Posts Tagged ‘grad school’

27th May
2012
written by Steph
I want to write a nice long post about how on Friday, I defended my dissertation, first by giving a talk, then by answering questions posed to me by my committee. But really, what I want most of all, is just to enjoy doing absolutely nothing for a little while, as well as starting to reclaim those things that make my life so wonderful, but which I've had to put on the backburners lately as I focused in on getting through this last graduate school hurdle. The good news, is that it was all worth it, because I PASSED! I know, many of you will say you didn't doubt it for a moment, and truth be told, when the day came, I felt really calm and prepared. In many ways it was a very surreal day, because seven years is a very long time, and there were definitely some significant potholes along the way. I have seen defense day (or D-Day, as it is referred to around these parts) come and go for a lot of friends at this point, but part of me just stopped expecting that it would also happen for me. I either thought I would somehow be a graduate student forever, or I would leave without my doctorate (believe me, this came very close to happening several times). There are still times where I can't believe that I managed to write an ENTIRE dissertation, and that I got to a point where I was confident in my abilities, and knew that I knew my topic very well. I fully expected to be a prickly bundle of nerves come D-Day, but in the end, I was very zen, and I actually found this final committee meeting to be the one I had the most fun at, and also the most laid-back of all my experiences during my time in graduate school. I felt in control and like I knew my future, like more than anything, the people who have watched me grow as a researcher and a scientist these past seven years were just happy to be there to celebrate and mark this final rite of passage. So, yes, I passed, and am now officially Dr. Steph! Thank you to all of you for your supportive comments cheering me on these past few months, even as I let this blog go into hibernation mode. I've heard people say that following their dissertation, they were mentally useless for a week or two, but I kind of feel the opposite! I want to relax, and enjoy the weird reality of not waking up in the morning with a tight not of panic already hard in my chest, and that if I want to lie on the couch and watch an entire season of The Vampire Diaries or play a video game, I can! I can start working out again, without worrying that half hour would be better spent revising or making tributes to the gods of academia.  Best yet, I love knowing that all these mental resources in my brain are now freed up for some serious (or light-hearted!) fiction reading! I can't say that I have missed reading these past few months, simply because I've been so burned out that I just haven't had the energy or interest to read, but now I look at all the wonderful books that are waiting for me, and I am excited to learn their secrets. But I'm also excited to learn the secrets that the future holds, because for the first time in a very long time, I no longer have a five-year plan, or an obvious "next step" on a traditional career trajectory. It's time to spend some time rediscovering the joys of a life unplanned, and I look forward to taking some time to think about my passions (and maybe discover some new ones!), and think about what I want the next phase of my life to be. I should be done making plans at this point, but I doubt I'll ever fully tame the Type-A planner inside me, so hopefully, starting next week, I'll finally have some new bookish content for this blog. My life is my own once again, and I'm so excited to channel this renewed energy and enthusiasm into the things that make my heart soar. Right now, that means, jumping back into bed, and cuddling with Tony and the dogs, and then possibly lounging by the pool on this long-weekend Sunday and cracking the spine (only figuratively though!) of a new book. To those who have read this far, I hope your Memorial Day weekend is just as lovely! Doctor's orders!
12th May
2012
written by Steph
Hallelujah! Months of programming experiments, running experiments, analyzing data, reading papers, writing and re-wring have finally paid off. On Thursday morning, I did one last proof read through my dissertation and then I attached a PDF version of it to an email and sent it off to my committee! (For those interested, the final page count was 102 pages). In two weeks, I'll give a public presentation of my dissertation experiments, and then I'll undergo my final graduate school oral defense, and I will finally be Dr. Steph! It's hard to believe that after years of ups and downs, that my time as a student is finally drawing to a close. I haven't quite parsed the enormity of that just yet, but I've found through this whole process that I'm best off just focusing on getting through one day at a time, so that's what I'll keep doing.

Home by Toni Morrison

Of course, immediately after submitting my dissertation, I began to show signs of a horrible cold. I have felt awful for the past two days, and while I am definitely on the mend now, I am still not back in full fighting form. But I am well enough that I can finally write my monthly BookPage post, where I tell you about what I've reviewed in the latest issue. In the May issue of BookPage, I had the great good fortune to review Toni Morrison's latest masterpiece, Home. I'm a huge Morrison fan, so it was a huge honor to review one of her books in a professional capacity. It also didn't hurt that Home is her shortest book to date; in a time when my pleasure reading time has been severely limited (and I've had essentially no attention span), it was nice to have a book that needed my attention but didn't need a huge time investment. If, like me, you've been eagerly awaiting Morrison's latest slice of literary greatness, you can read my full review here. Obviously, I'll still have dissertation brain for the next few weeks, but despite being super ill, I've felt a lightness come over me this past week that has long been absent, and I'm optimistic that I'll soon recapture my full book-blogging mojo. In truth, writing this dissertation hasn't been nearly as awful as I thought it would be (though I'm totally fine with never doing this ever again), but I am still so looking forward to reclaiming my life. For at least a month, that is, since Tony and I are officially leaving Nashville at the end of June. We'll be moving up to Toronto for a couple of weeks to get our dogs settled in with my parents, and then we'll be heading off on our big world tour! (Don't worry though, we're bringing our e-readers so we'll have plenty to read on the myriad planes, trains, and buses we'll be taking!) So life will be busy for the foreseeable future, but with one of the biggest stressors finally stripped away, I am looking forward to refocusing on those things that enrich me and nourish my spirit.
19th February
2009
written by Steph
I don't normally use this blog to talk about my work - in fact, I often tend to specifically avoid talking about it, in part because the day-to-day rigors of a grad student don't exactly make for fun reading, but also because I like to keep that part of my life separate.  Sort of a "never the twain shall meet kind of deal"... only now, if you'll forgive me, I shall briefly allow for the twain to meet. For the past, oh, year and half, my advisor and I have been working on a project involving fMRI decoding methods (i.e., putting people in fMRI scanners and then trying to "read out"/categorize the subsequent brain activity as one of two things) and visual working memory (i.e., remembering what something looks like/visual information about an object even when it is no longer right in front of your face).  We've been trying to get this study published since August 2008, and it has finally come out!  This would be reason enough to celebrate, but to make the icing on the cake doubly sweet, not only am I first author on the study, but it wound up being published in the scientific journal, Nature (I say "wound up", as though it weren't a really exhausting and difficult process that involved huge amounts of works, and control experiments run and analyzed at the speed of light (all conducted by yours truly))!  For those of you in the scientific know, I need not elaborate, but for those of you who aren't: it's a big deal!  Nature is just about the best journal one can publish in (the alternative being, Science), so I'm really pleased. So far the article is just available online on Nature's website, but for those of you without institutional subscriptions to that magazine, only the abstract is available.  BUT, if you're interested, stories about the findings from our paper have been picked up by several popular press news sources, two of which you can read here and here (there are others, but I've avoided ones that fail to mention me (because I'm vain...), or ones that erroneously mention me, such as a slew of UK articles that have already conferred me my PhD (this is why you must always take what you read in the media with a grain of salt!)... and I've also not linked to any of the foreign language press).  I'm probably most excited about the second article, simply because I provided the bulk of the interview material for that one (as opposed to letting my advisor field the majority of the other interviews).  Lo and behold, I think I actually come across sounding quite smart.  Oh, and I must of course thank Tony for taking the lovely headshot of me that graces the first article! I will probably post once again when the article is printed in the physical print journal, but for now, I hope you'll excuse this small indulgence.  I suppose from now on, when Tony and I fight, I can no longer fall back on the old standard, "Well, I'm not a mind reader!"  😉 We now return you to your regular scheduled programming.
5th January
2009
written by Steph
I always knew that today would be hard, since who ever enjoys the first day back to work after the holidays?  But I guess I didn’t expect it to be as emotionally eviscerating as it turned out to be.  The weather has been bleak, but the building where I work has never felt so empty as it does to me today.  I’m sure part of this has to do with the fact that classes don’t start back up until Wednesday, so there isn’t the pitter patter of undergraduate feet and their vapid chatter echoing down the halls, but I know that’s not really the thorn in my paw today. No, today I’m just plain sad because one of my really good friends here in Nashville has finally moved on to snowier pastures.  If you’ll recall, back in early December, Tony & I went out for a birthday/thesis defense celebration for a good friend of mine.  He’s since relocated to Chicago for a post-doc position, and while I couldn’t be happier for him, I am feeling a bit sad for me.  This is compounded by the fact that another friend of mine just finished up a post-doc in December, and has since made his way back to Australia.  So that’s two friends no longer just down the hall or up a flight of stairs, and in a building where there are few people to whom I genuinely enjoy talking, it’s a pretty hard blow. (more…)
10th November
2008
written by Steph
On the season premier of "30 Rock", Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy have the following exchange:
Jack: “We may not be the best people.” Liz: “But we’re not the worst.” Both, in unison: “Graduate students are the worst.”
Seriously? Is this true? I think graduate students HAVE it the worst, but surely we are not actually the worst. People should feel bad for us! Really! This is more like it (sorry for the sketchy quality at the beginning of the clip): (more…)