Tuesday, February 28, 2006

OK this morning

Business Man got me calmed down last night by helping me to identify that one thing freaking me out was not knowing what sort of questions to expect at the interview and not knowing how to prepare for them. He then read aloud for me some of the tips in "What Color is your Parachute?" (which I had given him for Christmas). I do love him so much.

So this morning I am going to sit down with the department's website and get to know about the faculty. And you, my readers, can help by commenting with possible interview questions for which I should be prepared. But be forewarned, dear friends, that freak-outs will continue as events warrant.

On a much happier note, SingleGirl matched with her top choice internship site, which means that I'll get to see her in May or June.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I'm so close to just completely losing it.

On the surface, today should be a very good day. My in-laws took me to breakfast and slipped me $100 for my birthday and my husband will probably take me out to dinner. I got roped into presenting a poster at a prospective student open house and came away with the best poster prize (another $100). Everybody is saying nice things about me and well, nothing's literally fallen on my head or broken my leg or anything. And I generally love my birthday...a day all about me!

But today there's an undercurrent of stress and anxiety that I just can't get away from. I was feeling OK on Friday but I got no work done and no down time this weekend since Business Man's parents were here. We had a nice time but I felt like I had to be a good hostess and put on a good face the whole time, when all I really wanted to do was just stress out in peace (if that makes any sense).

My mom called at 7 this morning to wish my happy birthday but also to tell me that she wanted to run me through a practice interview at some point this week. A sweet gesture, but when she listed some example questions I had no idea what to say. How am I possibly going to come across as a promising young professor if I haven't the foggiest idea what my best classroom moment has been? And I know that a coaching session would be really valuable but I just don't think I can take it from my mom. That's too many roles mixed into one.

I feel like I've been presenting this marvelous facade: "Oh, look at how well she's doing. She's a productive researcher with an interview at Big School. And she's going to defend soon...and her house is immaculate and she crafts and practices yoga and does outreach with teachers. Oh, and she's so organized...let's ask her to take on this project because we know she'll do a really good job with it...and when is she going to have that paper submitted?..."

But this week and last week that facade has been showing a few chinks. Some random remark is liable to completely cause me to crumble. And I have crumbled and cried a few times in select company. But I am terribly afraid that I am going to fall apart at the wrong time in the wrong company or that the next time I'm going to fall apart and not be able to put myself back together again before the interview. I just feel like I am driving a car at full speed with no headlights on an icy road. Everything's OK at this exact moment but the any one of the next moments could be disastrous.

Friday, February 24, 2006

checking in

Some of the stress that came out in my previous post has been dealt with now. Or at least a plan has been made for dealing with it. So that's good.

This morning I took stock of my proto-job-talk and the net result of my latest research binge. The proto-job-talk is actually in decent shape. Talking about my work in a different part of the country is going to require some additional information to be conveyed in the background sections, but I don't think I have to change much in terms of slides. And I am starting to identify some key graphs and results from my recent work that I'd like to talk about. Now I just have to get them looking pretty, be really sure of what they're telling me, and make sure I understand their context. Then I've got to figure out how to integrate them into the narrative arc of my talk. And then, practice, practice, practice...tinker, tinker....practice, practice, practice.

Don't expect to much of me in terms of posts in the next two weeks. Between the in-laws, the interview prep, and then the interview itself, I don't expect to have the bandwidth to write intelligent posts. But I will keep reading your blogs...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Studiously avoiding any real thoughts

There’s a matrix of urgency and importance that S showed me a few weeks ago, and it neatly describes my current situation.

Urgent and important | Urgent but unimportant


Non-urgent but important | Non-urgent and unimportant

Urgent and Important & Urgent and unimportant: Today was another productive day, in some senses at least. I’ve been focusing lately on doing the things on which I can make the most, relatively easy, progress. Today that meant some number crunching and reading a couple of journal articles related to stuff I want to present during my job talk.

Non-urgent but important: I’m not really thinking about the upcoming interview, I’m not thinking about how rapidly my proposed July defense date seems to be approaching, I’m not thinking about my utter lack of post-doc plans, I’m not thinking about how disgusting our house is despite the imminent arrival of the inlaws…In fact, I’m just not thinking about anything of import. I get up, eat some breakfast, go to school, do stuff for 10 hours+, come home, eat dinner, watch some TV or read some journal articles, and go to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. I’m happy, I suppose, because it’s nice to be making progress, checking things off the list. But, periodically, something will trip me up and I momentarily let myself remember how unfulfilled I am by this routine.

I feel pulled by contradictory impulses. The first impulse, which is obviously winning, is to be as productive as possible before my interview so I can knock their socks off and land the job. Life imbalance be damned! The second choice is to stop and deal with those pent up issues, some of which have real deadlines associated with them (the house won’t clean itself on its own). In the process, I would get my life rebalanced for a while at least and re-introduce myself to my husband and dog. But then I won’t feel as ready to take on that Assistant Professorship at Big School and that may show through in the interview. (And this is important because getting that job totally obliviates the worry about no post-doc plans.) And, I can't enjoy any other aspects of my life when I feel this nagging sense of impending doom that can only be vanquished by doing science.

Right now, my plan is to keep up the plugging until the 3rd, navigating the in-laws, job talk prep, research advances, etc. as they arrive in my lap. Then my goal is to have the weekend before the interview to recharge my batteries – sleep, eat well, exercise, play with the dog, sleep.

But I am deathly afraid that there will be some new urgent deadline when I return from that interview that will force/allow me to keep avoiding those non-urgent but important issues underlying my unhappiness. And that’s a cycle I can see myself repeating ad infinitum (to graduation, to tenure, and beyond).

So that’s my neat way of blogging about what’s bugging me without blogging about what’s bugging me. See, once again, I’ve avoided the real issues.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Others said it better

I've got lots of stuff whirling around in my head right now, but I'm afraid that if I start to blog it I will end up venting about everything and that will not make for a good post for you or a good emotional state for me. So I'm going to keep it bottled up a while longer and go back to tedious data analysis. And as a party favor, here are snippets from those wiser and more word-smithy than me.

Updated to add: The Happy Feminist has two great quotes that sum up the two sides of my antipathy towards writing a personal post at this time.

Those things people say that really annoy us academics
by Prof. Me

Good advice on how to answer the seemingly innocuous "How are you doing?" from colleagues
by Profgrrrrl

Jane has a post that I really identified with on life out of balance.

Singlegirl is facing "life in limbo" waiting for her match and wrestling with her committee.

Finally, my wisdom of the day: "In academia, no one ever tells you that you've done enough and that you can go home." (from S)

And with that, I'm going back to data for an hour before going home for dinner.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Ask Science Woman: How do I prep for a committee meeting?

Modified from an email from Microbe-girl, a friend with way more than her fair share of trauma in doctoral progress so far:
"I am meeting with several of my committee members tomorrow to discuss my data. the data is not totally analyzed and is not looking too pretty so far. The problem I have is that this is my first "data meeting" and I am not sure how to prepare or what to have together....I was just wondering how you've presented [data to your committee] or how formal of a meeting these things are."

Here's my stab at a response. What would you tell her?

"I think a key thing is doing some sort of preparation. Even if I am just feeling totally lost as to what the data is telling me, I try to have some sort of "narrative" or plan as to which order I am going to present things and what I am going to say about them. (maybe something like: prompted by this question, I did this analysis, and here's the graph, and I see this trend, but I don't know what it means, so I tried looking at the data this way...)

I usually bring copies of all key graphs for each person at the meeting - that way they can draw on them if they want. Graphs are definitely better than tables. I also usually have some extra graphs/stats/tables in reserve for just me, in case the conversation goes in a different direction than I had anticipated. Doing this means that I often spend the afternoon before a meeting trying to think of all the different graphs/stats that people might ask about and at least taking a quick stab at doing them.

If you are going to cover a bunch of stuff, it might be worth typing an outline or some bullet points for your committee members to keep in front of them. In my mind, having an outline and some graphs for your committee makes it look like you are accomplishing something even if you feel like you are stuck.

I've also found its hard to take many notes in a meeting and I need to have notes. So its best for me if I can have an hour or so immediately after to the meeting to just try to write down the suggestions and make some sense of them. I'm guessing a tape recorder would be really helpful, but I've never dared try something like that."

What advice do you have Microbe-girl?

Interview prep: wardrobe makeover

Yesterday Mr. Man and I spent an absurd amount of our monthly income on clothes for my three day interview. Fortunately, thanks to the moms and my upcoming birthday, our out-of-pocket cost was only half-absurd. But if you add up all of the money that's been spent on clothes for me in the past 6 months, it's got to be more than at any other point in my life. Part of the problem is that my tastes and wardrobe needs have "grown up" but our income hasn't. Well, that's only a problem because we don't believe in credit card debt. But anyway...here's the haul:

  • 1 gray suit from Talbots (on the cover of their current catalog, but not on the web?)
  • 1 belted jacket/blazer that I wouldn't have thought I'd like but that actually looks really good and professional
  • 1 pair of "awesome gray pants" - contoured fit "designed to flatter curves!" (similar to these)
  • 3/4 sleeve sweater - for under the suit but also versatile (and machine washable)
  • striped blouse - white with black, gray, and tan dashed lines - i.e., will go with everything
  • blush pink t-shirt, because, hey, it was 10 bucks

  • Ok, off to do some real work. Like some data analysis that, if it looks good, I'd like to include in the job talk...

    Saturday, February 18, 2006

    My internal monologue is getting louder

    I’ve caught myself talking aloud to no one several times today. I also caught an omitted clause in the abstract of my submitted paper. Without the clause, the sentence makes no sense. I’m thrilled, that within the first 200 words of my paper, my reviewers will already have found something to criticize.

    11:30 am. That’s right. It’s Saturday morning and I’m at the office. I put off suit shopping until tomorrow, because I can’t brave the mall without Mr. Man and because, if I have a really productive day today, maybe I won’t be so stressed out. That’s a big if. On my plate today: an abstract, another job app (just in case), and a bunch of number crunching. Accomplished so far: a tentative title for the talk. I hate writing titles. Either I spend way too much time working on alliteration and sentence structure or I end up being horrified by my title when I see it later. All for a paltry 15 words. At least I am much less critical of my other writing (as exemplified plenty of times on this blog).

    12:30 pm: Oh my dog. This is taking so long. Why can’t I just be satisfied with crap?

    12:35 pm: If I just lift sentences from the conclusions of one of my papers, it nicely rounds out the abstract. Now I can eat some lunch. In the sunny break room. Rather than this windowless freezer.

    1:08 pm: Back at work – time for the job app. I back to feeling like a contortionist, tinkering with my research interests to align with each new department. For a while I had a statement that I really liked, but I haven’t gotten any interviews out of it, so maybe I’ll go back and look at the one I sent to Big School and see if I can do some acrobatics with that one.

    2:09 pm. Sometimes acrobatics lead to some interesting thinking. I ended up being able to formulate a new research angle based on what I know about the geographic region and the potential collaborations I want with the faculty at that school. If I end up someplace else, I don’t know that I’d revisit the idea, but it was any interesting thought experiment in any case.

    2:30 pm. Mr. Man just passed his licensing exam. That means that as of Monday morning he'll actually have a paying job. Just over 4 months from end to start.

    3:05 pm. Application submitted. Off to see if I can get Matlab to replicate the figure from one of my advisor'’s publications. If I use the same publicly-available dataset and the same mathematical analysis, what do you think my chances are? But first, more tea.

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    some random book list

    As seen over at Mon's and abd me's.

    Bold the ones you've read, italicise the ones you might read, cross out the ones you won't and underline the one's on your book shelf. Note: I also had to cross out the ones of which I hadn't heard.

    The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
    The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
    The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams

    The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald
    To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
    The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
    His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J. K. Rowling
    Life of Pi - Yann Martel
    Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell
    Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
    The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
    Lord of the Flies - William Golding
    Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
    1984 - George Orwell
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K. Rowling
    One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
    The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
    The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
    Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
    Angels and Demons - Dan Brown
    Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
    Neuromancer - William Gibson
    Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
    The Secret History - Donna Tartt
    A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
    Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
    Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis
    Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
    Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
    The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien
    Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
    Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
    Atonement - Ian McEwan
    The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
    The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
    The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
    The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
    Dune - Frank Herbert

    This list seems pretty generic (a lot of stuff I read in high school). Mon is planning to put together a different list - one with a black history month theme. One of my lifetime reading goals is to read something by all the Nobel laureates in literature. But maybe for now I'll put together a list popular science books from my shelf. Tomorrow, after I've submitted 2 abstracts, applied for a job, and bought an interview suit.

    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    interview prep - not today

    am instead going to leave work early (read: normal people's quitting time) and head home to walk dog under the sun's last rays, make a healthy dinner, and just enjoy being in my house while no one else is home (B-man is bowling). Then I will read journal articles (yeah right) and get a good night's sleep.

    worldchanging photos

    I just got pointed in the direction of this site with some stunning photography of landscapes utterly transformed by human activity. (Click on the links under the heading "works"). Also, if you go to this site, you can watch a slideshow of some more of his photos. Check it out, it'll sober you right up.

    Is there life outside of school?

    I think the answer is yes, although lately I've been feeling like there's not. The purpose of this post is to remind me that I do have a life beyond the data, writing, and job hunt. And that, sometimes, I even find it more rewarding than sitting at my desk for countless hours.

    I finished my first quilt a few weeks ago. Well, the first time I've ever sewn squares of fabric together together and added a backing. I didn't actually quilt it per se but that's a distinction we needn't make here. The blanket was for Chicita, Writer Chica's baby girl. And it was the 7th baby blanket I've made in the past 3 years.

    When I first moved here and starting hanging out with my friends I was amazed that they found time to do these wonderful crafts. In fact, I kind of pooh-poohed it for a while, telling myself that they weren't working as hard as I if at the end of the day they didn't collapse in exhaustion in front of the TV. But then, toward the end of my 2nd year here, two of my good friends (Writer Chica and Navy Mom) announced their pregnancies and S hosted the first of many craft nights. I wanted to give my friends something personal and special, and I also needed something crafty to do so that I could justify a night with my friends. Thus, the beginning of the baby blanket saga began.

    And now I've come to realize the pleasure in crafting. Its something to work on that requires completely different skills than science, its a project where you can see concrete progress being made each time you work on it, its a way to give meaningful gifts, and its the perfect excuse to get a bunch of women together to laugh and talk and drink wine and eat cookies.

    So now I'm going to a craft night on Wednesdays most weeks. I stay at my office until 7:30 then head over to S's for 2 hours of fun. Usually there are between 4 and 8 of us, and somebody always brings a goody. Some of the women knit, a few bead, S quilts, one has been organizing photos, one sketches. So far, being much less crafty than most of the women there, I've addressed Christmas card envelopes, learned how to make the binding for Chicita's quilt, and for the last 3 weeks I've been working on organizing the recipes that I compulsively tear out of magazines.

    And when the recipes are organized, I will return, once again, to my original craft. Navy Mom is due with her second at the end of March, and I just bought her fabric yesterday. It was my first trip to the quilting store downtown, and this quilt will be slightly more complicated than my last. Then there's the grad student down the hall who is also due in march. S and I are going to collaborate on a pinwheel quilt for her-maybe that's when I'll actually learn to do the quilting part of quilt-making. And gen(i)e just announced that she's expecting twins in July. So I've got no shortage of projects for the foreseeable future.

    And that means, on Wednesday nights, I'll be over at S's, talking, laughing, and crafting, and not really thinking about school at all. And I will be happy.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    Interview Prep parts 2 & 3

    Blogger problems yesterday (double posts, inaccessibility) forestalled the latest installment of interview prep in 15 minutes a day.

    Day 2: The graduate students. How many? What are the degrees offered? How are grad students supported? What do degree requirements look like?

    Day 3: Laboratory facilities. What do they have? Who controls them? Is there something they need that I could ask for in my start-up package? What about facilities/gear for staging field research?

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    you get what you ask for

    Following up on a few recent posts:

    Job Search Ettiquette: Yep, the email did the trick. I got a prompt reply from the chair. I didn't get an interview but they are very much interested in me and if things don't work out with the current round of interviewees, I'm next on the list. Somebody (abd me?) said recently that the kindest rejections are the hardest to take, but I'm actually feeling kind of positive on this one (for the moment). I liked them, they liked me, there's just a few logisitical obstacles in the way (departmental politics, other candidates). And there's still hope for Big School and a few others.

    Singing Endnote's praises: I finally got around to checking out that pdf linking function that envirogrl told us about. I didn't get insert object to work, but i discovered that in Endnote 6, references/link to will open a window where you can browse to the PDF and it will write a link in the URL field of your reference. So no need for reorganization, just link to where it is now.

    Blogging about lost objects really does work. I found my Jann Arden CD in the case of a college acapella group when I was in the mood for some non-iPod music this weekend.

    In other news, it's snowing. But not expected to stick. And I stayed up way to late last night watching the Olympics. Which explains why I am being totally unproductive this morning.

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Preparing for an interview in 15 minutes a day

    In order to force myself to prep for this interview (and to give me ready-made post ideas), I'm going to chronicle my piecemeal progress towards understanding Big School, my prospective department, and the -ology of the region.

    Today's task: Start at the beginning. How many undergraduates are there? What degree paths are offered? Are there interdepartmental degrees? What are the undergraduate courses?

    Job Search Ettiquette

    The Scenario: Job app sent in November, letters requested in December, letters due on January 1. It's now mid-February and I haven't heard anything. This is the one place I actually had dared to set my heart on. With my 1 interview in 3 weeks and the specific circumstances of that search, I expect to either get an offer or a rejection in the next 6 weeks. And I want to know whether I should hold out hope on this one.

    The Question: Is it ever appropriate/acceptable to inquire about the status of the search process? If so, is now the time? If so, should I call/email the search chair or my friend on the faculty (but not the search committee)?

    And in return for all of the helpful advice I am sure my more sage readers will give me, I offer this to those who will soon or someday follow my footsteps. The 100+ questions you should ask or will be asked when you get an interview.

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    you all deserve this

    "If there is someone on your blogroll who makes your world a better place just because that person exists and who you would not have met (in real life or not) without the internet, then post this same sentence on your blog."

    Friday's random

    Just wanted to check in and let ya'll know how grateful I am for your support. As the idea of Big School starts to sink in it doesn't seem all that bad. And I came up with a potential plan for a kick-ass post-doc situation if I don't get the job. I'd still like to get another interview but...

    In other news, yesterday Business Man and I went to do some field work. He's become a much more supportive field assistant in the past few months, and with all the excitement we encountered yesterday, I wouldn't have wanted to be with anyone else. The story, by the numbers:
    • 5 field sites on itinerary
    • 4 field sites visited
    • 2 field sites and data loggers with damage as a result of recent crazy weather
    • 1 data logger without weather damage but now compromised as a result of our clutziness
    • 1 Subaru completely stuck in the snow on the way to the 5th stop on our itinerary
    • 2 passers-by who stopped to help
    • 1 tow rope offered
    • 1 big Chevy who agreed to pull us out
    • 1 big Chevy stuck in the snow
    • 3 hours spent getting both vehicles out
    • 2 steak dinners enjoyed at a local inn to celebrate getting out of the snow
    • 3 very tired adventurers - Science Woman, Business Man, and the Princess Pup

    And in a pitiful revival of the tired iPod Random 10, here's what I've been treated to this morning
    1. South side - Moby and Gwen Stefani
    2. Cecilia - Simon and Garfunkel
    3. Just Like a Woman - Bob Dylan
    4. The Old Apartment - B@re N@ked L@dies
    5. River - Joni Mitchell
    6. Luck Be a Lady - Frank Sinatra
    7. Society's Child - Janis Ian
    8. 1963 - New Order
    9. Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
    10. Ultraviolet (light my way) - U2
    Apparently, my iPod is in a retro mood.

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    being greedy

    So I've got an interview coming up in a few weeks. After months of applying and waiting , I finally get some payback. January was a month of constantly checking my email and voice mail, hoping that one of the schools that had requested letters was actually going to bite and ask me for an interview. I even woke up in the middle of the night, panicked that I had put my old office phone number on my CV. I rushed to school the next morning to check it out, and I hadn't. But then I couldn't decide whether I was relieved because there wasn't a potentially unheard message waiting for in the vacant office down the hall or disappointed because it confirmed that indeed noone had asked me for an interview.

    So when the email came requesting dates I was available to interview I was ecstatic, jubilant, etc. It's a big school and a big name school and I'd be an incredibly lucky ABD to land the position.

    But for the past few days I've felt the knot returning to my stomach. I am once again constantly checking my voice and email, hoping for another interview.

    And I know why. It's a combination of things really. I have some concerns about the department (30 faculty and only 1 woman!), about the part of the country, and the nature of the search (reopened with no deadline). But I also feel like my whole future is riding on this one interview and I'd like to have another one for insurance. I've had a lot of people (okay, 3) tell me that it's nice to have more than one interview to work out the kinks and the nerves. But what if this is the only interview I get? I've had some problems with nerves and speaking before, what if I totally blow my job talk? What if they find out that I really am the impostor I sometimes feel like? What if they decide I'm just not a good fit?

    Sure, I know there will be other job cycles. Sure, my advisor will find money for me to stick around for a while if I don't get anything lined up. Sure, I've got a few places I could still apply. Maybe a good post-doc will fall in my lap. But it doesn't stop the worry.

    I could go on, but I'm not sure it would help. I'm not sure whether writing this post has eased or exacerbated my tension. I'm just not sure...

    Writing science for kids

    I just emailed off my contribution to a children's book on which I was asked to do some scientific editing. The book is an outgrowth of some work I do with middle-school kids.. Part of this year's program focused on ***** (obtuse I know, but pseudonymity calls)- a topic that the non-scientist would expect me to know something about, but that is almost totally unrelated to what I do. I didn't develop this year's program, and I remember being somewhat confused by the results that the kids were getting when they ran their experiments. It didn't gibe with my sense of "how things should work" based on my observation of natural phenomena and some really elementary physics.

    So anyways, a few weeks ago I got an email from the woman writing the book looking for help with the science in the ***** section. She had three choices for help, a biochemisty who had designed the experimental apparatus, an outside expert with no idea what the kids actually did, or me. I was pleased that she chose me for help and terrified that the biochemist would give her an answer that was simplified to the point of wrongness. So I agreed to edit the 7 pages of the book.

    Well it turns out that ***** are really complicated. Maybe simple in the pure sense, but awfully darn complicated in the real world - especially where there is complex topography. I literally spent several hours on the internet and with basic textbooks trying to find the "correct" answer to the question the kids had been experimenting with. I had to resort to the Journal of ***** Mechanics, which is filled with all sorts of gobbledy gook equations.

    Finally having something of a handle on the topic myself, I then had to translate what I had learned into language that worked for a 7th grader. Keep in mind, that the average 7th grader knows absolutely nothing about physical science. And then, I had to think at least a little about my writing. And then, I had to go through the author's writing with a fine toothed comb to purge it of things like the unneccesary mixing up of terms like "area" and "volume."

    But I did it. Thank goodness I asked to be paid for my efforts. I'll get about 150 bucks and a bit of an education out of the deal. In the end though, was it worth it?
    Probably not for the money, probably not for what I learned about *****, but probably yes for the experience of working on such a project. And definitely for making sure that at least one kid's science book is at least somewhat correct.

    Have any of you ever done any consulting work while in grad school? Was it worth it?
    How about any science writers out there...is what I experienced your everyday challenge?

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    How to: Organize Journal Articles

    Let it not be said that I don't respond to readers' comments. A few posts ago, I was moaning about my inability to read journal articles in an efficient and non-fattening way. Yami McMoots requested that I share my system for organizing journal articles, writing that "Curious people who are finally getting quasi-permanent office assignments and file cabinets want to know."

    The succint answer: Invest in a copy of EndNote or similar and a thick stack of file folders. As soon after downloading/copying/printing a journal article, add it to your EndNote library. For paper articles, create a manila folder for each 1st author. For PDFs, name them by authors, year, and any other identifying info (subject? journal?) and put them in a folder by letter of the alphabet.

    The rationale: I've tried other methods (subject folders, general letter of alphabet folders, by class, by journal (the worst!)) and all have dissapointed me or become too cumbersome. This method takes me a little bit of effort up-front but is much easier to use in the long run.

    The details:
    We've all seen the professors whose offices are overflowing with stacks of papers and books...don't become one of them. Start using a system as soon as possible in grad school, because it will be hell to catch up with the backlogged paper buildup if you don't.

    In Endnote, use one of the superfluous headings (I use "notes") to designate whether the article is paper or electronic, if it was assigned for a class, or if it is filed someplace weird.

    I started with multiple end-note libraries. One for thesis, one for -ology #1, one for ology #2...and these were keyed to certain drawers in my file cabinent. Lately I've just been adding everything to my thesis library (and drawer), rationalizing that it won't make sense to keep my thesis papers separate once I'm done with my Ph.D. The jury's still out on this one though. I'm starting to think it will make it harder for me to find pure-thesis papers as it get into the final throes of writing.

    If you have a lot of papers by a single author, divide them by subject or year, whatever you can clearly label or delineate.

    In a few cases, I've lumped a paper with a terminal M.S. students first author into the folder with their advisor's papers. But I always make sure to note it in endnote.

    When I'm feeling really overwhelmed and just don't have to deal with new acquisitions, I put them in a designated place until I can get at them. That way I always know what's been endnoted and what still needs to be done. No point hanging on to a PDF or paper if you are never going to recall you have it.

    If you have a PDF, you can cut and past the abstract/keywords into endnote. This will make searching your library easier later on. If there are keywords that the authors didn't include, but that I might find helpful for categorizing a paper, I'll add them.

    Some journal sites and databases will import references directly into Endnote for you. This is a time saver, but one caveat...think really hard about importing a reference for a paper you don't yet have. I remember how frustrated Writer Chica got during her M.S., because she could never figure out which papers she had and which were only references she had meant to get.

    This kind of feels like an ad for a software product, but I honestly can't imagine scholarly life or graduate school without it.

    Saturday, February 04, 2006

    The monster at the end of this post*


    And that's why I am posting right now rather than doing field work as planned. You see all my field sites are above 2000 feet and that sort of weather makes for really miserable work conditions. So I am going to put my trip to the mountains off for another few days when the forecast calls for sunny weather and a free air freezing level of 12,000 feet. (of course, on Thursday I put off field work until today because it was supposed to be nice today, too).

    I have lately been imbued with a sense of urgency about getting things done on my thesis and assorted other projects, so I am in my office crunching numbers. I've been feeling some internal pressure to step up my effort all week, and I actually made some progress. Today, in particular, has been very productive. I've been here about 4 hours and I've gotten a bunch of analyses done. And I'll work another hour or two before calling it a day. Because I've got a lot to get done in the next month.

    Before I go on my first campus interview.

    (*Anyone else remember the Sesame Street book with similar title?)

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    suddenly slammed

    I think I'm going to be pretty quiet for the next few days. I just came to the realization that I have a ton of stuff to get done in the next few days. I'm going to list them here, more for me than for you.

    By 10 am: graphs and interpretation for paper 2 to share with my advisor (optimally 4-6 hours of work before then to compile last of data and maybe actually devise some interpretation?)
    By 1 pm: 2 papers read for class (this and/or class may go by the wayside)
    By 2 pm: look intelligent on a topic tangentially related to my thesis for a meeting with a new faculty member (potential future collaborator?) (2-3 hours)
    go to gym in here?
    By 5:30 pm: be prepped for field work on Saturday (laptop, field book, instruments)
    By 9 pm: have car packed for field work

    Saturday: Field work + recuperation with husband
    Sunday: Edit book for consulting project, do laundry, watch superbowl, etc.

    I've got a few ideas percolating for posts (one responding to yami's request for journal organization tips), but in the meantime if you have things you'd like me to eventually write about, why don't you comment...

    See you Sunday or so.

    Lost and ...

    found? Once I blog about it?

    This seems to work for Profgrrrrl, so I figured I'd give it a try. I am looking for my copy of Jann Arden's Living Under June. The CD has one of my favorite songs on it, and I haven't been able to find the disc (but I have the case) since at least October (when I got my ipod). And "I've never wanted anything, Oh I've never wanted anything, so bad ... so bad."

    What drove me to blog this, is that this morning I really wanted to listen to Paula Cole's This Fire and I realized I couldn't find it (or its case) either. But at least that is on my iPod.

    Come out come out wherever you are...

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    today's highlights

    1. Being asked how some work was going and replying that I had figured out how to do the analysis but hadn't actually started. S's comment: "So progress is progressing."
    2. Having my advisor tell me that the faculty members I work with have decided that I need to be cloned before I am allowed to leave.
    3. Riding 6 floors in the library elevator with a guy in a full-on gorilla suit, carrying a skateboard, and who would only pantomine.

    A whole education at Tangled Bank...

    Dr. Free-ride has put together another great edition of Tangled Bank, the carnival of the sciences. Her theme for this edition is blog posts as course offerings. All my readers should go enroll in one of the courses immediately.

    And, yes, I am tooting my own horn a bit, as this is the first time I've been brave/crazy enough to submit something. You'll find me under political science.

    Now go read. I expect a 1-comment report on your favorites.