Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dr. Karina Anirak!

I passed! I think the revisions required for my dissertation are miraculously minor (although it's not 100% clear to me what they are yet). I did it. This crazy beast is 99.9999% done. I should be able to finish the revisions in the next few weeks, and then I'll hold on to my dissertation until I have a job. My committee has endorsed my backup plan of staying on as a TA in the fall if nothing else comes through.

One question that I think my readers can answer for me- when do I officially get to be called Dr.? Now that I've passed my defense? When I get my diploma?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Today's the big day. One hour public seminar and then 1-2 hours with my committee. At this point, I am not concerned about my committee and just concerned about giving a good presentation that people enjoy and understand. I am going to be so relieved when this is over.

Here goes the distillation of 6 years of work!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hands off

Herb, my committee chair, is on sabbatical this semester. I've emailed him about my chapters, mostly to get his final approval on sending them out to the committee after Sam has already been over them. I haven't seen or had a conversation with Herb since December, and won't see him until the morning of my defense on Tuesday. Seemed like we should have some kind of meeting before my defense, so we just had a 5 minute phone conversation. Herb is a hands-off advisor indeed.

He said, "Well, it looks like a dissertation, it smells like a dissertation, so I think it's a dissertation." He doesn't think I'll have any problems. That's a relief.

For the last 3 days before my defense, I'm focusing on preparing the best presentation I can.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My first postdoc interview

I had a Skype interview (with video) for the aforementioned postdoc. I told them I'm pregnant when they asked about my start date. As far as I could tell, they didn't bat an eye. They said they'd rather have the right person start later than a less-than-ideal candidate start sooner, so it's good I applied.

I am really, really excited about this project. I had a great time talking with them. I hope I get another interview! I still have many logistical questions, but it at least seems feasible and that there is some flexibility in terms of how the postdoc configures their responsibilities.

I have a few doubts about how I answered a couple of questions and wish I could go back and say more. I hate second-guessing myself on these things. But overall I feel good about it. I think they liked me and they seemed happy about my excitement for particular challenges of this project (e.g. data management).

Sounds like they have a couple more interviews to do and they might have a second round. Hopefully I'll hear something after my defense next week.

Monday, April 15, 2013

On the shortlist

When I submitted the most recent postdoc application, I thought to myself, if I don't make the shortlist, then I definitely want to see who does. And I've got a phone interview! Very, very exciting.

I have been agonizing about when and how to tell them I'm pregnant. After several conversations with different people, I decided that I am going to mention it during the interview when it seems appropriate and explain my plan for childcare. Then if they offer me the job, I have many more logistical questions that I will ask to decide whether or not to take the job. You can bet I'll be blogging more about this later. For now, I have to prep for this interview so I can knock their socks off.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Thoughts from the dissertation home stretch

In the last few weeks before submitting my dissertation, I needed every moment and as much energy as I could muster. Self-care was essential. I slept as long as my body needed (usually 7-8 hours) and napped if I was starting to nod off (this actually didn't happen much in those few weeks). I ate lots of chocolate or whatever sounded good and tried to eat regular meals. Still, I was fairly emotionally fragile and volatile (mostly I blame pregnancy for this). More than a few times, I overreacted to things people said or wrote to me, often when they were trying to help or at the very least weren't trying at all to upset me. So, I severely limited who I interacted with and how. I stayed at home or hid in my office. I didn't reply to emails. I ignored phone calls. This meant that there were plenty of things I wanted to post on Facebook or here on the blog, but didn't because I could not risk overreacting to something written in response. I also didn't want to be obnoxious. Instead, I kept a document where I jotted down things I wanted to share but didn't, which gives some indication of how the last 3 weeks and chapters played out. If you want to peruse the roller coaster of thoughts, read on.

Dissertation due date (DDD) minus 18

-I guess I'm supposed to be feeling like I'm wandering around in the fringes of what has been done and is known.
-You know you're at the edge when your Google search returns no results.

DDD minus 17
-Sometimes, you reinvent the wheel. But now I know how to build a wheel.
-Turns out it's a different kind of wheel.
-It's hard to ask for help.
- >75 hours of brain work in a week is far, far too much.

DDD minus 16
-Might have just made a MAJOR breakthrough!

DDD minus 15
-I'm trying embrace 'good enough' instead of striving for 'best'.

DDD minus 14
-Reference manager, you suck. Why are you so disagreeable? Why do you want to add extra citations where they don't belong?
-I don't know if I can do this.

DDD minus 13
-Small victories :-)
-That moment when I can't decide if I should stop a process in R because it's never going to finish, or if I just need to let it run a little longer.

DDD minus 12
-I mostly need to not interact with people right now, lest they say or write the wrong thing.
-Today it feels possible.
-I think the baby is trying to get a foot massage on the edge of my ribs.

DDD minus 11
-I think I can finish this chapter tonight. If I do, I will have written the vast majority of it, and re-done/done all of the analyses in one week. 

DDD minus 10
-Ran out of steam last night and went to sleep. I need my rest to keep up this pace for another 11 days. 
-I need to know when to stop tinkering and a figure is good enough.
-Seriously? Another undiscovered paper by this guy on the same topic? I thought I read just about everything!
-Why does writing involve so. much. reeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaddddddddding?
-*sobs* WTF, Papers2. CITATION_IS_EMPTY??? And then you stick wrong citations ALL OVER THE PLACE?! I want to love you but I HATE YOU!!!!
-Found the data for my last chapter. That's a start.

DDD minus 9
-Here I go on the last chapter. 9 days until the deadline!
-It could totally be worse- at least the data are all entered!
-I think I'm going to make it.

DDD minus 8
-And now the CITATION_IS_EMPTY problem is crashing Word. *headdesk* I think I'm about to go manual with my citations.
-This is why my autosave preferences are 2 minutes.
-At least there's no one around to hear me freaking out at my computer.
-2:40 pm- I've officially started writing my last chapter. The methods section. Brand new document.
-I am such a terribly impatient and selfish person right now. I really shouldn't be allowed to talk to people. Must. finish. Don't I have "8 days to do way too much work" written on my forehead?

DDD minus 7
-Fourth chapter sent to Sam! Fingers crossed. I think I can make it.
-This last project is lame. Where's the story? What a dumb project.

DDD minus 6
-I dreamt about how to analyze my data.
-I'm getting some results!
-I finally feel like I've got traction on this last chapter.
-Oh my God. I just realized why I've been hung up for the last hour. I couldn't use a function that worked last night. Turns out I essentially DELETED R's ABILITY TO SUM by assigning sum as a vector of other crap. I shouldn't be allow to do that.
-So much frustration over an extra comma. CURSES, COMMA!

DDD minus 5
-It's nice to hear Sam say, "this chapter should demonstrate to the committee your advancement in a number of big ways, so i think you will be super fine." What a relief! I should still be able to pass even if this last chapter sucks.
-Why couldn't I just have 4 chapters?
-Oh God I'm so close I can smell it. Except that I still only have the methods written for the last chapter. That's crazy, right?
-Today: results & part of discussion. Tomorrow: Intro & send it to a friend.
-Nevermind about that goal above. Still too thin; need more analyses :-( Today: hopefully get most of the analyses done.
-Oh bleepity bleeping bleepers. Just discovered some really glaring problems in the data for the chapter I thought I was done with. I think I need to redo all of the analyses and figures before sending it to the committee :-( Yikes.
-I *definitely* need to redo all of the analyses and figures… after I draft this other chapter.

DDD minus 4
-I hope the baby likes all of the chocolate I'm eating.
-Still not done with these data. The story sucks. Super lame.
-2:19 pm. Ok. I think I have my crude, rough draft figures nailed down. Five main figures. This is what I have to go with.
-3:31 pm. Skyped with a friend about presenting GLM results. Time to start writing this up.
-5:37 pm. Passed the 2000 word mark!
-6:40 pm. Uh oh. Gamma distribution doesn't like zeroes. Model isn't actually working! Gah!
-8:25 pm. 2100 words and figure captions written. Moving on to tables.
-11:09 pm. Discussion has some rough paragraphs and a rough outline. I'm calling it a night.

DDD minus 3
-Ok Saturday morning, let's do this discussion thing.
-I need to consciously remind myself not to be bitter and jealous of all of the people doing fun things right now. I'm so close. I chose to finish this now and not later. Oh God I want to be done...
-This last chapter suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucksssssssssss.
-Don't. panic.
-Hold it together. Hold yourself together. You can do this. Break it down, break it down, break it down.
-Remember: If this chapter is the only one that sucks, you won't fail.

DDD minus 2
-I've dreamt in other languages before, but never a programming language. This morning I was dreaming about data manipulation in R.
-Each of my last four chapters has required largely separate bodies of literature. This writing requires so. much. reading.
-HAHAHAHA! I'm glancing back at the review I started 5.5 years ago (and haven't touched in 2) because it might have some useful bits for this chapter. I wrote over 8500 words!!! There has to be something useful I can salvage from EIGHT THOUSAND WORDS and over 100 references cited.
-When I get cranky and blue, I need to remember that reading damnyouautocorrect can always make me laugh.
-These last few weeks and especially days are so mental.  I have to spend so much energy managing my unhelpful inner monologue.
-I am so ready to resume being a normal person instead of a crazy person. 
-I suppose this chapter could be worse. I kind of have a story (at least I have some statistical significance…)
-Crappy draft emailed.
-Sam says (less than 1.5 hours after I sent it) fix some small things and send to Herb. I'm cautiously relieved by this but I still know it's crap.
-Good news: Reanalysis of the other chapter without problematic data doesn't change much. Bad news: can't figure out how to remake my figure. Just keeping the old version instead.

DDD minus 1
-Today is Monday? I have lost most sense of what day of the week it is.
-Did not set one foot outside all weekend. I did open the door a few times.
-Time to tackle the changes from Sam and send this last thing to Herb.
-I get SO emotional when I think about being done with this. Gotta stay present, stay focused, stay here.
-11:45 am Abstract written!
-Eating ice cream while I compose this email to Herb about my last chapter.
-12:17 Last chapter sent to Herb. Fingers crossed.
-Walked to school and got to my office. Turns out I am totally exhausted.
-I think my brain and body are protesting the breakneck pace of the last month. It knows I'm getting close.
-Herb says SEND IT OUT! I am DOING IT! I AM GOING TO FINISH MY PRE-DEFENSE DISSERTATION TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-I think walking to and from school in the same day was too much. It hurts.

DDD minus 0
-6:53 pm SENT!

I am proud of myself for avoiding an emotional meltdown. There were a few days when I was on the brink, and I calmed myself down and got back to work. It wasn't easy, but I knew that it would be more exhausting if I let it happen, because crying is exhausting and doesn't get work done. It was such a relief to be able to cry after I hit 'send'! 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Postdoc prospects

I've applied for a handful of post-graduation employment opportunities but I've only got one (now two) that I haven't heard nay from. I just sent an application today for one on a project I've been eyeing for years now. The timing is amazing. I've met the PI. I fit the qualifications. I think my chances with this are better than anything else I've applied for so far. I really hope I make the shortlist!

I thought that I blogged about when I met the PI a few years ago but I could not find a post. I totally have a science crush on her. She's only a few years ahead of me and we have many similar lines on our CVs, except that she's like me x10. If I got a $2000 grant, she got $20,000. If I got interviewed once, she got interviewed 10 times. Anyways, she seems awesome and it's a project I'd love to be involved in. I have some concerns that this job might not be a great fit with an infant because of the field work required, but if I don't get it or can't take it, perhaps something else will be possible in the future.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pre-defense dissertation complete!

I did it. I wrote my last two chapters in 2 weeks. I analyzed the data and wrote the last one in 8 days. I just sent the whole formatted shebang to my committee, 3 weeks before the defense. More than 200 pages, i to vitae. I cried after I sent it. In fact, I sobbed. I did it.

Turns out I'm exhausted. I've got plenty of half-formed blog entries in my head and I look forward to getting them out over the next few weeks as I resume something like a normal schedule and catching up on all the life things that I've been putting off for weeks and months to finish my dissertation by today.