Archive for January, 2012

Curriculum Vitae

I decided to take a nice, relaxing weekend and not think about my thesis at all. I did manage to finish two chapters–Two and Three–by Friday evening, which was wonderful, but my brain was so full that I needed a break. There will likely be future weekends that I can work on my thesis, particularly as I am revising drafts of chapters, but my brain appreciated the downtime to catch up. I absolutely appreciate the idea of a Sabbath rest more and more as I get older.

For the upcoming week, I am ultra-motivated and optimistic that I could possibly get another chapter done by Friday. I have two that seem the most obvious to work on next, and I finally decided which one to do. Chapter 5 will be one of the most important, and probably longest, chapters in my thesis and will really showcase the majority of the data I have collected and analyzed. I’ve got a lot of words typed up already, but it will take some time and TLC to make very good plots of the data, plus I may have some more data to put into it before it’s completely done (though it’s completely reasonable to finish the draft and take data later to pop into the finished product). However, before I tackle it, I decided to address Chapter 4 first. It’s still some background information with a couple of theoretical derivations that our group has gnashed our teeth on for a year or two; we think we’ve finally got a handle on them, though, and this is the perfect place to showcase the equations we believe to be correct and why. It’s shorter but with less words already there, and I guess I finally decided this would be a good next step. So I will be tackling that this week. If I can get another chapter down, I will feel so encouraged!

I’ve been just a little distracted to get started this morning, though.

Since I am technically now on the job market, as my current position will end not long after I defend, I realized before Christmas that I will eventually need a Curriculum Vitae, or CV. A couple of weeks ago, I did a little research to see what other people’s looked like and started a rough template with styling inspired by one that I liked. Last week, since I was already in bibliography references mode for the chapters that I was finishing, I decided to go ahead and type up the  list of my publications on my CV. To my surprise, I found I was listed as an author on 16 different papers through this research institution! Many of them are conference papers, but I do have multiple actual journal articles listed, two of which I was the first author (meaning I did all the writing for the paper). And that doesn’t include others published by our colleagues outside of our research institution, and I haven’t even looked for those yet. Plus, once my thesis is done, I’ll be turning some of the writing in there into one or two more papers about our latest work. That’s a pleasant surprise; “publish or perish” is an important philosophy in academia and research. The quantity doesn’t matter as much to me personally as much as quality, but I’m thankful to have them to list.

I also have to come up with other relevant stuff to add to it that is informative about the things I have done and can do without being too silly or bragging. This morning I just happened to have a huge brainstorm of things to add, so I kept getting distracted from Chapter 4 to jot a quick note into the file so I can expound upon it later. At least it’s still productive writing in some way. 🙂

Now, all I need is somewhere to send my CV! Yes, looking for a job…one of the most awful things on the planet. I have a few sources of job listings in areas of interest, but I’m still waiting for the right opportunity to come along. I’m not interested in forcing anything just yet; I truly believe that the right things will come around at the right time. No need to worry about tomorrow’s cares today! 🙂

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One down…

You heard it here first…I just finished an entire thesis chapter!!

I have significant portions of a few chapters in the works, but as of literally one minute ago I typed the last sentence of Chapter 2. It’s still a very rough draft, of course, but like I said yesterday, it’s all about getting some words on the page so they can then be massaged and formed into a final product. This is really giving me a jolt of confidence–it is actually possible to make progress! It might not last long, but at least I can savor it for a brief moment. 😉

Today was my first self-imposed deadline for thesis writing. I was supposed to have two specific chapters done by today. Chapter 2 was actually one of the two I proposed, but I am not anywhere close on the other one I picked; for some reason, I ended up focusing on other chapters along the way, and I have made significant progress on one of them. I don’t know if I’ll get it completely done today, but even being close is encouraging. We’ll see how the afternoon and evening go; at the beginning of the week, I didn’t know if I would make this goal at all, but it’s at least possible as of right now.

In other news, I’ve been thinking a lot in the last week about my life outside my thesis. Yes, it’s dominating most of my bandwidth at the moment, and I guess I envisioned that it would be like this non-stop until my defense (it probably will in some form or another). I thought it was a good thing to pull back from a few of my activities in order to keep myself free for working on this when I needed to, and it probably is wise and necessary, to an extent. However, after thinking about it this week, I’ve decided that I’m going to not let this thesis business stand in the way of everything. More specifically, instead of withdrawing from people and hiding in a hole by myself, which is very easy to do, I am going to make just as much effort to hang out with people now as I usually do. Instead of declining invitations to get together to eat or play games, I’m going to purposefully continue to ask people to hang out like I normally would.  I can work other stuff around it. I will do this partly in pure defiance of the stereotypical thesis experience, but also because relationships are very important part of my personal ministry. Plus, I think it’s been bad for me to hide in my office all day while writing. Even at work, I should try to interact at least a little bit with my coworkers, especially since they are very generous to help me with my thesis, too.

So, somehow, we’ll see how I balance these two items over the coming months. I think it’ll help make it all more bearable so I don’t look back on it as a miserable time in my life where I let the thesis win over me and my life. So, if you want to come over and hang out, just let me know! 🙂

 

Tabula Rasa

I just sent out my fifth thesis committee member request. Numbers one and two were easy, as those are my closest advisors. Number three I felt would be the hardest to nail down, and while he indeed have travel plans during my first choice, he could do the following week (the last week for spring graduation). Number four I felt would be a bit easier; however, he’s the one with tentative plans around that time and needs a week or two to confirm those dates before he can commit. I hope he can do it because I think he’ll be a nice complement to the group, so I have my fingers crossed! The fifth request is for a non-departmental reader, someone whom I don’t know at all but one of a few names my advisor suggested, so maybe they know each other. I am hopeful about him, too, though I do have those other names if it doesn’t work out.

I knew this would be one of the most unsettling tasks to perform, in its own way. However, I remain optimistic that I’ll get these folks nailed down before too long. But this is why you do this a few months in advance!

As far as the writing goes…well, it’s hard. DH and I discussed earlier how starting with a tabula rasa–a blank slate–is probably the hardest part of the thesis process. He felt the same way with his master’s thesis, and I’m sure feeling it now. Some things, like my own measurement setup and results, I can write from my brain while looking up a few quick numbers in my notebook; however, a lot of my thesis is background information that I have to research from primary sources and then learn well enough to write within the context of my research. That’s really hard. It takes me quite a while to ramp up my momentum for the day while doing this part, though I can eventually get going, sputtering along at about 15 mph or so. 😉 I just have to keep telling myself that it’s really okay…just get some words, any words, down, and my advisor will do a large bit of revising and suggesting. But he can only help me with that if I get something down on the page. I also struggle with wanting all my words to be very perfect the first time, but in the last few years I’ve really learned that it’s totally fine to give that up!

Well, I wanted to give a quick update, but I should get back to that sputtering along. I really am quite a good ways through a couple of chapters, so I’m trying to buckle down and finish at least one soon. Here’s more fingers crossed!

Herding Schrodinger’s cats

I guess I plan to do some writing exclusively the next two days or so. Actually, at this point, I don’t think I have a choice, as the laser is being moved around and someone took one of the photodiodes I was using. I guess that’s what’s called good timing or something. This morning I input all the data I gathered last week into Excel worksheets, and now I guess I’m ready to write the sections surrounding this measurement, as well as some other parts. I’m a little sluggish at this point in the afternoon, though, and my brain a bit cloudy to concentrate on a bunch of words. I guess I’ll take this little break and see if I can get into it soon.

Also, today I began contacting my thesis committee members to try to nail down an official date for my defense. The idea of announcing your commitment to a whole group of professors sure makes it feel, well, official. As long as I kept it to myself and maybe my advisor, if I chickened out or failed to get it done in time, there weren’t as many people who knew I didn’t reach my goal. Now, if for some reason I’m not going to make it, I have to admit that to a bunch more people. Though that would really be fine if I absolutely had to, it does add even more pressure to get it done. I guess pressure and deadlines area  good thing, as most of us don’t get a fire lit under us until something is breathing down our necks.

I am convinced that getting a group of professors together in one place at the same time just almost violates some sort of quantum uncertainty principle. If one professor will actually be available at a date and time, another one is almost bound by the laws of nature to be gone somewhere for a conference. It’s like herding Schrodinger’s cats. Therefore, asking a full two and a half months in advance is necessary in order to get the biggest professional event of your entire life on their busy calendar.

Even then, periodic reminders are a necessity to keep it fresh in their mind. I’ve heard too many stories about professors not showing up to students’ defenses. It’s also not impossible that something “more important” will come up and they choose to schedule that over your thesis and make you move it. It’s very frustrating that such a big event–one that all professors have gone through themselves, too–is so easily disregarded by some faculty. First of all, it’s part of their job at the university to attend to their new prospective graduates. Secondly, has it been so many years since their own defenses that they have completely forgotten how important it was to them and how each student must be feeling the same way? Fortunately, this isn’t the case for the majority of faculty, and so far I’ve been lucky to not have trouble scheduling. I have two of five left to nail down, and hopefully their schedules will coordinate with the week I’m looking at. Then I guess it’ll be official.

So that’s the plan for the week….writing, trying to stay awake, and setting a date. Guess I should get back to it…I have “miles to go before I sleep.”

An ideal world

Well, I at least ended the week on an up note. I did get a bunch of measurements done, maybe the minimum I need to have to make a nice comprehensive data set. There are one or two measurements that would be nice in an ideal world, but I guess I have yet to figure out whether my thesis lives in an ideal world or not.

I didn’t really expect to have a back massage in the middle of the day today, either. I’m doing a little physical therapy for some back pain, and in the process of loosening up my tight spine and shoulder girdle, I also got some intensive neck treatment, too. Given my uptight condition, there’s only so much a PT plus a student shadowing her could do in one hour, but thankfully I will be going back again and again and again… While it does cut into my work day, I definitely can use it. I could use it twice a day every day, in an ideal world.

I think lots of people forget about the importance of flexibility and looseness. When we think about fitness, we usually think about cardio exercise, and sometimes strength. Both of those are important, but I find the physiology of muscles and the skeleton quite fascinating. I’m certainly no expert, but as I get older I find myself appreciating it more and more, and I aim to make sure I stay fit in all three of these areas during my life. So I greatly appreciate the opportunity to get some PT to help existing problems but to, more importantly, learn ways of keeping my body working optimally. Oh, and my 2012 flexibility challenge is going alright; I’m taking it easier given above mentioned back thing, but I’m working on my hamstrings and am seeing some improvement so far. I just might have enough audacity to expect myself to be able to touch my toes sometime this year (something I’ve never ever been able to do since I was maybe two years old). We’ll just have to see!

Well, it’s Friday. Huzzah for the weekend; I could use a break, but I can’t be totally lazy, either. I have a lot to do at work and at home. Hopefully I can find a good balance of the two and be ready to do some serious writing starting on Monday.

Rotten tomatoes

I just bit into a cherry tomato, and juice squirted all over my desk, including on a page of data I just took before lunch. It wasn’t a rotten tomato, but I hope that isn’t a statement regarding the quality of this last measurement. Sigh.

As you probably ascertained from my last couple of posts, I wasn’t exactly having the greatest week last week. It took a while to recover from the funk I was in, and it seemed like there was one small disaster after another to make everything just feel hopeless. However, I hunkered down with a book the majority of the long weekend, tuning out the world and resting, and I’m doing much better now, mentally and physically. Now I can go back to feeling just panicky and overwhelmed! :p

And I am feeling particularly so, as I essentially just wasted a week not doing what I planned in the lab and haven’t written anything. I’m trying to make up for it, though the momentum is only just starting to swing back the other way just a little. But I’m determined to keep it there. Even if I have to pretend that I’m confident and in control, I will keep going forward. If life wants to keep giving me lemons, then life better know that it’s on, fool. I can’t afford to do anything else!

 

It’s Friiiiday, Friiiiday.

It’s Friiiiday, Friiiiday. I guess there isn’t actually much to report, unfortunately. It’s been a weird week, but fortunately it’s almost over now. I told DH earlier that there have just been so many little things that have added up to one moderate-sized irritation, plus I’ve been in a strange mood. Mix those together and it made the week just a bit strange and difficult.

Fortunately, I have begun to deal with a few of the minor issues that have cropped up. Even if they aren’t all resolved is okay as long as I’m making progress on them. And I’ve also been able to close the book on a few things, too. Just moving forward makes a big difference. With a couple of days of rest and perspective, I can make a fresh start next week.

I hope you all have a great, relaxing weekend, too! Let’s all chillax a couple of days and then hit the ground running next week.