Saturday, May 28, 2011

Aiming up

A year and a half ago I started a manuscript with Sam and Dr. K that was just supposed to be a short natural history note. It has been rejected twice (once without review, once with). The second place from which it was rejected is truly where I think it belongs because I think it is the most appropriate audience. Unfortunately, they won't reconsider it so we're looking elsewhere. We're aiming up.

What do I mean by "aiming up"? Academic journals are ranked by how frequently they get cited in other literature. The more-cited journals (the cream of the crop being Science and Nature) are more prestigious, reach a broader audience, and are much more difficult to get a manuscript accepted. Their impact factors are around 30. For comparison, the first place we submitted had an impact factor 1-1.5. Then we submitted it to a journal with impact factor 0.5-1. This isn't world-changing science, but it's something that other folks who are interested in these things would want to know.

Sam really thinks this manuscript has a shot at a >4 impact factor journal, so that's where we're submitting next. The paper has changed and grown a lot, but I'm still anxious about sending it there, because I'm pretty sure it's going to get rejected without review. If that happens, I think the next place to send it is down... way down (someplace that doesn't even have an impact factor). I guess it could go to another ~1 journal, but I'm skeptical there too.

I just turned over another draft to Sam to work his magic on it because he's the one with the vision and confidence to aim high... fingers crossed. I want this thing accepted somewhere this summer.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Just me & the plants

Our lab is pretty empty for the summer. Only one other student is around, and she isn't in the office much and keeps odd hours. Herb is mostly in Big City, but he's not in the office very often either. So pretty much it's just me and the houseplants. I've got all of the plants from all of the other offices in my lab now so they don't die.

In general, most of the department's grad students are gone for the summer but thankfully I have two friends down the hall who will mostly be around. It's kind of lonely without lab mates, but I don't mind too much. It means I can play my music loudly and sing along with Adele and Meaghan Smith :-)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Graduation gift ideas

My cousin is graduating from high school and is headed to a fantastic SLAC next year. I am SO excited for her, because her other choice was a big state school. I don't know this cousin very well, but I think we have some common interests (biology at least) and I think college will be a positive and transformative experience for her. She's from a small rural town and her parents are pretty darn conservative (socially and politically). They don't have much money at all, but she's got a full ride to this SLAC.
I'd really like to get her something special for graduation. I remember giving some of my younger friends a small set a drawers full of all kinds of little useful things (paper clips, sticky tack, tape, etc). I could do that for my cousin, but since I do still have some folks reading my blog I thought I'd ask if any of you have awesome ideas for an SLAC-bound high school grad. Did you get any really awesome graduation gifts? What great graduation gifts have you given?
I really hope she loves her SLAC as much as I love SFC. Seriously, my SFC professors sign their emails "Love" (at least to me!). I just got an email today from one of my profs who is leaving shortly for Ukenzagapia :-)

Monday, May 23, 2011

What do you use for making posters?

What software do you use to design posters? What do you like/dislike about that program? How does it compare to other programs you've used?
I've got a couple of poster presentations to make from scratch this summer and I'm wondering if I should use something other than Powerpoint.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Project priorities

I counted NINE different projects that I'm working on. I've got to make significant progress on several of them this summer!
-Interdisciplinary project. This will end with a poster presentation this summer and won't be part of my dissertation.
-Review paper (hopefully the intro to my dissertation)
-Other manuscript (probably not part of my dissertation)
-Project A (a chapter)
-Project B (another chapter)
-Project C (half a chapter)
-Project D (other half a chapter)
-Database (maybe part of my dissertation)
-Bonus project (not part of my dissertation)
Highest priority (things in the analysis/writing/submitting stages):
Project A
Other manuscript
Review paper
Interdisciplinary project
Project D
The other things (especially the bonus project) can wait. I'll be working on the database this summer too but it's not in the analysis stage yet so I'm just helping the development along. I'm not sure if I should try to tackle these things one at a time, like spend a week working almost totally on the "other manuscript" with a clear goal at the end before I move on to tackle the next big thing? Maybe I'll try that and see how it goes. It would be good to get the closest-to-done manuscripts out the door.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Thanks for the comments on my post about establishing routines. In case you're wondering, here are some of the routines I've made up for myself:

Every weekday: Go to the gym or do an exercise video at home. I've found I really do best if I have to do it every day.
Mondays: Bake bread (in the bread machine) before work so it's ready when I get home. Also cook dinner (with extra for lunches).
Thursdays: Go rock climbing. Make pizza for dinner.
Saturdays: Do laundry.
Sundays: Take care of my houseplants and outside plants. Cook dinner (with extra for lunches). Read in the evening with Jon.

The important part of these routines for me is that I'm NOT going to do these things on other days. So, if I don't wash something on Saturday, it has to wait until the next week. This is an especially important limitation for plants, as I can spend hours piddling around repotting things and fussing over my plants. Today I planted lots of seeds outside and repotted two of my houseplants. Anything other than watering has to wait until next weekend.

There are still very few regularly scheduled things in my professional life. My basic work routine is get to school by 9 am and work at least 40 hours per week.  On Thursdays I call my field assistants in Nyota (though I often don't get through to them). I'm also going to study statistics every Thursday with a classmate. I'll study Ukenzagapese another day during the week (yet-to-be-determined based on my classmate's schedule). I might attend the lab meetings of another lab (depending on when they schedule them).  

Meetings with my advisor? What? Is that something you're supposed to do on a regular basis? Yeah, that doesn't happen. I just met with Herb the other day to give him a rundown of how this past field season went, and tomorrow I'm meeting with Sam to talk about the zillion projects we're working on together. Herb doesn't plan to be around much for more of the summer, and Sam will be going back to Ukenzagapia for a stretch. I think I'll be seeing more of Sam, though. Maybe I will end up having regular meetings with him (or his students) while he's around.

This week I need to come up with a plan for advancing several different projects this summer. I'll probably write more on this after I've given it some serious thought!