Monday, November 20, 2006

That's Dr. ScienceGeek to you!

Yay!!!! The defense is done!!! I passed!!!

Now for the details...
The day before my defense I had a bit of a breakdown. I went to the University to practice my talk one last time and pick up the projector I would need for the next day. I ended up getting the crappiest projector and my images looked awful. I had a bit of a breakdown due to my images not showing up right and how this was supposed to be my time to shine yet my presentation looked like crap. The next morning I got to the University bright and early and tracked down a much better projector. Things were much better after that. Although I was dead tired because I had the crappiest sleep ever.

The presentation went quite well. I was a bit nervous but not too bad. I probably would have been less nervous had I not found out two minutes before my presentation that the person I would be having an interview for a post doc position the following week was coming to my talk.

After the presentation a fellow grad student friend of mine comes up and says, "Man you've done a lot of work since I last talked to you about your project". That was nice to hear since this particular grad student is a workaholic who makes every other grad student look bad. Of course I got all the "nice talk", "congrats", "good luck" comments as well.

On to the defense...
That part I wasn't nervous about at all. I was quite nervous a few days before but the projector freakout made me worry less about the defense and more about my talk. Plus, I enjoy sitting down with a bunch of scientists and talking the talk. It also helped that the first few comments out of my examiners mouths were, "I really enjoyed your thesis", "Your thesis is very well written", "Your thesis is very well organized". I knew after those comments that the actual defense was more of a formality than anything. My external examiner (who conference called it) was probably the toughest examiner. She is closest to my field so that was expected. Although one of her first questions was quite difficult but I found it sort of a useless question. She was picking on some term I used in one sentence in my thesis. Oh well. Overall there weren't any really tough questions in my defense. There were some I didn't know the answer to or drew a blank but those questions were more broad science questions than thesis related questions. Such as, how do you make a transgenic animal that has a missense mutation in a gene. I totally blanked. I also enjoyed when they put my supervisor on the spot by asking him a question. I'm not sure how that happened but I enjoyed watching him squirm for once. I know, I'm mean. Based on Sheepish's examiner archetypes I would say I had an examining committee consisting of an Insider, an Outsider, a Freethinker, and an Examiner. It was a pretty good combination, I thought.

Then onto the deliberation, of course. That didn't last too long thankfully. When they called me back in the Chair of my defense gave me a thumbs up so I knew it was all good. In hindsight, I actually enjoyed the defense. Besides the external and internal/external, these are researchers that have been with me since almost the beginning, some even before the beginning. It was nice to have them congratulate me. They seemed to be beaming too. I suppose it is a happy time for them as well to see you succeed.

After the defense I went out for lunch with my supervisor and then home for a nap before the celebratory dinner. I was so tired. I never got that nap though. I was visiting with my family who came for my defense and then I got a call and got offered a position that I interviewed for a while back. After that I was too excited to sleep. A PhD and a job all in one day! It was a huge stress relief. I did still go for the post-doc interview today though. I'll post more on that later. It's getting late, I'm tired, and my show is on soon. Oh the joys of being done the defense, now I can watch all the TV shows I've been putting off or feeling guilty when I do watch them.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

T-minus 2 days!

My supervisor got into town yesterday so this morning we went over my thesis presentation. Within about two minutes he was starting to do the head bob, which at first I figured, whatever, he might be tired from traveling and whatnot. Midway through the presentation he was in full on sleep mode complete with a bit of snoring. Lovely, just lovely. The sleeping supervisor flustered me a bit but I soldiered on with the talk, essentially talking to the pictures of former deans up on the wall of the conference room. Seriously though, when your grad student is doing their practice talk to get feedback from you and you are the only person in the room besides the student who is giving the talk at least have the courtesy to stay away! Drink some coffee, walk around, whatever but don't go into full on snore mode. At the end of the talk I asked him how long it was since I forgot to time it. He told me it was about 40 minutes. I was going to ask whether that included naps or not but I bit my tongue. At least on Friday I'll have other people to focus on who won't be asleep like my supervisor so hopefully I won't get as flustered. And people wonder why I have such a jaded view of academia.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Coming out of hiding

3 days! Man, that ticker gives me a bit of an anxiety attack seeing it. As expected, I've been pretty busy preparing for my defense. This is what prompted this post. I've been reviewing things for the past few days and wanted to brush up on the theory behind the yeast two-hybrid assay since that will probably come up in my defense when I talk about future directions of analyzing binding partners of my protein of interest. As I was searching on the web I came across The Science Creative Quarterly, which has a lovely description of yeast two-hybrid complete with pretty pictures, if you are interested. Of course, as always happens when I'm searching on the web I got sidetracked and came across another article on The Science Creative Quarterly entitled "Dave Ng is both a scientist and someone who writes nasty reviews on books he hasn't actually read". Of course I had to check it out, which by the way cracked me up. There are other humorous articles (and probably some more sciencey ones) on that website which I'm planning to check out, after the defense of course. Oh and the SCQ is Canadian to boot!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Where does the time go?

Yes I've been quite sporatic in my posting lately. That snail ticker gives me a mini-anxiety attack everytime I see it so I've been avoiding my blog. I have got a lot done lately...

  • I printed out my thesis and handed it out to all my committee members. I must say I was quite pleased to see my thesis on paper. Up to that point it had all been on computer. I was sitting there hole punching it all nicely and putting the thesis in binders for my committee. The husband comes home and I show him my thesis all nicely in a binder. We talk for about 15 minutes about whatever at which point he mentions that I haven't put my thesis down since he walked in the door. I told him it's my baby.
  • I've finished my thesis presentation and have a kick ass acknowledgements slide. I knew all those cell images that weren't worthy of going in an actual figure would be useful at some point even if it's only science geek art. Now I just have to figure out what I want to say for each slide.
  • I've done a bit of reading and reviewing. I just can't get into it. I read this lengthy review yesterday that just came out. It is a nice recap of the area of research I'm in but I found it so boring. I think that was because nothing was new to me. I guess that's a good thing. At least I know the info that is directly relevant to my area of research.
So what's left to do before D-day...
  • fine tune my presentation and practice, practice, practice. Also, go over my presentation with my supervisor. My friend loaned me his fancy laser pointer/slide advancer dohickey so I'll look like a pro.
  • read, review, read some more. I like to be overprepared.
  • play 20 questions with my supervisor. He asks me whatever he can think of that my examiners might touch on to see if I actually know it. He seems to enjoy the 20 questions just a bit too much in my opinion. And really it's more like 100 questions than 20 questions.
  • read my thesis many, many times.
By the way, Science Woman's thesis stats post reminded me of one stat I forgot for mine...
The last word - disease

What a pleasant ending.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A few random thoughts...

  • I handed in my preliminary acceptance of my thesis forms from my committee today. My date is now set in stone. Eeek.

  • I talked to my supervisor today about what I need to know for my defense. This turned in to question period in which I told him that this is just a "what do I need to know" conversation not a twenty questions conversation. That one will come in a few weeks.

  • My supervisor told me I tend to be defensive when answering questions and that's not a good thing at a thesis defense. Unfortunately, I don't even realize I do it. However, this is coming from the guy who thought I hated him because I apparently glared at him throughout an undergrad course he taught. I told him that was my "trying not to fall asleep" face. My solution to the defensiveness is to answer all questions with a smile like they do on Miss America. Oh and to start each question with, "My research goal is to promote world peace". Seriously though, I'll have to work on the defensiveness.

  • I accepted the invitation to review that manuscript. I figured why not. I think it will be interesting (I don't call myself Science Geek for no reason). I got an auto-reply email from the editor saying he is out of the office until Monday. I was pleased about that because by then I should have my thesis printed and out to my examining committee.

  • I really need to get more sleep. I've been like a zombie lately. So much to do, so little time.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bad timing

I got an email the other day inviting me to review an article for one of the journals in my field. I was quite surprised. I figured that maybe my supervisor recommended me thinking I don't have enough to do with my defense being in a month. I sent him an email asking if he recommended me and he said he didn't. That was even more shocking. So someone has been keeping their eye on me or something to know my area of expertise and request that I review their paper. The other odd thing is that the conclusions they make in their paper are very similar to one of the unpublished chapters in my thesis, yet on a different gene. It's a bit eerie that they would request me as a reviewer on a topic so close to a chapter in my thesis when the only person who had read my thesis at that point was my supervisor. I also think it's odd that I would be requested as a reviewer since I'm still a grad student, abeit almost a PhD. I would really like to review the paper because I've never been requested to review a paper but I'm just worried I don't have the time. How long does it take to review a paper anyways? The email says they need the completed review back in two weeks so it wouldn't take longer than two weeks but how much time of those two weeks would it take?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Boy have I been busy

Things are really moving along now. I initially picked a snail for the countdown thing because it felt like finishing my PhD was taking forever but now that snail is really making his way to the end of the pencil in a hurry.

I've been meaning to update my blog more often but just haven't had the time. The formatting of my thesis took way longer than I expected. I managed to make friends with Microsoft Word though so it would do my table of contents and my lists of figure legends and tables for me. Every so often it likes to try to anger me though but for the most part we get along. I've figured out it's quirks. I still don't like when Word tries to read your mind though and format things how it thinks you want it. It's a freaking software program not a psychic!

I sent my thesis to my committee today for the preliminary read before it goes to the external. That was exciting but I'm still worried there may be some glaring errors in it like where I typed some comment saying [change this, it makes no sense]. Oh well, things can still be changed before the final defense version goes to everyone.

Now that the thesis is done (for the most part) I figured I'd do some thesis stats...
  • Number of pages in whole thesis: 232
  • Number of pages in the body of the thesis (not the table of contents, etc.): 214 - I figured that was important to point out because as my friend pointed out to me that the total of the digits adds up to lucky number 7!
  • Most references in one chapter: 115 (in the intro). I joked with my supervisor that I wanted to break 100 in the intro not thinking that it would actually happen
  • Number of figures in thesis: 48
  • Number of tables: just 1
  • Most figures in one chapter: 14 (in chapter 5)
  • Number of times I used words that annoy my supervisor (hee, hee):
    • As such: 16
    • Being that: 7
    • Therefore: 21
    • However: 29
In one of my chapter edits my supervisor wrote in all capital letters highlighted yellow "I really hate when you use the words "as such" and "being that". I did remove a number of those words but a few won't hurt. He has also told me before that I use "therefore" and "however" way too many times. Honestly I thought the numbers of annoying words would be higher.

So now what is left to do before the defense:
  • make my oral presentation
  • read over the thesis a few more times to make sure there are no glaring errors
  • brush up on some things I should know for my defense
  • print out versions of my thesis for my committee members
  • have a margarita to celebrate my thesis going out for preliminary review
Hmm... what else?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Well paint me green and call me a frog!

I have a defense date!!! Holy crap! I never thought this day would come. Ok, I knew it would but it always seemed like it was so far off. Now I gotta get me a fancy ticker for my blog to count down the days and to also give me a bit of an anxiety attack everytime I come to my blog to procrastinate. First though I need to finish the last few revisions and send my whole thesis off to my supervisor for final approval before giving it to my committee. Eeek. I feel the stress already. I've been kinda lacks for the last while since my supervisor seemed to be taking forever to set everything up so I figured why bust my butt to get everything done when he isn't. Now, however, I need to get my butt back in gear.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Things seem to be finally moving along

I found out today that the department put forward the request for my external examiner to the Faculty of Grad Studies. Yay! I only had to bug my supervisor about getting that done for two months now. I hope this means things will get moving along and I'll be defending soon. Now just to get a date set.

I've realized I really liked working from home when I was writing my thesis over the summer. However it was kind of lonely and it's nice to be back around the university more regularly. Although I blame the influx of students this month for my cold, which is still lingering and really starting to annoy me.

Speaking of the thesis, I am so sick of revisions. It's to the point that sentences are just getting re-worded and they end up meaning the same thing. Recently my supervisor came up with this idea for a new figure he thought would be good to add. It required me to do some analysis on my data, boring analysis by the way and statistics! Ugh. It turns out it wasn't so bad. I think that is partially because it wasn't more revisions and I actually made a figure, which is more exciting than re-wording sentences. I thought my supervisor was just being picky when he asked for me to add this figure but now that it's done I must agree it really adds to the chapter. I guess he is right some of the time.

On a totally unrelated topic, I want to change my Blogger template and add an image for the header in the new template instead of whatever is there. I've figured out how to add the image but my problem is that the title and description of my blog is still there and I want to remove it. My image has the title and description of my blog on it so I don't need the blogger one that shows up. Anyone know how to remove the title? Thanks.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The problems with grad studies - part II

Now that I'm finally getting over the cold that kicked my ass, as I lovingly refer to it, I figured I'd post part II of the problems with grad studies. It was either that or work on the revisions of a chapter my supervisor initially said was great and then when he re-read it he shredded it to bits. Umm... I'll take door #1.

The one big problem with grad studies is the student-supervisor relationship. The short version is, when it's good, things are great but when it's bad it could mean the demise of your PhD. A former grad student colleague of mine described the relationship between grad student and supervisor as "the most important relationship behind that of the one you have with your spouse and your parents". Come to think of it, she might have just said spouse. In any event, you work closely with your supervisor, they are your mentor (usually) and they essentially hold your PhD degree in their hands. At times it can seem like they are holding it hostage. Therefore, it is essential that the supervisor you choose (and yes it is your choice) to work with plays a huge role in your success as a PhD student. Most people going into their PhD know the importance of the supervisor in their success and some universities have even adopted the grad student rotation idea where new grad students do a short rotation in the labs they are interested in in order to choose the one that fits them best. Oh, they make it seem all so easy. The problem is supervisors know how to wine and dine the students they want. I call it the honeymoon period. Whether it's during a rotation or after you have started in their lab as their grad student, supervisors will make it seem like they are the best thing since sliced bread. Things can and do change.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that all supervisors are bad. There are some good ones out there and then there are those other one. The problem arises when you get one of those other ones or your seemingly wonderful supervisor ends up becoming one of those other ones. Then what? Well, let me tell you, from personal experience there is no then what. Sure, departments and universities will make you think that you have options when you are having problems with your supervisor but really it's all just talk. What's that? You say your department's chair of grad studies handles student-supervisor problems and your university has a grad student obudsperson? Hold a moment while I chuckle....

Okay, to be fair, yes at times these services do help, however, you do risk pissing off your supervisor by complaining to someone in the department or at the university level about the problems with your supervisor. And yes, they can mediate discussions between you and your supervisor to come to a mutual understanding but in the end you are the one that has to face your supervisor the next day and most likely they won't be too pleased knowing that you think they suck. Also, keep in mind that you need your supervisor to sign off on your thesis in the end. There's a fine line between resolving conflict and creating underlying turmoil when it comes to dealing with your supervisor.

However, what I want to get at here is beyond mediation and discussion. The bottom line is your supervisor has final say in whether or not you get your degree and even if he/she is being completely ridiculous in their demands or whatever, no one can make them do anything. In the end you are at the mercy of your supervisor. Sure you have the option to go to a different lab or even quit but either way you are at square one and have to start all over again. The reason why is due to intellectual property rights. Your supervisor's grants paid for your research, and/or your salary, and/or the space and equipment you used to conduct that research. This means they own your data. And because you did the work and analyzed the data you also have a stake in the intellectual property rights, which is why, by rights, your supervisor can't publish your work without your name on it. So the problem with switching labs is you need your supervisor's approval if you want to continue on with that project. Ya, like that's going to happen being that you left their lab because you had problems with them. As well, no other prof is really going to want to take you on. The reason being is you're there for, oh lets say 5-6 years, but your supervisor and the other prof have to work together for, oh perhaps another 10-15 years or more. You are just a drop in their bucket and they (and the department) don't want to end up with bad blood between profs due to one grad student. So in the end, you're the one that gets screwed. Either you put up with your supervisor and their crazy demands or procrastination on setting your defense date or you quit. Yep, those are your options. I once asked the grad student obudsperson about student-supervisor relationships and if you couldn't resolve your conflict with your supervisor were quitting or just sucking it up your only options. After a long pause she lowered her and quietly said, "yes". Oh now that's encouraging!

So after my long blabbering on, what I'm getting at is that this old school idea of grad students being solely reliant on their supervisor for their PhD is ridiculous. This is also the root cause of grad students being taken advantage of. Supervisors know grad students are at their mercy so they dangle that degree in front of your face and get you to do many mundane tasks that aren't at all related to grad school - can you get my mail? here's $10, can you go grab me a sandwich and a pop? can you photocopy these for me?. I'm sure many grad students have wondered the same thing I have at some point, is this grad school or personal assistant training?

As for a solution, so far I don't have one. Intellectual property rights leave grad students stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The problems with grad studies - part I

I'm sure there are many problems with grad studies, I have two in mind hence the "part I" in the title. Some may say I'm just a bitter grad student at the end of her program but I like to look at it as the rose coloured glasses have finally come off. All the hype professors tell you about how great a PhD is and how academic research is so flexible and that you can follow whatever your heart desires seems so wonderful in the beginning but the honeymoon phase is over.

I've been thinking about the numerous problems with academia for a while now. This is part of the drive behind my search for a non-academic career. A recent article in The Scientist titled Are We Training Too Many Scientists? reminded me of one of my bigger complaints with PhD training. The article goes into the statistics behind the number of PhD granted and the number of post docs and how the numbers have risen drastically, yet the number of tenure-track academic research positions have not kept pace. This leaves a lot of highly skilled and highly educated scientists at a loss of what to do next. Now I'm not going to focus or speculate why the numbers are different and how we could fix them. No, that article reminded me of my frustrations with leaving the Ivory Tower and obtaining a career outside academia. Besides the gasps and the comments like "well what are you going to do then?", "but you can't direct your own research there", "isn't it time you started having babies anyways?" (that one especially annoys me) very few people have had any advice on what jobs there are for those with PhDs who don't want to go into academia. For a while there I was getting so frustrated and stressed about how I took so many years of schooling and yet had limited career choices beside academia. This, however, is not true. Upon further investigation and speaking with a career counselor I realized I did have numerous option. However, I never realized these options existed until I actively searched them out. In academia your mentors are professors, usually your supervisor. These people live and breath academic research and to do anything else, in their mind, is somehow considered lesser. I realize mentoring a grad student is like raising a child. You want to teach them as best as you can and see them succeed. The problem is that most academics only see success as obtaining a tenure-track position. As such, they don't really counsel you in alternative career options. It could be that they aren't familiar with them or that they don't want to open all those other doors for you for fear that you will take the time and money they invested in you and do something that is considered, by them, to be of a lower standing. However, all schooling, whether it's a Bachelor's degree or a PhD, is about training people for their future careers. Why in the case of a PhD does that career have to focus on academia?

With the decrease in tenure-track positions and increase in number of PhD graduates you would think that training or career counseling in areas outside academia would be beneficial to universities. Potential PhD students wouldn't see a PhD as a dead end degree and many of those recent PhD graduates would not be so disgruntled and give up on science altogether. As I mentioned, I did seek out career counseling. Although it was through the university I still had to pay for it and it wasn't soley focused on science. It was just general career counseling. It was helpful although it would have been much more helpful to have career counseling focused on jobs you can obtain with a PhD in science. I've found that most of my knowledge on careers outside academia has been self-taught since the university has limited resources in that area.

A PhD program shouldn't just center on getting the degree but should include career counseling and specific courses to prepare you for a career, whether that be in academia or outside academia. This idea of [B.Sc. + M.Sc. + Ph.D. + Post-doc = tenure-track position] is outdated. Academia needs to change with the times and better prepare the students they are training so that when they graduate they can enter into successful careers in a broad range of areas and not just tenure-track or unemployment.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Damn writer's block

Why does this always happen to me? Whether it's a paper, a report, or my thesis, whenever I'm so close to the end I get writer's block. For my thesis I have about four pages of general conclusions left to write and I'm stuck. My main problem is I don't want to be repetitive. My thesis chapters are written as papers so each chapter has it's own conclusion; however, the thesis needs it own general conclusion. Every time I write something in the general conclusions I realize I've already said that in some other chapter. It's getting really annoying. Yesterday I tried the theory of just write even if it's crap. That usually works for me but this time not so much. I re-read that page today and it is not good. I just want to get these last few pages done but it's agonizing!

On a related note, my supervisor still is skirting the issue with respect to setting a defense date and an external examiner. I think that is contributing to my lack of effort in finishing the last few pages of my thesis. In my mind, I wonder why I'm putting so much effort in when he wants to put off my defense for months. I will spare you my endless complaints about my supervisor and defending because I could go on forever. The short version is that I'm sick of him prolonging and dragging this out so I'm going to talk to the chair of my department about my options. We'll see how that goes. This is the main reason I haven't updated my blog lately. I've been very bitter and as my mother always says, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all". I'm still bitter but I've managed to rein it in somewhat to appear cheery on the outside.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

CV to resume

Being that a number of jobs I want to apply for are non-academic, I've decided it would probably be best to submit a resume rather than a CV. I figured converting my CV to a resume would be a pretty easy task. I thought wrong. It has taken me longer than expected to convert my CV to a resume and in the process I've realized that a CV is pretty easy to write compared to a resume. A few reasons why...

  1. A CV is simply a list of your accomplishments. You list pretty much everything and anything academic related on it. The more the better. On the other hand, a resume is supposed to be short and sweet and highlight only your best skills and achievements. Picking and choosing is not fun and neither is trying to reword a sentence to include as many skills as possible but still trying to maintain proper sentence structure.
  2. There is really no creativity in a CV, as is evident by the number of boring CVs I've come across. Now I know they aren't supposed to be flashy but at least some nice formatting instead of just simple lists in Times New Roman would be nice. Resumes are also not supposed to be flashy but you do have to format it in such a way as to catch the reader's eye and make it easy to read and concise.
  3. In a CV you usually don't list skills or need to use descriptive words or so called 'power words' when talking about your achievements. Just a simple list will suffice. In a resume you have to list your key strengths but not all of them, just a select few preferably related to the job you are applying for. Therefore, you have to be pretty creative in order to squeeze as many power words into only a few sentences.
  4. In a resume, simply stating you have a PhD (or a MSc or a BSc, for that matter) is not enough. You have to describe your skills and knowledge gained during your PhD. Sure it looks nice on your resume to state that you have a PhD but since PhD experiences can be so variable, simply stating you have a PhD really doesn't mean much when the person hiring is trying to determine whether you will be an asset to their company. Now this would probably not be necessary if you have work experience besides your PhD but I don't and neither do most new or soon to be graduates.
Reorganizing my CV into a resume was a good learning experience though. It made me think, "what have I accomplished during these last many years besides the soon to be title of PhD?". It made me put into words what skills, knowledge, and accomplishments I have gained from my PhD. However, it was kind of sad going from my nine page CV to my two page resume. I almost shed a little tear when I deleted all my publications, meeting presentations, and scholarships and replaced them with a few lines simply stating the number of presentations and publications and the fact that I received some scholarships. What is considered probably the most important entry on your CV behind your education has now been reduced to four lines on my resume. If it helps me get a job though, I'm all for it. One plus to making my CV into a resume - now at least I can list all those skills I gained from all the non-grad student or non-research related crap my supervisor has gotten me to do.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Here's my question...

What do you do if your supervisor edits a chapter in your thesis in such a way that you don't agree with? Do you put it back to how you originally had it or suck it up and do it his way even though it really doesn't make any sense?

The specific problem here is a section in my introduction which has an accompanying figure. He thinks that whole section should be taken out of the text of the intro and put in the figure legend, thus making my figure legend for that one figure a page and a half long. Plus the figure has two parts - A and B. You can't discuss A without referring to B and then back to A. So my lengthy text in my figure legend goes A) blah, blah, blah (for a page) then refers to B for a few sentences, then goes back to A. Then there is about half a page on B itself because it requires more of an explanation than what is in A but doesn't fit with the flow of the text for A. To me this whole page and a half figure legend just seems idiotic. Figure legends are not meant to be a page and a half let alone include info that should be in the intro text itself. I know my supervisor will be adamant about keeping it this way because he thinks including that info within the text of the intro will bore people. I think putting it in the figure legend will make me look like an idiot who doesn't understand the point of a figure legend. So, should I suck it up and have my committee wonder why I did it that way or fight with my supervisor on this?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Warning... supervisor rant ahead

Things have been going fairly well with my supervisor for the past while until now. I knew it had to be short lived. It started last week when he left me high and dry 45 minutes before a conference call with collaborators of ours. My supervisor and them are going to carry on my project, which is a nice compliment that my research is worthwhile to continue pursuing especially since my project started as pretty much a shot in the dark. Granted I know the most about my project but I'm really not sure the direction my supervisor wants to go with it so I was quite pissed off that he left me to carry our side of the call. Oh well, it went fairly well I think. Of course my supervisor wanted a recap of the phone meeting so I spent an hour typing out an email to him about it. I purposely only sent the email to him because although I didn't bash our collaborators or anything I did mention that some of the experiments they suggested I didn't agree with or didn't think they were necessary. Obviously if I didn't tell them that on the phone I wouldn't want them to read it in an email. Well guess what? My supervisor responded to my long email and cc'd it to our collaborator and her post doc. Sadly, I had a feeling he would do this so I did try to word things politely but still! The man has no email etiquette. This is similar to the time I sent him an email asking for the specifics of how an experiment was done since it was done by another lab. He proceeded to forward that email to the people who had done the experiment. Normally that would be fine but it wasn't a "hey can you answer these questions for her email". Instead he mentioned how I should contact these people and ask them these specific questions and how he cc'd them on this email so they are expecting my email. It was like I was 5 years old and afraid to talk to someone so I needed him to ease me into it. No, I just didn't know their email addresses!

In the last week or so I've sent my supervisor my intro and the revisions on two chapters. The ultimate plan is to publish three of the chapters from my thesis. This wasn't done earlier in my program due to the whole supervisor leaving issue and potentially getting kicked out of our lab so I focused on getting my experiments done and not publishing my results. Now, however, I really want and need those publications. I sent my supervisor an email saying we should really get on this and here's what I'm thinking for where to submit the manuscripts, etc., etc. I get an email back saying how he's busy and has other things to do and can't focus on my stuff 100%. Ok I understand that but the fact that the last thing he sent to me was almost two weeks ago I'm guessing he hasn't been working on my stuff much since then. Also, one of my chapters has been written since December and has pretty much just been sitting there with a few minor revisions here and there. My supervisor keeps saying he wants to have another look at it but hasn't. Dear lord! Now I know why so many former grad students in my lab left without publishing.

To top it off, I've been pushing to defend before the fall deadline so I don't have to pay tuition. My supervisor said he wanted to see my intro first before making a decision on a date. I sent him my intro a day after that conversation. I also told him that perhaps we should at least set up the external examiner since that has to be done quite some time before the defense. Has there been any more mention of this? Oh no. And by now there is pretty much no way I'm going to make the fall deadline so I'll have to pay tuition.

I've been extremely patient with him throughout the whole writing process and haven't really bugged him about getting revisions back to me. I even left him alone for the whole time he was writing a grant. At one point he was sitting on three chapters of mine but did I say a thing? No. Now with being so close to the end I just want to get done and not have this drag on forever.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Alternative Careers in Science

As is evident by my previous posts, I've all but decided that I don't want to go the academic route. The reasons for which are numerous so I won't bore you with that. Trying to decide what career path I would like to pursue outside academia, however, has been quite nerve racking. I really don't have anyone to turn to for advice who isn't an academic and most academics and even other grad students look at you like you've gone crazy when you mention that isn't the career path for you.

In a weird twist of fate, the other day while looking for some book or journal article for my thesis on the university's library website I came across a book called Alternative Careers in Science. I figured I may as well have a look at it since it seemed like the help I was looking for. It was actually already checked out so I had to request it and the other poor person looking for something other than academia had to return it. Funny thing was, when I went to pick up the book the librarian said that she is also trying to leave the ivory tower. That lead to a discussion of which would be better - joining Circ du Soleil or becoming a WestJet flight attendant. It was nice to hear I'm not alone in my quest.

Anyways, the reason I bring up this book is because I highly recommend it. I've only read a chapter and a half so far and skimmed through the rest of the book but so far this book is excellent. Each chapter is written by a different person who chose a different career path outside of academia. It goes into how they ended up there, why, and what their job is like, among other things. The little I've read so far has been very helpful. And it's nice to know that I'm not alone in all my confusion over what to do next and my guilt of not going the academic route. One of my favorite lines I came across when skimming the book was in the chapter written by Genevieve Haddad when she was talking about her decision to not go into academia and getting flack from everyone around her. She says, "[Everyone] thought I was crazy at best, a traitor at worst, for wanting something different... Why would I want to do anything else? It must be because I was a woman and not really serious about science". Yep, that about sums up my experience so far when telling people my choice of finding something outside academia.

So if you are confused like me and want something outside the Ivory Tower I highly recommend checking out this book. And good luck in your quest! I'm right there with you.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Alright science experts, I need your help. I think the thesis writing has caused me to slowly lose brain cells. Where do you insert a reference if the whole paragraph you are writing is taken from one source? Do you put it where you first mention information from that source (so at the end of the first sentence of the paragraph) or at the end of the last sentence of the paragraph? I've Googled and so far haven't found the answer. Help!

Thesis writing = crappy summer

I've realized, now that it's August, that I really haven't done anything this summer. No real vacations, sure there was the odd weekend away here or there but those were mainly to visit families, go to weddings, that sort of thing. I didn't plan any vacations or anything for the summer since I knew I would be busy writing and at first that was fine with me since I did have a vacation at the end of April. Now that summer is coming to an end I'm thinking I maybe should have enjoyed some of the nice weather instead of sitting at my computer complaining how hot it was outside. I did think of working outside, which I did for a few days, but I would always been going back inside to get some paper or some book. Then the wind would pick up and things would blow around. Or the sun would be shining too brightly to really be able to see what was on my laptop screen.

Today someone mentions to me how it's a good thing there's a long weekend coming up and I'm thinking, "When?". How sad. Half the time I don't even know what day of the week it is. Oh well, I'm kind of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I've finished all my paper chapters with my results and data and now I'm on to the intro. It sounds backwards, doing the intro first, but it works for me. Plus, I got a chapter back from my supervisor today, too bad there was no attachment with the email. So, really I guess I didn't get a chapter. Whatever, I still have the intro to do so it's not like I'm at a loss for something to do.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A reflection

As I get closer and closer to the end of my PhD I find I reflect a lot and wonder if I had to do it all over again would I choose to go the grad student route? Honestly, there is no cut and dry answer to that. Personally, I feel I've been gypped out of the whole grad student experience and this leads me to a bit of resentment. With my supervisor leaving to take a new position three quarters of the way through my degree I didn't have the typical grad student experience. For one, he hated the job/people at the university I'm at, which was the main reason why he left. This attitude, of course, made our lab sort of the outcasts in the department. No a good way to start out. Plus, for the year or so before he left, when he knew he was going to find a new position somewhere else, he really didn't put much effort into anything. Sure, we would have meetings and discuss my results and whatever but this was also while he was checking his email, going through his mail, whatever other tasks he figured he could handle while still listening to me. In actuality, he really wasn't listening to me. I could stop talking and it would be a good few minutes before he realized it.

Now that I no longer have actual face to face meetings with him, everything is by email and sometimes phone. That's fine and actually I seem to get more of his undivided attention that way. Although I do feel a bit screwed over in the thesis writing department. Don't get me wrong, it has made me quite independent in my writing since I can't go over every little detail with my supervisor face to face but I still feel a bit screwed over. Also with my supervisor gone I am really not feeling the love from the department. Not that I thought I would but when the day after they kick us out of the lab I get an email requesting my key back it's sort of a slap in the face. Especially since I'm the one who got stuck with sending a bunch of my supervisor's stuff to him so I still need access to the lab to get all, what the department calls, "the crap" out of there. I so feel like handing in my key and when the department complains that all that stuff is still there I'll just say, "Sorry, I no longer have a key".

Don't get me wrong, doing my PhD was enjoyable at times. The people in the lab were a lot of fun usually, I went to a bunch of conferences, I enjoyed the research for the most part. I guess I just feel gypped on the last part of my PhD. No lab meetings to have scientific discussions, the lack of direction in my writing up, getting kicked out of the lab. That sort of thing. On the bright side, I have found the whole supervisor leaving thing has made me way more independent. At times I think I should get a PhD and a post doc out of this whole thing. That is also partly why I'm not so keen on doing a post doc. I feel like I've already been doing a post doc for the last two years.

Anyways, to answer the initial question of would I do it all over again? Hmmm... honestly, probably not. And if I did do it all over again, I would do it a lot different. Although that may just be my bitterness talking. Maybe when I actually have my degree I'll feel differently. I'll let you know in a few months.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What next?

As I get closer and closer to finishing my PhD I keep thinking, what next? So far, nothing, which when I think about it gives me a mini anxiety attack. I think I've come to the conclusion that I don't want to do a post doc. Why? Well, for one I don't really want to be a professor. Blasphemy, I know. A PhD who doesn't want to go into academia?!? So then what? That's what I'm trying to figure out. Perhaps a research associate or doing research for industry or government. I've applied at a number of places, had one interview but that's it so far. I'm starting to worry that maybe I should do a post doc. Not because I want to but because I'm supposed to. It's almost ingrained that you do the PhD, then the post doc, then get an academic position, then get tenure and live happily ever after. Ya right. I'm tossed up though. Even if I don't want to go into academia I'm wondering if I should still do a post doc "just in case". However, since I don't really want to do a post doc I would probably hate every minute of it and that wouldn't be good for anyone. Argh! Thesis writing, deciding what to do for the rest of my life... ya no stress at all.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I'm NOT a fan of statistics

I spent the better portion of my day trying to do statistical analysis on one figure. ONE FIGURE!!! I have never been a fan of statistics. I took two stats classes in university and do you think I can remember any of it? All I remember from stats class was that the funky cowboy was my stats prof. He was this short, skinny man who wore these western type shirts but they weren't any old cowboy shirt Clint Eastwood would wear. No siree. These were bright, colourful cowboy shirts. It was like Rainbow Bright puked all over Clint Eastwood or something. That prof and his shirts solidified my theory that anyone who likes stats is crazy.

So as I was trying to figure out if I needed to do a Student's t-test or a One-way ANOVA on my data and Googling what the heck those tests are, I came across a website about the Student's t-test. It had a little history thrown into the stats explanation. Apparently the student who came up with the test was working in a brewery and he developed this test to solve some brewery problems. I'm convinced he was drunk (and probably crazy). Anyhoo, turns out it's a pretty good test. I didn't use it though. Seems I needed a One-way ANOVA. Righty. More Googling I did go. Finally after hours of swearing and telling myself this stats isn't going to get the better of me I got it done. Thanks, in no small part, to Excel and it's Data Analysis function. It wasn't all Excel though, I did have to figure out what all the numbers it spit out meant. So much for getting a lot done today. Stupid statistics.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hmm... what was so special about June 9th?

Well as you can tell I haven't been so good with updating the blog. I like to think it's because I'm so focused on writing my thesis. Riiiiight. I'll keep telling myself that. I figured I should check to see if my blog is still there since it's been quite some time. Then for kicks I decided to check out the Tracksy stats on my blog. That's right, Tracksy. I'm a loser who likes to see how many people visit my blog. So it appears that June 9th was quite a busy day over here at the Science Geek blog. Most hits from that day came from Could someone fill me in as to why? I'm all excited thinking maybe there was a link to my blog on that site.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Go Oilers Go!!!!

Normally the Stanley Cup wouldn't really affect my thesis writing but with the Oilers in it I have to watch now. Yes, I have been watching religiously since the conference final but haven't blogged about it at all because it isn't at all PhD related but since I'm sick of thinking about PhD stuff then the Oilers it is. Tomorrow is game seven. GAME SEVEN! Oh the stress! I really hope the Oilers win (of course) but not just because I'm cheering for them but because, although they have had bad games, they are able to pull it together and play awesome when need be. Also, and I may get flamed for saying this, I think winning the Stanley Cup means more to the Oiler's fans than the Hurricane's fans. The Oilers have such a hockey legacy. It would be nice to bring the cup back. GO OILERS GO!!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Thesis writing distraction

I haven't been so good at updating my blog lately. I've come to the conclusion that it's because I spend all day writing my thesis... okay, perhaps not all day but I try. Anyways, I spend a lot of my time writing my thesis, which if you read my last post, you'll realize I find thesis writing kinda boring. So really, do I want to prolong the agony and write stuff on my blog about writing my thesis. Not so much. So, in an effort to not go insane with thesis overload my blog may diverge from the usual PhD related blabbing.

On that note, I am reliving high school by way of Beverly Hills 90210 coming back on TV in reruns. It's a nice thesis writing distraction and also provides me with some much needed humour. Sure the show isn't a comedy but the outfits and the acting definitely are. Just when I thought I would have no good TV to watch over the summer while writing my thesis along comes 90210. So the other day I'm watching it and it's some episode with the moral lesson of how you shouldn't discrimination, be prejudice, or racist. Oh, life lessons courtesy of Beverly Hills 90210. As I'm watching the show and they are getting to the end and wrapping up the life lesson I notice the black guy, who was cast soley for this episode, wearing a t-shirt that on the back had a list of terms that over the years were used to refer to black people. My jaw dropped when I first noticed the shirt because the word at the top was the n-word. I shit you not. They didn't show the whole back of the shirt but it was enough to make it out. The words continued down the shirt each getting more politically correct until it ended off at whatever term was considered most politcally correct in the 90s. Now, first off, why the hell did a black actor agree to wear that shirt? And secondly, for a show with the big moral conclusion of anti-racism, who in charge of costume design thought this shirt would be a good idea? It's a whole different world watching 90210 as an adult and not an easily influenced teenager, I tell you.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

So slow...

I don't know if it's just me but I'm finding this thesis writing is going so slow. And b-o-r-i-n-g! I can spend all day working on one figure. I'm all happy when I'm done it but then when I realize that is all I've done all day it depresses me a tad. Plus, sitting at the computer all day is also boring! I'm used to moving around, standing, sitting a bit but never for too long. I've decided I need to go jogging to at least get out of the house. Problem is, the husband wants to go with me but not when I want to go. So far the jogging together hasn't worked out well. I want to go around 10 or 11am-ish. I find when I sit at the computer for too long in the morning I start to fall asleep so jogging mid-morning would be great. Problem is, the husband is at work. He wants to go jogging in the evening, after supper. I write best from about 8 pm until late so usually I'm working on my thesis when he wants to go. I think I'll just go in the morning and if he wants to go in the evening and I have time I'll join him.

Anyways, got a little off topic there. So thesis writing, boring! At least in the lab I could feel I accomplished something when I got the result of an experiment at the end of the day. Even if the experiment didn't work I still did it. One figure in a day! Dear lord. I'll be writing this thesis until I'm 80. I think I got a bit cocky when I made like five figures in one day a while back. Gotta love Photoshop and it's layers. Wonderful for making figures that have the same labeling.

Another thing about thesis writing I don't like - it's depressing. It's somewhat sad when you realize an experiment that took you almost a year to do fills up a page. A PAGE! Albeit I was doing other experiments at the same time but still. Writing out what I've done for the past six years and what it means is a tad humbling. Let's see... I did what seemed like a bunch of work and filled up almost four lab books and a few binders but put it all in some coherent form and it seems like I hardly did anything. Sigh. I swear this whole PhD process is just some mean initiation that started back in the day by some disgruntled professors.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

PhD comics has once again hit the nail on the head

I hadn't checked out PhD comics for a while so when better to than while I'm sitting here thinking about writing my thesis. When I got to the May 22 comic I had to laugh. It's so true. As I was reading it I turned to check out my thesis outline I made a while back. Six chapters is what I have listed, which nicely falls into the 'not bad' category. I've got the freebies written in there too. Those were the easy ones. Stuff I did my first year is chapter two (no lit review in my area or at least it goes under the intro). I don't have any stuff I'm supposed to be doing now since I'm done it all so I'll call that chapter 'years 2 to now'. The make stuff up chapter, heck that's easy and fun at the same time. You just need to think what you would do if you had all the money in the world and endless technicians and undergrads to do the work for you. Easy peasy.

The last panel in the cartoon is priceless. I've lost track of how many times I've given that answer when someone asked me how my thesis was going. Now I can say I have an outline, a chapter and some of another chapter done. Yay!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I'm back... with a tan

Okay I've been back for over a week now so the tan has faded somewhat but you get the idea. The cruise was awesome as expected. A lovely week of no stress or thoughts of thesis writing. Sure I packed papers to read but those were soley for during downtime at the conference and yes, they stayed securely in my bag until then. My highlight of the cruise, holding a stingray in Grand Cayman. The cruise made me realize that I really should have gone into marine biology so I would have a reason to live in tropical places. Alas, highschool never taught me about how to get a job in a tropical location.

As for the conference, it was quite uneventful, research-wise. I've gone to this same conference for a few years now and every year I find it a bit of a different experience. Some years it's the talks that are the most interesting, some years it's the poster, this year though, it was neither. Although the conference was still good. I met a lot of people, networking some may call it, so all in all it was good. Being a conference in the US though, most of the networking involved people in the US. I, however, would prefer to find a post doc in Canada. I'm still keeping some of those names of people I met in mind though because you just never know.

Now to the important part of the conference, the hotel on the beach. It was an older hotel which I thought had a lot of charm and was quite nice considering the economical price and the location. Other people I know who also stayed there had a different opinion. To some, a pea under the mattress makes for a restless nights sleep. That's all I'm going to say about that but I'm sure you get the idea. Unfortunately, the conference kept me quite busy. With the conference every day, all day, then dinner and chatting with this person and that person after the conference meant I usually didn't get back to my hotel room until 10 or 11 at night so no beach. The last day though, I got back to my hotel shorty before 3pm, changed into my bathing suit in record time and dashed out to the beach and stayed there until the sun went down. It was a lovely end to the conference.

Now it's back to thesis writing. It's going slow unfortunately. I'm hoping this is just a slump and it will soon end. Also, the supervisor is back to requesting me to do time wasting things for him. Today I got an email saying that he wants me to move all his boxes (that he came months ago to pack up but never shipped) into our main lab because they need to clean out the other lab. I sent a reply asking if I would get worker's compensation when I throw my back out. I ended the sentence with a smilie though so even though I meant every word of what I said he will take it in jest. Oh the eggshells a grad student must carefully tread.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

No my supervisor didn't lock me in a dark room

Surprisingly there was no anger from my supervisor towards my response to his garbage picking email. I thought for sure there would be some sort of snide comment from him about it. My guess is perhaps he realized his request was quite demeaning. However, realistically the thought probably briefly crossed his mind and then was replaced with the thought that I'm just a crazy, emotional female who needs everything sugar coated. Either way, my response should put an end to ridiculous request from him for a while.

So what have I been up to lately? Well, definitely not writing in my blog, that's for sure. I've been trying to finish up my last few experiments. I think I'm finally done actual lab work now! Although something is bound to creep up. My supervisor was in town a few weeks ago to clean out his office. Yes, that was fun. His idea of cleaning consisted of bringing stuff from his office into the lab and asking if we wanted it. When we said no, he would leave it on a bench and tell us to think about it and if we don't want it then throw it out. Buddy, that's not cleaning; that's moving garbage around! At least I'll never have to buy another binder in my life. Honestly, I tried to avoid the lab when the supervisor was around. I feared that he would ask me to help him clean out his office. Anytime I went somewhat near his office he would ask me to do something. I told everyone (but him, of course) that I think I would be coming down with an awful stomach flu the week he was here. No need to fake a sickness though. He couldn't rightfully ask me to help him clean his office when I told him I was working on my thesis.

That brings me to what else has kept me busy, the thesis. Finally, I'm finally at that point! So far it's slow going. However, once I actually have a whole day to devote to working on it I get quite a bit done. Unfortunately, there haven't been that many whole days lately.

Besides the thesis writing I had to make a poster for a conference at the end of the month. Woo hoo! Conference! I probably wouldn't be so excited if the conference was is the middle of no where but any good conference organizer knows the mantra - location, location, location. So it's off to sunny Florida for me. This year I'm staying at a hotel on the beach! It's further from the conference center but it's on the beach so I'll put up with taking the shuttle bus to the conference. To top it off the husband and I decided it was time for our honeymoon/vacation so we are going on a cruise the week before the conference. Three days until we leave! I'm sure all this warm weather and sun will get me motivated for thesis writing :)

Well, with full time thesis writing imminent I'm sure there will be many thesis induced rants to post on my blog so stay tuned. But not for the next two weeks as I'll be de-stressing on the beach.

Aside - Anyone else find it humorous that the spell checker in Blogger doesn't recognize the word 'blog'?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ode to the semicolon

Oh the poor semicolon, it's not quite a colon but it is more than a comma, yet it is often misunderstood. I'll admit that I am not all that knowledgeable on semicolon usage but I've always known you use a semicolon to separate a list of things that started with a colon. I figured that was pretty much the extent of normal semicolon usage. Only those that used the semicolon beyond that rule were just crazy English freaks. Recently though, I've had my eyes open to the proper usage of the semicolon. I had my sister read over a blurb about my research experience and besides her usual comment about my improper comma usage I got a lesson in semicolon usage. At first I thought she was just being crazy because really, no one uses a semicolon, so was it really important that I didn't use any? Apparently it was. She then pointed me to a website that had examples of the proper use of semicolons. I was surprised to find that my favorite words to use in writing all required the use of a semicolon: in addition; however; otherwise; and therefore. Who knew!?! Since becoming enlightened on the proper use of the semicolon I've decided to use it whenever needed. I'm sure when my supervisor reads my thesis he will wonder what's up with all the semicolons, at which point I will direct him to the website. After all, scientists may write papers but that doesn't mean they actually understand proper writing style. I, however, will be trying to change science writing one semicolon at a time. Now just to grasp the usage of the comma. I've never properly understood the comma.By the way, I'm sure I've missed a comma or semicolon somewhere in this post. Be nice, I'm a scientist.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A bit of tension?

So I sent my supervisor a diplomatic yet firm email stating I didn't not enjoy his garbage picker comment. Now either he didn't read the email or he is ignoring it (and me) because I haven't heard anything from him about it. I get so frustrated with him sometimes. Since he is miles away I don't see him daily therefore email is our main form of communication. I call him sometimes but those phone calls, which you would think would only last a few minutes, end up taking hours and he just suggests more experiments to do which at this point aren't necessary. Hence, I avoid phone calls with him.

A week ago now I sent him a manuscript to read over and see if there are any changes needed as well as an email regarding the grant and the funding situation. Have I heard even a peep? Of course not. Grrr... he makes me so angry. I think it's time for a reminder email to see if he even read the initial emails. I'm betting I get a reply asking me to re-send the manuscript because he can't find it now. That's easier said than done though. The man keeps his inbox so full and the email space they have where he is now is pretty small therefore I can't usually email him big files that contain figures. This means I have to send it to a grad student in the lab there by instant messaging and then he burns it on a disk for my supervisor. I'm guessing my supervisor has misplaced that disk. God, sometimes I swear he is a child and I spend more time making sure he does what he should than I do focusing on what I should be doing. I will be SO glad when this PhD is over.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Just add garbage picker to my CV

I got the most unbelievable and idiotic email from my supervisor today. It pissed me off so bad I couldn't help but laugh. Here's the email...

Could you please make sure that there are at least 15 empty sturdy card board boxes for me waiting to be packed up (if you need to order the boxes then do so...otherwise just collect them out of the trash...but pick the good ones). And a few rolls of duct or sealing tape. I will be in town the last week of march to close down my office.
My favorite part is the "just collect them out of the trash" and to add insult to injury he has to add "but get the good ones". I thought at first I would just ignore the email and pretend I didn't get it but then I figured I had to at least say something to him about it. Maybe it's my ego or the demeaning tone of the email, which sounds like it's a request but it's more of a demand that makes me feel it requires a reply. However a reply requires a lot of tact since I don't want to break the cardinal rule of grad school - "don't make your supervisor mad at you". I was thinking something along the lines of, "If that email was a joke I didn't find it funny". That way hopefully he will realize it pissed me off and if the trash picking comment was a joke he will realize it really wasn't funny. If the email was meant to be serious maybe he will realize he is overstepping his boundaries with his requests of his grad students. Or else he will just read my reply and think, "Whatever". Either way I'll feel better for saying something.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The one question I hate to hear come out of a student's mouth

I handed back my students' quizzes the other day and at the end of the lab one of my students came up to me to inquire about why he got some questions wrong. I'm fine with that. It's good that they are interested in knowing what they did wrong. There was this three part question and he got the first part wrong which then meant he got the second and third parts wrong as well since they had to do with the first part. It's unfortunate but that's how it goes with questions that have multiple parts. Then came the dreaded question - "Even though I got the first part wrong I answered the second and third parts based on my wrong answer in the first part and technically they are right based on my wrong answer so can I at least get part marks?". NO! It's still a wrong answer. Putting a wrong answer then answering the next part based on your wrong answer doesn't make your answer right? Where did students ever come up with this idea? Do they get marks for this in high school? A wrong answer is a wrong answer I don't care if it was right if you base it on your first wrong answer. IT'S STILL WRONG!!! I mean come on, if you were an accountant and you entered a company's profit as $20,000 instead of $50,000 and did all your subsequent calculations based on the $20,000 amount it doesn't mean that all the other calculations are right. The spoonfeeding of students is getting way out of hand.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Busy, busy, busy...

You know you're busy when...

... you are on your way to school in the morning and you ponder for quite some time whether today is Tuesday or Wednesday.

... you don't even have time to watch the Amazing Race. What's worse is even though I taped it I didn't even have time to watch it all at once. Having to watch an hour long show in installments is just sad.

... people complain to you about how busy they are and end up dumping stuff on you to do because they are oh so busy and you just want to punch them. Yes of course, you are the only person in the entire world who is busy. Suck it up and do your job! (phew, venting frustration is therapeutic).

... you don't have time to update your blog

Aside: I find it ironic and amusing that the Blogger spell check does not recognize the word 'blog'.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Things overheard in the hallway

Sometimes the comments undergrads make while walking down the hallway cause me to shake my head. Today there was this girl and her friend who had just left their lab and I guess they must have gotten back a lab report or something and this girl was not happy about it. Her comment was:

If you're not an English major then don't mark like one

I'm guessing that she didn't like that her science TA corrected her grammer and writing. Right, because only english majors need to actually write. Has she never heard of science journals? Where does she think the ideas for the experiments she does in her lab came from? Out of the blue? No, someone at some point published that result. That's right, they used the english language and grammer to actually write something scientific. Blasphemy I tell you! And the department wonders why undergraduates are lacking so much in writing ability.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Now I know why some grad students just quit when they are so close to finishing their degree. There's even a name for them too, something like "all but the thesis". I can't remember the exact term. I always thought these grad students were crazy. They were so close but didn't finish. I now understand why. There is only so much shit you can put up with before it breaks you. No, I'm not quitting. I won't give anyone that satisfaction and I've worked too damn hard to give up now. I have just come to realize why some do.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Does anyone actually read all their email?

I know I don't. We get so much departmental email that if the subject line doesn't catch my eye I just skip over it. Even with some messages if people blab on forever about the same thing I'll just skim it. That came back to bite me in the ass on Friday. Every week we have a TA meeting on Fridays at noon. Every week, same place, same time. Also every week we get an email from the lab co-ordinator with the handouts for the week. This week was nothing different. We got the usual email with the subject line "handouts for lab session". I skimmed the email as usual and tuned out once he started repeating what he had just said. The man is very redundant. I made a mental note to print off the handouts before the lab meeting and I closed my email.

On Friday I head off to the lab meeting at the usual time. I'm surprised to find only a few people there but whatever. We wait, and wait, and wait some more but the lab co-ordinator doesn't show up. Hmmm. We head off to his office to see what's up and low and behold the lab meeting had been changed to 10:30. What? He says to us in a snooty tone how it was stated in the email he sent. He said he could meet with us later on in the afternoon, which ended up screwing up my whole plan for my day but whatever. I go back to the lab and check my email. Sure enough stuck in the middle of a sentence about something else three quarters through the email is a brief mention of the meeting being at 10:30. I'll admit it's my fault for not reading my whole email but shouldn't something like a time change for a meeting that is always at the same time be stated in the subject line or in the first sentence of the email? That only makes sense to me. Last week was crazy busy and very frustrating. Reading all my email was the last thing on my list. I chalk it up the the cherry on top of a bad week. Hopefully this week is better.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A movie? A mini-wolf? What a day!

This week they are filming a movie in the building I'm in. When we first got the email about it I didn't even read it. I figured it was just another departmental email telling me something I really didn't care to know. However the talk by others of a movie peaked my interest so I eventually read the email. Apparently this is a real movie and not some university production. It's actually a sequel to a movie. However I haven't even heard of the first movie so chances are I wouldn't be interested in the sequel. None the less I figured the fact that they are shooting a movie was pretty interesting. Unfortunately I haven't heard of any of the actors in the movie. I was hoping for a big star sighting or something but no.

Why am I talking about all this movie stuff anyways and what does this have to do with a mini-wolf? Well there are certain hallways blocked off this week for the setup and shooting of the movie. I however had to be in one of those hallways today as they were setting up. I was doing a lab for grade 6 girls. We were extracting DNA! It's sort of a get girls interested in science thing. They were setting up for the movie right outside the lab me and the girls were in. The setup mainly consisted of putting new things in the display cabinets in the hallway. I guess they borrowed stuffed animals (not the cute ones you buy from Toys R Us) and skeletons from the zoology department for the displays. I was curious so I went about checking out the displays. In one there was this odd looking wolf. It had a normal wolf head but it's body was half the size. It was weird indeed. I was convinced it was fake until one of the lab coordinators came up and told me that no that wolf is real. Apparently it was stunted at birth. It was so interesting to see. I think I was more interested in the mini-wolf then the fact that they were shooting a movie. That's definitely a science geek for you - more fascinated by a developmentally abnormal animal than a movie set. I hope mini-wolf stays around in the display case for a while and isn't put back in some dark zoology room somewhere. Something like that needs to be on display if for no other reason but to make me chuckle everytime I see it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More Olympics talk

I find this year's Olympics to be quite interesting. Here's just a few tid bits that come to mind right now.

There was the showboating snowboarder, Lindsey Jacobellis, who lost the gold medal as a result. The best moment though was watching her mom's reaction. Not even a flinch when her daughter goes down but instead she is wildly yelling "Get up! GET UP!!!". That is definitely the parent of an Olympian. As for the showboating, at first I thought it was a stupid move however when you think about it she was SO far ahead of the other snowboarders and considering the two Canadians wiped out there was really only one person, Switzerland's Tanja Frieden, who could have passed her. With that in mind and being so close to the finish line I'm sure the method air seemed like a good idea at the time and honestly it would have been had she landed it properly. Unfortunately the gold medal for her just wasn't meant to be.

Another interesting event was the ice dancing pair of Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio who apparently were having a little tiff over some fall or something in their original dance. I don't really watch ice dancing so I missed that but watching them walk past each other without a word before their free dance was quite funny. She was definitely shooting daggers at him. Must have been quite the fall.

Of course no discussion of interesting Olympic events would be complete without mentioning the Canadian hockey teams. First the downside, what is up with the men's team? I mean honestly? Get it together guys. They did win against the Czech Republic though so hopefully things are turning around. This is Canada afterall, home of hockey. The Canadian woman's team definitely brought it! Way to go ladies!!! Woo hoo Canada! That final game was great. Whoever said women can't play hockey can eat their words. I can't believe that it has taken so long for women's hockey to gain some momentum. Hopefully games like those in the women's Olympic hockey tournament bring about more girls taking up hockey. I know I enjoy playing it. I never thought I would but it is actually a lot of fun and a great workout too.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The lost Olympics post

I've been slacking lately with updating my blog. Why you ask? Well the usual response is because I'm busy but lately it's mainly been because of the Olympics. Yes that's right, the Olympics. I am so hooked on the winter Olympics. I'm not such a fan of the summer Olympics though but I'll watch a bit of it. My winter Olympic infatuation started four years ago with the last winter Olympics. For some reason I got hooked and couldn't stop watching. It resulted in two weeks of sleep deprivation. At the time I think my supervisor thought I was crazy to be so addicted to watching the Olympics. Every day he would ask me why I look so tired and my response would be, "Damn Olympics!".

I've been looking forward to this Olympics since then. Unfortunately I'm super busy right now and don't have as much time as I would like to watch them. I even had to tape the women's halfpipe the other day and I still haven't had a chance to watch it. I'm not sure why I'm such an Olympics fan but it's killing me today that I'm stuck in the lab and I keep hearing on the radio about how Canada has won four medals today. Go Canada!!!! I can't wait to go home and catch the highlights. It was while watching snowboarding at the winter Olympics four years ago that I came to the conclusion that, "Hey I could probably do that". So I convinced a few of my friends that they could probably do that too and off we went for a beginner snowboarding lesson and a day of snowboarding. I quickly realized that in fact no I can't snowboard. I've been a skier all my life and had difficulty grasping the concept of both of my feet being strapped to the same board. After watching snowboarding the other day I had a fleeting thought that I should try snowboarding again but that was quickly replaced by the memory of all the bruises and pain I was in after my last snowboarding attempt. I think I'll stick to skiing and forgo my dream of becoming a halfpipe champion.

One thing I don't like about watching the Olympics is it makes me feel like I wasted my youth. Most of the Olympians are younger than me and then you hear the announcer mention that this is their second or third Olympics! Damn I feel lazy. I blame my mother. She was so worried that I would break a bone or something if I did sports so I wasn't in many sports as a kid. Kinda makes me wonder if I had a hidden talent that was never discovered. I'm making up for it now though by playing every sport I can find. My mom did put me in figure skating as a kid though. Ya, no worries about injuries there - sharp blades, the pick, hard ice, kids who don't know how to skate trying to do jumps like the Olympians, right. I did come in first in our little skating competition though because I was the only kid who did a spin. Ooooo.... ahhhh. Sometimes I wonder if I stayed in figure skating could I have eventually been good enough for the Olympics? I guess I'll never know. I'll just become one of those parents who pass on their missed opportunities to their children and force them to take figure skating lessons everyday until they strangle me with their skates. Hopefully I won't turn into a parent like that. One thing is for sure though, any future kids of mine will be in sports of some kind. Broken bones be damned.

Just not my week

This week has been crappy. I've been super busy and really tired. In an effort to not fall asleep while waiting for my incubation to be done I decided I would update my blog. I wrote a whole thing about the Olympics because I'm addicted to watching them but then Blogger screwed up and only posted half of it and I can't recover the other half. I'm too tired to re-write it. This may seem like a minor set back and something not worthy of complaining about however after having my hard drive on my laptop crap out on me yesterday I'm really not fond of computers right now. Plus I figured I would take a nice relaxing break from all the stress and write something in my blog. That didn't work. Now I'm pissed off, tired, hating computers even more, and angry that I'm still in the lab 10.5 hours after I got here and I'm missing the Olympics. I need a vacation!!! And while I'm wishing, someone to do my last two experiments and write my thesis too.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

How is it Thursday already?

I've had a crazy busy week. I took off part of Monday and all of Tuesday off for a job interview out of town. Yes for an actual real job! I'll post more on that another time. I'm tired. Two days off be damned I had high hopes of what I wanted to get done this week which has meant doing what I had planned to do in a week but instead doing it in three days. On top of it I proctored an exam on Monday and suspected a student of cheating so then I had to write up a formal letter stating what I observed and all that. I doubt that's the end of the formal letter writing in regards to this. Why do students try to cheat?

So I'm freaking tired and working long hours. Not a good combination. On the plus side I taught my lab this morning and to be honest was a bit unprepared due to time constraints partly due to the interview and partly due to answering numerous emails from my students about a lab report that was due this week. I was prepared enough to get the information across to the students but I still felt like I didn't give it 100%. After the class I had a few students comment that it was a really good lab. Perhaps I over prepare for my labs and bore them or maybe it was the meiosis demo using pool noodles that grabbed their attention.

Now I'm off for some much needed stress relief - watching My Name is Earl and The Office. I haven't watched TV all week!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

How to write your thesis in a week

Today this retired professor came by the lab to visit. He used to work in the department but the department pretty much made him retire because he was getting up there in age. The man lives and breathes science so retirement doesn't sit well with him. He comes by every so often to get his science chat fix. Some people think he's a bit whacked in the head but he means well and if you listen closely to his crazy talk he usually has some good points mixed in with the crazy ones.

Today he was asking me how my experiments were going and if I've started writing up. This of course led to the topic of writing a thesis. He proceeded to tell me how I could write my thesis in a week. Trust me, I had to use all my might to hold back the laughter. I thought I'd share his infinite wisdom on thesis writing in case you are hoping to write your thesis in a week.

Step 1 - Make all your figures and tables ahead of time and don't forget those figure legends! The making of the figures and tables isn't actually included in the thesis-in-a-week timeline. He actually never mentioned how long you should take for this step.

Step 2 - Once you have all your figures and table in a neat pile go through them and write the results based on what your figures or tables say. He estimates this should take a day.

Step 3 - Now that you know what results you are putting in your thesis write the materials and methods based on the techniques you used to get the results. Estimated time for this? He gave it a day or two stating that materials and methods are boring to write so it may take you two days.

Step 4 - Based on your results write the discussion. According to him this should take 2-3 days, no more.

Step 5 - Last but not least, the introduction. Estimated time? One day.

So that brings our grand tally of "time to write a PhD thesis" to seven days at most. Well if it was that easy I would have been done my thesis last week! I forgot to ask him though whether the week timeline included sleeping. Somehow I doubt it.

Although I think the timeline is a bit whacked I find that his logic and order for writing the thesis makes sense and seems to be the most efficient. As I said, he always has some good advice mixed in with the crazy talk.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What's the point of a PhD?

The Other Grad Student (TOGS) mentioned today that her sister is thinking of going into grad studies perhaps in England. Apparently someone told her sister or she read somewhere that a masters degree takes about a year and a PhD about three years in England. Not knowing much about grad studies in England I questioned this. I mentioned that usually shorter graduate degrees rely more on courses rather than actual experimental data and publications. TOGS didn't think so. She figured three years is all you need to get a PhD and that over here in North America 5 or 6 year PhDs in science are ridiculous. I'll admit that few people like to be in school that long but that's what a PhD is. TOGS logic went like this: research in grad studies is quite repetitive in the case of the experiments you do and so to learn the actual techniques doesn't take long. And learning how to analyze experiments isn't all that difficult so why does a PhD need to take 5 or 6 years?

I agree with the techniques not taking long to learn and sure analysis isn't all that difficult if you understand the point of the experiment but her comments about grad school left me wondering if she has learned anything in her five years. In my opinion if you want to just learn techniques and analysis then take a lab technician course and not grad studies. The point of grad studies isn't to just learn techniques and how to analyze data. It's critical thinking, being able to develop a clear research plan to effectively test a hypothesis and then being able to write up those results in a coherent format that will not only be publishable but will add to the current knowledge in that area. Sure that could be taught in a course but I think you need to actually do the work to be able develop the skills. I mean I could read a whole manual on how to fly an airplane but that doesn't mean I would be able to. Same with grad school, you can't learn critical thinking from a textbook.

Maybe I'm wrong and TOGS is right, grad school is all about the techniques you learn. Somehow I doubt that though since how many profs do you see doing actual lab work? So what should you get out of a PhD besides a lovely piece of paper?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong

Why is it that experiments that are supposed to be easy and straight forward always find a way to not work out?

For example, my co-IPs. I did them about a month ago and all was good. I got the result I wanted and did a happy dance. It was a good day indeed. So now I need to go through the formality of confirming the results. I do the co-IPs again on another set of cell lysates. I made sure I did it pretty much the same as with the first set. Well apparently not. It seems that I have a lot of background in lanes that are supposed to have nothing. So frustrating! This was supposed to be a simple confirmation experiment. Now for the trouble shooting. I normally wouldn't be so angry about having to re-do an experiment since this is science afterall and it's expected but I pretty much only have this experiment and one more (hopefully simple) experiment left to do and I just want to get them done. It just seems like the science gods are against me.

Oh and on that note I ordered some stuff for an experiment like a week and a half ago and I still don't have it. I went to our departmental order desk to see what's up with the order. It seems that the reason I don't have it yet is because they only ordered it on Friday - NINE DAYS AFTER I SENT THE ORDER TO THEM!!! Hello?!? I didn't order it because I need it next month I ordered it because I need it now. I swear the world doesn't want me to get my degree.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

La Cucaracha

The other day I had a very unwelcome visitor in the lab. I come strolling into the lab bright and early and what do I see staring back at me? That's right, a cockroach!!! I seriously considered turning around and walking right back out of the lab and calling it a day. But I had things to do and figured I'm not going to let a cockroach stop me. The cockroach was huge too. Ick. There used to be quite a bad cockroach problem in our building a few years ago but once they cracked down on the problem I haven't seen any for a few years. They even had the cockroach police at one time who you were supposed to report sightings to and we were instructed to kill the cockroaches upon contact. I left the killing up to the men in the lab. Well that was a few years ago and now the lab consists of me and another woman. She wasn't in yet for the day so it was just me and the cockroach all alone. Although even if she was in she probably would have ran away from it faster than I did.

So plan A in the battle of me versus the cockroach was a passive one - just leave it alone. It was on the other side of the lab so I figured as long as it stayed there we would both be happy. As I worked at my desk my mind started to wander. What if I go check on the cockroach and it's not there and I don't know where it is? What if it climbs up my pants? What if it sits on my chair and I end up sitting on it. What if it somehow lands on my head? What if, what if, what if?!?! That was it... time for plan B.

Plan B involved devising a plan to somehow capture the cockroach in something and then seal the container well and toss it in the garbage can. I couldn't find anything large enough that would allow me some distance from the cockroach so that plan was axed. They move so freaking fast and I'm sure I would scream bloody murder if it crawled on me. A few years ago I caught a bat in a pot and released it back outside and yet I was more scared of catching the cockroach than I was of catching the bat. So plan C...

Plan C involved briefly thinking about stomping on it. However that awful crunch sound and the fact that I would have cockroach bits on my shoe axed that plan. Then I thought that a textbook would do the trick. Too bad we didn't have any old crappy textbooks in the lab.

So it all came down to plan D. Plan D was to douse the cockroach in ethanol. This plan allowed me ample distance from the cockroach and I didn't have to touch it or worry that it will crawl on me. Armed with my squirt bottle full of ethanol I proceeded into battle. As I squirted him with ethanol he ran (of course) and thankfully away from me. Being as fast as they are I lost track of where he went. Then I see him coming towards me. Eeek. I jump on a nearby stool and squirt the ethanol like a crazy woman. By the end of the battle the aisle is covered in ethanol and so are the cupboards and the cockroach is sitting in the corner. He wasn't really moving so I figured plan D was successful. There was no way I was going to touch it or move it so as far as I know it's still in the corner. Hopefully it's cockroach friends don't retaliate.

At the beginning of my battle with the cockroach I was wishing someone else was in the lab to help me with the battle or even to kill the cockroach for me. However at the end of the battle with me standing on a stool grasping my squirt bottle and looking down on the pool of ethanol on the floor and towering over the little cockroach I felt a bit silly. I figured if anyone walked in at that exact moment they would have surely thought I lost it. For now the lab is safe... until the next invasion.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Teaching - not so bad... so far

Well week one went smoothly. My students seem pretty smart so hopefully that keeps up and they don't get lazy as the term goes on. There were the talkers though. Two girls who sat right at the front and talk, talk, talk. I couldn't figure out if they were discussing what I was talking about or discussing how their weekend went. Either way it was very annoying. They were trying to whisper but still. I'm not really one to stop what I'm talking about and look at them all mean and say, "Do you have something to contribute to the class?". I always hated when profs did that to someone and usually it didn't shut the person up. They just kept talking to piss the prof off. Maybe a few glares in their direction will shut them up. Honestly, if you are going to talk in class then don't sit right at the front right in front of me!

Other than the chatty Cathys things went pretty smoothly. Except of course when the carbon dioxide tank started to get really low and their anesthetised flies started waking up. I just envisioned all these fruit flies flying around the room. Good thing the students were quick and avoided the fruit fly infestation.

On an unrelated note, I've discovered Firefox. Yes, a bit behind the times. I've heard of it before but didn't really pay attention to it. I came across it as I was looking into getting a Gmail account. What's another email account when you already have four? Anyways, Gmail said it was the #2 PC product of the year. Of course my reaction was "what's #1?". It's Firefox! That sold me on downloading it. So far so good. Between Firefox, Thunderbird, Trillian, and VoIP (all of which were in the top 100) I'm loving the internet. Come to think of it, I never did get a Gmail account. I got so distracted by Firefox I totally forgot.

Anyways, I should get some work done before Earl and The Office are on. Thursdays are good TV days.

Oh by the way, if you're a lurker it's time to de-lurk. Comment, introduce yourself, say hello. Whatever. I know you're out there. I have my ways... mwahahaha.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Teaching... not so fun

I haven't even taught my labs yet this semester and already I'm not enjoying it. The lab I'm teaching is one I've never taught before. Not a big problem however this particular course has a lab that is like a lecture and a lab in one. Most labs I teach have more lab work than lecturing but this lab is the opposite. I don't quite get it. I feel sorry for the students too because even though the stuff I cover in the lab is a repetition or clarification of what was taught in the lecture it just seems like they are expected to learn a whole heck of a lot for an introductory course. Plus, attention span of a second year undergrad is what... like 5 minutes? And I'm to expect them to remain conscious for a whole three hours!?! Good luck.

The lab coordinator for this lab also wants us to have discussions with the students. That I don't mind because hopefully it will perk the students up but for the first few labs it's like pulling teeth. Of course the first lab is on mitosis. Good luck getting a discussion going on that. Even I have a hard time wrapping my head around all that goes on during mitosis let alone getting students, who are usually completely confused about mitosis, involved in a discussion on it.

Speaking of discussions, at the meeting last week for this lab I'm teaching the lab coordinator had a discussion on how foreign TAs can better communicate with their students since most of them have accents and usually students put a wall up as soon as they realize their TAs first language isn't English. Fine, a discussion is fine. However it went on for like a half an hour with nothing really coming out of it. Plus, the lab coordinator kept calling them "non-English speaking TAs". What?!? They can speak English it's just that it isn't their first language. I was getting so annoyed with his "non-English speaking" usage that I was so close to saying, "I think the problem with communication is that according to you they can't speak English".

I guess I should get back to preparing for my lab bright and early tomorrow morning. Ugh.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Grad Horoscope

The January 11th PhD Comics so graciously provides a grad horoscope for the new year based on your area of study. Mine (for biology) reads...
"Your feelings of intellectual inadequacy will temporarily subside. Used to disappointment, you are willing to take chances despite risk of colossal rejection and embarrassment. Aim high, it will make failure easier to rationalize. Now is the time to submit that doomed paper to the journal Nature."

After I read that I though, "Hmmm... not bad". How sad is that.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

First ever Science Geek Scientific Fraud Awards

I came across an MSN article about scientific frauds over the past 30 years. Being that the article only lists nine I'm guessing this is just a sampling. Although I've never actually researched the topic so who knows, that might be all. Well, at least all that have been caught. Perhaps if I had more time I would look into it further however for now I'll use these nine as the nominees for the first ever Science Geek Scientific Fraud Awards!

The award for best use of a sharpie goes to...

Dr. William Summerlin!!! For doing what only little kids would think of - colouring a mouse with a sharpie! Way to go Will! Since this science thing isn't working out so well for you perhaps you may consider a career as a kindergarten teacher.

The award for most research money obtained by fraud goes to...

Dr. Eric Poehlman!!! For managing to get millions of dollars in funding with no real data! Come on, if it was that easy everyone would have loads of funding and grad students would be rich.

The award for cutting and pasting goes to...

Dr. Ali Sultan!!! For plagiarizing a number of figures and text as well as interchangeably using his results from multiple malaria strains to show whatever it was he was trying to prove. Ali, Ali, Ali, even though the tubes are all labeled Plasmodium you need to also consider the species name. And shame on you for trying to blame it all on your post doc! Haven't you lied enough?

The award for best use of imaginary friends goes to...

Dr. Gary Kammer!!! For including his imaginary lupus afflicted friends in his study. Most of us lose touch with our imaginary friends by the time we start grade school but Gary managed to maintain communications with his imaginary friends all the way to adulthood. I'm sure Gary has plenty of time to spend with those friends now.

And the lifetime achievement award for scientific fraud goes to...

Dr. John Darsee!!! For not really doing any real research in 14 years yet still managing to get over 100 papers published. Way to go! Even though he is banned from receiving any funding for 10 years somehow I don't think this will be a problem for him. He could always go into writing science fiction. Oh wait, that's what he has been doing for the past 14 years.

Gentlemen, please come collect your awards which consist of an engraved frame containing a letter from the NIH stating that hell will freeze over before you get research funding from them. Congratulations and good luck in your future non-scientific endeavors. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.