I've never had to deal with tragedy or the death of a loved one before and I hope to never have to. I cannot imagine what people are going through who have lost their loved ones during this pandemic. My heart goes out to them all.
I am one of the privileged, at least so far. I haven't had to bear the loss of a loved one. Nor have I lost my job. I can work from home. I live in a small college town that seems to be safer than larger cities like NY, LA, Chicago, etc. I can go to the grocery store and still find toilet paper. I have a spot at the community garden and can grow vegetables.
I am trying to find ways to give back to my community and have been successful. Dropping off food for the food bank, giving gift cards to cashiers, and tipping well when we get delivery. These might all be small things, but if everyone did small things, then we might all be able to pull through this situation.
Through all of the darkness, I am hopeful. Hopeful that people will be nice and helpful. Hopeful that people will be kind and thoughtful. Hopeful that people will be understanding. Understanding is paramount to our civilization, to our people.
So as Ellen always says, be kind to one another.
I have decided to start doing more things for myself and to start saying "no" to things that are less important for my overall mental health and/or my career. So, what does this mean? Well, I've been crafting. I've made my own toothpaste, laundry detergent, candles, and I'm making decorations for my 30th birthday party that is this weekend. I got a juicer for christmas so I've been juicing and making a lot of carrot bread so that I'm not wasting the fiber. I've also been spending more time learning Spanish and python. I know this might all seem like a crazy combination, but I'm really proud of my crafts and I've enjoyed diving deeper into other languages (computer or others).
My Intent: to find more balance in my life, while also trying to appease the crazy person in my brain who always needs something to do.
If you are ever wondering what is so great about graduate school, read this!Read Now
Someone tweeted that they were about to start a PhD program but they have only been 'warned' about graduate school. The person asked if there was anything uplifting or positive that others could say about the process. Here was my response:
"You will make life long friends with whom you will share a very strong bond.
You will have experiences and see things that most people will never have the opportunity to do/see.
You will push yourself to new heights and learn a lot about yourself during the process.
I fully believe that graduate school is one of the most rewarding experiences that most graduate students face. In my experience, you get out of graduate school what you put into graduate school. I have put in a lot of extra hours over the past few years, working on projects not associated with my dissertation research, training/mentoring other students, and participating in extra curricular activities. From these activities, I have had opportunities to go to conferences, develop collegial relationships, and build soft skills that will help my career and help me achieve my personal and career goals.
So, please, if you are considering going to graduate school focus on the possibilities, because that is where you will find yourself being the happiest and most successful.
Summer for most means going to the beach, relaxing by the pool, enjoying the great outdoors. But for me, it means field work and lots of it. Luckily, I really enjoy my field work, being in the sun, and the people who help me in the field. Doing field work means that I don't have to sit in my lab all day, without vitamin D, and do lab experiments. Doing field work makes me happy. What comes after a long day of field work in the hot sun? Going to the pool with my lab partners who helped me in the field.
Of course, it is always difficult to balance field work, lab work, and writing. So much of the tweets that I see on twitter are people asking for or giving advice on how to balance bench work/field work with writing. It seems like the general consensus is to schedule a period of time each week at the same time for writing. That seems like great advice, but it isn't practical when your field work is weather dependent. When it rains 5 days a week, guess where you will be the two days it is sunny! Even in the rain, sometimes I still have to do field work.
Gah, I love my research and what I do.
Biostatistics have been on my mind recently.
This semester, Spring 2019, I founded DAWG, a group of graduate students and post docs that meet every month during the semester to analyze a dataset. This semester we have a dataset from a professor at a Penn State branch campus and he was never able to analyze his 454 dataset. So, we are analyzing it for him! There are four group leaders, each of whom will give a workshop (2 hours) to the DAWG group and there will be a total of 4 workshops throughout the semester. We plan to work through the dataset from raw sequences all the way to publication ready graphs/images and statistical analyses. At the end of the semester, the four group leaders will give a presentation on the data to the Microbiome Center at Penn State. My hope is that we can continue the DAWG meetings every semester, provided there is enough student/postdoc participation and datasets for us to use.
Presentation at SSSA, 2019Read Now
In January, 2019, I traveled to San Diego to give a poster presentation at the SSSA International Soils meeting. I met a lot of great people and I got to share some of my dissertation research. I am really excited about my research topic and would be happy to send a higher quality version of my poster (below).
Study abroad in IrelandRead Now
This May, I chaperoned a study abroad trip to Ireland that focused on the coevolution of land and people. The focus of the trip was to link land use in Ireland to it's history, which is complicated and has changed quite a lot since joining the EU. This was my first time being overseas and it was such a pleasant experience. I really enjoyed being a trip chaperone and I learned a lot about Ireland agriculture. Also, Ireland is beautiful!!! I hope that if I become a professor I, too, can coordinate and execute a study abroad trip. The trip itinerary was especially well thought out and I appreciated getting to meet researchers and government officials in Ireland. I am still processing all of the history and research that we were exposed to.
Post ECMSS feelingsRead Now
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to co-chair the Environmental Chemistry and Microbiology Student Symposium (ECMSS) 2018. ECMSS is an annual symposium at Penn State fully organized by graduate students that is free to attend. As an ECMSS co-chair, I worked along side the other co-chair to plan the symposium, find funding for the symposium, delegate necessary jobs to other committee members, and organize the committees.
While at the symposium this past weekend, I was asked by a member of my dissertation committee, what I had learned by organizing the symposium. I felt a little puzzled by this question. Rather than seeing this position as an opportunity to grow and learn, I simply thought of it as something good to put on my CV. Honestly, on the way home that night I felt embarrassed that I was so naive and realized that I needed to change my perspective. Since I have been a PhD student at Penn State, I have had several reminders that a change in perspective can change your world.
So, now I can say that by co-chairing ECMSS I learned that 1) I really like to organize events. I am really good at planning things and I like staying busy. 2) I am good at delegating to others. 3) I work well with others. I especially enjoy working with groups to find solutions to problems. 4) It is hard to introduce keynote speakers- you want to be professional but you also want to engage with the audience- you do not want to forget to tell the audience something important about the speaker but you don't want to have to read off of a notecard- it is quite stressful. 5) I would do it again in a heartbeat. I got to meet some of my academic idols. We were able to host a lunch workshop by Dr. Michael Alley, who talked to us about making presentations that are memorable and award worthy. I had so much fun and attendees were so kind and supportive. It was truly a wonderful experience.
For my birthday, my boyfriend took me to see Niagra Falls. I went once when I was a baby, so of course, I do not remember anything. Many people see the Falls, but only a few get to see snow and ice, too! We stayed in Buffalo, since it was only a short drive to the falls from the city. The parts of Buffalo that we saw reminded me of Asheville, NC- kind of funky with a lot of character. One of the most fun parts of the trip was to go ice-skating. :) I've only been once before- in a mall in Florida... Much different than ice-skating outside with snow on the ground. So much laughter and fun.
So many things to do and so little time to do them... I made a list of all the things that I need to complete this semester, along with taking two classes. My list is intimidating, but possible. One thing that cannot be stated enough is that grad school and research are all about the little things. If you cannot find solace in getting a good grade on a test or finally getting your DNA to amplify after 20 PCR runs, then what is the point? The big things-the goals are good to work towards but you have to celebrate the mini-milestones in-between. Without those small celebrations it is easy to lose your drive because you do not feel like your accomplishing anything, when in fact it is just the opposite. You just have to change your perspective. Rome was not built in a day and your research will not be perfect. Things will go wrong or take more time than you originally anticipated. If it weren't difficult, it would be boring and everyone could do it. Persevering through the struggles of having to re-run an experiment because you forgot one small detail or missing a symbol in your R script that causes you go waste an entire day trying to de-bunk your code makes us into better researchers and mentors. We learn to be humble and to appreciate our work and the work of others. It is in grad school that we learn how to build upon the successes of our predecessors and become the mentors that we admire.
Good luck to everyone this semester! I hope you all are productive and succeed in whatever you are doing!