Monday, May 31, 2010

Celebration (Scientiae, June 2010)

This months Scientiae topic is "celebration." I'm facing a lot of personal and professional challenges right now, so it's a good time to force me to look at what's going well.

Professionally, I feel like I'm finally seeing where I want to go. I love writing and words. I always have. But I have also always loved learning how things work and analyzing the bejeezus out of them. In undergrad, I chose to pursue science because I knew I'd get to learn about and analyze the natural world. I also that scientists have to write a lot. Little did I know of the chasm between the writing I loved in English class and scientific writing. If I wrote a paper in scientific style for any other audience, it'd be burned in horror.

I've also noticed throughout my education that scientists and non-scientists often have difficulty communicating effectively. Each side has a hard time putting themselves in the other's shoes. Scientists want the public to be more informed, and the public wants scientists to explain things more clearly. When one side or the other lacks the ability or inclination to remedy the situation, an intermediary can help.

That's what I want to be. I want to be the middle-(wo)man who helps people see how science impacts their lives and helps scientists understand the needs of society. I want to write about science for a less specialized and non-scientist audience. Given my recent aimlessness, this realization is certainly cause for celebration. It has renewed my enthusiasm for learning and research. I'm really enjoying my copy-editing class and I'm making much better progress toward my PhD on a more consistent basis.

I don't need a PhD to be a science writer, but it wouldn't hurt to have the credential and the time in graduate school may supply many more professional development opportunities. With those extra experiences in hand, I'd have a better chance of finding a suitable job when I graduate, and I'd maintain financial security and flexibility in my schedule and location in the mean time.

Personally, I've been committing more time to things I enjoy. I'm writing more, I'm reading more, I'm traveling more, and I'm more physically active. I've read more books this year so far than I did all of last year, or maybe even in the last two years. I'm riding 75 miles next Sunday. I recently received my yellow belt in jujitsu, which I attend reguarly when I'm in Grad School Town. I spend all of spring break on the east coast with friends just for fun. Before last November, I don't remember taking any trips that were just for fun. They were all family vacations or work-related.

It's incredibly liberating to chase my dreams and passions. None of it is without stress or worry (because those are present no matter what), but it is all completely worth it. I am much happier for following my heart even if it means taking a (sometimes significant) chance and hoping it works. After all, if I won't take risks to be happy, what's the point in having dreams?

See the rest of the carnival, June Scientiae Carnival: We’re Having a Party, at Rocket Scientista.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Catching up

Today was a mixed bag. I got some work done, but not as much as I hoped. I'd be working on some programs right now if I could log in to the damn department computer cluster!

Despite my modest programming progress, I don't feel too bad about today. I replaced a few parts on my road bike so it's ready to ride and possibly ready for my big ride in a couple of weeks. I'll take it out for some laps around a park up the road even though it'll be hot again tomorrow (mid-80s for a high and sunny). I also got some much-needed extra sleep this morning.

I'm working on finding a routine here even though it's kind of futile when the circumstances are so fluid. I at least set up a pseudo-office in my bedroom: an office chair and a couple of TV trays. If I run out of "desk" space, my parents have two more TV trays :P. At first I was annoyed with the arrangement, but I think it's growing on me. It's kind of cozy.

Tomorrow will be a bit of a broken day with a doctor appointment and a bike ride, but that may not be bad. It won't give me enough continuous time programming to want to beat myself over the head with my laptop.

I'm really excited to get out on my bike tomorrow :D.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Summer... break?

The semester is finally over and I have chaotic plans for the summer. The foundation involves bouncing around the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic US. Then I'll fill time between travel with everything else.

It's already started. Actually, it started before the semester truly ended. I spent a week and a half in Wisconsin, after the end of classes and before my sole final exam, helping my parents while my dad started chemo. I've been in Grad School Town for a week and a half. Naturally, I'm leaving again tomorrow for Wisconsin. I'll be there three weeks this time for various events that happen to be spaced a few days apart and another week of heavy chemo for my dad.

Beyond the next few weeks, I have a trip to Tennessee in August and a trip to Virginia and DC at some point. I don't have many solid plans--just an idea of what I want and need to do. The only reason I know when I'll be in Tennessee is because someone else planned the timing. I hope to make it to New York, too, but that might have to wait until the fall.

Filling in between the travel, I'm taking a class on copy-editing through mid-late July. I like writing and I want to take advantage of free classes while I have the chance. It can't hurt to improve my self-editing skills, plus I might want to be a science writer after grad school.

I also met with my advisor this week to set some research goals. We want a full draft of the paper from my MS by June 4th at 5pm. I know I've set goals like this before, but this one feels more reasonable. I really want to get this out of the way so I can move on to the next step. I'm talking about the prelim, of course. I'll spend the rest of the summer preparing that so I am not required to take a class in the fall.

Then there's random bike events, which are mostly not planned yet. I'm registered for a 75-mile ride in Milwaukee on June 6th as part of the Ride for the Arts. I'll attend jujitsu when I get a chance in Grad School Town. When I'm in Wisconsin, I'll spend time with my family and help my parents keep up with their lives. I also hope to fit in some cooking, reading, hiking, writing, movies, and dancing.

It'll be a packed few months, for sure! I think I'll make it... :P