Tuesday, April 29, 2008

other College activities

So, I spent a few minutes this morning filling out a departmental scholarship form.  There was a spot on the form for College activities, clubs, offices held, honors, awards, etc.  I had nothing to put.  I work 10-12 hours a day, most days of the week.  If I find free time I try to spend it cleaning house, doing laundry, or sleeping, not on any extracurricular activities.  And I know that is also true of all the other grad-students in my lab.  As far as honor and awards go, that was why I was applying for the scholarships.  I have to start building the CV if I want to get any where in this academic life.  

So, I finally stretched a bit and listed a few activities from my undergraduate career just so I didn't leave the section blank, but that was 4 years ago, and even then I spend most of my time working and doing research.  I always assumed my lack of a social life and dedication to my work would be an advantage in the professional/academic world.  Now I have to wonder if I'm wrong.  Are great there professional benefits to extracurricular activities?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Scientists and cats

I've been catching up on some of my favorite blogs this morning and came across a wonderful post from GrrlScientist with an adorable video about engineers and their kitties.  I had a really good chuckle and my husband and I are convinced that our young male orange-tabby guest starred in the video

Friday, April 18, 2008

Finding inspiration in an eppendorf tube

I finally feel like I did more than just go through the motions today.  In the end I even feel a little inspired.  I spent all my free time between and after classes re-learning how to run a PCR and subsequently running a few this evening.  

In the past I've always thought of the molecular work as a slightly amusing but extremely informative part of my research, but that all the fun stuff happens in the greenhouse and fieldwork.  But today I found the little joy and motivation in the molecular work that I had been seeking all week in the greenhouse.  

I've been thinking that the rhythmic lab work can be somehow soothing and regenerative.  Sort of like the rhythm of rocking in a rocking-chair. Changing pipet tips, drawing-up buffers, dispensing to tubes, and repeating the process.  It must be true that it's the little things in life that bring you joy.

Going through the motions

Lately it has felt  like the wind is out of my sails.  I'm still here, working same hours, appearing to put in the same effort, and still getting acceptable results, but I feel like I just don't have the same passion behind it.  I almost feel like a cubicle monkey today, which is very unusual for me.  I can usually find inspiration in the academic lifestyle, but lately I just can't seem to find the motivation to push beyond the merely acceptable.  I keep going through the motions hoping something will click into place but so far nothing has worked.  I've tried spending extra time in the greenhouse the last few days hoping the positive energy of the green plants would do the trick but today I'm stuck again without feeling the inspiration needed to make something exceptional happen.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Degrading social skills

I was blown away by an old friends accusation that I was both angry and annoyed with them. I have apparently forgotten to return phone calls and looked annoyed at their presence at a recent coffee meeting with another friend. I really hadn't realized that I was projecting these feelings towards them and it has got me thinking again about the effect of being totally immersed in the graduate student life.

Could living and working as a graduate student be degrading my social skills?

I've commented before on the strangeness of this life. The loneliness, stress, and change in thinking that you feel as a graduate student. In my life I have met a few people who are considered "over-educated." People who have pursued their education to the point that they seem incapable normal social relationships and are unable to find regular employment.

So, my question is: Are these "over-educated" "unemployable" people this way because they continued their student life beyond what is considered a normal length of time? Or do those people pursue further education because of some pre-existing social inadequacy or awkwardness?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

the academic filter

I have a theory about graduate committees.  They can function in two ways: as an academic filter or as an academic trampoline.  When functioning as a filter a student pours a large amount of ideas and research plans through the filter and the ideas and plans are screened down to a smaller reasonable number.  When functioning as a trampoline ideas and research plans are poured on to the trampoline and the bounce back at the student as different trajectories and velocities.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

eau de Autoclave

It's funny how vividly smells trigger memories.  I used an autoclave to sterilize rooting mix yesterday and that distinctive autoclave odor sent me down memory lane.  It's difficult to describe, a slightly sweet but earthy smell.  With one sniff memories of my undergraduate job in a fruit fly lab came flooding back.  Liquifying fruit-fly medium, scrubbing out tiny vials, sterilizing and refilling the vials with fresh medium.  The things you do for an honest buck when you are a student.  But I must say that it got me thinking about jobs where you don't think, you just do.  You shut off your brain and work.  You don't even have to decide what you need to do or how to do it, you are just told.  Sometimes I miss the simplicity of those kind of tasks.