ways for all scientists to reach out  for the understand of evolution but the problem isn't nearly as bad as it was 6 hours ago. CNN updated it's story with a NEW poll stating that... 
    "39 percent of Americans say they "believe in the theory of evolution," 
    while a quarter say they do not believe in the theory, 
    and another 36 percent don't have an opinion either way." 
    Alright, sure. Way to go polled people!  I'm way more down with apathy than anti-evolution sentiment! So here is how I really celebrated today*:

    If you can't wear fancy boots for a 200th birthday, when can you? 

    *The camera angle makes me look like I have really short legs. I don't. 

    Happy Darwin Day!

    In case you missed it (really, where’ve you been?), today is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. This year is also the 150th anniversary of the publication of his most famous book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

    The scientific status of evolution by natural selection is solid and the evidence is overwhelming. A quick Web of Science search on ‘natural selection’ comes back with over 8,000 results. However, the public status of evolution by natural selection remains weak. CNN sums it up…

    “The most recent Gallup poll on the issue, conducted in May, found that only 14 percent of Americans believe that humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. Forty-four percent believe that God created human beings almost overnight within the past 10,000 years, and another 36 percent believe that God guided humans' evolution from animals over a much longer period of time.”

    That 44% is most disturbing to me, although dinos at the nativity would make an awesome Xmas blockbuster.

    I think this number is mostly based on misunderstanding of science compounded by a misunderstanding of the evidence for evolution by natural selection. So, how do you decrease that number? Who should be doing it? Should we bother? Personally, I’ve encountered people who are stubborn in their beliefs and shut down any conversation before it starts. This sort of thing frustrates me and results in me not wanting to deal with the issue. I can do my science, go along my way and leave well enough alone. What good does that do? 

    I don’t really have any good answers today except for thinking that my involvement with public education about evolution could extend past arguing with drunks in bars.... I mean, I should do more to communicate science in general in addition to my usual focus on my own research. If as Dobzhansky said"nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution," then any of us even remotely tied to biology should have a good understanding of the subject of evolution. Luckily, we’ll be celebrating Darwin and his big book all year so I have time to post more in depth about various aspects of this issue.

    Most of my readers (the few I have, thanks for stopping by, by the way!) are scientists (and my mom) so I don’t want to beat a dead…finch, I guess. If you feel particularly yea or nay about my posting more detailed posts on this- please let me know in the comments!  

    Either way, happy birthday, Charles!


    Current difficulties

    My postdoc research is pretty far removed from anything I’ve done before. It is really exciting, but also really difficult. I have no background in the actual work and am trying to read as much as possible and talk to as many people to get my head around it all. It doesn’t help that I am working somewhat backwards. I was given last years’ data and a plan for me to write it up before my field season starts. It is hard to understand data that I didn’t collect. Last week  I had to ask someone exactly what the numbers in the dataset actually were*. The data itself isn’t the best either. Bah.

    Given that I don’t know squat, I’ve been feeling like very much the impostor lately. In the past, I’ve dealt with general feelings of not (ever) being good enough. I never really thought I ‘fooled’ anybody to progress in my career or worried about being ‘exposed’ but certainly dismiss my accomplishments. 

    What is different is that I can’t help but feel like an impostor because of other peoples’ assumptions about me. Since day one, others in the department have taken for granted that I am an expert in this area and technique. This assumption combined with my extreme lack of knowledge is not a good mix. Any question I ask is met with, ‘Well you know some random tiny detail about math…blah blah blah.’ The slightly furrowed brows or pauses when I answer ‘uhhh, what’s that again?’ are starting to get to me. It is like I finally DID get exposed as an imposter when I never, ever claimed to be an expert in this area in the first place!

    What bugs me most is that playing so much catch up in my new area has sucked me into this hole of self doubt in my older work. My dissertation chapters have sat for a month. I’ve read them over, had others read them over and gotten the go ahead from my PhD advisor but I’m just not sure they are submission quality anymore. No real reason why.

    I’m not sure how to shake myself out of it but I'm going to just try to continue making progress with continued reading, working towards small goals in the research each day, continuing to ask the questions I need to – no matter how basic, and finally get that research seminar in the department done soon so these peeps know what my background really is! 


    *In my defense, we present data at a percentage. There are values that are over 100 and less than 0. Hence, my confusion.



    A big thanks to ScienceGirl, who was kind enough to pass along an Inspiration Award.

    The rules are as follows:
    • Put the logo of the award (above) on your blog if you can make it work with your format.
    • Link to the person from whom you received the award.

    • Nominate seven or more blogs. (Or less, if you please). 

    • Put the links of those blogs on your blog.

    • Leave a message on their blogs to tell them.

    I nominate: 

    All very inspiring ladies doing things like gettin papers submitted, rocking the GRE, finishing a thesis (with a baby on the way) and managing to balance lab life with other passions that many of us just give up instead! 


    And I Remember Every Kiss

    I love the music memes. I wasn't called out, but share a lot of music with Cath. Her style of tagging works for me so consider yourself tagged if you have any of these songs in your music library!

    a) Put your MP3 player, iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle
    b) For each question (capitalised), press the next button to get your answer.
    d) Tag at least 5 people
    e) Everyone tagged has to do the same thing (no they don't, actually)
    f) Have Fun! (Step f is not required)

    The Sound of Fear (Eels)
    Ummmm...no one would ever say that exact phrase ever.

    Simple Things (Belle & Sebastian)
    I like that one

    Souvenirs (Architecture in Helsinki)
    Presents are nice but wouldn't determine my liking someone

    Don't Let me Down (Beatles)
    I have a lot to do today but it's 1:45 pm and I am still in my pj's

    Everybody's Talking at Me (Harry Nilsson, although it really comes up at Track 11 on a mix)
    Are those everybody's students?

    Punch and Judy (Elliott Smith)
    Not into punching and don't know anyone named Judy but that isn't really what the song is about

    In My Place (Coldplay)
    I move around a lot so am usually in a different place

    I Was Meant for the Stage (The Decemberists)
    Possibly when I was younger. I still like an audience...

    Slow Down (Bowerbirds)
    I do have a lead foot

    10. WHAT IS 2 + 2?
    Time After Time (cover from Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack by Sparkle Horse)
    So, 4 o clock?

    Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits (Magnetic Fields)
    We're clear that the Grackle is my best friend right? 

    Prisstina (Sleater Kinney)
    'She will go to the head of the class
    And all you boys need to get a late pass
    'Cause she'll leave those dull lads behind
    Yeah that girl is ahead of her time'

    Nachtwort (Albert Magelsdorff)
    I don't speak German but I don't think that works really...

    Sail to the Moon (Brush the Cobwebs Out of the Sky) Radiohead
    Sounds like a lovely idea

    Crush in the Ghetto (Jolie Holland)
    Nope, didn't happen.

    Tears of Joy (Robert Randolf and the Family Band)
    Let's hope not! iTunes is cruel.

    Now Mary (White Stripes)

    Earthquake Weather (Beck)
    Sounds like something we should all be afraid of

    Six White Horses (Johnny Cash)
    Cryptic because it is a secret!

    My Tiger My Heart (Boy Least Likely To)
    I don't have to want them- Grackle and our tiny tigers are currently with me in Postdoc City!

    Bees (Animal Collective)
    They are all really busy...

    And I Remember Every Kiss (Jens Lekman)


    A first

    Today represents another new, sucky thing about long-distance relationships. 
    This is the first time in 5 years that I haven't been around on the Grackle's birthday. Even when doing field work 3000 miles away, I managed to get back for a Sunday B-day! We aren't usually into big birthday celebrations....but it is always nice to have a reason for a lovely dinner or date night.  
    Tonight he'll be off to dinner and watching Lost with friends and I'm sure it will be quite the celebration*. As for me, internet has been successfully installed in my abode so I have blogs to catch up on** and about 5 hours of Lost to watch for myself.
    Since my mind is elsewhere anyways, it may as well get caught up in some decent tv... 

    *Two of my ex-labmates also celebrate their birthdays tomorrow. 
    ** Yay!!!!


    And about the weather...

    As a transplant from the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic region, this is a riot. And completely true.
    Big props to the Buffalo-born Sneks for originally posting this.... 

    Re: How to choose a postdoc

    Recently*, there was a post and discussion over at Dr. Isis (written by Comrade PhysioProf) about how to choose a postdoc position.
    I just thought I'd share where my postdoc fits in with some of the issues he raised.

    1) Early vs. Later stage PI. Ruby-throated Hummingbird is early-ish in her career and hoping to go up for tenure next fall. That will depend partially on how much I can get done for her. As CPP pointed out, there is less competition to work with less famous peeps. In my case, none that I know of. I've been trying to cultivate this position for 2+ years and it was not publicly advertised. I did not take early vs. late career PI into account when searching for a postdoc. Geography and topic were the only major considerations. My PhD advisor was chosen partly on this criteria though.

    2) The way the lab is organized or run. I was not hired to churn out data using a technique I have specialized in. I will need extensive training to be able to do my experiments, but will be able to bring my own point of view to the table. This particular lab is opposite the 'division of labor' model. There are a lot of experiments to be done using my specialized techniques, but I am only consulting on them while the grad students are working through them.

    3) The subject of the research itself. To branch out in organism, technique or question. My organism is very similar to what I did my dissertation research on, and the questions I'm asking are related to theories I've been interested in since I started doing research. Mainly, it is the techniques and framework of questioning that are different.

    EcoGeoFemme has also weighed in on the subject of really early career PIs. I agree with her point that there will be- or already are- an increasing number of people whose postdoc funding comes from a start-up package. This means you might not get a lot of the assumed benefits of a postdoc like access to a huge network. I think the change in Issue #1 should also lead to changes in issues #2 or 3. You have no way to know how the lab will be run. Seeing/helping a lab get set-up could be a good experience but probably takes a ton of time that could be better spent churning out data from a specific technique. Also, in a new lab, perhaps it is better to try to branch out more in your subject to try to increase your network as much as possible. 

    *Or, not so recently....but I get Internet installed at home on Monday! Yay!!!! Posting in a timely fashion!


    Undercover Blogger

    Things are going well with the new position. I am knee deep in unorganized data (OMG!! organize your files, people!) and fancy programs that I don't understand. Fun all around. 

    My 'office' space is actually a corner in the lab. There are two grad students who sit right behind me*. Undergrads abound. I really hate sitting anywhere with my back exposed. At restaurants, Grackle is kind enough to always take the aisle seat. Nothing gives me comfort like a corner booth. Additionally, it is never good to have your computer facing the masses. There was a grad student at my last institution whose desk faced a wall near their office door. That student played a lot of online games and everyone that walked by saw it. People don't take them too seriously. So having a computer that faces your entire lab would make it difficult to check your facebook, or your twitter, or cuteoverload and especially your pseudonymous blog. This is my current situation. I'm calling about getting internet installed at home today.  

    *They are both at class right now. 


    Odds and ends

    Since I am still transitioning into my new position, I am still transitioning out of my old lab. In order to really do this, I need to finish up some things and get them off my desk. In particular order...
    • Final touches/Letter to Editor/Submit very old, small manuscript
    • Format/Submit MS 1 from dissertation
    • Final edits/Format/Submit MS 2 from dissertation
    It would be nice if these were all finished by the time I return to the lab next week. The tasks themselves are small but they seem big in the greater sense of things. 
    2008 ended up being a good year for getting papers accepted and these are the next round. This will be the first submission for each of these projects which almost certainly means rejections, lots of revisions, resubmissions, the whole cycle. I know it is good to have data and be getting it out and all but when working on these, part of me can't help but think 'Geez, here we go again...'


    First Day

    I started my postdoc today. 
    It went alright. We never set a time to meet besides 'morning' so I showed up at 9. My boss, who I will call Ruby-throated Hummingbird, showed up t 9:35. We had a 3 hour meeting in which I chose my desk and got lots of keys*. We figured out my plan of attack and will get down to some data stuff next week. Tomorrow I get to do parking services, payroll and my first lab meeting. 
    Then I am going home**. 
    I realize it is ridiculous to go home 4 days after I got here. And after only 2 days in the lab, but R-tH is out of the office till next Wednesday and I have a previously planned commitment with my old advisor next Wednesday anyway (who never got a name but will now be Kingfisher). So instead of reading and working in an empty lab, I'm going to read and work in my pet filled house. It was R-tH's suggestion actually. Which is one of the many reasons why she rocks.  

    *From a super nice key man. Key people CAN be nice! 
    **Maybe I'll be able to catch up on blogs finally. I'm working on it but have about 1000 unread posts in my bloglines right now...You all are a prolific bunch!


    Back to reality

    Thanks to a neighbor with an unprotected wireless network and the Grackle's old, but functional laptop I am back! I moved and start my postdoc tomorrow. More on those later. More pressing is where I've been.

    After our holiday trip to the Midwest, we jetted off to a lovely Caribbean island for vacation. VACATION! No work*, no futons, no standing commitments. I haven't been on such a trip since my last graduation and Grackle and I have never taken this type of trip together in 5+ years. Given the lack of work, family and the tropical nature of it, this might have been our honeymoon. We didn't plan it that way, but that is how folks at school interpreted it.
    It was fabulous.
    7 days of snorkeling, great beaches, hiking in the rain forest, kayaking, exploring an old city, good food and lots of rum. Fa-bu-lous. As a younger grad student, I balked at a labmate who took vacations at least once a year. Think of the missed experiments! The data! Now, I see why they did it. I doubt we will be able to take yearly trips, but hopefully it will not be 5 years till our next adventure. At least one long weekend away to a new, not necessarily far or exotic destination should be feasible for us and will be a good compromise between work and fun. The data will just have to wait**.
    I'll add a few more later but for now, here is the only picture that would upload: Grackle on the beach.
    *The only books Grackle brought were textbooks. While I worked my way through Middlesex he practically memorized all 3 of our island guidebooks.
    **Alright, I say this now...let's see what I say when it is actually time to take another trip! I'm sure the exams, proposals, defenses, experiments and field seasons that have kept us from vacationing in the past will probably do so in the future....just..hopefully not as much...