27 and a PhD

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Thesis prayer – Search Term short answer

Another frequent term I’ve been getting lately is “say a thesis prayer before PhD defense.”

I’ve mentioned before that I was born and raised in the catholic faith, though I’m going through a rough patch right now where I don’t like organized religion too much.

Seeing that Lent started this past week and the amount of times I’ve gotten this search term used to get to my blog I feel like maybe a higher calling is being made and I must answer.

Feel free to check this post on how my PhD defense DAY was … yeah, it felt like a day although it was all said and done in 6-7 hours (the defense was 1.5 hrs, the lecture was 1hr long, then the celebration took place so it was a day long process).

So, as a catholic I believe in saints, and Mary, and in asking the Saints and Mary for intervention in cases where my faith or strength doesn’t seem enough. For my thesis I remember making 2 prayers, a personal one (just a conversation with God, giving him thanks for letting me reach that point where the defense was imminent and for all the good and not so good that had transpired through the years). I also did a prayer which was given to me the day before I almost lost my life. I was given a prayer that I’ve carried with me ever since, and it talks about not dying in battle, not being defeated by enemies, etc. It’s a prayer to St Joseph. And because for me the the thesis felt like a battle, like I could fail, I made that prayer.

I don’t think there’s a formulaic prayer which will automatically make you pass the thesis. What I do believe in is asking for protection, guidance and direction, and after all is said and done, no matter the outcome, just give thanks for having reached a new stage in your personal and professional life.

Whatever you path to God, or whoever you call your Supreme Being, try to be thankful for reaching the post-thesis stage. And stay focused and breathe, enjoy every second, as it will be over sooner thank you think.

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WordPress stats and even MORE search terms

You just gotta love it … One of the nifty features of WordPress is that once you go to your dashboard (according to how you’ve set things up) you can check out how people have landed on your blog, how many and what search terms or pages were used to get to the blog. I usually get between 20-50 visits a day, especially after a new post is published. And the reason I’m glad people visit here (even if comments are sparse) is that I get this sense that the blog-o-sphere comes in SUPER handy when it’s time for your to consider going to grad school, get into grad school and scary things happen, or are almost out the door and have little to no counseling, or are afraid to ask “silly” questions (there’s no such thing as silly question … unless you’re just super clueless by nature).

I’ve done other Q and A “sessions”, or search term posts before. You can access them here, and here. And since we’re in February, which I suspect will start a new season of theses defenses, and students scrambling to get done and walk the walk, I decided to do the 3rd installment of the Search Term series. Periodically I gather search terms from those lovely WP stats and select the ones which either tickle me the most, or were similar enough to the worries I had last year as I was getting ready to defend. Or are worries I’ve heard before, and have given advice. I offer my honest opinion, and if I have no clue of what to answer I’ll say so. Without further ado … here we have the Feb 2010 installment of Search Terms.

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What do you regret the most about your PhD

That’s a great search term. Thanks to whoever plugged it on the search engine from WordPress and got to my blog. Thinking about it, there are many things I regret about doing my PhD. I guess the most sensible way of listing them is by dividing the answer in 2 groups, personal reasons and professional or school related reasons:

Personal ones:

  1. I regret not breaking up with a BF I had when I started grad school. We were  tons of miles away, the magic and love fizzled. I’m not saying all people in a long distance relationship AND in grad school need to break up with their significant other. But in my case it should have been the most sensible thing to do and I could have invested more time studying, instead of shedding tears for a lost love.
  2. Not going on vacay more often. Nuff said. Breaks just help pump up my aspirations toward reaching a goal sooner. I did went to Europe and Canada, and I visited home many, many times, but I had friends who went to all sorts of awesome places, for vacation (and sometimes work). I wish I could have done more.
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The thesis defense – after all this I’ll be a PhD

As promised before, I’m going to conclude the series on what to expect when you’re applying for grad school, once you get in and how things look toward the end by posting this entry. It’s about how my thesis defense *day* went, starting the tale from a day or two before. I’ll conclude with thoughts and a little on what transpired after, though I mentioned some of it before.

***Disclaimer: I won’t reveal too many intimate details, as I prefer my identity to remain hidden.

On we go:

I don’t remember if I’ve said this before, but attempting to schedule my defense was c-r-a-z-y …. some of my committee members were out of town, some were too busy to even bother to schedule. I had to put my foot down, write an email without my boss’s “permission” telling them I was more than ready to defend, and it was now or never. I also mentioned that I had to extend my job offer and keep being paid by my boss’s grant if they wanted to prolong the agony. It worked, and less than 48 hrs after sending that email (or ultimatum) I had 2 possible defense dates.  But this didn’t mean that life was fine and dandy … having a defense date made the whole process real … it was happening sooner rather than later and I was a nervous wreck in the works … I had to practice the lecture, pack all my things, and staying  on top of things almost proved too much to handle (I also had to pick up family at the airport, make sure they were all comfortable, even if all I wanted to do was cry). My only glimmer of hope was that after all this ordeal I’d be a PhD.

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End of the year MeMe

I love doing memes …. just because I enjoy reading them years later to see how things were in the previous years, and what and how things have changed since. Without further delay, here’s my 2009 meme:

An end of the year analysis… in meme form.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

Moved out of my “home” away from home for 6 years and into a different country and culture.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I’m not a huge Resolution person. But I did moved out of the States, into Canada and finished my degree. I also got to learn new methods for doing research (new to me anyways) and moved in with the boyfriend for the second time in my life (well, previously he was the one to move in with me).

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Mmmmm, not that I remember now. My sis did get preggo.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Mmmmm, not so sure, I don’t think so.

5. What countries did you visit?
Canada.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Mmmm, less debt, less weight and more peace family-wise. A better understanding of my research project and expectations from the boss and a happier attitude towards life.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory?
July X, 2009 …. the day I finished my PhD.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Finishing the PhD.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not paying off my debt sooner and not meeting as much with the new boss as I should have.  Oh, and not taking the phone to place a call to a certain postdoc from hell who behaved like an idiot and a selfish bastard with the last paper stemming from my thesis.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
A stupid flu that I thought was the H1N1.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Mmmmm, health insurance in Canada …. and my yellow purse?

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My mom and my BF’s prior to my defense …. too much undeserved patience. Oh and my upstairs neighbour from the States who bought like 130$ in furniture.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Stupid postdoc from hell.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Moving …. and moving related expenses, and starting up in Canada.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
New job, moving and my Xmas gifts. Oh and my new shows and my 89$ Parka from Joe …. Joe I love YOU!

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2009?
A few oldies. I cut cable off at the beginning of the year to save some $ for the move and tuned off VH1 and MTV. I occasionally liked a song or two from watching The Hills.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
1. Happier or sadder? Happier since I don’t have a thesis to worry about.
2. Thinner or fatter? A few people at home have said that I look thinner than last year. I do not believe them, but maybe I am.
3. Richer or poorer? Debt-wise about the same, but my car is paid off and I’m not getting slammed with thousands of $ “health insurance” and “activity and recreation fees” from school … really, do grad students have to pay for a gym while they don’t have the time or energy to lift a finger?

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Traveling and photography.  Oh, and sleeping.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Complaining and not sleeping.

20. How will you be spending/did you spend Christmas?
At home with my family, juggling between attending church with my mom, helping my sis move out of my parent’s house, and spending a few short hours with the BF.

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
The BF texting, an my mom on Skype.

22. Did you fall in love in 2009?
More and more with the same adorable guy.

23. How many one night stands in this last year?
None; though it would have been interesting to have one or two with the BF, hehe.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
OMG, Little Mosque on the Prairie and The City.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I dislike a lot of people, but hate is kinda strong.

26. What was the best book(s) you read?
Baking Cakes in Kigali

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Vedera .. from The Hills

28. What did you want and get?
A completed thesis and defense, a first author paper, a successful move and more vacay time.

29. What did you want and not get?
Even more money, tons of undies, more cool music and better spending habits.

30. What were your favourite films of this year?
Mmmm, a few, mostly indie ones. I can’t remember all their names.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 25 + 3, I think I spent it alone since the BF and my mum were traveling to see me a few days later.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Finishing earlier and getting that darn postdoctoral fellowship, also getting the first author place on MY second thesis aim paper.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Sadly none. There are styles I like but probably can’t pull off and I’m afraid of being too out of the box, so I stay with jeans, snickers and a basic tee.
34. What kept you sane?
The BF and my mum.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Mmmm, trying to think … Penelope Cruz … probably.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Healthcare bill in the US and same-sex marriage, both of which should pass because the government shouldn’t intrude in people’s bedrooms and conservatives should shut up, and a supposedly “big” country should have a universal, affordable way of caring for their sick.

37. Who did you miss?
A few southern eateries and the family.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Lab tech, insanely knowledgeable and talented … and patient.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
It’s OK to think outside of the box, and to talk things over before making a huge fuss about a misunderstanding.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?

Not a clue. I’m too tired to remember.

12 months of change

Following into the footsteps of one of my fave bloggers, I present now a list of cool things …, or just things, that happened during the fabulous 2009 which marked the end of my graduate career … heck! the end of my time in school as a student (oficially; unoficially I’ll never stop being a student and learning). To summarize, here are some of the awesome bits that have made 2009 a great year:

  1. January – came back from a vacay at my parent’s house, in my lovely hometown with my vision settled on finishing the damned thesis. BF and I didn’t get to spend too much time together as he was studying for his version of hell qualifying exams.
  2. February – I think I had a seminar of some sort at the beginning of this month … though my mind is usually nebulous as I had one thing in mind .. well, make it two things which would happen in March.
  3. March – I submitted my application for 2 postdoc interviews, one at a fairly new lab in the field in which I did my PhD, the second one in a lab that has been established for some time but in a completly different topic and technique from the one in which I did my PhD. I nailed one of the interviews and I got the job offer even before I interviewed (at the second lab with the totally unkown technique). Secondly … the reviews from my first author paper came back a month after submitting it, I would only need to wait 2 more months to have it approved and select the date for my thesis defense.
  4. April – Finished up chapter 5 of the thesis, only one more chapter (and the approval of the paper) to poll my thesis committee about defense dates.
  5. May – Got the flu (not the H1N1, thanks), on the same day I think I’m dying because of the coughing, sneezing and pressure on my head my boss calls me to tell me I can schedule the defense whenever the hell I want … the friggin’ paper has been accepted within 3 months of submission and I am finally  getting out! Last but not least, the BF passes his qual .. meaning that he’s well on his way to earn his PhD.
  6. June – Finished writing the thesis, but need many corrections as the last chapter (chapter 4, second thesis aim) is still out of shape … also, polling the committee regarding defense dates yields some uncomfortable results, meaning that I’ll upset a few of them if I want to be out by August. Also … chose the date for the defense by pulling major strings and begging more than a dog.
  7. July – turned 28 (my goal for defending was to do it prior to turning 28); defended, but mommy and BF seemed not to get along very well days before the defense which greatly upsets me. Packed up my things and left for my Canadian adventure.
  8. August – Start in the new lab, realize I have to relearn biochemistry and catch up with years of not doing it. Oh … also we moved twice in a 2 week span … thanks! 
  9. September – got my first paycheck as a postoc …. a-w-e-s-o-m-e. Oh, the boyfriend goes on a school trip and while I plan to clean the apartment, cook him a delicious dinner and be super productive my sister calls me to tell me she’s pregnant … on the same week of my parent’s wedding anniversary. I should mention that said parents are VERY conservative … this move will ensure many, many tears and LOTS of drama just as I’m adjusting to my new job … oh, the joys of having a family many miles away.
  10. October – purifying lots of protein, on my own, using uber-expensive equipment.
  11. November – because the boyfriend is a TA at Big Name Canadian U and because I’m afraid of traveling without him I push him every day to the edge while asking when are we going to buy tickets for our X-mas vacay (he reminds me every time that he has to grade finals and can’t leave until Big Name Canadian U posts exam dates … hate, hate, hate undergrads so much … ok, BNCU for not being efficient). I want to go home and celebrate freedom from grad school.
  12. December – ahhhh, it’s been almost a month since we booked the trip to visit our families. We’ll get home (parents home) at an insanely early time, but hey, we’ll free from school for 3 weeks! Currently purifying tons of protein to stock up for sequencing and future biophysical experiments. I officially have over 70 pages of protein purification profiles, gels and protocols, but really no results to speak for all I’ve been doing during the last few months. This business of being a postdoc is sometimes frustrating … but overall I’m trying to stay positive and remember that it took me almost 6 years to generate a thesis full of lovely drawings, tables and diagrams and I’m still learning in the new lab, so no reasons to be all frustrated … yet.

Post in one of my fave blogs

Peeps of the Interwebs, amigos todos …. one of my girl crushes fave-awesome-totally-wicked bloggers invited her readers to share their worst dating stories … for reals peeps. I decided to share my tale from hell and she featured it today. Go over to The Naked Redhead (nope, absolutely NO porn) and check it out!

While you’re there, feel free to explore her blog and read up on the other horror stories!!!! Each and everyone of them is SO awesome, incredible and hilarious … or creepy … you just can’t have enough. Enjoy!