Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Materials Girl: Where did October go?!

[This is posted on behalf of Materials Girl, who wrote this on a plane last Monday]

Time flies when you’re away from the lab and working across the country in an entirely new habitat! Spending three months in a high-security military lab showed me another side of research – give or take the differences in being a summer intern versus a full-time government employee… Fast forward past my eye-opening summer and the new school year is in full swing. Hoards of undergraduates line the halls while beleaguered grad students* trot amidst them. It’s time to buckle down, start another new project, teach new classes, maintain my lab & student groups, squeeze in conferences, and pump out publications! With a first author paper now under my belt (!!), I am eager to maintain productivity and graduate in style. At least, that’s the plan.

*Speaking of which, PhD comics made a movie – and I’m one of the extras!

Lately, YouKnowWho has frequently been away from the office, so my TA duties have been extended to super-facilitator/undergraduate-wrangler. Also, as the ‘Lab Mom’ and recently incumbent senior-ranking grad student, I’ve been running the group as needed. While this is all fun, it takes a toll on research (and makes me vaguely consider a career in management). Currently I’m preparing for my first major symposium in Nashville, TN, but WORK will continue in full force once my talk is over and my fingernails grow back. The esteemed invited speaker is right before my turn onstage, so my blood pressure has been steadily rising as the session draws near.

So, if I don’t post, consider it a sign of productivity! That, or my newly acquired sleep apnea machine malfunctioned and I died in my sleep. (No, I’m not serious about death, but yes, I recently was diagnosed with severe OSA, despite fitting none of the common causes such as obesity, old age, and being male. This does however explain – and excuse? – my issues with being a zombie who falls asleep during all forms of presentations, lectures, attempted study/reading sessions, group meeting, and once even a final (I had to retake the class). It also makes for amusing stories, such as when YKW woke me up in the middle of class with a question (and a smirk). Oops. I was partially saved from mortification by knowing the answer, and lecture continued as I soon passed out again… Oops.)

All rambling aside, I was recently given a pep talk from a seasoned professor with whom I recently began collaborating. He said I need to relax and bask in the relative ease of grad school, plus have FUN and make mistakes while I’m young. Hey, that’s why I blog here, right?

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