Friday, May 27, 2011

Getting Published

They tell you in grad school that you've just got to get published. It's a good idea to also tell you how potentially painful that process may be, especially if you're first author. See, once you hit "submit" on that manuscript submission form, all thoughts about that paper disappear. You move on to the next thing. Suddenly, every step you took to complete the manuscript, all prior revisions before submission, and (in my case) the actual content in the manuscript just seem to evaporate. . .

This is a bad thing and I'll tell you why. Two to three months later, when you get a decision back advising "major revisions," you immediately wonder what manuscript they are talking about (uhhh, did I write that thing?). But you have to go back and make the revisions and comment on the reviewers suggestions and whatnot. So, it's almost like having to re-write the paper, except (thank god) you have an existing (although apparently unmemorable) template (your original manuscript, which has likely been torn apart by the reviewers). Then you set to work trying to remember what the heck you wrote about in the first place, so you can make some sort of cohesive statements about how you really know what you're talking about, or maybe how you don't really know what you're talking about after all ("the author is grateful for the reviewer's suggestion and feels that these comments would indeed strengthen the manuscript. Let me just go conduct a whole new literature review and re-write the darn thing..."). And then, when you resubmit, there's no guarantee that it will be accepted with the revisions.

But it's a necessary process. When I first submitted the manuscript, I thought it was pretty good. When I got it back with suggestions for major revisions, I thought it sucked. When I revised it and re-read it over and over again before resubmission, I thought it was better than before. When I got it back again for minor revisions, I thought I might just burn it. When I re-submitted it a third time, I held my breath (but not for too long because I would have passed out). When I found out it was accepted for publication, I breathed a sigh of relief. . . and then promptly went out for ice cream. See, necessary. If I hadn't gone through the whole thing, I wouldn't have had a reason to celebrate with ice cream.

Friday, May 20, 2011

On Your Feet

What do grad students wear on their feet? I've seen sneakers, flip flops, flats, bike shoes for those clippy pedal things....

fig. 1
What should we be wearing? Well, it's summer time. And while most of the world is getting ready to hang out at a beach or toodle around with their BFFs around town, we are probably slogging away somewhere (e.g., creepy lab; dank basement; the pits of despair...) working on all sorts of "fun" projects. So, in place of actually being out there having fun, we can be reminded of it. What's the best way to do this: why, wear summery shoes! (fig. 1)

fig. 2
"Make it so."

These are the pros: 1) they go with pretty much any thing (even a lab coat), 2) when you look down (which is fairly often as your grant writing beats you down) you'll see a vision of sunshine and hope, 3) they are relatively affordable, and (the best part) 4) all the cool kids are doing it. So you can tell everyone that despite the fact that you are holed up in whatever personal box of graduate student misery, you are at least up with the latest fashion. So there, get some Soludos. Go and at least let your feet have some summer fun. This post is endorsed by my research assistant. (fig. 2)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Disheveled and Disarray

Spending lots of time in a dark environment staring at a computer or at your canine research assistant does things to you. Living in the virtual classroom, where you can't really see anyone from the neck down affects you. Conducting meetings with important individuals that will help decide the course of your life for the next few years while wearing your PJs changes you. You start to wonder whether or not people will notice if you've taken a shower via webcam. You wonder if the person on the other end of the phone line can tell you are horizontal on the living room couch while discussing fundamental next steps to your research program. You figure no one will notice you haven't changed your clothes all day while revising two manuscripts, writing your grant, and finishing your statistics final.

My usual working attire
Yes, this is what working on a graduate degree full time through a distance-based program may do to you. Gone are the days of picking out a spring dress as your prance off to work. Gone are the days of deciding whether or not you will wear your hair up or down. Gone are the days of looking your best as you talk to the higher-ups. Gone are the rituals of beauty and (dare I say) glamour. *sigh* As I'm writing this now, I am still wearing the sleeping shorts that I wore to bed last night. I did manage to change my t-shirt, though. And I have ventured outside to get the mail and take my research assistant for a little jaunt.

But, it doesn't have to be so! For the next few postings or so, I am going to try and reverse the isolation-induced-beauty-and-hygiene-killer known as grad school! A few tools of the trade, special products, and clothiers will help me along the way....Flip flops, bobby pins, and ratty PJs beware!

CDC's Take on Zombie Invasions....or any other (un)natural disaster...

If you're ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tips to Being a Well-Rounded Grad Student

So year one of grad school has come and gone. While patiently waiting for my course work grades to come, I've been contemplating how to make my second year a bit more exciting and enjoyable (aside from winning the lottery, and the NIH, Hartford/BAGNC showering me with funding). And this is what I've come up with: hobbies. Maintain or develop new activities, un-school-related, to be a well-rounded grad student.

In the spirit of maintaining activities, I've signed up for the Army Ten Miler in DC for October. I'll be there anyways for a CANS offering, so why not get in a little exercise? Plus, I hope to do a half marathon at the end of the year. Now I just have find motivation to train through the long, hot summer of Texas which started about a month and a half ago....

As for developing new activities, I guess I could use a suggestion or two. Any thoughts? My research assistant thinks that I should develop new ways to entertain him during the week. He thought that was what my research was all about anyways. Hmmm.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Two and a Half Weeks

That's the amount of time I have before I go back to the University to work on a research practicum. In that amount of time, I will revise a manuscript, re-read a book on meta-analysis methodology, revise a grant proposal to comply with (yet another) change in NIH formatting, and get my six month dental cleaning. Honestly, I'd rather get the dental cleaning instead of revising the manuscript.

I think my research assistant would rather sleep away the rest of the two and 1/2 weeks...

Or maybe he would rather eat a box of cheez-its.

He's such a smart little assistant.
Either idea sounds really good right now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mini Success!

I just found out I received my first grant!! YAY!!! It's a small grant through the University, but still, I had to write a proposal, which had to be reviewed and accepted. So it's a victory.

Actually, I have to really credit one of my classes from Spring Semester. It was a grant writing class and it really forced me to figure out what I want to research and how I want to do it. The purpose of the class was to prepare a NRSA pre-doc proposal for submission in the fall. It wasn't a pleasant experience, but it certainly solidified a lot of my formerly nebulous thought processes.

So what next? Actually, I'm not sure. I suppose I'll have to figure out how to access the money I've been granted. Go grant-writing!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Two Semesters Down....

Oh, so happy to have this semester over!! That's not to say I didn't learn a lot of new and exciting things, but what a busy semester this was. We had to write a draft NRSA pre-doc application, along with completing our other courses.

This is what that experience taught me:

  • Researchers must constantly explain the importance of their existence and their work (*sigh*)
  • Not everyone will agree that your work is worth funding
  • Writing a grant application is a horrendously long process
  • When you have completed the draft of your application, you do feel a sense of relief
  • When you have completed the draft of your application, you do feel a sense of dread for the upcoming revisions
  • Writing a grant application is time consuming and requires a significant amount of multi-tasking to carry on the rest of your life simultaneously
  • Your advisor is like your BFF during this process
  • Having prior examples are profoundly helpful
Now, this is my second grant application. The first was rejected (sad face). One more very important aspect of being/becoming a researcher: Don't give up on the first try.