Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wrimo Wednesday!

As everyone who has frequented this blog should know, I am attempting NaNoWriMo while also being a mom and PhD candidate. This is an absolutely insane undertaking, yet almost 2 weeks in I am ahead on my word count (about 2 days). To accomplish this I am crafting my novel similar to what I am working on, with some of my masters thesis work sprinkled in, and taken several theoretical steps down the road. With that in mind, I thought I would share the background of the novel and how it partially relates to what I am actually doing.

In the novel, the main character (Beth) is running a lab at a new genetics research company. She is investigating how to make soybean more resilient to low water. Basically she wants to create a transgenic soybean that will survive even under drought conditions. Preferably not just survive but also thrive, and at the very least not change the crop yield. Right now she has created her modified soybean and is testing it. Soon she will find out that it has a downside (this is the part I'm still working on) and learn that her employers are not as interested in the science but the profit.

How does that relate to my research? Well I'm glad you asked! ;) I am currently investigating soybean but looking at cold tolerance, not drought. Soybean is cold intolerant, it tends to suffer and die when the temperatures drop. It seems to have components from the cold tolerant pathway yet it doesn't work. So we're looking to find out why, what part is broken and perhaps can we fix it?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Family Friday!

This was the first Friday night in 2 months we have not been driving to my parents. Instead we are staying here. We had pizza for dinner and popcorn with a movie! I decided it was time Boo saw Aladdin. I had forgotten how dated some of the Genie's references were! For a while I could not tell if he was enjoy it or not. Then after the Prince Ali song, the Sultan rides the Carpet around and he laughed and laughed and started imitating it.

When the movie ended, he stood up and announced "I am a genie! You get three wishes!"

"I wish my son would brush his teeth, take his medicine and go to bed!"

"Sorry, I'm a genie not your son. Wish again!" 

"OK, I wish my living room was clean!"

He looked around, looked at me and goes "That will not happen." 


I think he missed the concept of being a genie. ;)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NaNoWriMo - Day 6

Wow keeping up with NaNo while juggling everything is actually working! I've found that I can write in a note app I have on my phone during the random wait steps that come with molecular biology research. 5 minute incubation here, 10 minute centrifuge there, 40 minute gel assay, etc., molecular biology is a lot of hurry up and wait. So while I wait, I type on my phone (autocorrect fails will be fantastic to dig through in December..) and it's working. Currently I sit at just over 11k, which is day 7 pace, so I'm a day ahead for the moment. I need to try and bank more ahead time as the weekend of the 16th is Boo's birthday party and then the 18th I have my next exam. I do not see my writing statistics being impressive in those time frames. This a technique I would recommend to anyone who wants to write but does not feel like they have the time to do so. Grab the 5 minute breaks here and there and use them for writing. Treat them like sprints. You'll be amazed how many words you can generate through out the day that way!

My group for class had our big presentation today. Last night I had everyone over for dinner and practice session. I made homemade Alfredo sauce with chicken, mushrooms, and broccoli over rotini pasta. It was delicious :) The presenters went over the talk and we talked about the strengths and weakness of paper we were presenting. It was a weak paper, just a simple 2D gel with no physiological data to back up their claims. Today things went smoothly, I had to answer some of the more technical questions since the paper did fall under my actual PhD research. Now the web side of the team will do their magic and Friday we will be officially done with this project!

Had a Mommy fail moment tonight. While reading bedtime stories to Boo I realized I had not sent his library books from school back to school. He, of course, suddenly remembered I was right and he would going to miss recess until I got them turned in and started to cry. I had to find the books, reassure him that he was not in trouble and I would tell his teacher it was my bad, and then get him settled down enough to fall asleep. Between the presentation for class, NaNo and the mice last week (which i have not seen a mouse or any evidence of mice since Monday!) I have been so scatter brained. Need to refocus quick. Speaking of focus.. time to get my word count padded up and my lecture written for tomorrow.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Destination Dissertation

Yesterday one of my labmates successfully defended a PhD. The public defense lasted about an hour and the closed door committee defense lasted another 2. But success was granted and after the paperwork is completed (revisions to the dissertation, filing all the forms, etc.) Dr. will be added before and , PhD after name for eternity. After all the formality we did a little after party in the conference room. Cake, champagne and pats on the back! We all signed a card and the champagne bottle as mementos. Due to the timing of the event, Boo came along to the after party and was absolutely wonderful. So well behaved. When he went to say congratulation, my labmate asked if we would be doing this for him next. To which I jumped in and said hey hey me first! and everyone laughed.

But watching the whole event from the sidelines made me realize how much I want to be there. To have added to the world's scientific knowledge and presenting my work. Ready to move to the next phase of my career. Right now I'm at the very beginning of the destination. I don't even have a project fully laid out. The one I am working on right now does not seem to be going anywhere. The data is inconclusive and messy. I don't know if it will show anything we can use, and if it doesn't I'm not sure what to do from there. But here we go, off to the races. Dissertation Ho!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

T minus 24 hours until...

NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month, takes place every November and is one of my favorite months! It is an insanely busy month with my birthday, Boo's birthday, Thanksgiving and of course opening the gateway to my favorite holiday, Christmas! To add 50,000 words of novel writing to this jam packed month seems a little crazy, and yet I have been doing it faithfully for 5 years. This will be my 6th attempt at NaNo and I am hopeful it will not end my winning streak.

But, this year will be very different. Last year I was only teaching a few classes, home before Boo got off school every day so had writing time in the afternoon. Adding the full time PhD student/teacher/lab monkey, to the rotation will add new and unique sets of challenges. But I am determined to try! The real trick to NaNo is to write a little every day, always aim for the word count (1667) but know some days you'll miss it, but you'll make it up another day.

My BFF has already pointed out that is absolutely ridiculous to attempt NaNo this year. She might be right, after all I have a lot more on my plate than I did in the previous 5 years. But, NaNo is all about me. It's one of the few things I do that is 100% for myself. I'm not trying to be the world's greatest novelist, I am giving myself permission for one month to let my creative side dance like a fool. Would I like my stuff to be published? Sure, who wouldn't! But that's not my driving purpose behind attempting NaNo. What really keeps me coming back every year is the sense of accomplishment it gives me to see the word bar creep up, the joy I get from letting my imagination scamper free, the satisfaction of creating something unique.. NaNo is the one month a year where I give myself permission to explore my imagination and record the journey. It's almost therapeutic. While there will be times during the month where it is maddening, frustrating, and I will consider quitting, when I reach the end it is euphoric. I "win" random internet stickers and I run around like I personally defeated Zod. Then I will go back to all scientific writing all the time, maybe touching my creative works two or three times the rest of the year. Until we come back to November when we can start the extreme creativity explosion all over again.

Self-expression, self-satisfaction, that's why I NaNo.

Monday, October 28, 2013


Old Man Winter decided to arrive in spades this past week. It is not even Halloween but the temperatures have dropped to subfreezing at night and 40-50 with no sun and bitter wind during the day. We even had snow one morning this week. All of this makes me an unhappy camper. Though I live, by choice, in the midwest I hate the weather here! I'd be much happier in California or Florida or somewhere without snow! So to have snow arrive in October makes me very sad.

Another thing cold weather brings is the critters... all the bugs and rodents go OMG WTF IT'S COLD and look for warmth. Unfortunantly for me, the mouse population has found warmth IN my kitchen!! The other night I saw a mouse run away and disappear in between the cabinet and the dishwasher. Understandably enough, I screamed (hey there is a reason I am a plant biologist and not an animal researcher ok!). After telling Boo it was just a mouse and not to worry, I ran back to my room and called maintenance. They informed me that they could not do anything but if I set traps they would come collect any dead mice... I threw a bit more of a fit and they relented that the next day they would look at the hole under my sink and at least stuff steel wool in it. So being the ever so brave person that I am, we ran to the store bought some traps, set them and ran into my room where I barricaded under the door with towels and had Boo slumber party. (What? Did you miss the part where I said I am a plant biologist?!)

Next day, I took an exam that was absolutely horrid and the lack of sleep from freaking out about these mice turning into ROUS from Princess Bride did not help. Put Boo to bed, then went to watch some TV and prep the exam I was giving the next day when the rodent stuck it's head out from UNDER my couch right next to me! Once again seeing ROUS in my head I RAN back to my bedroom, stuffed a towel under the door and spent another night not sleeping.

That brings us to the exam I administered, a huge practical (60 questions, 18 stations!) that had to be set up, administer and break down. Then I returned home and found a dead mouse, feeling incredibly victorious that I got the little sucker we played Lego's in the living room. Until we saw TWO MICE at the SAME TIME under the couch. That did it, back to the bedroom to hide!!

I went to complain at the office and apparently some other units are having issues as well. Went away for the weekend, came back to all set traps, no dead mice, new poop so they are still here. Guess it's another night of towels shoved under the door and horribly sleep. Will be complaining again tomorrow!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Biology Retreat

There is this yearly tradition at the biology department where we escape the confines of the lab for wide open space of nature! Or at least the confines of a conference center out in the middle of the woods ;) Every lab is allowed to send one graduate student to give a talk and as many poster presenters as they want (translate everyone else in the lab brings a poster!). Obviously I've only been here 2 months so I don't have to do one right??

Wrong! I got to present my project idea with very preliminary data! Weeeeee!! I also had to do it as multiple PowerPoint slides printed out and taped up and not a single big sheet of poster paper like the rest of the professionally looking ones. The walls were covered in posters, the windows were covered in posters and even the doors.. where mine ended up! It was a pretty pathetic poster as you can see....

One of the professors was like oh hey look old school! Yes.. my poster is retro.. was totally going for that.. Thankfully I got a lot of positive feedback, excitement to see how the experiment works out.

There were several rounds of talks, then the poster session in the morning before we had lunch and some free time. Which to a bunch of biologists out in the fall woods means HIKING! The conference building sat up at the top of a hill, with beautiful, colorful trees, a lake and a few trails. One of the trails we took had a rope you had to use to pull yourself up the steep incline, no joke. It was highly amusing to watch my professor and lab mates try to get up the incline. I was able to get up but boy did I pay for it a few days later. I think we must have missed the trail because the way back down was almost straight down! A bunch of grad students formed a human chain to help people down, I took the more adventurous route and slide down the leaves/mud like a surfer :) Pretty sure someone got it on their iPhone.. though mercifully it has not shown up yet!

It started to rain while we were on our way back, thankfully it was refreshing rain as we were so hot from the up and down portion. When we got back to the center there were more talks before clean up and head back to the lab.

The day after the conference, one of the other new grad students asked me on the way out of class if I just ran out of time to do my poster and that's why I had to print multiple slides instead of the big professional one. Nope.. just have an adviser who is economically minded and it's a few dollars to print this way and almost $100 to print the big ones. I find it embarrassing though that it's assumed I couldn't get my act together in time to make a real poster.. the first impression I'm after!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

viral hell

So I can't decide if I am badass or insane.. I have some sort of viral gastrointestinal thing right now (maybe food poisoning) that is making my day a few different shades of hell. But I got through my day, went to a really interesting seminar on writing teaching statements, got a Bradford and a GUS assay run, organized my group's project meeting in the course I am taking, helped the undergraduate with his DNA gel, then came home and processed all my data between intense stabby evil pain of death. Thankfully Boo is with his grandparents this long weekend off from school because I don't think I could have taken care of him and myself tonight.

Votes? Badass or ridiculous? Respond in the comments ;)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Library Day

So every week they have library day at Boo's school. He loves books, loves to read and be read to. Our normal bed routine consist of him reading to me and then I read to him. So the other week on library day I asked if he wanted to read one of the new library books he had brought home to me. His response was they had too many words!  And he proceeds to pull out a book on Pearl Harbor and another one on motorcycles! They are large books, full of pictures and small print with lots of factual information.

This is not the first time he has done this either. Last week it was Robert Ballard's book on finding the Titanic and buildings, week before that Ferrari and sharks, list goes on and on. So I asked him, "why do you get books with so many words!"

His response was epic. "Well I just have to learn lots of stuff!"


Love of learning passed down to offspring achievement unlocked!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I must apologize, it has been 2 weeks since I posted and I have meant to post several times! But life got in the way! End of grading period at Boo's school meant parent teacher conference, some extra homework, and then we got sick! But I am back and have a few events to post about which should be coming out shortly!

I do want to report that my exam grade came back and I got an A-! Not bad for my first exam back ;) Exam 2 is next week! As is practical 3 for the course I teach.. need to write that..

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

2 months

It's been exactly 2 months of working in the lab. I still don't have a project for my PhD, working on a pilot idea. I came in this morning with a plan, got my liquid nitrogen and headed back to the lab and had a thought of amazement. I am actually here... I'm in grad school! I'm working on my PhD! It was almost surreal as I opened the door to the lab.. this is my life now. I am a full blown scientist again!

Sometimes I find myself wondering if this is real.. I know I rant about how hard it is to be a Mom and a Grad student. These rants are totally and completely valid as it is difficult. I am not sure if I will be successful. But I am trying and I am enjoying the attempt :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Domestic Day

Today was a domestic day.. I did the laundry, made homemade enchilada's with my Mom's help and created a Cherry Cordial Cupcake recipe! The enchilada's were frozen for lunches over the next few weeks. The cupcakes were enjoyed with the leftovers saved for labmates tomorrow. The cupcakes were AMAZING. My Dad called them spectacular and Boo gave them two thumbs up awesome. Had the Cowboys pulled off a win, it would have been a great day ;)

Cherry Cordial Cupcakes Recipe

* 1 package Betty Crocker Cherry Chip Cake Mix
* 4 eggs
* 1 box of instant vanilla pudding
* 2 tablespoons cherry liqueur
* 1/2 cup water
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil mixed with 5 drops of LorAnn Amaretto flavor oil

Preheat oven 325. Mix together in a bowl with a hand mixer until smooth. Fill cupcake tins 2/3 full. Bake 15-20 min until toothpick comes out clear. Cool for 20 minutes. Frost with milk chocolate icing. Add 1/2 maraschino cherry on top.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Curve Ball

Hit my first real snag as a single mom in grad school. They announced today that schools would be closed tomorrow due to a VIP funeral procession. And while I totally understand the situation the school is in, it threw my evening into chaos. I tried calling my local cousin but she is working and having been here only a month I do not know anyone else. I would just stay home with him tomorrow but Thursday is the day I teach and I do not know the policy for substitutes! I tried to call the prof who runs the course but it was after 5 and he was already gone. My parents are 2 hours away and they have an appointment tomorrow so they couldn't come down to stay with Boo, but did offer an alternative of meeting half way and picking him up.

Ugh.. not wanting to get stuck in between rock and hard place tomorrow, I went with going up half way. So I spent 2 hours in my car to get him up to Dad and will have to do it again tomorrow night because there is still school on Friday! ::headdesk::

This is a perfect storm type situation.. there were plenty of avenues that could have worked out that did not involve the long drive. Any day but Thursday I could stay home. Most days my parents don't have appointments they can't get out of and could come down. With more warning my cousin can rearrange her work schedule and stay with Boo. Makes me realize I really do need to try and plug in around here.. networking takes time though.

Monday, September 23, 2013

I survived!

I had a big week, since Thursday I had to set up, monitor and grade a practical for my course, give a formal presentation at lab meeting and of course today, take my first exam in almost a decade! The last time I was a student taking courses would have been Fall of 2005. So how did they go?

Practical - took all day but went well. Class average was lower than I would like.

Presentation - went fantastic. A) I had 3 different people tell me I looked gorgeous.  I went with the theory that if you can't be the smartest person in the room at least look hot! B) my peers said I did a good job, kept a good tempo and explained things. C) my advisor said I did well but there is always room for improvement ;) I'm taking that as a compliment!

Exam - was easier than I thought it would be. Hopefully that is because I prepared for it properly! I feel like I got a B... we'll see.

Now I need to process all my protein samples! But first... dishes aren't going to clean themselves (BUMMER!)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

No Rest for the Weary

It is almost 2am again.. that makes 3 nights in a row that I'll see 2am and have to get up with the 7am alarm bell. The reason for this? My kid is sick.. at least he is acting like it but there are no physical symptoms. Lots of crying and moaning, inability to sleep, not wanting to eat, but no fever or vomiting or headache. It's frustrating. He's in bed with me, has been for the past few nights, and won't lay still. So even after I do fall asleep, I don't sleep well because I get kicked and pushed all night by the whirling dervish. I wish I could figure out what was wrong with him! :(

Another time point in the morning, set up/administer practical on Thursday, present lab meeting on Friday, exam next Monday... ug not a good time for not being able to sleep!

Friday, September 13, 2013

My house is a wreck....

I've been up til 1am every night this week, studying, writing exams, and reading papers. Notice that all three of those things are lab work.. none of them are housework! So my house is suffering and I'm starting to feel the crushing weight of the mess. I really need to get lab homework done, I have a protein assay to process, will generate another one tomorrow, have 2 big sampling time points M/T, next Friday is my lab meeting (if you don't know what that means go here) and I just started to write my slides!

So I sit here trying to write slides but being distracted by the disaster of papers and books and toys spread out across my living room floor. I did get Boo to clean his room today but he still left a bunch of toys out int he living room today. Though I must admit the toys are only part of the problem, the vast amount of papers is the real mess. Between his drawings and my journal articles there might be a small forest represented on the floor!

Since I'm not getting to bed before 1am anyway, I'm going to take a break and clean my living room. Then I can at least focus on my slides and not be so distracted by the clutter!

Or if anyone has any magic cleaning fairies can you lend them to me?

So I can clone them and patent the clones to make ONE BILLION DOLLARS ::Dr. Evil grin::

The Hidden Fees of Grad School

This is another blurb I wrote but had not launched the blog yet:

Fees Freakout - Aug 12

I've been out of school for over 5 years, so there was a good deal of sticker shock for me having started this new program! I was expecting fees, at my last university it was about $300 a year. Plus books, all students need books. Well let me tell you something boys and girls, if a school is offering you a scholarship for "most" of your tuition, find out EXACTLY what those numbers are.

While my current school had only promised to pay "most" of my tuition, I was not anticipating the out of pocket cost. Between fees and the other 20% of my tuition it is going to cost me $850 a SEMESTER. I must admit, when I finally got that bill I seriously considered throwing this experiment away before it truly started. My budget is tight, I already have a roommate who while he provides lots of excitement and love does not contribute much financial support to the situation. So the extra $1700 a year is making it even tighter... very stressful.

The most annoying part. The bill just lists almost $400 dollars as "General fee" or "Administration Fee." There is no details as to what is this money actually going towards? I know where it is NOT going: Student Health Services, have to pay to use the clinic; Gym fees, have to buy a membership to use the campus facilities; Parking, yeah that cost me $300... sooo where is this money going?! Do any other students have this issue? In the 10 years since I got my BS, the student services provided by the university have been massively cut yet the fees have more than tripled! Personally I think universities should have to lay out where those "General fees" cause right now I'm pretty sure they are just going to coffee for the admin office.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A week in the life...

Sunday night, the last day of the weekend.. Boo is asleep and I'm sitting here watching the Cowboys play (What a crazy first half... be ok Romo please!). But wait, Monday is coming... can you feel it?! ::cues up Jaws music:: Now that Monday has reared it's ugly head I'm in full blown planner mode. Tonight let's take a look at a typical week schedule for a graduate student:

Graduate Student Schedule 

(based on my schedule, but while the exact days each of these things occur on, the amount of work is fairly consistent for most graduate students)


  • Attend TA meeting so you know what is going to happen in the lab you teach this week
  • Squeeze a short experiment for your own research in your own lab
  • Attend your class as a student 
  • Squeeze in another half hour or so of research in your lab
  • Homework: Read papers/write in your dissertation/process data/study for class/prep for teaching 


  • Relish in the 6 hours of uninterrupted personal research time in your lab (fight for elbow room with the other students in the lab)
  • Attend lab meeting with the rest of your lab mates to discuss what you've done and what you need to do
  • Homework: Read papers/write in your dissertation/process data/study for class/prep for teaching 


  • Work in the lab on personal research
  • Attend your class as a student 
  • Homework: Read papers/write in your dissertation/process data/study for class/prep for teaching 


  • Teach 4 hour lab to undergraduates 
  • Get a few hours to work in lab (maybe)
  • Homework: Read papers/write in your dissertation/process data/study for class/prep for teaching  


  • Formal lab meeting, someone has to present their research for an hour (food provided by Profs so you're excited unless it's your week to present then you'll be so nervous you won't be able to eat so won't matter!)
  • Departmental seminar (required)
  • Spend afternoon fighting for equipment as everyone tries to squeeze in one last experiment before weekend
  • Homework: Read papers/write in your dissertation/process data/study for class/prep for teaching   


While most of us would like to say we spend time reading, writing, data processing, studying etc. We honestly goof off 80% of the time unless there is an exam, presentation, or our lab meeting coming up in the next week. After all we are graduate students!

Now I'm not a typical graduate student. In addition to my Grad Student hat, I also wear a Mommy Hat. So let's look at the typical Mommy schedule

Mommy's Schedule

Monday - Friday

  • Wake up and spend a good 20 - 30 minutes fighting kid out of bed 
  • Get kid to eat breakfast
  • Make and pack school lunch
  • Make sure kids backpack is packed
  • Make and pack Mommy lunch
  • Run out the door, a few minutes late, and drive crazed to kids school to get him there on time
  • Go to work, and work.
  • Pick up kid from afterschool care
  • Help kid with homework
  • Make dinner
  • Play with kid 30-60 minutes
  • Bedtime War.. err Routine begins (fight kid through shower, brushing teeth, read books, tucked in)
  • Clean up the living room
  • Do the dishes

Once a week

There are some extras that occur throughout the week such as school projects, laundry, housekeeping, etc.


  • Play with kid
  • Watch movies/play video games/go to zoo/go to pool
  • Shopping for the week 
Now imagine combining the two schedules you see above and that's my typical week! Oh and somewhere I need to squeeze in sleeping and showering. There are not enough hours in my day! 

Go Cowboys! 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Late nights and early mornings

Like a lot of parents, I dread bedtime. The child actually falling asleep is parental nirvana, but to get there you have to run a tangled labyrinth through hell. Last night was particularly bad. It does not help that the package containing his magic sleeping medicine is late and we ran two nights ago. So the past two nights he has been up til midnight until he finally crashes then I have 2 choices - stay up and be a productive housekeeper and/or grad student or go to sleep. Night #1 productivity won but was up til 2 which makes the 7am alarm really hard to achieve. Last night I had a bad headache so I crashed before he even fell asleep I think! Was halftime in the game, and that stinks cause I was really looking forward to NFL kickoff! I blame the game's weather delay ;)

In addition to missing P. Manning's explosion in the 2nd half of the game, I also fell behind in graduate student work (and didn't do the dishes or clean the living room!). I had an exam to grade for the course I teach and a protein assay to analyze which ended up being pushed to this afternoon in the lab. This means that I did not have time to do lab work that can only be done in the lab with my time there. Losing wet lab time is a crucial error on my part since unlike other graduate students I cannot stay later as i have to go get Boo before after school care closes! I have 2 lines of plants from my cold stress experiment that need to be ground and analyzed for protein assay, then another set that need to be ground and analyzed for genomic analysis! All of which I can only do while I'm in the lab. Unfortunately, grading had to be done and once I finished with that I did not have enough time to do a full round of leaf grinding before the required waste management meeting I had to attend this afternoon. So I spent lab time doing things I should have done at home last night. Thankfully, two days ago was a kicking day in lab so I have only fallen about an hour, maybe hour and half, behind in work.

This is the largest pitfall I have found with being a single Mom grad student, time management. Those hours I am capable of spending in the lab need to be spent doing things that can only be done in lab! Though some days, things happen and child + headache > data processing + grading!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

They're here....

The Squishies have arrived!

This goes back to my old days as a Master's student, when the summer interns would arrive my friend started calling them Squishy's as Finding Nemo had just come out. The only time we had undergraduates on campus was the summer due to the fact that our satellite campus was so far away from main campus. This is not the case on my current campus.

When I first arrived I asked if the lab ever had tip stacking parties (For those not in science, pipette tips come in bags which are hard to use on the bench, so you put the tips into racks which can then be sterilized and easily accessed. It is a tedious task but important and something we used to do at my old lab as a group so no one was stuck doing it all alone). The answer? We will have freshman workers for that once the semester starts.

And they arrived today! We have two assigned to the lab (to add to the 7 of us already working in there.. eep!) and they are in charge of dishes, getting the Milli-Q water, tip racking and perhaps teach them to autoclave waste and soil.

So in a move that is counter-intuitive, today I left my beakers on the dirty side of the sink since if there is nothing to do our Squishies can't get their hours!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

3 day weekend!

Three day weekends.. in the words of my first grader "get me out of school on Monday and let me play!" This is our first 3 day weekend since we started school. He is loving it.. I am feeling guilty. Most of my labmates will be working on Monday. While classes are cancelled for the day, research marches onward and most grad students do not take classes cancelled as a day off from work. I on the other hand, am staying home because Boo is out of school. I feel guilty being home, I have plenty to do at lab! I should be working like everyone else. Granted, I will work from home. I have studying to do for class on Wednesday, I already have written the practical exam for the course I teach on Thursday and of course there is always primary literature to read. But, that does not get research done. There is no way of getting laboratory work done without being in the laboratory. So I sit here feeling guilty for being a decent Mommy and therefore not being a good graduate student! This is the difficulty with having 2 full time jobs! Balance is the word of the day!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Weekly Lab Meeting.. AKA the firing squad

Weekly lab meetings (WLM) are a common occurrence in university's around the globe. These meetings give the presenter a chance to practice your presentation skills, brag or lament your current research progress and be the center of attention for a week. This "honor" passes around the group each week with someone else being the vic...presenter. Basically this is grad school hazing.

Friday is my lab's weekly meetings, we actually combine forces with another lab that does similar research. This is both good and bad. It is good because it spreads out the time between each person's presentations. It is bad because there are more people to shoot questions at you.

This was my first real experience with WLM, last week we did an introductory round robin. "Hi my name is ______ and I'm a science-holic." So I had never seen the epic brutality of this rite of passage. Two PI's in the room means twice the highly trained and highly critical set of eyes and ears to eviscerate your presentation. They are highly detailed oriented and inquisitive. They will stop you in the middle and make you go back as they are still thinking about 3 slides ago. I am thinking this technique is to toss questions out rapidly until it breaks the students prepared shield (aka PowerPoint) down which rattles and throws the grad students off their game. And from the look on my labmate presenter's face it worked.

I am sure this is presentation boot camp. They apply the pressure and we break behind the closed doors of lab meeting so that at our defense/professional meetings we are unbreakable.  I never liked the idea of boot camp...

3 weeks til I face the squad. Shields up, red alert!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Laboratory Catchup

Having launched this blog a little later than I was expecting, I have a few blurbs I wrote on my computer but never posted. So I'm going to post a few of them to help sum up my first month.


Lab Catchup - originally written Aug 12

I have a MS in Marine Biology and Biochemistry. I've done research on coral reefs all over the world! I'm an accomplished scientist with first author paper and a few secondary authors. Despite all of that, in this new lab I feel like an undergraduate starting her first day in the sciences! All the little details of  proper laboratory research have been replaced with child rearing techniques. I have to ask for help with almost everything. My training is in photosynthetic biology, and while I've always loved molecular biology, I've done very little of it. This new lab is all about molecular techniques. It's a steep learning curve.


Update: almost 2 weeks later the times that I feel like a moron are significantly less than the times I feel like I know what I am doing. I've been bounced around on 3 different projects this month but I have one that seems to be growing. I like the days I know what I'm doing and how to do it when I walk into the lab. This current project is that way, I have learned the 4 techniques I need to process my samples and analyze the data without needing any assistance. Makes for much nicer days in lab, I feel productive and independent! :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

First Post - Background

Greetings all! If you are here for this my inaugural post you must be connected to me in the real world and care about me enough to read this! For that I say THANK YOU! For those of you who stumble upon this post from some other source WELCOME!!! This blog is going to chronicle my attempt at obtaining my PhD and you are cordially invited to journey along with me.

First a little background. I've wanted to be a scientist for almost as long as I can remember. As I grew up I realized how much I enjoy teaching people new things and decided I would try to merge my enthusiasm for science and my love of education. After getting a nice BS in Biology, I moved onward to get my PhD in Marine Biology (become a marine biology - check that off the bucket list!). Well life, as it often does, had other ideas and during my studies I became pregnant with my son which bucked me out of the PhD and quickly into a MS. The time I found out to the time I was defending a MS I never really wanted was 4 months. Fast forward a few years and I have a beautiful boy and decide to try and get back into the field. I was fortunate enough to find a job teaching science at a local for profit college, only one class at first but built to 2-4 a quarter. I spent 3 years doing that and remembered how much I truly do love teaching, especially at the collegiate level. Unfortunately teaching part time at a local college is not going to pay the bills. Having never fully given up on getting a PhD and that coveted tenure track teaching job, I decided to try going back to school! So here I am, a month ago me and my first grader moved to a new city, 28 days ago I started my PhD in biology. I'm working in a plant biology lab that uses molecular techniques to chase down what occurs during abiotic stress.

Which brings us to this blog. I am hoping that over the next few years I can chronicle the ups and downs of life as a PhD student and single Mom. Sometimes this will be venting, sometimes it will be celebrating, I'm hoping there will be laughs to be found in the posts that follow. I make no promises but I hope you find some good stories and maybe learn something along the way. If you made it this far, I hope you'll keep checking this page. Feel free to leave comments, I love meeting new people :)