Friday, August 27, 2010

Year 1, Week 1 Recap

The first week of my PhD experience is nearly complete. I already talked about my first day of teaching, so I won't repeat any of that. Related to that, however, was how the rest of my teaching assistant (TA) duties went this week.

I technically owe the department two hours of lab preparation time. However, both this week and last week the lab technician didn't really have anything for me to do. In a few weeks I'll be of more use, and he'll have more need for me to come in. In the mean time I'll hang out, pop in every once in a while, and see if I'm needed.

Another aspect of my TA job is to hold office hours to see students who need help, one hour per section of lab taught. I teach three sections, so I scheduled my office hours to be on Tuesday from 1pm-2pm, and Thursday from 1pm-3pm. Of course, I have to be flexible, so I ended up spending about two hours today (Friday) helping students. That's one of the reasons I tried to keep all of Friday open, to provide flexibility for students and myself so no one is freaking out. I'm pleased to say say that I had three students come see me, which helps me 1) learn names and 2) figure out where my lectures are lacking.

It looks like my classes will be useful, if not interesting, for the most part. I signed up for a biostatistics class, which is something I've been meaning to do for years now. The instructor seems very approachable, and I'm looking forward to learning how to deal with my data in a "not fluffy" manner. I'm also taking the core ecology class. We're talking about stable isotopes and how to analyze them, and it's gotten me excited about how I might be able to use this stuff with my own research. Stable isotopes can be used to determine what an animal is eating, so you are actually what you eat... isotopically speaking.

Lab group should be good as, well as the other various department seminars. There are talks during lunch on Wednesday which I am required to attend, but the perk is there are subsodized lunches I can buy while I'm there ($2 isn't bad). The only thing I'm a little apprehensive about is the Topics in Biological and Biomedical Sciences (TiBBS) class. This week's lecture seemed to not really have a point. Maybe with time it'll get better, or maybe I just need time to adjust to learning new and random things. The class was on imaging methods for the brain as a tool. Yeah.

I was promised free food and stuff this week, as it was welcome week for the returning students. I got a nifty jump drive that turns into a bracelet, so I can carry it around with me. Unfortunately, I have classes pretty much all week during the free food time, and I was only successful with getting a hot dog today with some chips and a cookie. I'll take it though! Matt joined me on campus today for lunch. Despite the crazy death metal playing across the duck pond, it was a really nice afternoon. There's all sorts of birds that hang around there, and we're thinking of going there earlier some mornings to see if anything cool comes around. The tree we were sitting under had several humming birds buzzing around in it.

Matt hung around for a while while I was attending to a student, and then we decided to walk home to see what we could, and to see how long it would take. We kind of took the long way, and stopped for some boba tea (delicious!). Had we taken a more direct route, and not stopped, I'm guessing it would have taken maybe 30-40 minutes. Not bad, but I'll still be taking the bus. It was good to see some of the more neighborhood-like areas, and not just the sketchy parts of Central.

Next week I'm planning on going to the open house for the student insurance. I have some unanswered questions, and I still need to pay for my dental coverage. I wouldn't bother, but I still have my wisdom teeth, and I'm guessing they'll need to come out some time in the next couple years. I don't want to find myself with a problem that I can't afford to deal with. Stupid vestigial structures! There is also the promise of more free food; the Biology Graduate Student Association (BGSA, which I was forced to be a member of) is having a free lunch right outside of where I hold my office hours. I can go freely to the first 30 minutes of that, and then pop in and out during my work time.

That's about it for graduate school related stuff, not sure what the weekend will hold! In general, I'd say I'm enjoying myself.

Stuff I'm still having issues with:

Still no mail keys, and for some reason our mail occassionally ends up in our locked mailbox where we can't get it. I'm going to contact the Post Master about this.

Still no access to the online training I need for my TA

Can't access the online materials for some/all my classes

My office looks like bomb went off, and it is located in a building that should be condemned, only it's apparently a "historic" building. At least it is close to the bus stop and most of my classes.

There is some confusion over payments for my more recent medical bills, which is something I doubt I can sort out until regular office hours on Monday. And, we all know how much free time I have on Monday...

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