Monday, January 30, 2012

Patience is a virtue

Two years to the day from when I sent my first draft, I got the revised version back. Significant style changes, as expected, but only a few comments which should be readily addressed. Huzzah!

Lone Ranger?

Having an undergraduate working with me has been a great experience so far. But it's made me think about how things work in my research group, or how they don't really work. Because he's working very closely on one of my projects, I have a very good idea of what his data should look like, and can help with troubleshooting. Much like in writing, sometimes, you just need someone else to spot your typos. Unfortunately, there's almost no overlap across projects in my group. There's no one who can take a glance at my simulations and spot a syntax error in my input file, or remember when they got the same error code. 

In theory, our advisor would be close enough to projects to help with these types of problems, but the reality is that most of us are left to fend for ourselves. You certainly learn more by struggling through to solve problems, but there's a point at which it overwhelms the ability to get anything done. It also makes brainstorming more limited. Collaborating is not something I'm learning how to do right now. 

I'm a little jealous of some of the other groups in my department, who work much more closely with one another. They seem to be less dependent on their advisors. On the other hand, when the equipment goes down, no one is getting any work done. Maybe the grass always looks greener from a distance. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Writing Recommendation Letters

This week, for the first time, I'm writing recommendation letters instead of requesting them. The first is to support the nomination of my undergrad research advisor for a society teaching award, which was honestly a slightly tricky letter to write. His one-on-one mentoring is fantastic, but I was the only one who could understand most of his lectures. However, I'm more of a morning person than the average college student, so having a 9:30am lecture after an 8am one didn't bother me the way it did most of my cohort.

The second letter was in support of promoting an assistant professor to tenure. While I only took one course with him, I still seek him out for discussions, and the only reason he isn't on my committee was due to schedule conflicts for prelims. Needless to say, it was a pretty easy letter to write.

I also got to learn how to get access to departmental letterhead, which was kind of cool.

Between sending out letters and getting new code things to work, I think today counts as productive, and it isn't even 5 yet!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A little ray of sunshine

You'd think by my seventh year in the gray and dreary part of the country, I'd remember that when I get grumpy in winter, that it's a lack of sunshine. This morning was clear and sunny, so despite the snot-freezing cold, I lingered on my walk into the office from the parking lot. As a Coloradan, my body was calibrated to 300+ sunny days a year, so several weeks of gray is enough to drive me into a very deep funk.  So after my roughly annual reminder, it's time to start taking my vitamins and drinking more milk to get my vitamin D levels back to my happy place. Maybe then I can kick my butt back into gear.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Grump Season

The mood in the office is pretty dreary and stressed right now. I'm not sure if it's the fact that winter finally arrived, a slow start to the semester, the inconsistent temperature, or a reaction to some unbloggable happenings. Whatever it is, we're all grumpy, which leaves me uninspired to blog. Honestly, I'm too tired to be angry right now. Or maybe I just need to go find some sunshine.

If there's a materials question you'd like answered, please ask, since I'm clearly bad at coming up with ideas. My email is

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Turn-Based Advising

This semester is not getting off to a great start. I came into the office after break only to be immediately flattened by a fairly nasty head cold. I'm also really struggling with staying motivated. My prelims are done, and to be honest, I'm about fifth in line to graduate from my group, which means I'm also fairly far down in my advisor's reading stack. One of the older students and I were talking about it, and realized that my advisor more or less practices turn-based advising. So he won't read Student Y's paper because he's too busy with Student X's papers whose papers he didn't read until after they graduated because he was too busy with Student V's papers.

I'm also not working on a project with any collaborators, which is why I'm farther down the list than the two students who joined when I did. I sit next to the conference table in our office space, and it gets hard to ignore how differently he treats my project (i.e., ignores). It's hard not to get angry. Nothing has changed about his advising, but I no longer have the distraction of classes.

I'm sure that about 2 weeks before the next grant review rolls around (noting I'm not actually supported on it...), I'll get attention again. But right now, I can't help like feeling like a three-year-old tugging on a parental sleeve begging them to look at my pretty picture.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

I return from break much more relaxed, with the notable exception of my back muscles. I'm not normally terribly into New Year's Resolutions, but I do like to set myself goals and deadlines, so I might as well take advantage of the season. Here are my goals for the next year:

1) Blog at least once a week

2) Do a spiffy material post once a month

3) Whine less

4) Incorporate more pictures

It's a fairly short list, but I'm trying to be realistic. This is my first semester with no course commitments since I was 5 years old, and it's going to be a challenge to stay motivated. I've always been more productive the busier I was, so being effectively un-busy is going to be a challenge.