Friday, July 31, 2009

5.5 Hours

We got an email yesterday with an updated itenerary for our flight to Brazil. Instead of flying overnight and getting there Sunday morning, we were informed that we would be staying overnight in a big American city, then arriving in Brazil on Sunday night.

In hindsight, this wasn't too bad. We would get to spend an evening in one of our favorite cities, and we wouldn't have to attempt to sleep on a plane.

However, when we received the email, we were upset because we had tickets to a soccer (football) match, which we would miss if we accepted the flight change...and also because it happened less than 48 hours before we leave.

DH spent 2.5 hours on the phone with the travel company. They couldn't find one single option to get us to Brazil at the original time. He ended up paying an extra $1000 to get a flight to our second stop (where our flight to Brazil originates).

When he told me that, I figured that wasn't the best option (since we couldn't get any money back from the original flights). So, I spent 3 hours on the phone getting things changed back to the way they were.

So, now we're spending a night in big American city, getting to Brazil later than expected, and missing the soccer (football) match. However, the travel company was gracious enough to refund the charge for the extraneous flight that DH bought, and to get us tickets to another soccer (football) match later in the week.

All in all, 5.5 hours to get back to where we started was probably not the best use of our time! Hopefully there are no issues like this with our other flights during our travels!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Researching Careers

Yes - I have spent the last 6 years becoming a "researcher". I'm pretty good at it, I think...and not just in science, but for things in general. If I don't know something, or need to find something, I can usually do a Google search and get something useful eventually.

However, the past couple of days I've tried to start researching career options in education & outreach, and just haven't gotten anywhere! So, if anyone has any advice for how/where to start, I'd be glad to hear it!

Here's what I want to find out about:
- science education research groups/departments in specific geographical areas (of the US)
- science and/or astronomy outreach programs in those same areas
- jobs in science/astronomy education research or outreach in the same areas
- if any places of interest will allow me to telecommute/work from home (i.e., so I wouldn't have to live in the same location)
- information on funding for outreach programs
- what I need to do in order to get into science/astronomy education research

I just feel so lost right now. I know what I'm interested in, and can picture myself doing a variety of things in education & outreach...but I have no idea where to find information on this stuff! Which totally proves to me that grad students are only "trained" for academia - ask me how and where to search for post-docs, and I'd have no problem. Doing something outside academia? I have no clue!

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Residual Work

Like many recently crowned PhDs, I seem to have a lot of residual work to do before everything from my thesis is really tied up in a nice package.

The first thing I need to do is give a talk at the conference next week on some new(ish) results. At least this was fairly easy to put together - most of the slides were just taken out of my defense public lecture. It will be my first time presenting as a "Dr.", so it will be interesting to see if I am received differently.

When we return from our trip I will continue to work on the corrections for paper #2. I talked with my supervisor about what we should change and what we should argue about, and it seems like it will be a reasonable amount of work. I would like to get that paper resubmitted by the beginning of September.

I will be giving a departmental colloquium on September 3rd - not on my research stuff, but on the Impostor Syndrome workshop I put together for my teaching course! I am really excited about it, and I hope that it is well attended (and well received). I need to put some slides and handouts together for that.

In mid-September I will be heading back to MSc city to work with my MSc supervisor on finally getting paper #2 from that degree submitted. I will also be giving a talk there (which will basically be my PhD talk). I'm so looking forward to going, since I get to see some very awesome friends too!

In between all of this, we have our trip, DH is scheduled for an interview at the beginning of September (and I hope to go with him so I can check out potential Next City), I will officially start as a post-doc while we wait to see where we will end up, and I will start seriously researching career options and putting together a teaching portfolio.

This is the time DH and I have been waiting for - it will be interesting to see how things are going in a couple of months!

Monday, July 27, 2009

August Scientiae: Summer Days

This month's Scientiae is hosted by Abel Pharmboy - the first male to host the carnival! Here is his request for this month:
Summer days, driftin' away. . .

Consider how you balance the demands and pleasures of this season. Have you found ways to make progress on your must-dos while also taking time for your family, friends - and yourself - and being in the moment of this time of year? Or are July and August just another month for you?

Well, I've got to say that I've done pretty damn well on both fronts this summer. I managed to write, submit, and defend my PhD - all ahead of schedule (initially I was aiming to defend in September, but moved it up to July). The corrections are complete, all the forms are filled out. All I have to do now is take it over to grad studies, get them to approve it, and take it to the printers!

I've also worked hard to wrap up the loose ends and hand off my two outreach programs. I trained the new coordinators for the general science program, and it seems like they will do a great job. For the astronomy program, I gave everything over to the two TAs I had working with me last year, and they are already making some headway on some new, exciting things.

As for my personal life - well, I've always been good at giving myself plenty of time! I have rarely worked in the evenings or on the weekends; not just this summer, but since I started graduate school. My mantra is work to live, not live to work, and it has worked out very well for me. It helps that I have mad organizational and time management skills. If I didn't, I sure wouldn't have been able to finish my PhD in 4 years while running two outreach programs, and having a social life (and planning a wedding!) too!

This summer is going to be very successful personally though, as DH and I are going on (what we consider) a trip of a life time. We are taking three weeks and will be touring around South America (we leave August 1st). It works out nicely that I was able to finish up before we leave!

I'll admit though, this was probably my most productive summer work-wise. Usually I find it difficult to work full days during these months, but this year I had the thesis/defense to motivate me. It also helped that deciding when to move (and to start a family) depended on my finishing - even more motivation!

All in all, this summer has been one of the best since I started graduate school for work and personal time! Hopefully the level of productivity will continue!


Saturday, July 25, 2009

One week to go

I feel like I've been doing count-downs for a while now! When one thing is done, another is coming up.

Well, now that my defense is over, I can finally start getting excited about our trip to South America! I absolutely cannot believe that we're leaving a week from today!

We have all the gear, got our immunizations & pills for various things, we have booked all the excursions we want to do out of Rio (we're going to a soccer match the first day we get there!), and everything seems to be set!

I have to give a talk while we're in Rio. I made up the slides yesterday (okay, more like I took slides from my PhD talk and edited them a bit). I need to practice a couple times to make sure it fits in the time constraints. Other than that, I'm not really too worried about it. I'm also presenting a poster on my astronomy outreach stuff.

One last thing on our list to prepare is to head to a used book store and get a couple of small & cheap paper backs to bring with us. Any recommendations?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Defying Gravity?

As I was watching So You Think You Can Dance tonight, I saw a preview for a new TV show: Defying Gravity.

Umm....apparently it's like Grey's Anatomy...but...in space. Yup. Sexy. Who thought this was a good idea?

What's worse is that it's going to end up being a hit. Even worse...I'll probably end up watching it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More Details

Okay, now that I have food (and drink) in my belly, and had a good sleep, I'll expand a bit on my last post.

My talk was supposed to begin at 9:30am - at that time, only two of my examiners had shown up. The third (the university examiner) came in shortly after 9:30, and the fourth (my external) came in about 10 minutes late. He told me the reason after the talk, and it was reasonable - so I couldn't be too mad!

My supervisor introduced me - saying lots of great things, and it sounded like he even did a little research about my masters project! He specifically talked about my two outreach programs, which was nice since I don't really get a lot of recognition for those.

I started my talk, and then it ended. I can barely remember giving it! It went well though, apparently, and I felt calm during it (once I finished the first slide). I had 3 questions from the audience (which was one of the largest anyone has seen at a PhD talk!) - I answered those pretty well.

We had 30 minutes between the talk and the defense, so the committee went and grabbed some coffee and snacks while I chatted with various people. Then I made my way over to the defense room.

The room was incredibly small - the table just barely fit in the room, and there was just enough chairs for me, my supervisor, the four examiners, and the chair. There was absolutely no air flow, but we couldn't keep the door open because it was along a busy hallway, and right across from some bathrooms :P

We did the intros, I stepped out of the room so they could decide who asked questions when, and then it began.

My external examiner asked questions first, and they were pretty reasonable. That continued around the table - everyone was being reasonable, I couldn't believe it! There were two rounds of questions, it lasted for 1.5 hours, and there were only two questions where I said "I don't know" (although a couple others I didn't know either, but at least I had the right idea).

Overall I thought it went pretty well. I went out of the room and sat there for 30 minutes while they deliberated - that was the worst. Apparently, they weren't discussing if I should pass or fail, it was what corrections I needed to do (I guess they all had different opinions).

They called me back in, started shaking my hand, but didn't say anything - so I asked "Does this mean I passed?" and they said "yes"! It was a very odd feeling! All of that stress and nervousness did not just go away - I was not relieved or anything! I guess when you live with those feelings for so long, they almost become a way of life :P

My supervisor told me that every one of the examiners said it was the best written thesis any of them have ever read - so that's a good feeling (and a boo-yeah to the reviewer who said I needed to get a native English speaker to proofread my paper!).

I called DH, who was with my parents. They met me at my office and we went over to the grad club to celebrate (and a bunch of people were there already). My parents gave me a beautiful bracelet (that my mom actually made!), and DH gave me four books! The four of us went out for dinner that night to a great little bistro that DH and I will be sure to go back too.

I'm soo sooo sooooooo glad it's over and would not do it over for millions of dollars. It was the scariest day of my life, hands down.

Today I spend with my parents (they go home tomorrow). Tomorrow I start on the corrections and will hopefully be able to hand in my thesis before we leave for South America on the 1st!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The results are in...

...I'm a Dr.!!! I so cannot believe it!

Now, off to the grad club to celebrate!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Home Stretch

Well, it's the Friday before my defense. Three days to go. One more weekend.

My parents are coming to town for it, and get here late Saturday night. It'll be nice to see them, and hopefully having them here will calm me down a bit (or at least take my mind off things)!

I have one last meeting with my supervisor today. Actually, I think it's the first one we've had since I submitted my thesis six weeks ago.

I humbly ask of my readers to send lots of positive thoughts my way!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

1st Knitting Project Complete!

So, it took me about a month and a half, but I finally finished my first knitting project: a scarf (of course)!

I used a knit-1, purl-1 stitch throughout (otherwise known as single ribbing - that's right, I even know some lingo now) so it looks the same on the front and back. It's long enough so DH can fold it in half and knot it through. Hopefully he actually uses it come winter time!

Next up: a blanket in a checker-board pattern (at the rate I'm going, it'll take me about a year!).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harvesting the Heart: A Novel, by Jodi Picoult

Even with the defense looming, I have made time to keep reading. Here is a review of the latest book I read.

Compared to the other Picoult books I have read, Harvesting the Heart wasn't nearly as good. I felt myself waiting for it to get started, and then realized I was more than halfway through. It never really got going at the pace of some of her other books (which I had a hard time putting down).

I liked the idea of telling a story from a mother's perspective, especially a mother who felt that she was not doing as well as she should be. I think a lot of new mothers feel that way.

Otherwise, I didn't feel the plot was particularly feasible. Paige was made out to be a strong character, but then completely gave her life over to Nicolas - who himself was a complete jerk throughout the whole book that I just couldn't fathom Paige being in love with him.

Overall, it lacked the excitement I'm used to from Picoult, the plot had too many holes, and in general just wasn't believable. 2 of out 5 stars.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I finished making my slides for my defense talk last week. I thought it'd be pretty good, but I knew that once I went through it once I'd have to edit it.

Well, I did it this morning, and it took me 45 minutes to get through the intro/background stuff! LOL Half of it was me just pontificating longer on things than I should have. Then there was a bunch of extraneous stuff that I had included, and I was having some issues with some transitions.

I have edited it down a bit now, and the whole thing took me 47 minutes this time. Not bad. It'd be nice if it was a bit shorter, although I think that will happen as I practice it a couple of times and refine some transitions and explanations.

I got to admit, this part is kind of fun.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Official Freak Out #1

I was doing so, so well with not being nervous about my defense since submitting my thesis. I have been relaxed, calm, and even excited from time to time about it all.

Then yesterday, I finished making my presentation. Then I started thinking about all the questions people might ask after the talk because there's so much I can't put into it. Then I started thinking about all the questions my examiners might ask. Then I started to cry.

Holy crap. 9 more days...9 more days...(then I promise I will write about something else!).

In other news: I very might well buy a bikini for the first time in my life today. Maybe.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Last night I helped a guy propose to his girlfriend!

He contacted me a couple months ago and we planned the night: he took her to dinner and then to a local music festival. He then brought her to the observatory, where I gave them a tour and showed them the Moon & Jupiter through the telescopes before leaving them alone for a while. They even saw a giant meteor, which was super cool!

I hope that she enjoyed it - I couldn't really tell when I went back in (they told me it was okay to come back in, don't worry!). She didn't look overly enthusiastic, but perhaps she either knew it was coming, or she's shy and doesn't display those emotions in front of people. I felt weird when I was saying stuff like "Ohh! She said 'yes'!! How exciting!! Congratulations!!!" and they were very calm about it!

In any case, it is so much fun being a part of someone's big night - being able to do something special for them to make it memorable just feels awesome. I have done it once before for a friend of mine (and the girl had a much more excited reaction!).

Hmm...perhaps I have found myself a new career!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Two Weeks

I've been talking about my thesis and defense a lot over the past couple of months, and frankly even I'm getting sick of it. But, since it's in the front of my mind practically 24/7, it's just something we'll all have to deal with for another couple of weeks!

Two weeks from right now I'll probably be puking, curled up in a ball in a corner, crying, repeating "I don't wanna!!" to DH....or most likely all of the above. It's funny though, because right now I'm actually more excited about it than nervous. Let me clarify: excited to be done. Although, I am kind of excited for the talk, because that's something I enjoy doing.

My studying is going alright - slowly, but definitely in the right direction. I made a list of concepts I needed to brush up on, and now I'm just going through that list and making notes. My supervisor also gave me a list of questions, and I will go through those as well.

My goal this week (i.e., before next Monday) is to have all my notes written up for those questions (both mine and supervisors) and to have all my slides done for my talk. That way, I can just spend next week reviewing the notes and practicing my talk 2-3 times.

The parental unit arrives on Saturday night before the defense (late - I'm not sure if I'll even see them that night). So, on the Sunday I hope to just relax with them - hang out, eat, talk, etc.. They leave Wednesday morning, so I won't even think about doing my corrections until then.

It'll be good to see them - this is the second time my dad has visited me, third for my mom (she came on her own one time). My brother is contemplating coming as well, so that would be awesome since he's never been here.

Anyway, back at it I suppose.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Career Vs. Family

There seems to be a lot of talk in the blog world recently about women having to making choices regarding their career and family. For example, on the ScienceWomen blog, there was a post about a new mom who's in-laws (and family) were pressuring her to give up her science. Over at FSP's blog, she talked about a woman who was dissatisfied with her tech job in order to be with her husband (or at least that's the hypothesis). And Chick with PhizzleDizzle had a post a while back where she talked about taking her awesome new job, and ended with "And we will not be one of those couples where the wife follows the husband around where he goes."

This post is by no means a response to those, but they certainly have got me thinking about this issue of career vs. family recently.

These posts make me incredibly sad. I so don't get how, in academia, it seems to come down to making a choice of either career or family. I never hear my other friends, who are in different career fields, have such a huge problem with this. Yes, they still have to make decisions - but it doesn't seem nearly as bad. They're not wondering if they can do both, or if they should live in the same city as their husbands....they're more figuring out if they want to do both.

Then there is the issue of judgement, which seems to be rampant in academia. If you choose your family over your career then you're a failure, or you're giving up, or you don't love your job enough, or you probably couldn't hack it anyway. But, if you choose to continue your career then you're heartless, and you're still probably going to fail anyway because who can balance both?

I think if the judgement went away, it would be much easier for us women to make these decisions. We could make them for ourselves. I for one, when faced with the decision between career and family, will choose family everytime. That's just the way I roll. Other women value their career more than I do, and that's okay! As long as it works for them, then who gives a shit?

I've said this in the past, but sometimes I feel like women are our own worst enemy. We have enough crap to deal with, so why do we judge each other on top of all that? If we could just all be supportive of each other's decisions instead of setting up in two camps (career vs. family), just think of how much better things would be.