Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking back on 2012

I set out an ambitious list of goals for 2012. How did I do?

Get something published in 2012.
YES! Both papers that were submitted at the end of 2011 were accepted in 2012. And as a bonus, another paper just got accepted with minor revisions! Only one of these is a chapter in my dissertation, but I've got publications! Woo hoo!

Submit Best Project for publication
Not even close. Best Project is going to be two manuscripts. One of them has been the source of much frustration and the other isn't written yet. Argh.

Conceptualize my dream job(s).
Not really, but I did start applying- to a grand total of two. I'm out of the running on one of them already. At this point, I don't think I have time to sit around imagining my dream job and I just need to apply to anything that seems doable.

Give a talk at the big ecology conference and present at at least one other conference
YES! I presented at two conferences and had a blast. I still love conferences.

Do an outreach project
YES! Unfortunately, that's all I can say.

Update my webpage once a month.
Not quite. Looks like I updated it 5 times this year. I made sure to do it when I had big updates, so I didn't completely neglect it.

Do a sprint distance triathlon and one other race.

I did the tri, but not another race. My mom and cousin did a triathlon too (first time for both), and hopefully we'll make it something of a tradition.

Exercise 4x or more per week
In the first half of 2012, I averaged 2.25 times per week, and since then I've averaged about 2.3 times per week. This counts conferences and holidays and being sick, so I think that's not too shabby. It also doesn't include dancing or my bicycle commuting.

Do yoga once a weekRevised! Goal: 30 minutes of yoga per week and pushups (following the level 1 plan here) if I don't do some other kind of exercise.
So I kinda sucked at this. I've wanted to do more yoga since becoming pregnant, but not even close to once a week. Pushups? My wrists just aren't cut out for it. Fail.

Go dancing at least 12 times
YES! 13! I went 13 times! My high school self would be so disappointed in me that I dance so infrequently. Oh well.

Learn and perfect an easy, delicious vegetarian lasagna recipe

No, but I did find a great recipe for mushroom quiche. I should try harder with the lasagna but I have no desire to make lasagna when it's hot outside so that limits the times in the year when I can pursue this worthy goal.

No more ugly houseplants.
I bought myself some pretty ceramic pots, so that helped. This is on ongoing process.

Get the dog to walk better
She has improved some, but still isn't great.

Visit at least half of the places on our must-see list for Big City
Wow, not even close. I think we might have done 3 or 4 things on our list.

Offset our carbon emissions

Blog at least once a week.

Not really. I made 59 posts this year including this one, so that averages more than once a week but I had many weeks where I didn't blog at all.

Label my posts and keep them labeled.
Yep. I think I've caught up on unlabeled posts from earlier field work and I've been labeling new ones.

Review goals quarterly.
How about bi-annually? I only reviewed them in June (Academic, Fitness, and others) and now. I just kept procrastinating in March and September until it was June and December.

Make weekly agendas for myself. 
Yes. Each week I send an email to a friend of mine reporting on last week's goals and the goals for the upcoming week. I keep the electronic list somewhere that I can easily refer to it to keep me focused. I've recently modified this to break my goals down into tasks for each day, which makes the big things seem more manageable. 

Overall I worked many fewer hours this year than last year (2239 hours instead of 2750), but that still works out to 43 hours/week across all 52 weeks of the year. No field work in 2012- makes a big difference! I was still able to make good progress towards my career goals (i.e. dissertation) and do plenty of fun things too. Oh, and make a baby-- that was an unwritten goal for 2012 :-)

Well 2012, it's been fun. Tomorrow I'll to write about what I've got in store for 2013!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Revise & resubmit!

I received some unexpectedly good news. We just heard back about the manuscript that I had very low hopes for- revise & resubmit! They asked if we/I can do it in the next 2-3 weeks, but my coauthor just had a baby and this isn't part of my dissertation (= low priority). I didn't read all the reviews yet (honestly I'm kinda of scared) and I'd love to get my amazing collaborator's thoughts on this but I also don't want to bother her during leave. I'll at least tell her via facebook to check her email.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Priorities: finishing or getting a job?

Applying for jobs is a lot of work. A few weeks ago I decided that I was more worried about finishing than I was about not having a job by August, and I don't feel like I can both finish and apply for lots of jobs. I've applied for one job, and I'm not planning to apply for anything else unless it seems like a great fit because staying here a little longer didn't seem like a bad idea.

What's my backup plan? I figured that I could spend the rest of 2013 in Big City and teach here. Jon can keep doing what he's been doing, and I could maybe be a TA in our department (people have done that after finishing).

Slowly but surely, holes are being poked in my backup plan. First of all, Herb told me that the average completion time in our department is so high now that not everyone will be able to get a TA position. This has basically never happened-- they always bring in extra students from other departments to TA the classes. This makes it less likely that I could be a TA in the fall. I'd probably have to teach instead at a smaller institution in the area (I suspect it would be more work for similar pay, though it would give me valuable "real" teaching experience).

Then I started worrying that I might not get my August check if I officially graduate before payday. I talked to a staff member about this and she doesn't think it will be a problem, but I don't trust her opinion 100%. I'll get a second opinion on this.

But then there's health insurance. If I finish in the summer, my coverage only goes until mid-August. I thought I could use COBRA to extend it if we stay in the area. My student health coverage is great, but it turns out it's not technically insurance, which means that I can't use COBRA- I'd have to be enrolled as a student. Our baby is going to be on that plan for the summer, but then if I don't have a job by mid-August we'll have to find something else. Jon has super high deductible insurance since he has no options from his employers. I suppose that's what the baby and I will do, too, as a temporary measure. What a pain in the ass. Can we please get our heads out of the sand as a country and offer single-payer, universal health care?

With the incentives in all the wrong places (e.g. graduation= losing affordable health care), it could turn out that my best option is to not turn in my dissertation until September and stay on as a student TA. Hopefully not.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Defense scheduled!

I had a committee meeting last week, and it was the most drama-free meeting since my prelims (e.g. last meeting). It turned out that Chip couldn't make it, but everyone else was there. I presented on the progress of all four unfinished chapters (one done = 5 chapters) and tried to be clear that I have a lot of work do to but I really want to finish. No one told me I couldn't defend in April, so we've set a date and time. I have a deadline. Tuesday, April 23, at noon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Trying not to hate a chapter

I need to get in a better mental space about chapter 2. This is the first time in months that I've felt like crying about research. I could write a whole lot more about why I'm feeling so crappy, but I don't think it would make me feel any better about it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I'm pregnant!

I had a hard time deciding what to title this post, so eventually I decided to just make it clear rather than clever. Jon and I are expecting a baby in late May or early June!

I've written before about how Herb is extremely supportive of his grad students having kids in grad school. I figured out a few years ago that my student health insurance covers maternity 100%. I've got my fellowship until August. It just seemed like a good time to go for it, so we did, and it worked. Apparently all of those years of birth control were money well spent!

I told my committee I'm pregnant- almost all of them in person. Herb said it had been a while since there was a baby in the lab and I was doing my part to keep up the lab fecundity. Sam said he thought I might be. Chip gave me a high five. Melody said, "Congrats- how far along are you?" Leo said, "Well-timed."

Boy am I motivated to finish- and now my committee knows the extra reason why! My defense is probably going to be April 23 or 24, and the baby is due May 31. Technically I'll finish in the summer term because that's when I'll submit my dissertation to the university. Do you think a baby counts as an external deadline? Or about as internal as deadlines get?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Defense week

In between December 2012 and August 2013, there is one week when I can defend because Herb is going on sabbatical. One. April 22-26.

It's 23 weeks away. Oh goodness me. I have a deadline.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Accepted! Finally!

After 3 years of writing, revising, adding data, refining, and rewriting, the so-called "short note" has been accepted! By my calculations now, I've put more than 330 hours into this project over the last 3 years (a year ago my count was 263). It has been at this same journal since last Christmas. This is my first dissertation chapter.

There is one caveat- the editor thinks it could be trimmed somewhat. The subject editor made no requests and the editor offered no specific comments or even a ballpark number of words to trim. Has anyone else had this happen? "Accepted, but please make it a little shorter?"

So it's almost there. Really almost there. Hopefully I only have a few more hours of work on this, ever.

I really need my other chapters to go more quickly than this one!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Old connections

Waaaaaay back at the beginning of my PhD, on my first scouting trip to Ukenzagapia 4.5 years ago, I met another PhD student I called John (not to be confused with my husband Jon). I wrote about meeting him at a restaurant and then staying at the field station where he did his research. That was the only time we ever saw each other, but we kept in touch occasionally over email for a while since we were studying similar things in similar places. I hadn't heard from him in nearly 3 years. Recently, I got an email from him because he saw my name on the paper that just got published. It turns out that he now has a job in conservation that he loves- in Jon's Hometown. I've mentioned before that we'd like to move there, and he tipped me off to an opportunity that I'm definitely going to apply for. It's exciting when networking works!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mixed meeting

Today I had a brief meeting with Herb in which we talked about two very important things: Sam's role in my dissertation, and my chapters. The first one went great, the second one? Not what I was hoping for.

For nearly two years, Sam and I have acknowledged among us that he is the one actually advising me. He's at a different institution, so he can't be my committee chair. He said he felt like he should officially be listed as a co-adviser, which prompted this post. At that time, he thought he should be the one to bring it up with Herb. Later, he said why don't I bring it up with Herb, and I said I thought you thought you should do it. Then for several months now, whenever he's seen Herb, he's said he didn't want to bring it up because Herb had so much else going on. So the conversation didn't happen.

Last week I asked Sam about it, because this should be resolved well before my defense. This time Sam was of the opinion again that I should be the one to ask Herb about Sam being listed a co-advisor. Cool. I could have done this ages ago.

With the go-ahead from Sam, today I finally brought it up with Herb. As I suspected, he doesn't care at all. He's not sure there's an official mechanism for co-advising, but he's fine to have Sam listed as co-advisor. Great! Resolved. Sam is my co-advisor.

The next important issue is about my dissertation chapters. You see, I have too many projects. Six. I have six dissertationable projects. Some people in my department have four chapters. Most have five. I proposed to Herb that my five chapters should be my five best projects and I save the other one for a rainy day. The problem is that Herb is of the opinion (which is well-supported by evidence from his students) that what isn't submitted or nearly ready to submit when you leave UBC will probably never see the light of day again. Therefore, he suggested that the 6th project be included as an appendix with the data and analysis of the data. Argh. That's basically going to amount to a crude 6th chapter. I didn't know how to argue otherwise.

I suppose we'll see what the rest of my committee thinks, but it sounds like I should dust off that 6th project and at least think about it before I get my committee together (I hope it's easier than last time).

Monday, October 22, 2012

So. many. projects.

After the frustration with the student I wasn't doing a very good job of supervising, Jon asked if I have a list of all of the projects I'm involved in. He suggested that I list everything and regularly review the status of each project. I thought about doing something more complicated than that at the beginning of the summer using some kind of goal tracking software, but I never found the right thing for me. So, now I've got an uncomplicated list of all of my projects and major sub-projects in Google Docs. This includes some outreach and side-projects (things that aren't part of my dissertation). Each week (or so), I look at each project and record the status (e.g. waiting for someone else, what I have to do, etc) and then I color code it based on whether or not it is something I need to be working on this week.

If you include job hunting as a project, I have 13 projects. Thirteen! Thankfully, two of them just finished since I first made the list. That brings it down to 11. Five more are waiting for other things to happen or are otherwise on the back burner. That means there's 6 projects that I need to do at least something for this week, even if it just means emailing someone else to ask what's up on their end.

Three of those 6 projects are dissertation chapters. I have to finish my dissertation.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Student help or DIY?

I'm in the awkward situation this fall of long-distance supervising/mentoring a student who is doing some work for me. I haven't met her in person, only via Skype. Sam connected us and is technically (but only technically) in charge, as he's the one giving the grade. Now she's emailing him because she's concerned about being able to finish everything this term, he doesn't really know what's going on (though he and I talked about it 2 weeks ago), and I am trying to figure out how to get the best outcome for her and for me.

I admit kind of messed up, because I wasn't checking her work as closely and as critically as I should have at the beginning (even after blogging about checking other students' work...ugh). This was exacerbated since I never see her in person. Basically she took a bunch of photos that are worthless, and they are going to have to be re-done (but probably not by her). On the one hand, I should have looked more closely, but on the other hand, she should be able to assess the quality of a photo, too. It turns out that her setup (which I of course have not seen in person) is less than adequate, so now things have been hung up while she waits for better equipment that I am having shipped to her. And now I might be sending her to buy more stuff at Target just so she can keep working since the other crap hasn't arrived from China.

Part of me feels like I should have never outsourced this project and just done it myself. On the other hand, it's relatively low priority and relatively low stakes, so I suppose it's better I re-learn this lesson now than later. I think this is the last time I'll try to long-distance supervise a project like this. I also need to make a mental note that I need to spend A. LOT. of my time (like, maybe all of it) closely training and supervising students at the beginning of a project.

(This reminds me that Psychgirl wrote a post about how she feels like it would be easier to do research herself because students take forever to pay off.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

In press, almost accepted, and flat out rejected

I've got three manuscripts in various stages of publication right now. One is in press for real this time (I've seen the proofs and found a zillion little typos- very annoying). One is nearly accepted. Sam and I are working on the last revisions, after which it should be accepted. The other one... oh my.

The third one was first rejected without review in the spring, then we revised, aimed high, and resubmitted. We got the reviews back a few weeks ago and they were pretty dismal. They didn't even really give us much that we could improve. My sense is that it's now or never for this particular piece, and I'm not sure exactly where it belongs. My amazing coauthor, in a fit of impending maternity leave madness, turned it around in an afternoon and resubmitted to a different, somewhat obscure journal. So that's back in review. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

In search of an old post

I have a vague recollection of reading a post a while back (2 years ago? 3 years?) about women in science putting the brakes on their careers for impending motherhood years in advance. I recall the advice being something like, "Go do your awesome science all-out, don't put the brakes on before you've even started, and it won't matter when you take maternity leave because your science will be so badass that they won't doubt your ability to keep it up." Obviously I'm paraphrasing here and I might have gotten part of the message wrong, but is this ringing a bell for anyone else? Was it a post by Isis? I've been searching her blog but I can't find what I'm looking for. Where did I read this???

Saturday, September 29, 2012

How to level the playing field for women in science?

I decided to take a class this semester on women in science. We've been reading and discussing articles about different challenges that women face. Next week I'm supposed to present on possible solutions, and I'd love to hear ideas and suggestions from my readers. I'm particularly concerned with what happens to women in science during and after graduate school.

I'll briefly summarize some of the issues we've discussed and the research behind them.

All qualifications being equal on paper, female college graduates (intending to go on to grad school in science) are perceived to be less competent than identical male college grads (Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students). Many excellent bloggers have written extensively about this new research (here, here, and here for starters). It is important to note that both men and women who were evaluating qualifications rated men more competent than identical women.

A similar gender bias exists in single-blind peer review (Double-blind review favours increased representation of female authors). This suggests that double-blind peer review reduces unintentional gender bias that subtly discriminates against work by female authors.

In psychology, identical cv's with male or female names found lower rates of hire (at the assistant professor level) and starting salaries for the female name (The impact of gender on the review of the curricula vitae of job applicants and tenure candidates: A national empirical study)

The emerging story from experimentation is that based solely on their perceived gender, women are perceived to be less competent in science, less likely to get papers published, less likely to be hired, and offered lower starting salaries (pre- and post-PhD). These are issues that affect women regardless of their partnership or parenthood status.

Additionally, many researchers have gathered information from scientists at various career stages about other factors that influence metrics of success (salary, grants, publications, etc.) such as work-life balance and parenthood.

A survey of academics from various fields at different types of institutions from across the U.S. found that among partnered academics, women tend to have partners who work more hours than men (Balancing Parenthood and Academia: Work/Family Stress as Influenced by Gender and Tenure Status). Women are much more likely to have spouse who is employed more than 40 hours per week. They also found that women tend to do a larger share of childcare/housework, even when their spouse is also employed full-time. Very similar results were found in a survey of tropical ecologists by the Organization for Tropical Studies (Dramatic Improvements and Persistent Challenges for Women Ecologists). A good overview on this topic is The family life of academics: gendered priorities and institutional constraints.

Considering the present challenges, what ideas do you have for leveling the playing field for women, particularly in science and academia? What can be done to better accommodate caregiving responsibilities? Do you know of any institutions (e.g. universities/granting agencies) with exemplary policies?

I've heard suggestions (some of which are already enacted to various degrees) such as wider adoption of double-blind peer review (as mentioned above), allowing child care expenses in grant budgets, improving parental leave options (maternal AND paternal), and adjusting the tenure clock. I have to admit that I know little about  tenure clock policies, so I'd love to hear suggestions for readings on that topic.

I worry sometimes that discussion of women's issues focus heavily on parenthood, which can be narrow, presumptive, and alienating for women who cannot or choose not to have children. I'd also love to hear comments from readers outside the U.S. on the pros and cons of their policies affecting women in science in their countries, since my perspective is very U.S.-centric.

I'm purposely not being too specific in terms of solutions other people have suggested, but a 2009 report, Staying Competitive: Patching America’s Leaky Pipeline in the Sciences, offers many suggestions (especially regarding issues related to parenthood).

Note: I believe that all of the articles to which I linked can be found for free online, but not necessarily via the links I provided. If you can't find any of these, feel free to email me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Networking win!

A couple of great things have come out networking at the conference last month. One of the things I did was organize a meetup for SFC alumni, and I found out that one of the recent grads who was there got a job offer from an older alum he met at the meetup!

I also received an email from an "ESA friend" (someone who I only know from the meeting) suggesting that we organize a session on our subdiscipline for next year's meeting. We had a brainstorming session via skype, and decided that we aren't going to propose anything this year after all (the deadline is very soon), but we will keep it in mind for 2014.

I love meeting other scientists. Good things happen when we get together!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Advisor fail?

We (the lab) just found out that Herb is going on sabbatical in the spring. That's really the kind of thing we should know more than a year in advance (I think he thinks he told us, but he didn't). Although I've written before about how Sam is functionally my advisor, Herb is still the chair of my committee. He's planning to spend spring and summer in other places (in the US and abroad), but hopefully we can work out a time for him to come back for my defense (and that of my lab mate). In a couple of months we should all have a better idea of what our schedules look like.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

And THAT'S why you always check the spam folder

I had an email from someone who saw my talk at the conference but it got flagged as spam and hidden in my spam folder for almost 2 weeks! I wrote this same person an email the other day (about how much I liked their talk) and had no idea they had already written to me. Now I have an excuse to email them again :-)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

This time of year

The days are shorter now than I'd like them to be and classes are starting again. I'm not ready for summer to end. We've been in Big City for five years now, and I'm beginning my sixth year of grad school. For a change, I'm not packing up to go to Ukenzagapia like I was this time last year and the year before. I'm finished with field work, and now all that stands between me and my PhD is a lot of data analysis and writing. This might be my last back-to-school season in Big City. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ways to get a postdoc

I'm starting to think that maybe I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to finding "the next thing" after my Ph.D. I need some insight from my wise readers.

How do people finishing grad school get postdocs? Here are ways that happens of which I am aware.

1. They see an announcement and apply.
2. Their advisor (or perhaps a committee member) is able to keep them on as a postdoc.
3. Their advisor actively works their network of people to get them a postdoc.
4. They identify someone they want to work with and write a grant for their postdoc.
5. They get a fellowship that gives them more flexibility than writing a grant for a specific project.

Obviously these aren't hard and fast, but are there any major avenues from PhD to postdoc that I'm missing? What path did you take (if applicable)? What do you think is most common in your department/discipline?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Check, check, check, check, and check again

My army of interns got a lot done this summer, but summaries of the data have shown me that we still have a lot of data cleaning to do. Ugh. I thought I was checking their work enough, but I should have been checking more often and more thoroughly. It's nothing irreparable- just a time-consuming pain.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

To take or not to take: Women in science course

I've far exceeded the number of classes/credits required for my program. I'm finished collecting data. I'm ABD. I'm trying to finish next summer. I don't need to take another class.

But this fall my department is offering a graduate seminar on women in ecology & evolution. I'd really like to take it. I think it would be interesting and informative.

I just can't decide if I should do it because I really want to finish next summer. I'd have to do a presentation, write a paper, do readings, and participate in discussions. It would meet once a week. I'm torn. What do you think?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Observations from ESA

What a week! I am so glad I went and also so glad that it's over.

Some thoughts:
-I saw very few ugly posters. Lots of pretty good ones, and a few really excellent ones.
-I saw few ugly slides in presentations. The most memorably ugly slides were by an undergrad, and they weren't that bad.
-I attended mostly solid talks. I didn't see a single truly bad talk.
-I saw some GREAT talks- really fabulous.
-You can pretty much always tell who is presenting that day and who isn't by what they're wearing.
-Presentations listed lots of people in the acknowledgments. I thought I had a lot of people to thank, and mine was one of the shorter ones.
-A few people put the acknowledgments at the beginning of the talk instead of the end.
-There were more citations on slides than I remembered seeing in the past.
-I don't think I saw a single talk run over time.
-The only thing worse than being scheduled at a bad time is being scheduled at a bad time that is the same time as someone famous (you know, famous for an ecologist).
-There were several obviously pregnant women and many infants & children around (with strollers, spouses, grandparents, daycare and/or baby carriers). I find this encouraging for a family-friendly future of ecology.

Overall, I was energized and inspired by the presentations I saw, and proud of ecologists for being able to communicate their research so clearly (in general) . It will probably take me an entire day to go through all of my notes, follow up on contacts, and catch up on email. I've got to digest and summarize some talks for a collaborator who wasn't there and do some thinking about what I've learned about my project. I didn't end up with any great leads on what to do post-PhD, but I was pleasantly surprised at how many people showed up for my presentation, and I gave out lots of cards. I spent time with several friends and acquaintances (from all over my past) and met many new people (even spoke some Ukenzagapese!). Somewhere in there I managed to do some dancing, go for a run, and come down with an unfortunate cold. I'm looking forward to resuming a normal schedule this week and looking forward to ESA next year!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Blogging at ESA

There's growing recognition that there are a wealth of useful tools for ecologists in the social media realm. Jarrett Byrnes just gave a great talk called Taking the ecological conversation online highlighting the usefulness of Twitter, blogging, and crowdfunding (e.g. #SciFund).

Hooray for blogging! My personal interest in blogs has always been the experiences of scientists (the stories behind the science!) and the mentoring that comes out of it, but there's something for everyone.

Here's a link to the slides from Jarrett's talk.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


The problem with awesome scientists is that they're just so damn popular that it's hard to have a conversation with them because they're so busy!


I love the Ecological Society of America meeting. It hasn't even really started yet, and I love it. I want to share so many of the exciting things I'm learning, but I'm totally conflicted about the best venue for sharing. Do I blog about it here? Do I tweet about it in my real name? Facebook? G+? The problem with all of these options is that I'm stuck. I feel like I can only share so much as Karina Anirak, but I do have a voice and a story here. If I put myself out there with my real name, that makes it easier to make the connection to this blog. At the same time I feel like I should be developing a presence professionally, under my own name. I'm torn. I've got to figure this out. And soon!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Working on vacation

Tomorrow morning we're leaving to spend a week on vacation with Jon's family. I'm going straight from there to the big ecology conference (ESA). While on vacation, at the very least I've got to finish preparing my presentation (I'm planning to practice it for some willing family members). I'm trying to decide how much else I'm willing to do on vacation.

It would be good if I made a point of checking email at a regular time in case my interns have questions. Then again, they could just ask Sam.

Since I'm bringing up the subject of working on vacation, I feel like I should say I don't want to be a workaholic, and I think in general I'm not. I've learned how to work when I need to be working, and not worry that I should be working when I'm not. I often don't do any work on the weekends. That said, I do see much more weekend work in my future to finish my PhD by next summer, but I think that's worth it.

I think while I'm on vacation my goals will be to hang out with my nieces and nephews (and everyone else), exercise once a day, sleep in, explore the area, keep up on my email, and get my presentation ready. Any other work I get done is bonus. But I have that nagging feeling that I'm forgetting something.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

On scientific posters

Last year I made a beautiful, awesome poster. This year, I have to figure out how to make a new, beautiful, awesome poster that looks different than the other one. The data were analyzed differently this year, but it didn't radically change our conclusions. I'm trying to make it look unique without spending too much time on it. It's kind of frustrating. I have to finish it this weekend.

Why am I presenting a very similar thing two years in a row? Because it's for two different audiences. This year I'm presenting it at a much more specific meeting where most people are working on related topics.

Speaking of posters, how do people feel about abstracts on posters? I have an opinion but I'd like to hear first what others think.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Running with the big dogs?

I'm starting to have jobs on the brain. For so many years now I haven't had to worry about the next year, but if things go according to plan, a year from now we'll be making plans to move.

I love thinking about all of the possibilities. Every place I visit I think, Could I live here? I've got a mental list of people it would be cool to work with or projects from my PhD I could expand on. Jon and I willing to consider moving anywhere interesting for a post-doc or short-term (1-3 year) job.

Today it struck me that perhaps it might be awesome to work with Dr. Bigname who does research related to mine. I really hadn't considered it before, but I don't know why. Maybe because I'd probably need to (re)learn another language. Or maybe because I didn't think I was good enough.

I've been reading a lot of Dr. Bigname's papers recently, and I know I could learn many useful methods. And, there's the possibility that they'd have a ginormous grant that they could pay me from so I wouldn't have to write them all myself. Maybe. Maybe I can run with the big dogs. And maybe they'd even want me to.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Oh for heaven's sake!

I might have majorly screwed up in my conference budgeting and planning.

If your department has funds available for you to attend a conference "once per year", which definition of "year" do you think they are using?

A) Calendar year
B) Fiscal year
C) One year from the last time you used department funds to attend a conference.
D) Academic year

I thought B, but apparently the department meant C. I've been working under the definition of B for months in my planning. I went to submit my paperwork today and found out I might not be able to get the funds. I think I blanched.

Now I have to send a $600 email to the department head.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Reviewing my goals: Home, Blogging, and Metagoals

Here's my last progress report on my goals for 2012! I separately reviewed my academic and fitness goals.

Learn and perfect an easy, delicious vegetarian lasagna (and quiche) recipe. I've definitely got one in the works for quiche but no luck yet on the lasagna. I've made a few (3?) but none of them were my idea of a perfect veg lasagna.

No more ugly houseplants. I treated myself to some nice pots for some favorite plants and I've culled a few. More need to go, but I'd say none of the ones at home are truly ugly now.

Get the dog to walk better. In March we instituted a zero tolerance policy for pulling. The dog is doing much better! She's not perfect, but there is considerable improvement.

Visit at least half of the places on our must-see list for Big City. We aren't doing well on this list at all! I think we've only done 2 things.

Offset our carbon emissions. I've done nothing for this :-( Also, we recently traded in the car we bought last summer for a brand new car (a first for us) because interest rates are just so incredibly low (1.67% for us, which is a lower rate than my already low student loans) that it wasn't worth it to put another dime into that piece of crap we never should've purchased. I have to figure out how to work the carbon offset into our budget.

Blog at least once a week. I've just barely averaged 1 post per week, but it's been a bit sporadic. I kind of forgot about this goal so I'll try to keep it in mind.

Label my posts and keep them labeled. I haven't gone back through everything but I think I've covered the biggest gaps in labeling, and I'm keeping the new stuff labeled. To this I'd like to add that I want to direct readers to some of my most useful posts. I just need to spend some time thinking about which posts those are and how to do it.

Review goals quarterly. I had the best of intentions to review my goals at the end of March and it just didn't happen. Now my goal is to keep up!

Make weekly agendas for myself. I'm doing quite well with this one. Every Monday a friend and I email each other with our goals for the week and our self-report for how we did on goals for the previous week. About a month ago I started prioritizing each goal as A, B, or C and tried to do the A-list tasks earlier in the day. I am pleased with how things are going and it's great to have the accountability to and encouragement from my friend.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Reviewing my goals: Fitness

Before the end of June, I want to have reviewed all of my goals for 2012.

What were my fitness goals and how am I doing?

Do a sprint distance triathlon and one other race.
My mom and I recently chose a triathlon to do together in September! I am so excited! I still need to choose another race to do, and I need to be swimming more, which brings me to the next goal...

Exercise 4x or more per week.
I was able to exercise at least 4 times per week on some weeks, but so far this year I've only averaged 2.25 times per week. This summer it is much harder for me to exercise 4x per week because I'm only on campus 2x per week and making myself go to the gym for a scheduled class is the best way to get myself to exercise regularly. I need to make a plan for exercising on the other days, and I think it should generally involve running with the dog. I need a new pair of running shoes, though.

Do yoga once a week.
This I have just completely failed to do. Totally. I can't remember the last time I did yoga. I think this wasn't the right structure for this goal. I think if I revised this to be something like 30 minutes of yoga per week then it would be better. Also, I think I should do pushups on days that I don't otherwise exercise.

Revised! Goal: 30 minutes of yoga per week and pushups (following the level 1 plan here) if I don't do some other kind of exercise.

Go dancing at least 12 times.
I haven't kept very good track of this. I know I went once in January, once in April, once in May, and once so far in June. That's 4. I might have gone once more in there, but I'd say I have some catching up to do on my dancing. Noted!

Overall I'm not doing fabulously on my fitness goals but I have been exercising at least twice a week if nothing else, in addition to my bike commuting and walking to work. And now I've got a race to train for in September!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Resubmission stress

Do you think that the first paper you try to publish is the most difficult? What has your experience been? I'm on version 23,439 or something of the "short note" that I've written about here, here, and here (among other places). I've put another 33+ hours into it since it was submitted in December. It took more than 3 months to get a "revise & resubmit" decision, and we had 2 months to submit our revisions.

Sam and I wanted to resubmit before he left for Ukenzagapia. I had my major revisions done about 2 weeks before he left. Unfortunately, he didn't get to it. He said he'd do it in Ukenzagapia, but he had a zillion other things to do, so he couldn't. We were also waiting on feedback from Dr. K. We had to ask for a 1 week extension. Then we had to clarify what time zone the resubmission extension closed. The administrative person said yesterday, "I can extend this for an extra day to midnight 12 June" which I interpreted as the end of the day today.

This morning I had a moment of panic. I couldn't seem to resubmit the manuscript. I thought I really might burst into tears because I realized that midnight probably meant last night, not tonight. If you miss a resubmission deadline, then a manuscript has to be considered a new submission. This paper has been submitted to 4 different journals, beginning two and a half years ago. If I screwed this up by just a few hours because of a misunderstanding... I'd be crushed.

Thankfully, I didn't miss the resubmisison deadline. I solved the online account weirdness. And it is resubmitted! I feel so much better about this manuscript now- it has improved tremendously. I think it really might stick. Fingers crossed.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Talking about finishing

Sam was away for a while in Ukenzagapia, so this week was the first day I saw since since I decided to finish. I told him I want to finish a year from now. He asked me why, and I said that I thought I could do it and should do it. My GRF ends then, so that's convenient, but I'm not worried about getting continued funding into the next year if necessary. He said that a year is kind of short time to finish. We talked through my chapters, and I really only have one written right now. I've got to turn out 4 more chapters. Two are in the works for Best Project. The other two I've got everything left to do.

He said that if I can get the first chapter of Best Project submitted (to a very good journal) by mid-August, then he thinks I can finish in a year. If I don't get it done then, he thinks I'll have to plan a longer timeline for sure. This puts a fire under my ass this summer. Oh boy.

I think it was important to have this conversation with Sam now so he knows what my intentions are and can help push me (which clearly he is), and also help me think about what's next. There are two projects (including Best Project) for which I could try to create-a-postdoc (i.e. write a grant to fund myself), but I think I'd rather wait and see what comes up.

For those of you who finished a MS or PhD, did you have a moment when you decided to finish? How far away was it when you decided? How long did you think it would take and how long did it actually?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why I love FSP

I drafted this post two and a half years ago, and clearly it's long overdue. On May 31, FSP said So Long and Thanks for All the Wombats.

Anyone who's any kind of science enthusiast should read what FemaleScienceProfessor has to say. I love her blog so much, and I'd like to explain why.

  1. She's prolific. She turns turned out about one awesome post per day. I wonder if she had them queued up and if so for how long?
  2. She's got history. She has been blogging blogged for 6 years and been a professor for many more. She's a full tenured professor in a field without many women. Clearly this woman has her shit together.
  3. It's never just the daily grind. She writes in a general way about her experiences, not just what she did today. Her blog is more than just some kind of public journal like mine- she writes for an audience.
  4. As far as I know, she's never been caught up in any petty blogging drama. Good for her.
  5. She published a book of her blog posts. How cool is that?
She might keep blogging at Scientopia, and her blog is still up, so you should still use it to extract some wisdom and experience while you can. FSP, your voice will be missed. Thank you for everything that you have written.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Reviewing my goals: Academic

One of my goals for 2012 was to review my goals quarterly. This is important, because I've learned that I forget goals! Thank goodness for written language. I've been meaning to sit down and write this blog post since, oh, March? Eek. Anyways, better late than never. I'm going to break this up into a few posts. Let's start with the big goals.

How am I doing on those academic/career goals?

Get something published in 2012. I am happy to report good progress on this front! Sam and I have a little note in press as of this week, and we're about to submit revisions to a journal for the paper I started way back when (2.5 years ago). AND, we submitted my interdisciplinary project, which wasn't even on my radar screen when I wrote these goals. That one has been submitted, rejected, and resubmitted already. Fingers crossed.

Submit Best Project for publication. I'm working on it. It's going to be two papers, not just one. Sam says I have to submit the first one by mid-August. I've written most of the methods (all except the stats) and I'm tackling a draft of the introduction, one paragraph at a time. The analysis is the hardest part of this process. 

Conceptualize my dream job(s). I'm not sure I have a dream job, although I did see a couple of jobs I was excited about. I think I could be happy doing many different jobs. I have a dream destination. Actually, two. If I could land a postdoc in RFC for a couple of years, and then get a job in Jon's Hometown, that would be awesome. That's my dream career path.

Give a talk at the big ecology conference and present at at least one other conference. Yes! I'm presenting at the Big One and presented at a different conference earlier this year. I intend to give a fabulous presentation for all 6 people that attend at the crappiest time ever assigned.

Do an outreach project. My outreach plan is unbloggable because it's awesome.

Update my webpage once a month. Hmm, I did great at this until April, at which point I think I forgot that it was supposed to be a monthly thing. I should be sure to do a good job in June! I'm also thinking of getting my own domain since I'm thinking about finishing.

Overall I think I'm making good progress on my academic goals. It really makes me feel good to have 3 manuscripts in various stages of resubmission/in press. Too bad only 1 of those is going to be in my dissertation.

Monday, May 28, 2012

My de facto advisor

Sam is still just a committee member on paper, but is without question my advisor. Since I came back from my last trip to Ukenzagapia in November, I think that Sam and I have been working together especially well. I am more comfortable with him now that I understand his personality and communication style, and most importantly, I know that I'm not a disappointment to him.

There have been a few snippets of conversation that we've had recently that have reiterated to me that he respects me as a colleague.

Before Sam left for a trip to Ukenzagapia, we were talking about what's going on with the database.
Sam: "So, if anything happens to me while I'm in Ukenzagapia, you know what to do, right?"
Me: "What do you mean?"
Sam: "Like if the plane crashes or something."
Me: "Oh! You mean if something catastrophic happens do I know how to continue the database project without you? Yes."

Two things are notable about this exchange: 1) He wants the project to continue even if he dies, and 2) He thinks I can do it.

Then when we were meeting with the interns, Sam said, "You can basically think of Karina and I as one person, professionally." That was a little weird, but I think the sentiment was that whatever I say holds the same authority as what he says.

I've recognized recently that some of his weaknesses are some of my strengths, and he appreciates that. For example, he's not very tech-savvy so I'm always teaching him better ways to do things. I also think I'm more careful and detail-oriented than him in many circumstances.

I foresee continuing to collaborate with him for quite a long time, especially since the database project is a long-term kind of thing. This is all to say that I'm quite happy with my professional relationship with Sam right now.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Deciding to finish

I had some great conversations with friends from my interdisciplinary cohort, all of whom are already finished with or finishing their degrees at UBC. I've been on a 6-year plan for most of grad school, and soon I'll be starting that 6th year. That means I should be thinking about finishing. But I have to say, right now I feel like I have more than a year's worth of work remaining. I asked my friends for advice.

The best answer? You have to decide to finish. Many people think they'll know when they get there, and they just keep working, thinking they need a little more (or perhaps their advisor thinking they need more), and they continue on. Both of my friends who finished were extremely driven and they both dealt with advisors who dragged their feet one way or another, but they were committed to finishing by a certain time, and they made it happen.

I think I'm at the point where I need to decide that I am going to be finished one year from now. Oh my gosh, I got chills down my spine when I typed that. Ok, so maybe it will be June or July or August next year, but I need to decide that I will finish in 2013.

There. I said it. I've decided. One year left.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Summer project management

This summer Sam and I are going to be in charge of FIVE full-time student interns! And one part-timer! For 14 weeks! Oh my. I've just realized this basically means I'm teaching a six-student seminar course this summer since we'll be reading and discussing literature related to their work. This has snuck up on us and we still have a lot to plan.

With that in mind, I have been considering some kind of goal tracking or project management software. Perhaps something like GoalsOnTrack (personal goal tracking) or Smartsheet (project management). I like the idea of a personal goal tracker for my dissertation, but I'm wondering if a multi-user project management thing might be more useful for keeping track of goals and deadlines this summer with the students. Has anyone used any software like this? If so, what did you use and what did you use it for? What did you like/dislike about it?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Coconut bait

Coconuts are cheap in Ukenzagapia, so it was a favorite high-calorie field snack. I'd crack them open and then use a butter knife to chip out pieces of coconut. I love coconut, but I don't ever buy them whole here in Big City. It just feels... out of place.

Today I went to an event to be recognized for a modest award. I didn't know anyone else at the event but I hung around afterwards for the food. I had a small lunch, and I'm a real sucker for cheese and crackers. They had a nice spread of fruit, too, and there in the center of the fruit plate was a big chunk of coconut in the shell as garnish. I really, really wanted to eat it.

I decided that eating the garnish would be kind of weird (and awkward without a knife), so I stood around eating my heaping plate of goodies, hoping no one else would take the coconut so I could pick it up on my way out. Through little effort of my own, I started talking to two other awardees before I could finish my food and split. One thing led to another, and I ended up in conversation with a computer science graduate student. Just yesterday I hit a wall (right at the beginning) trying to figure out how to use a Perl script to manage metadata (translation: simple computer science problem). This student is working on a very similar method in Python, and will almost surely be able to help me. All because I wanted some coconut.

There have been many times in grad school when good things have come from "just showing up", but in this case it took some bait to make me stick around.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Missed opportunity

Herb's lab had a visiting scientist for many months. However, their spoken English was poor. I think it this situation, Herb should have insisted, as part of the arrangement, that the person also take intensive conversational English courses while here. The person was very bright and had great ideas, but their limited English hindered collaboration and even just regular lab meetings sometimes. It seems like a missed opportunity for Herb, the visiting scientist, and the lab.

*This person came with funding from their home country, so it was a situation with low financial investment for Herb.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Papers papers papers

In the past week and I half the following things happened:
- provisional acceptance of a little natural history paper!
-submitted a paper about my interdisciplinary project.
-got a "revise & resubmit" answer on the paper that is on its 4th attempt!

The changes for the first paper are very small things. Totally doable. The other paper has some bigger issues to deal with, but all of the feedback was reasonable. Sam and I will have to discuss how to approach some of the revisions, but he thinks it will be accepted after we make these careful changes.

All very exciting events. Here's hoping I get my name out there on one of these things in 2012!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Realization of the day

I've been in grad school a long time. Several times in the past few days I've seen the year 2007 on something and thought "that was a long time ago"... and that's when I started grad school.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

First to finish

The first person from my cohort is finishing up this spring. It's kind of ironic, since our second year we had a conversation that started something like this:

Me: So, how was your summer?
Him: Oh, it was good. I didn't really do any work, but I got high a lot.

Yep, he's finishing first. Self-declared pot-smoking slacker guy. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he was downplaying the amount he actually worked that summer (i.e. that he worked more than not at all), but he also hadn't really found his niche yet that summer. Part of the reason he was able to finish so quickly was because his work was all theory (=math) so he didn't have any of the headaches and setback associated with collecting data (especially field work). If you're very smart (which he undoubtedly is) and focused, you can finish quickly.

And just to put the icing on the cake, he's managed to find one of the most lucrative niches possible within our field. I'd guess he'll be moving on to a place with a nice paycheck.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Today has been a fantastic day. I am back at Small Friendly College to give a seminar. This comes at the end of a long string of deadlines in February. The way I've described it is that for the past two weeks I've been working uncomfortably close to the number of hours I work in the field, but without someone to cook and clean for me.

When I offered to give this talk, I imagined it as a great opportunity to talk about Best Project and teach some of the analyses in my presentation so that I'd come out with a more thorough understanding in the process. I'd imagined myself with slides done days in advance, fine-tuning the best way to explain things. So such thing.

Instead, I was still writing my talk on the way here, last night, and this morning. I only practiced the whole thing once. I was very, very nervous as I made the last few changes to my slides 20 minutes before the presentation.

But once I was on, I was on. I got an incredibly complimentary introduction from one of my former professors. He highlighted many of my accomplishments, my tenacity in getting the NSF GRF, and resourcefulness in applying for other funding. He is so proud of me, and it showed. And after that great introduction, I went on to give a fantastic presentation. I made people laugh, I talked about 3 different projects, and I ended with enough time for questions. I could hardly have had a friendlier audience, but my gosh it felt great.

I met with some current students, talked to some newly hired professors, had dinner with some senior professors, and enjoyed walking around campus. Tonight I drank wine and talked with my hosts (a faculty couple) and heard their perspectives on what's going on on campus and in the department. What a great place. I said it before (here, here, here, and here), but I'll say it again- I. Love. SFC.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February madness

There are so many things happening and so many things I need to do in the next week!
-write and submit two conference abstracts (first one due tomorrow. still analyzing data. eep!)
-write and submit a small grant proposal
-plan and launch major outreach project
-prepare and give a talk at SFC
Meanwhile, in my personal life:
-I've spent several days in the last two weeks away from Big City working with my friend Theo on the analyses for these abstracts.
-my friend and former labmate Mariyah will be in town for a week and is staying with us
-I simply MUST finish a photo book of our wedding before my groupon expires!
And now, back to the abstract.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I'd say I'm very knowledgable of the resources at my university available to graduate students as well as how to navigate bureaucracy. From health care to fringe benefits and human subjects research to submitting grants, I know a lot. As I've written before, I love connecting people and resources so I love it when people ask.

A fellow grad student asked if I knew of funds to support students to attend a workshop. Indeed, I did. I had already bookmarked the page for my own future use. She was impressed that I could find it so quickly. She said, "This is great! I was sitting in my office thinking, I wonder if Karina knows of any funds. I should go ask her. Thank you! You know so many useful things!"

This makes me feel appreciated. I'm glad to help!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Time to update that CV!

I'm giving a presentation in a few weeks and just got asked for a copy of my CV. Oh my. It turns out I haven't updated it for two years! Not that I have any publications to add (urgh), but I've got other things (outreach! presentations!). Time to get cracking.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Not old or male

Someone asked me to contribute to a popular writing piece "in the interests of more gender equity." They needed someone who wasn't an old, white man. I'm white, but not old or male. FemaleScienceProfessor recently wrote about this phenomenon, "Because I'm a woman." I almost titled this post the exact same thing. Considering how my research focus shifted away from the particular topic of interest, I probably wan't an obvious choice for this except that they didn't want to have too many photos of grey-haired dudes. I'm ok with that. I think my contribution will be just as good as the others. But I definitely was surprised when the person went on to elaborate about how they had only one woman other than me. I thought there were more of us around than that?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Marital status on a CV?

I just saw a CV for someone we're interviewing for a faculty position where the person included their marital status and number of children. I know that this is absolutely not required, and is in fact illegal to ask about. Has anyone else seen this? It strikes me as very unusual.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Grad school nostalgia

My department is interviewing for a new faculty position and we've interviewed two candidates so far, both of them just a few years out of grad school. Over lunch with the grad students, it is clear that they both loved grad school and are eager to interact with the grad students (which is great). I'd describe it as grad student nostalgia. I realized at the last lunch that they seem to look back on grad school with the same kind of fondness with which I look back on college. It's hard for me to imagine feeling that way about grad school when I'm a few years out, and honestly it makes me feel like I'm missing out on something really important. But what exactly is it?

I think it has something to do with a sense of shared experience among the grad students. Like I wrote previously, the grad students in my department aren't very close. Even within my lab, we're all working on different projects so there isn't much collaboration (unfortunately, some interpersonal conflicts among lab members have also kept us from bonding as a group). I do my best to help other students who ask me for help no matter what my experience with their project, but I still don't have a sense of really going through this with anyone else. I'm really doing my own thing here, and suddenly this makes me very sad. Have I imagined this isolation, created or exacerbated it? 

After considerable reflection, I think the answers are no, no, and no, but I haven't always felt so disconnected. My first year I had a few classes with a set of people and I tried very hard to invite everyone to parties (Jon and I hosted 3 in our first 6 months here) but realized before the end of that year that not even my cohort was a cohesive group.  When I was in the midst of my interdisciplinary project, I had those other students to bond with, but now most of them are in different places. I was actively involved in two different efforts to create student-led activities for grad students in the department, but neither really caught on and are defunct. As I also mentioned previously, I think this pattern of increasing isolation in the later stages of grad school is pervasive in my department. I've got to try to do something about it. More thoughts on this soon.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jobs jobs jobs

In the past week, I have seen two fantastic job announcements that would be a great fit for me... in like a year when I'm actually almost done with my Ph.D. One of them combines two totally separate things I worked on in a way I could not have imagined, but it's perfect! Well, it will be perfect for me in a year.

I mentioned this to Leo and he told me I should apply now. I was shocked. He said that he wasn't finished with his dissertation when he applied for and was offered his job at the museum. He already had 3 publications, called a committee meeting, and said, "What do I need to do to get out of here?". They told him what he had to do, and he defended 3 months later. Let me be clear: I do not have 3 publications and I am planning to finish a year and a half from now. I think it would be crazy to apply now. I don't think I could possibly finish in less than a year. Furthermore, I have 1.5 years of funding left on my fellowship. That doesn't pay as much as the job (the starting salary is more than our combined income!), but if I left I'd have to forfeit the remaining funds. That seems like a shame.

But back to the main point- I don't think I'm ready yet. A year from now? Yes, definitely. Maybe the position will be available again. Maybe not. Oh well.

I've always kept an eye out for jobs that I found interesting. I have a folder full of job descriptions copied and pasted from ECOLOG-L or other sources. I figure it might be helpful to go through them when I get closer to being on the market to get a better sense of what appeals to me and why. This particular job goes at the top of the list! It's even in the right part of the country...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Grad student malaise

I think that in general, the grad students in my program aren't very happy with "the program". They tend to like their lab or their advisors (in some ways, at least), but there's not a great sense of camaraderie across the department as a whole. (Or if there is, I'm obviously out of the loop). I think a big part of the reason is geographical- people live all over the city, our offices are spread across buildings, and even within buildings the offices can be very isolated.

Perhaps it's just the stage of grad school I'm in, but I know a lot of my friends and acquaintances in the department don't really feel like they're being advised or mentored by our "advisors". We all feel like we're quite a bit on our own to flounder or flourish. One of the reasons for this is probably that very few people in the department are supported by grants from their advisors, so the fates of advisors and students aren't so closely bound. I'm not the only person who is primarily mentored by someone who isn't at the university, which leads to students also spending a lot of time elsewhere.

I feel like grad students in my department need something, but I'm not sure what that something is. Do we need a heavily attended, regular happy hour? A graduate-led informal seminar about career issues? A what-did-you-do-for-your-dissertation-this-week accountability club? I feel somewhat obliged to try to get something going (or strongly support other people's efforts in this realm) because, well, I think I'd be good at it, and someone should do it. Whatever it is, I think we need more opportunities specifically created to interact with and informally mentor each other.

If any of my readers have things to share that they really *liked* about a graduate program, I'd love to hear.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dissertation envy

One of my friends is about to do her prelims so I've read her proposal and I just watched her practice her prelim presentation. I think what she's doing is really cool, and I've got some serious dissertation envy!

I'm not jealous of her in a negative way, but rather I find myself thinking, "How can I make my research more like hers in the future?" It also makes me think "what if" I'd made different choices in my Ph.D.

I've mentioned before that part of me wishes that I had done local field work instead of flying halfway around the world. If I had done field work here in Big City, her project has all of the elements that I would have liked to include. It's interdisciplinary and just awesome.

Maybe for my postdoc.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Which conferences?

After truly catching up on email for the first time in over a year (omg), I've been corresponding with Dr. Evenbigger who is interested in one of my projects. He thinks I should go to a conference in [beautiful place]. I'm going to the big ecology meeting this summer, but I should go to at least one other conference since I'll be "on the market" this fall (OMG!). I don't know which one yet, but there are 3 on my radar. I've got to balance the networking potential and relevance to my career interests with the cost of getting there. I can cobble together a few hundred dollars here and there but attending meetings is expensive.

I'm also curious, how many people attend the BIG meetings that you go to? 1000? 4000? 10,000? I just have no idea what a really, really big academic conference is.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More great advice

During a conversation that started out something like, "So, do you know what you want to do when you finish your Ph.D.?", a friend of mine recommended I look up Peter Fiske. He has written extensively about how scientists' skills can be used outside of academia, and how to emphasize those skills to potential employers. If this sounds even remotely interesting to you, download this pdf and read it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Resurrected project

I thought my interdisciplinary project was done for good, until my #1 collaborator emailed me this morning and said, "I know I said I was done with that project in 2010, but I've been thinking maybe we should resurrect it." An hour and a skype conversation later, we have plans to try to submit it for publication after all. She's going to take the lead on it for now, but I think we could have it sent off in the next 2 months if we stay on it. I'm limiting the time I spend on it to Tuesdays, because I don't want this to distract me from my dissertation. We already did all of the analysis and writing, so we just have to find the right audience and how to pitch it. This is exciting. Maybe 2012 will be my Year of Publications. Maybe?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Biologist's nightmare

In November I opened up a box of my data sheets for the first time since I packed them up in Nyota and saw a teeny little beetle run and hide between the sheets! I searched between every sheet, paperclip, and postit to find and squish two beetles. Now almost 8 weeks later, I found a similar looking beetle (or is it larger?) hanging out on the edge of my mug, probably in search of water. I have encased this one in scotch tape.

Ack! I hope there aren't any more. We don't need any more invasive species.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking forward to 2012

I regret not defining my goals on the blog last year. I fully intended to, but time slipped away from me as I got a grant in early January and then busted my butt to be in the field just 3 weeks later. I thought about it when I was in the field, but then it just felt silly to be writing about my 2011 resolutions in March- or later. I probably should have done it anyways.

Looking back at posts I've written about goals has really inspired me. I reviewed 2007, 2008, and 2009, part of 2010, and defined goals for 2008, 2009, and 2010. I've had several good goals in the past that I want to revive/continue this year, as well as some new ones.

Get something published in 2012. I've got two things submitted right now. Hopefully they'll both stick this time and get accepted without major revisions (please?). I seriously need to have something that can be cited as Anirak et al. (2012). I choose not to be discouraged by the fact that I don't have anything yet because being down on myself won't help anything.

Submit Best Project for publication. My last project I started is probably also my best. This is my #1 priority this spring, because getting something published on this is probably going to help my career more than anything else.

Conceptualize my dream job(s). Speaking of my career, I'm not going to be a professional student forever. Someday in the not too distant future I'll be "on the market", and I'd like to have a better idea of my goals. I've got a collection of job announcements from ECOLOG that have caught my eye over the years, but I should revisit and reflect on what aspects are appealing and what my strengths and weaknesses would be. I should also answer these queries I made up for myself a couple of years ago.

Give a talk at the big ecology conference and present at at least one other conference. I can definitely do this. I'm not sure what the second conference will be, but there are possibilities.

Do an outreach project. I've got a plan for something awesome, but I don't think I can blog about it because it might just be that. awesome.

Update my webpage once a month. I should just schedule a couple of hours once a month to work on it. I have photos I want to share, videos to upload, stuff like that.

Do a sprint distance triathlon and one other race. I loved the triathlon I did last summer, and I think it would be fun to do another race that involves some kind of obstacle course. I'd sign up for lots of these except they are expensive. We'll see what the budget allows.

Exercise 4x or more per week. If I commit to doing a triathlon, then I've got the incentive of trying to improve my time to motivate me to exercise. I've also found that if I just tell myself I have to go to the gym every day that I'm on campus, it helps get me there. It works best for me to go in the middle of the day because I'm not much of a morning person, but if I wait until the end of the day then I just want to go home (and it's slightly in the wrong direction from home). Going in the middle of the day gives me a mental break, and then I go back to my office feeling good about exercising. The one day a week that I'm at the museum it's harder to exercise, and I often don't on the weekends unless I take the dog for a run.

Do yoga once a week. I was super excited when I learned that there are tons of free yoga video podcasts on itunes. I've never taken a class- maybe I should try to do a few? I did yoga fairly often in Ukenzagapia and I'd like to get back in the habit.
Go dancing at least 12 times. I love dancing, and there's no shortage of opportunities here. I've even got a couple of dancing friends now who I can carpool with. There's no reason I shouldn't be able to get out once a month to go dancing.

Learn and perfect an easy, delicious vegetarian lasagna recipe. For some reason I just never think to make lasagna, but it's an easy food that non-vegetarians can also enjoy that I could bring to gatherings. Suggestions welcome! I also want to learn a good mushroom quiche recipe. I've got a great spinach quiche recipe from my mother-in-law, but I'd like to switch it up sometimes with the quiche.

No more ugly houseplants. I hate to throw away plants. I really do. But I'm tired of having ugly plants in my house, and that goes for their pots too. I'm going to figure out what size nice pots I need to get, and buy some pretty ceramic ones. Ugly plants/pots are going in the garbage, to someone else, or to my office.

Get the dog to walk better. Our dog is really wonderful at most things (she sleeps in, doesn't chew things she isn't supposed to, doesn't steal food, doesn't beg, rarely barks, stuff like that). Walking on the leash is not one of her strong suits. She often pulls and it's kind of annoying, especially since she's big enough to pull me off balance (though not Jon).

Visit at least half of the places on our must-see list for Big City. Jon and I made a list of things we want to do before we leave this place. If I finish in summer 2013, we've got a year and a half left (assuming I get a job/postdoc somewhere else). It's time to do all of those fun things we've been putting off!

Offset our carbon emissions. This was my goal for 2010. I only did it for half of 2010, and didn't do it at all in 2011. I think this is far more important now that we own a car. I probably need to find a way to do it automatically every month based on an estimate of our annual emissions. Does anyone else do this?

Blog at least once a week. I have plenty of interesting things to write about. This shouldn't be difficult.

Label my posts and keep them labeled. When I was in the field I did email posting so I have dozens of unlabeled posts. I need to stop email posting now that I have fast internet, and go back and label all of those posts.

Review goals quarterly. I want to revisit my goals and comment on my progress about every 3 months. I think this will help keep me on track.

Make weekly agendas for myself. I want to have more clear work goals each week and cooking schedules at home. I think taking a couple of hours each week to plan these kinds of things will keep me from wasting time trying to decide what to do.

I think this is a record number of goals for me! I'm excited about all of them and I don't think that any of them are unreasonable. I'll keep you posted on my progress- quarterly.

Happy New Year!