That awkward time between semesters

Its that time again. I have no teaching obligations and the days are wide open! And so then I feel overwhelmed with the extra time and find myself getting less done. I need some strategies to deal with this lack of motivation, because currently I am considering a forced vacation…

Of course, it definitely feels like the calm before the storm. I recently found out I would be teaching for the first half of the semester. While not out of the realm of possibility, I am frustrated that my boss didn’t tell me. Sometimes I envy the students that actually have real conversations with their bosses.

In any case, its back to the old to do list. I am really trying to come up with a way to back log a bit of experimental data so I can still have new information during a slow week. This idea is still floating around, I’m not sure its the right focus on what I want to do.

Ping pong. That’s how I feel, and gosh I need some focus before the summer semester takes off.

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Why am I here?

As much as I may pretend otherwise, I am first and foremost a researcher. A thought crosses my mind, and off I go. I read constantly about everything. The internet gives me the power to learn a bit more about any information that is presented to me. The breadth of this information is crazy! I can find out so much about so many different things.

Of course, this isn’t anything new to anyone who lives in the here and now.

The tricky part is when there isn’t much written about whatever topic is being researched. Which leads us to the point of this blog. I have not always come across many blogs that deal with the personal things in which I am always interested. I maintain a rather large feedly account, and while there are some gems that discuss lots of relevant things, I can’t always find more than 3-5 perspectives on the issue of the moment.

And that’s the goal of this blog. I want to write about my experiences in graduate school as they happen, just in case I can provide something helpful to even one student that has the same concerns I do.

So some of the things I struggle with:

  • What am I going to do after graduate school? Should I just master out?
  • When should I think about having children?
  • Am I committed to having a science career?
  • How can I be a better mentor/teacher?
  • Are tunnel-vision interests really a problem?

Hopefully I can meet some people with similar challenges and they will share some tips. And maybe I can figure out the answers to some of these questions.

How to get past the expectation of logic?

We all have parents. Most of us idealized them at some point, and many people realized their parents were human at some point. The particular point of humanity, and all the associated flaws, is fairly challenging for me. I have a decent relationship with my father. Somehow I have managed to forgive him from some things he has done, and we have moved onward. I guess it was easy to forgive, because it was never directly related to me. It has also been easy because we look at the world in the same systematic way. I got my love of science from my dad.

My mother is a bigger challenge. There is nothing to forgive, simply different ways of looking at the world. Yesterday was mother’s day, and I found myself dreading calling. I was further turned off by the outpourings of Facebook and the indirect contest to see who could write the most heartwarming post about their mother. I saw friends commenting to other friends what great moms they were. All this serves to make me feel even more guilty that I am just not feeling so warm towards my mother. Guilt guilt guilt.

I imagine at this point, you’re trying to figure out what my mother did/does that is so frustrating. Its a lack of logical approach to life. She doesn’t think through things systematically. Its very hard for me to follow along with her train of thought and understand why she chooses to do certain things. She is incapable of explaining her thought process, which further complicates things. I find it especially frustrating because I want her to be happy, and from afar, I can see how she is preventing herself from being happy.

And none of this should matter. She is my mom and I appreciate the things she has done. I have been diligently thinking of ways to accept that my mother does things differently. I have been brainstorming ways to just skip along with her thought process without becoming crazy in my confusion. And someday hopefully I will succeed.

This ability to leave others to their own brand of logic is tricky to develop. There are certain people I have accepted that I cannot understand and I am ok with that. But not my mother. Maybe in my love for her, I am so focused on helping her I cannot just let her be herself. Whatever the reason, I need to love and let go.

Do you have any tips for reconciling your hopes for your loved ones with their illogical (to you) choices?

The pains of accuracy

Recently I have been very stressed out about the accuracy of my experimental results. On any given day I am getting very precise data, but most days the data are not within error of each other. This started with a long assessment of the components of my experiment. For each key component, a check of purity, a recheck of concentration, and agony of the pH. Components were correct, but then I realized the pH meter was acting off. I worked on the probe and meter, and the meter was finally trustworthy. I eventually realized that my pipettes were the major problem.

We don’t have a specific schedule for the calibration of pipettes, which is unfortunate. But with some patience, an analytic scale, and some room temperature water, I determined my pipettes were off pretty badly. So then spent a few days working on them. I searched the internet for information regarding the procedure for re-calibrating the pipettes, and then worked around the necessity of specialized equipment.

I really spent too much time troubleshooting these things, but I was really focused and I didn’t think my boss would be so willing to send out the pipettes. I told him what I had been working on, and he immediately dismissed my efforts and told me to get them calibrated ASAP. Womp womp.

Anyways, so I managed to work out the calibration (before talking with my boss) so my pipettes were almost within the acceptable range, and I feel more confident in my results. The pipette calibrator is supposed to be coming today, and hopefully I can prove my data is finally accurate.