Monday, June 28, 2010

The Scientific Process: Motivation

Motivation. Or, perhaps more accurately, self motivation. Maybe this is the most difficult aspect of grad school, publishing, and research in general.

If you have been following this blog in recent history, you know that I am in the beginning stages of trying to publish my master's research. Well, to be honest, that hasn't been progressing forward very much. I don't think that getting ready for excursions out west and moving is helping with that any. Also, something about taking classes and a routine helps with my motivation, which simply is not happening right now. I'm in that summer slump, one in which I feel as though a have a hundred things to do, none of which are research related, and rightly so.

Primarily, I'm writing this entry as a reminder to myself: write your stupid publications already. I've been all over the place this month, which is making it difficult to work with collaborators. This has me concerned that once I move, this will never happen. Of course, once I move, I'll be back in a routine and school again, so perhaps I can work it into my schedule to get this done.

Task One: Make data table
Task Two: Write supplemental methods
Task Three: Look up submission requirements

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Grown Up Business

As I reflect on the past week or so, I am suddenly very aware that I am now in the midst of adults.

In this week alone I have been to two weddings and my friend from graduate school, who got married not too long ago, is pregnant. There were at least 4 babies in attendance at the wedding I went to yesterday, all belonging to people roughly in my age group. On top of that, I myself am looking at houses to rent when I move across country to Albuquerque.

Now personally, my biological clock isn't ticking, but I feel like time has suddenly started going much faster than it was about two months ago. This is all happening so fast. This week's duties involve packing for a trip in addition to starting to pack up for the big move. My clothes are all more or less packed away in boxes, with the exception of what will be going in a suitcase. My plan is to live out of that suitcase between now and August. This week I will be emptying drawers and packing glasses and dishes. I will also be stocking up on packing materials.

So far, I have two houses I will be looking at when I go for my housing search in July. By the time I actually get there, I hope to have at least 4 more options lined up, including rooms in apartment complexes. One of the houses I'm seeing has a great location just East of campus, and if the place looks good, I might just take that one because of the convenience.

For right now, I need to relax and take things in stride. I know that time isn't actually moving any faster than it was before. The most prudent thing would be to take this new sense of urgency and just apply it to getting things done.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Packin' it up, movin' it out

Moving yesterday and today. Not my apartment, but my office.

Last night Matt and I hauled about 30 liquor boxes into our office, and started throwing all that we could fit into them. Liquor store boxes are awesome for moving: they are sturdy and not so big that they get too heavy to carry (unless you put rocks in them, which is going to happen today).

The Penn State Geosciences department hired a new sedimentologist, and she is getting our office when she gets here. This means that the department is going to clean it for probably the first time since the building was built, put carpet in, and buy all new office furniture. Some time last week I got an email stating that the department didn't know when she was coming, but that evidently she was showing up earlier than they though, and could we possibly move our stuff out by the 28th... sorry for the short notice.

And so, Matt and I are scrambling to get our things out. Luckily, I don't have too much to pack. I got all my files packed and my desk is empty. Matt has many more things, but it will all get packed eventually. Today I need to get the last of my things out: my 12 cup coffee maker, some dishes, rocks, minerals, and some fossils. Also, a whole stack of books and journals. The heavy lifting starts today.

I got the important things out last night, the things that remind me of the last three years in an awesome office with two really good friends.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Moving On

Quick update: I had my meeting with Russ, and as I figured, the solution to the problem will be simple. Onward and forward!

The rest of my entry today is on moving away and losing touch, which has had me kind of bummed out lately. This has been brought up in my mind a lot lately: the knowledge that I have a friend getting married soon and I will know no one at the wedding, and also the periodic thoughts of my Dad and the disappointing show of support from old friends at home when he passed. As much as I like going home, it's sometimes a reminder of just how much I have drifted away from people I care very much about, and I can sometimes paradoxically feel lonely even when I'm not alone.

In a couple of days I will be heading home to Connecticut for the last long visit in a very long time. I will be starting a whole new chapter in my life. My friends who never left CT won't know what I'm feeling, you have to go away at least once in your life to "get it". The first chapter was East Hartford, and everything that existed in that tiny sphere. Then was Altoona, PA: two years where I made whole new friends and first experienced not being "home". Then was State College, the undergraduate years: I changed friends a lot, and sadly not very many relationships lasted because I flipped between campuses. My one year hiatus between undergrad and graduate school was like a blur, one long year spent in a job I hated, regretting that I didn't spend more time with my mom and dad.

I'm just finishing up the final pages of my most recent life chapter. My master's experience has been the most fulfilling experience, albeit the most chaotic. I have made relationships that I feel more confident in. I'm moving to New Mexico with a wonderful guy, and Mouse and Dave are also (oddly enough) moving to a town that is just over an hour away. Aubreya is in New Orleans, Sam is going to Alabama. We, and others, are dispersing across the country to continue our lives, but I don't feel the sadness and loss I would have expected several years ago. We have cars, we can fly, and travel is something I am not only open to, but excited about. I don't feel confined by distance. I have all these wonderful friends in cool places, and I can't wait to go!

When I move to New Mexico, I plan on making new friends. This is something I am committed to, so look out Albuquerque, there will be dinner parties and I will find my New Mexican dive bar to call my own. I also intend to keep my old friends, even those from CT who I have drifted apart from. I urge you, come to New Mexico. I'll have a spot for you in my home. The desert is beautiful, and I'll be at the foot of some awesome mountains as well.

I'll also miss you.

I know Albquerque is much further away than State College, and the reality is that if people couldn't make it to PA to see me, they won't likely get to the Southwestern part of the country either. However, I will say this: flying is a lot less effort than driving for 6 hours. Plus, I'm hoping to save up on vouchers and miles, so it may not cost you much more than your time.

Things are about to change. I won't be able to do long weekend trips to CT for the little things anymore, trips will need to be planned out in advance. I hope friends can appreciate the spontanious visits I have made over the past few years, sadly they won't happen again for some time.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Scientific Process: My First Publication

It's early June, I'm back in State College for the time being, and I'm back to being a scientist. This time it's all about getting my master's thesis published; and, instead of Russ being my thesis adviser, he is my co-author/collaborator.

This is something that we intending to start on back in JANUARY. It's June, and we've been talking about it and talking about it, and we're finally getting it underway. It's tough. I don't come into the office so much anymore, and Russ is busy with about a thousand different things between being the museum director, working on his own projects, and getting ready to go in the field. I'm getting ready to move in two months, and we need to get as much finished as possible while I'm still around.

At the moment, the text of the article is in Russ's court, so to speak. We set a deadline the other day to get a first draft done by Friday (tomorrow), but now Friday is looking more like Monday. I'm working on supplemental material: tables, detailed methods, things that would take up too much space in the actual article. I'm about 3/4 of the way through this one table I need to make, but I ran into a snag. I'm supposed to be making a table that gives information on the Site Names, Database ID#'s, Collection Ages, and Analysis Units. It's that last thing that has me stumped, so now Russ and I need to find time to sit down and discuss exactly what that last thing IS and what he wants there.

I hate it when I'm chugging along working on something and then I run smack into a brick wall and can't move. That is probably one of the most frustrating things that happens with research. You know there is an answer to a problem, so you can't quit; but, you have to spend an unholy amount of time finding the solution or solutions.

I'm going to switch gears now, and explain to my non-scientist friends and readers why I'm even bothering to publish anything.

Journals are like magazines that contain nothing more than research projects that people have done. Scientists conduct research, write a report, and send it off to a journal to have it reviewed and hopefully published. In academia, journal publications are like currency. A large part of a researcher's value is based upon how much work they have published and the quality/notoriety of the publications. It influences things like the ability to get funding to do more research and being able to land a job. Research institutions only hire people that bring in funding and actually produce publications.

The other reason is credit. I worked hard for three years to produce something new and original, and the only way I can keep someone else from doing it and claiming it as their own is by publishing first. Once I publish my work, if someone wants to talk about it, they will have to reference me and Russ.

This whole publication thing is the reason I probably won't take my husband's last name when I get married. I'll have publications under my current name and (for the sake of simplicity and making sure I get credit where it's due) I'll continue to publish under the same name for consistency. My point of view is: it's hard enough as a female scientist without confusing people with two names, and having different last names doesn't negate marital status.

Hopefully Russ and I can meet up this afternoon to get some issues straightened out, and we can move forward.