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!