Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More about why I think I read too much

I decided I had more to say.

As I've mentioned before, I switched disciplines between undergrad and grad school. And I chose a field that's kind of small and nerdy, but extremely active and full of (to me) fascinating stories. And I guess that's the issue. I've totally fallen in love with my field of research, and I want to understand (nearly) every aspect of it, because I think it's all totally the bomb.

I don't want to have to sacrifice the opportunity to learn all this stuff (by either reading, going to seminars, etc) just to get a few more experiments done. Is that what it takes? I don't think I like that.

In one way it's good because I won't have the problem of missing the big picture? I guess?

I think this is another common new student thing. I don't really care.

Ok that's a lie. I do care. I hate being the newbie, the enthusiastic first year student with stars in their eyes and no freaking clue. I hate when people say something like "I can't wait till you get bitter/jaded/screwed over" or say I'm a huge nerd for actually admitting to liking this stuff. It drives me totally up the wall. But there you go.

This is becoming rather distressingly emo. Drastic measures are required.

Incoherent rambling on time management, etc

Not much to say. Again.

Working hard (sort of? see below) Progress is slow to nonexistent. Scattered thoughts below:

I think I read too much (science-wise). None of my fellow students read anything other than the strict requirements for their projects/classes/journal club. But I don't know anything: how else will I learn? On the other hand, I worry that I use reading as a way to procrastinate when I don't want to do any real work. And I have no idea how much of it sticks. I don't take a huge amount of notes (sometimes I do) Maybe I should?

Like anything else, I guess the solution is to set aside a time and stick to that...

Relatedly, I think I need to be more disciplined with managing my time in general. I can't just work all the time and hope that that's enough, because then my life (apartment) falls apart. And I still don't get any research done. But scheduling everything doesn't work either, because I'm terrible at estimating how long things take. There's a sweet spot of discipline+flexibility that I still haven't nailed.

I also have been making a point of not turning down social events without a really good reason. This was a rule I made a couple of years ago, because I'm pretty shy and I would stay at home a lot because of that. But that (the shyness) seems to be changing (I'd like to think through my own efforts), and I have a larger circle of acquaintances (through work if nothing else). Wonder if I should re-evaluate the rule. Or at least prioritize: like if I'm going out to dinner with people I haven't seen in a while, I should skip coffee + gossip with labmates.

This all seems very obvious. Maybe I'm an idiot for not cluing in sooner, but I guess I thought I was doing ok?

It's difficult to get (objective) feedback about how I'm doing, progress-wise. I just don't know. I guess it doesn't really matter how I'm doing in comparison to your Average Graduate Student, just whether I'm in line with my own goals. Again, obvious.


I find it hard not to question (in my head) senior students who complain that their advisor is crazy/won't listen to them/is proposing totally the wrong experiments. I mean, I don't know any better, but maybe there's a reason for it?

I guess it all comes down to communication. But I'm bad at communicating. And being organized. And taking criticism.

I need to figure out how to fix all these things. They're important, dammit.

Well, ok. The communication thing will fix itself. I have enough opportunities to speak/write/etc. Just need to make sure I pay attention to those and try and do a good job. So that's that.


I haven't been sleeping or eating well. Let alone exercising. Maybe now that the weather's nice I'll try and take up running again? That never worked before, I always got bored. I wish there was a shower at my building, I could run in to work--I think the distance would be about right

On second thought, that wouldn't really work since I bring my laptop to/from every day. Hmm.

Time, time, time. It's all about time. I need to get on top of my time..

First thing's first: GTFOff the internet and do the stuff I need to do tonight. And less navel gazing.

I guess I did have a lot to say. Cookies to anyone who made it this far. I told you I was bad at blogging. I really should just keep a diary.

Monday, March 22, 2010

And now for your regularly scheduled bout of insecurity...

See post title.

Criticism from the boss (on the 'you have no idea what you're doing, if you want to be a successful grad student you're going to have to make major changes' scale)


helpful labmate being told not to spend so much time helping me any more (the last thing I want is to slow anyone else down!!!)


experiments not working


me feeling pretty shitty.

Then I started feeling bad that I was moping over this, and worrying that if I have such a thin skin I'll never survive grad school.

So of course in response I'm avoiding working on the stuff I should be doing, and overeating. Which I know is dumb and stupid because it doesn't hurt anyone except myself. eff.

I'll get over it. Fun stuff happening tomorrow+this week that I can't blog about, but will get me away from the lab a bit and hopefully excited again.

But holy crap I'm a headcase right now. So let me broadcast it to the entire Internet.

Edit: never mind. I'm ok now. Thought my way out of it: instead of seeing 'knowing how to take criticism' as a prerequisite for not sucking, I'm acknowledging it as something I don't yet have but can learn. Take that, psyche.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Milestone acheived. Ten thousand points!

So...I had my first committee meeting.

It went well. I made one major mistake in completely forgetting to talk about an important aspect. I just...forgot? No idea, got to the end of my talk and thought "oh my god! I didn't talk about that at all! Well, someone is bound to ask me about it"...and then they didn't. Oops. And told me that next time I should probably cover it. Yup, sounds about right.

I stumbled a bit on the questions (can't do mental math. At all.) but most of the things they wanted to know, I had ready answers for. It definitely didn't feel like "they will keep asking questions until you don't know the answer," which is what I was prepared for (and dreading).

And it was fast! Over in 45-50 minutes, I think. I guess partly that's due to the whole first-one-don't-really-have-much-data-yet shortness of my presentation, but one of my committee members even commented on how quickly it went.


As much as I'm pleased I didn't fuck it up, I can't help but regret spending so much time (a week, basically) prepping for the meeting and related requirements, and basically stressing like crazy over this.

And I worry a little that not having weathered the difficult questions now will hurt me later on--like during quals, when it really matters. And my committee members are sympathetic to the project. What happens when I meet someone who isn't? It's enough to make me want to ask them to turn it up a notch. I'll wait and see. Everyone says the second meeting is the hardest, anyway.

On the plus side, instead of feeling drained and miserable about my shortcomings, I'm energized and ready to generate some data! Wooo! Yeahhhhhhhh! *fist pump*

Friday, March 5, 2010

Doing it right

My lab can get cowboyish at times--partly as a result of the kinds of experiments going on, partly the culture of the group. Maybe not the best environment for a total n00b like me to be learning the ropes (I'm sure I'm picking up all sorts of bad habits.)

Fig 1. LM's lab commutes in style. I'm the one in the white, near the back. No really.

That's why I'm thankful for labmates who take the time to explain the proper way to do things. Hopefully I can find a way to thank them.