Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Sunday was my one-year blogoversary. I did have another one over on MSN for two years that was barely read, even by me, so I consider this my first real blog.

When I started this blog I didn't really know what I was going to write about. It was going to be more about my personal life, I suppose, as you can see from my first post. I was lucky, in a way, to attend a conference shortly after the debute, which really brought some issues in academia to a head for me. I also learned about the Women in Planetary Science blog, which linked me to a number of other science blogs. These two things influenced my second post (where I even received comments!) and why I continued to write about topics such as career paths, the impostor syndrome, thesis writing, astronomy in general, etc..

Now that I have finished my thesis, and I have a science-y blog over at the Nature Network, what I write about has evolved. It is back to things of a more personal nature, but still focuses on my work-life.

I have enjoyed being a part of the blog community, especially when welcomed by a few of my favorite bloggers. It's also nice to know that some of my friends and family from real life keep up with my posts, and even comment from time to time.

Many things in the past year have changed - I've gotten married, defended my PhD, DH has a permanent position, and we're starting a new chapter of our life. Here's hoping the next year is just as eventful and exciting, especially for my readers ('cause I don't want you to get bored!).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Some News!

As many of you know, DH has been looking for a job for a number of months now. He had one offer (which he turned down), and interviewed with another company (and hasn't heard a decision from them).

Throughout all of this, there was a standing offer for him to stay here. Earlier this week, we decided that we would like to pursue that option.

You might be asking yourself, "But, I thought you hated where you live? Haven't you been planning on leaving for years now?"

You'd be correct. Our plan all along was to move as soon as we could after I finished my PhD. However - as with many things in life - things change. One big reason is that DH really likes his job and the people he works with. The new position gives him the opportunity to keep working with the same people, but he will also become a more well-rounded scientist.

Another reason is that we really like living in Canada, and were always a bit wary of having to move abroad. I have a better chance of finding a job here (i.e., without having to deal with getting a visa, etc.), we are generally happy with how the governments act, and we didn't want to contribute to the brain-drain issue.

So, he has taken the position here and will start as of October 1st. To celebrate, we bought him his very first car this week!

We are actually very excited about all of this! We now get to start doing many of the things we've been waiting to do for 2-3 years: DH gets a car, we'll start looking for a house, we can buy real (non-student) furniture, I'll start looking for a permanent job, etc. etc.. We plan on putting in more effort to increase our social life here so we don't feel so isolated, and hope that we can really make a great life here!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Open Letter

Dear Isaac (aka Isaacness, or ness for short),

I realize, being a cat and all, you can't really read...but why must you puke on our carpet at the most inconvenient times? I mean, you can't do it while we're just sitting around doing nothing. Nope - it's got to be while we're sleeping (so we forget about it and end up stepping in it) or just as we're running out the door.

No wonder you're so hungry all the time! I mean, damn - you're bordering on bulimia here. How about you eat a bit slower so I don't have to clean up after you every second day? It's to the point where I just want to put it back in your dish so you can eat it again.

It's a good thing you're cute, and that you have your daddy to protect you.

your humble owner

PS: Izzie, don't think you're getting off scot-free - you're next!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


As I alluded to in my previous post, visiting my MSc university made me remember what I missed about my life there, what I didn't, and why I decided to leave both the city and research area.

There are a lot of great things about Winnipeg: the people, of course! There is an amazing sense of indie-culture there...movies, music, art, even food. There are so many choices that it's almost overwhelming. I greatly miss Movie Village (a movie rental place with an unimaginable selection) and Baked Expectations (the best dessert place ever). I also miss the festivals in the summer, and the dance studio where I first learned ballroom dancing.

There are, however, numerous things that I don't miss: the winters top the list (it still makes me cold just thinking about it), how run-down some areas are, the crime rate (my car was broken into three times, I had my side mirror smashed, my window smashed, and my tire slashed, and my apartment broken into - all in 2.5 years), and how graduate students are treated at the university (and a lack of money/funding).

As for the research, I studied an X-ray binary system, SS 433. It was very interesting, but I found it to be a) too high-level physics (quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, magnetohydrodynamics, all wrapped into one object), and b) completely inaccessible to the public. No one knew what I was talking about when I would explain what I was working on. For my PhD, I really wanted to do something that was closer to home that people could identify with.

You could say this trip really put things into perspective for me. I now remember why I left, why I changed research areas, and how things aren't as bad here as they could be. I really do love studying stuff in our solar system (maybe not at the hard-core research level, but still). It also makes me appreciate this city - even though it's not perfect, no city will ever be, so maybe if we put in the effort to enjoy our time here it wouldn't be so bad (especially if we end up staying here, which is becoming a good possibility).

So, the plan is to (try) stop complaining about things here, and start enjoying life. Afterall, if we're always living for the future, it's not really living, is it?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quick Note

Being at my MSc university has definitely made me reflect on my time as a graduate student, and how my MSc and PhD experiences were different. I also am starting to remember what I miss, and what I don't miss, about life here. It's amazing how your brain just puts thing away until you need them again.

I've been getting some decent work done on my MSc paper #2 - getting back into it wasn't as hard as I thought. I stumbled around for the first day, but now I think I have the hang of things.

Tomorrow I give my colloquium, and then back home to DH on Saturday! Will write more once I return home.

PS: After spending $1600 to fix my car, it didn't start the next morning! Woohoo!!

Monday, September 14, 2009


Today has not been a good day. It began with some not-so-happy personal news. Then I took my car in to get a clunking sound checked into, and now it's going to cost me $1600 (after having to replace the front struts, tires, and breaks). Still no news on other things we are waiting on - which is getting oh-so-frustrating. I'm feeling very down and just blah right now.

Tomorrow I head to Winnipeg, where I did my MSc. I'm going to be working with my MSc supervisor on my 2nd paper from that degree, which has been 4 years in the making already. Hopefully we can get it in decent enough shape to submit soon.

I'm looking forward to going away - getting away from everything that's (not) going on right now. It will also be nice to see some good friends, and get a change of scenery. Maybe by the time I get back, some things will have progressed.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Paper Anniversary

Today DH and I celebrate our first wedding anniversary! Here are a few memories from the day (that don't have too many faces in them)...

The wedding was outdoors, on a golf course near Calgary. It was an absolutely perfect day - not a cloud in the sky!

We had a very small guest list - only about 45 people. We really wanted to make it an intimate celebration, where everyone knows each other by the end of the night.

I really wanted to have color on my dress, but didn't want to go nuts. So, I thought this was a nice compromise.

Isn't that cupcake tower amazing? My mom and aunt made all the cupcakes, and my brother designed and built the tower (which he ended up selling to the golf course!).

The staff at the golf course were absolutely amazing, and had a ton of fun (especially giving out drinks - it was an open bar). At the end of the night, they told us it was the best wedding they've ever had there!

It was an amazing day - beyond all of our expectations and there were so many things that were fun surprises! My two favorite parts were DH saying my name wrong once during the vows (we have a great picture of me laughing and him red in the face), and when DH surprised me with a beautiful sapphire necklace that matches my engagement ring (pictured below), even though we said no gifts!

For our honeymoon, we went on a 7-day Alaskan cruise and then spent 3 days in San Francisco. It was a great way to spend some much needed, relaxing, time together.

Happy anniversary to my wonderful DH!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yay! Something Happened!

I got word today that I will be getting some funding for the Women in Astronomy and Space Sciences conference! Hooray! Even better, I get to room with a fellow blogger - how fun!

Now I must decide whether to stay for the last day of the conference, or come home early so I can attend my convocation. Hmm...

In any case, maybe this will get the ball rolling, and other things will start happening soon.

PS: What's up with the lack of comments lately, my lovely readers? I hope that my new layout and real name aren't deterring you from chiming in.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Something PLEASE Happen

Oh my GOD - have you ever had those moments in life where everything just seems to be in limbo, and all you want is just something...ANYTHING...to happen?

That's my...actually, our, life right now. Both DH and I are waiting to hear about a bunch of things, both personal and work-related. We both have papers that are out for review. Mine isn't too bad [it's only been (back) in review for a couple weeks], but DH has a couple that are just going no where (one still says "assigning reviewers" after three months).

There are other things we are waiting to hear on that I'm not at liberty to discuss at this time. I'll just say they are pretty big, and we are getting really, REALLY sick of waiting for news.

Plus, work right now is so...incredibly...boring. I am running code to generate some data to analyze, and it takes a very long time. I'm finding it hard to fill the time (especially since I'm not running two outreach programs anymore). Luckily I'm giving a journal club talk in a couple of weeks, so I can start working on that.

Anyway, sorry for being so crabby. I just want to get out of this limbo we're in and finally get things moving again.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Like Day and Night

I apologize if the following isn't as succinct as it could be. I am learning how to write in case people I know read my blog, instead of writing so that people don't figure out it's my blog. A whole different ballgame!

I had meetings with two people over the last two days. Both were to discuss a similar topic, but boy, were these meetings like day and night!

During one meeting, I felt that my ideas were no good, not relevant, and that I could not come up with a project without help from someone more senior than me (even if I know more about the subject at hand). The most frustrating part was being told that my idea was "okay", but if I did what they wanted me to, it would be much better and more well-received. Plus, if I did the latter, I would have a better chance of getting funding* (because it would greatly benefit certain units at the university - not because it would be a "better" idea).

During the second meeting, I felt nothing but support, that I can be an independent researcher, and that my ideas are worthwhile. The most wonderful part was being told that it's far more important to do something I love and that I'm passionate about, than to do something someone (higher up) wants me too, and that my ideas are relevant to many other people.

After I finished my PhD, I told myself that now is the time to find what I really want to do with my life. What am I passionate about? What excites me? What would get me out of bed in the morning with a smile on my face? There are a few things (which I'll discuss in another post), and one of them is a new (non-astronomy research) project I've started to work on.

I finally started doing something I love, and I'm happier than I have been in months...maybe even years. I really don't think I'm going to let someone dissuade me from continuing forward with it because they have ulterior motives, even if it means I can't get funding from them!

Some big changes are coming, and hopefully soon. I'll be able to pursue my interests with no time constraints and, best of all, no guilt and no one telling me what I should be doing.

*I don't mean that I won't be able to get any funding if I work on the project that I want - just that it would be harder to get funding from a particular unit at the university.

Monday, September 7, 2009


...my new, all-science (and science-related), blog:

on the Nature Network! I plan to write specifically about astronomy, as well as outreach, education, and perhaps personal stuff from time to time as well.

No fear though - I will continue to post very regularly on this blog, about everything that you probably ever wanted to know and more!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Impostor Syndrome Talk

I gave my talk about the Impostor Syndrome this week to the physics department! It was really exciting and fun to present something other than my astronomy research, and I think it went pretty well.

I ran it as a pseudo-workshop: about 2/3's of it was a lecture format, but I also put in time for discussions and brainstorming. People were also encouraged to ask questions or make comments throughout. At first, the group was a bit hesitant about participating - after all, they are used to talks where they come in and listen for 45 minutes, then leave. But, after the first couple of surveys I did (put-up-your-hand-if kind of things), everyone seemed to get more into it.

There were some really good ideas floating around, but we were really strapped for time, so we didn't get to develop them too much. I did mention ahead of time that it will probably go for more than the allotted time; talks usually run for 45 minutes...this one went for an hour and 15 minutes (and only 4 people left before it was done!), and could have kept going.

I definitely need to change and clarify some things before I gave the talk again. I would also run it as a 1.5-2 hour seminar next time, so that we have more time to focus on certain ideas instead of feeling rushed.

I got a lot of compliments about the talk, and a couple graduate students even thanked me for bringing the topic to light (only a handful of people had heard of it before!). I hope that everyone went away with some ideas, or at least an awareness of the Impostor Syndrome and what situations perpetuate it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Help with Survey

After talking to a faculty member in the department who also plans on attending the WiA conference, I got a great idea for what to present!

About a year ago, I came up with a survey for women in astronomy to learn about their graduate experiences, and how they related to career choices. I gave it to a few of my friends, but never did much with it. Until now!

I have added some questions, edited others, and added a demographic section - and it's now posted online! I look forward to compiling the responses and presenting them at the conference. Plus, it's a way to get my foot in the science education research door (yay!!).

If you would like to help out, and you are female and either a current graduate student, or have completed a graduate degree (either MSc or PhD) in astronomy or space science (or know someone who is), please email me (mrscomethunter [at] rogers [dot] com)!

Unfortunately, at this time, it's only for women in astronomy and related fields; however, if all goes well, I plan on expanding it to all areas of science, and maybe even making it into a paper!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Least Wonderful Time of the Year

The September Scientiae is hosted by Academic over at Journeys of an Academic. The theme of the month is Inspiration or Desperation? Invariably, the semester start brings a time to reflect positively or sarcastically.

The start of the September semester has been the worst time of the year since I started graduate school. There goes the quiet hallways, the short lines at the coffee shops, and the good parking spots.

Funny enough, when I was in grade school I always looked forward to the first day of school. I especially enjoyed back-to-school shopping. Our family of four would pile in the car and drive down to the USA (back when the $CAD was good) and buy our back-to-school clothes, bags, and supplies. I loved picking out my new pencil box (remember the cardboard ones with funky designs?) and getting a new set of those smelly Mr. Sketch markers (the light blue was my favorite!).

The past few years back-to-school hasn't been so enjoyable - although I usually manage to get in some back-to-school clothes shopping. Perhaps this September will be different, considering this is the first September since 1985 that I haven't actually been going back to school. I just happen to work at one. It will be strange in a way - not prepping for classes or outreach. All I have to do is research.

That's the only thing on my plate? Hmm. Weird. I don't even know what to say about that besides....HALLELUJAH!!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

WiASS Conference

I have been eying the website of the Women in Astronomy and Space Science 2009 conference, and it looks like it will be a good one. I'm particularly interested in the sessions about how professional societies can influence percentages and retention, paths to non-academic careers, re-entering academia after a break, and parenthood.

The conference is from October 21-23rd, and I fully intend to go. I don't have funding for it, but they are offering travel grants for early-career astronomers. Hopefully I can get at least partial funding from that, and then also apply for grants/bursaries through my university. And hey, if I end up having to pay for it myself, that would be okay (but not ideal).

I'm really excited for this conference because I would get to meet (hopefully) like-minded women in the field. It sounds like there is a a lot of time scheduled for networking, especially during meals (which will be done together for the most part - and are even included in the registration!).

I would also like to contribute a poster, but am a bit stuck on ideas. I haven't done any formal research on topics related to women in astronomy - but I'm meeting with a professor today, who is also going, to discuss ideas.

Is anyone else planning on going to this conference?