Sunday, February 26, 2006

technical difficulties

I have been without a laptop for a few days. Not because of a problem, per se, but because I let the computer guys get a hold of it.

I wanted some software that I cannot afford. Hey, the university has a site license for it! So I bring my handy-dandy laptop over to the computer guys to get the software.

To make a long story short: they noticed I didn't have a domain login and that I still had the factory install of the OS. I'd been meaning to nuke and pave to get rid of the random crap the manufacturer installs, but I started using it and had no adequate way to back up my data. Computer guys offer to back up my entire hard drive, reinstall the OS, add the domain login, add the software I want. I say, sure, go for it.

Now I'm kinda regretting it. They put on Name Brand Antivirus which is making the whole system drag. I haven't had a virus since I was approximately twelve. I prefer Not-So-Namebrand Freeware. I cannot get the antivirus off my own machine now. They locked it on somehow, even though I'm supposedly administrator status. I managed to prevent the program from running, but it's still installed. Bah. I'm trying to hack my own laptop!

I'm considering asking them to uninstall it, but I don't think they will. They have to protect their precious network, after all, even though I've been on it 'unprotected' for over a year. I have a friend who knows software better than I do. Maybe he can hack it off for me.

Other than that, the machine is in great shape. Shiny new install, all updated, the new software I wanted. I guess they're good for something.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


It's that time of year: fresh young faces appear on our campus, eager to attend graduate school here. Yes, it's Grad School Interview weekend. The top twenty or so applicants get flown out here and shown a grand old time. Some of the current students are always on hand to answer questions about what the program is *really* like here. I love participating in the whole thing. It reaffirms my love of University City and Pseudonymous U.

My PI says that I'm just getting older, but I truly believe that this crop of potential students is younger than any other year. When I came in three years ago, there were four of us straight from undergrad as the youngsters, out of a total of eighteen. The following years have been quite a mix as well. The incoming class however, is probably 75% direct from undergrad. Smart little buggers too!

I came in from a small liberal arts school with no experience in a Research Institution Lab. I had done a small independent research project in college, but hardly of the type that would get published. I learned to pipette during my first rotation here! I think every single one of these 'kids' already has research experience under their belts. At least one has their very own project in their lab. I must admit being a bit envious.

They are a great bunch, and I'd love to see all of them show up in the fall.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

random encounters

I often eat lunch at the campus union. My first year here I diligently packed a lunch every day. Ultimately it became the exact same lunch every day, because it was efficient, and then I grew tired of it. Now I'm at a loss as to what to eat in the middle of my day. I typically bring an assortment of fruit and a granola bar, but lack the "main" portion of food.

As I forage for edibles in a rather central area of campus, I interact with a different subset of people. Certainly more undergrads, but I also see postdocs and professors intermingling with the students. On cold or rainy days the indoor eating areas are packed and tables are at a premium. This often leads to interesting eating arrangements. Since I'm typically alone and reading the campus paper and apparently look friendly, I often get requests to share my table.

Today I was surprised that the requestee was an older gentleman. I of course allowed him to sit and shared half of the paper with him. We were eating the same lunch from the hot line: chicken curry a little heavy on the ginger. We ate in silence until my curiosity got the better of me. I asked what he did here on campus, and he answered rather modestly by saying "I'm on the payroll here." Turns out that my assumption was correct: he was a professor, in a department quite different from mine. He of the social sciences area, studying rather big picture effects, in comparision to me, studying biology at a microscopic level.

We had a nice chat, albeit brief. Turns out he got his MS degree about an hour away from where I grew up. Small world. He asked about my research and I think I managed to convey what I study in broad enough terms that he understood. He also gave me some kind words of encouragement about finishing my studies. Apparently as an undergrad his GPA was atrocious. He encouraged me to find a subject I like and pursue it. I'm pretty sure I'm already pursuing it.

All in all it was a very nice lunch. I never expected to be getting kind words of advice about graduate school from the random professor at my lunch table. I suppose that says something quite nice about the environment here at Pseudonymous University.

Monday, February 06, 2006

out of town

I'm having trouble getting into the habit of writing here. I love reading the blogs of others; thinking of a topic to explore on my own has been tricky. Plus, the lab has been really busy lately. Now I'm going out of town to visit family for a week or so, and they have very limited internet access. Blog withdrawl! Should be a good opportunity to clear my head.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

into the flock

Our lab got a new postdoc today. I always find it interesting to see how the addition or subtraction of one person alters the dynamic of a working group. Our lab is fairly small: 2 grad students, 3 techs, and now two postdocs. The addition of a new person with more expertise will be very useful.

I find myself wondering about the day when I start a postdoc. The postdocs I've known have always seemed very capable and confident. Will I really have that level of knowledge when I'm finished here? Also, many postdocs seem older than I will be when I'm ready to start. Will I have a hard time getting respect as a postdoc?

Our techs are all my age and a few of them are looking at going to grad school soon. That means more personnel changes. I also wonder if I should give them advice about grad school itself. Obviously things are different in different schools and programs, but some things seem to be universal. I know I was not prepared for the experience! Certain things have turned out much differently than I expected. It has been a very difficult three years. Challenging and growth-promoting, but difficult. Do I warn them? Is it my place? Or do I let them naively go off as I did?
Maybe I'll just point them here with a wink and a nod.