I feel I owe the blog-world an apology for not posting more regularly. Contrary to public (and personal) perception, I do actually have a life out-with the internet, and it seems to be taking up more time than usual. Anyway, here’s the concise update of what’s been going down…
Adventures in London. A couple of weekends ago a friend & I took advantage of a crisp, sunny Saturday right on the cusp of Autumn and Winter to explore Hampstead Heath for a few hours. With the trees and vast expanse of space it felt like an amble through the countryside rather than a walk around a city park. In proper British fashion we ended the walk with a pub lunch (I was adamant that only a traditional pub lunch veggie burger and chips would suffice…but since this was a classy area of London I settled in the end for a halloumi burger on pitta bread with a side order of home made potato wedges). A special mention goes to LazyLauraMaisey who recommended Hampstead as a place to explore.
Evolution of a scientist. Whenever I feel that my professional academic persona needs an e-bitchslap I read the blog of The Professor Is In who gives young scholars (mainly Humanities/Arts in the USA) guidance on getting through grad school and evolving themselves from timid student to ballsy independent researcher. She doesn’t mince her words when dishing out advice either. Anyway, I was reading her post on Why Graduate Students Ramble and I realised something important about being a scientist.
Being an independent research scientist requires the ability to commit to decisions. As you reach the level of postgraduate your supervisor will give less input into how you conduct your project, they will instead give directives and leave you to sort out the fine detail. Which means you have to (a) make executive decisions (b) enact your final decisions (c) justify them afterwards to your supervisor. I’ve realised that I’m not expected to get every scientific decision 100% correct or blindly defend every mistake I make in the lab…but I should be able to present the reasoning behind my decisions in a coherent and logical way that shows I’ve thought about the theory behind the chemistry. The prospect of being forced to commit to my decisions is an intimidating one…but I’m determined to try it.
Coffeeshop crawls. It is an exciting and glamorous life I’m leading right now. During the week I’m passing the hours on my Chemistry project, experiencing the highs and lows only independent research can deal me. Over the weekends I’m migrating from coffeeshop to coffeeshop, endlessly redrafting my personal statements and sorting out the online graduate program applications. I’ve eaten a lot of muffins these past weekends. I can no longer tell if I’m writing insightful and compelling prose or gibberish…but I’m motivated enough to keep on at the statements. My referees and draft-readers have all been helpful and efficient – for which I am excessively grateful.
I made the decision to apply to universities in both the UK and USA and am completing the applications simultaneously. Most of my friends and readers are aware of the passion I hold for Philadelphia and the Eastern Seaboard of America, and of the fact that I’d love more than anything to do my PhD over there. Unfortunately, I know that I can’t be too fussy when it comes to sourcing and accepting postgraduate offers: PhD positions are becoming increasingly competitive and if I only apply to American universities with a >10% admissions rate I’m going to end up in the same situation I was in last year. So, in case my GRE results show no improvement or the American universities think an international student would be too costly a risk…I’m getting in my British applications promptly. My hope is that I end up with at least one PhD offer, ideally more so that I get to make a choice.
Keep on watching this space.
Spiritual Wellbeing. Now, with the stress and time-consuming properties of my current scientific situation you would be right to tactfully enquire about my work-life balance and general wellbeing. Well, fellow-blogger Kaitlyn (AKA FaunaWolf) of Me First Life Coaching fame came along at just the right time with an Introduction to Meditation class. I was curious and open-minded about it, so went along to see what meditation could do for me.
It transpires that it could do quite a lot for me, potentially. Even if the only thing I ever use meditation for is as a tool to clear my mind and improve my breathing I suspect it would bring benefits. Given the unhappy place I was in earlier in 2012 I think I could learn to deal with challenges, negative emotions and stressful situations in a better way. I would like to learn more about the different types of meditation and try to install 15-20 minute sessions it into my daily routine, hopefully to find out that it makes a positive difference.