Tuesday, September 19, 2006


My qualifying exam is getting very very close. I am beginning to panic slightly as there are still several things I'd like to review before then, as well as re-re-reviewing everything else. I feel good about my research proposal and topics tangential to that. The rest is making me nervous, despite having a practice exam last week that went decently. I have this feeling that I'm going to miss an important detail somewhere that will make or break the exam.

That and my head feels so full of stuff I'm not sure I can cram anything else in there! Repetition is going to be key here. Otherwise I have something down decently the day I review and then it falls right back out again. My brain is super-saturated with this stuff and I need to add another few cups of information to the solution. What does brain precipitate look like, anyway? Maybe that's what dreams are...

Also, very shortly after the exam is finished I have a wedding to attend. Not just any wedding, but my sister's wedding. I'm the MOH. My dress is not yet altered because the post office has my undergarments somewhere but are not delivering them. I do not have shoes because I can't find any I like. We don't have a wedding gift yet and the registry is pretty empty. I haven't planned the "bachelorette" party though that will probably be fairly easy to pull together once I'm back in Hometown.

Stressy stress stress. Once I'm in Hometown things will be better. I just have to get to that point, which means passing the damn exam and getting all this wedding stuff together. Simultaneously. I so need this vacation.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

in the club

I remember seeing a sign at Harvard, yes *that* Harvard, for a Procrastinator's Club. Actually, it was more of a support group, but it was quite amusing to see that such a thing existed and that the sign wasn't just a spin on the old joke: Procrastinator's Club-Meeting Time to be Decided Later.

Every time I find myself with a scary deadline approaching, I ask myself the same question: why do I procrastinate so much? If I just got things done early, everything would work out!

Tonight I figured out why I continue to put things off: I make it work. There are no negative consequences to my actions! Certainly the quality of these projects could (probably) be better, but what I manage to pull together is always quite fine. And I never actually miss a deadline, even if those last 12 hours are a superhuman effort.

What sparked this revelation? This nearly impossible feat: Getting three faculty members together with 24 hour's notice. You all know what faculty schedules are like! This is insane! What's the occasion? A practice qualifying exam. Blech. You can understand why I've been putting this one off, even though it has been poking my subconcious for weeks.

I guess I'll just have to adjust to being a procrastinator. Good thing the week before my exam is clear of interuptions!

Friday, September 01, 2006

proper care and feeding of graduate students

A few days ago ProfGrrrrl wrote a post with a title that matches mine in response to Psychgirl, who seems to be getting royally shafted.

At this stage in my grad student-dom I have been a full member of two labs and rotated through 3 others. I left my first lab due to a rather unhealthy working relationship with the PI. He was more about running a science "factory" than actually training up graduate students. I just did a quick lit search for that lab: the student who is in their sixth year has one first author paper and two others as second or third. The other student who is in their fifth year? None. Only one of them has ever been to a conference, and that was mainly because the PI didn't want to go themself. That PI was mercurial and demanding. You never knew if PI was going to promise you great things or come storming in wanting to know what was taking so long. PI only had meetings with people when things were going wrong. For holidays we had a party at PI's house with everyone invited. Occasionally the whole lab went out for lunch together.

There were no random gifts of food. No one-on-one lunches. Certainly no hunkering down after hours to work side-by-side. Heaven forbid you walk out the door before 7pm, even if you got there at 8am which was two hours earlier than everyone else.

My current lab is a much nicer environment. New PI is much more relaxed. He isn't a clock-watcher, but he isn't afraid to say "hey, you need to step up a bit more." We've had several parties at his house for holidays or goings-away of labmates. We always celebrate birthdays with a card and cake. We don't do one-on-one meals, but no one here really does with their students. I'm expecting that we'll be burning some midnight oil together when we resubmit the grant based on my projects, as well as when I'm writing my first paper. (This winter I hope). He meets with each one of us on a weekly basis. This makes it so much easier to track progress and catch problems before they become miasmas of crap.

I'm very happy in my current place. I don't have to TA every semester though, like Psychgirl. The one time that I did TA I fell behind in my lab work. I can't imagine doing it constantly. I really only have the one prof to answer to although I'll (hopefully) have a thesis committee soon. I definitely don't work 100 hours a week. 50ish maybe.

From my experiences in the labs here and from reading blog experiences of other students and of the profs themselves I think I'm getting a pretty good idea of what to do and not do with any future students I may have.