Sunday, September 2, 2007

Advising

I haven't yet introduced my advisors to my faithful blog readers. I think now is a good time.

First of all, I am jointly advised. One of my advisors is from U of Big City and the other is from Big Natural History Museum. I like them both and my interests are a good marriage of theirs. They are both older and well-established in their fields.

Herb is from U of Big City. He's interested in factors that effect community composition. My office on campus is right next to him and I'm a member of his lab. He has four new graduate students this fall so it's quite a cohort for him. Herb's research is based in Central America.

Leo is a -ologist from Big Natural History Museum. He works with all kinds of critters all over the world but I'm interested in working with him because he's very well connected where I want to do my research in Africa.

Herb is my primary advisor. The extent to which I work with Leo will depend on how my interests develop and possibly how I am funded in future years (i.e. grants or TAship).

However, the coolest thing about having Leo as my co-advisor is that I get to work in Big Natural History Museum. For those of you who have never been behind-the-scenes at a natural history museum, I highly recommend it. The objects on display are just the tip of the iceberg of their collections. I'm excited to be working with Leo simply because of the WOW factor involved in going to visit him at the museum.

On Friday I went to see Leo at Big Natural History Museum so that I could get my student pass and talk about stuff. This pass is super exciting because not only does it get me behind the scenes at the natural history museum, it gets me and my family into all of the other museums in Big City.

While I was talking to Leo about my plans for the semester, I said I'd like to try to be at the museum at least once a week even if it were just for part of the day. I imagined myself going there as often as I could just because I feel like there's information practically oozing from the walls from all the volumes and specimens in the building. So Leo caught me off guard when he said, "And what would you do here?"

I actually wanted to say, "Because this place is just so cool! Who wouldn't want to work here?" But I decided that I should articulate a better reason than that so I said something like, "Well, I think it would be good for me to check in with you frequently as I develop idea for my research and keep you informed- not that I want to take up all of your time or anything since I know you're a busy person- and I also thought it would be good for me to use the library here for access to the rare literature that the university won't have." I suppose this was an acceptable answer because he didn't press it. Whew!

As illustrated in the exchange above, one of my greatest fears at this point is embarrassing myself in front of advisors and other professors. For this reason I'm really nervous about talking to people about my research interests. I'm afraid of them asking lots of questions I can't answer and just generally appearing clueless. I know that I just need to speak with confidence and everything else will fall into place but talking about my research ideas is currently my greatest fear.

1 comment:

Ecology Till-ya Die said...

Hey there - Don't let yourself get too intimidated. Ignorance is only a bad thing if it remains that way after being pointed out. In other words, it's ok to not know something and have that pointed out to you - the only bad thing is if you don't make any effort or attempt to fill in the knowledge gaps. And you don't seem like the sort of person to avoid knowledge, so take heart.

Talking about ideas is how science happens...