Archive by category | Materials Girl

Materials Girl: Where did October go?!

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.  Read more

Materials Girl: Publishing perils

It’s amazing how long the process takes to obtain [publishable] data, write an intelligible manuscript, and make it through peer review. Many moons ago as a new grad student, I did HR-TEM & EDS for some chaps at another school – a submitted paper had returned with the reviewers demanding better characterization. They were collaborating with YouKnowWho, so as the new and semi-projectless group member my task was to become the microscopy girl… The updated paper was re-submitted about a year ago, and the other PI graciously added me as third author (of seven). Today I was forwarded the following rather cryptic email:  … Read more

Materials Girl: What am I?

Last year I spent a fair amount of time at a local branch of Northrop Grumman, having fun times in bunny suits with the summer intern there (aka: tediously, meticulously collecting data on my liquid samples while trying to stay awake in the clean room’s yellow lighting and entertaining each other with chatter or games). Since then, we’ve been working here and there on a paper. Side note: YouKnowWho is going up for tenure soon and has recently been asking for manuscripts.  Read more

Materials Girl: Great Expectations

From an undergrad point of view, grad students primarily existed as TAs and nameless faces roaming through campus doing “research” and being “busy” (and consuming large amounts of alcohol). Even while applying to graduate school and pondering my future, the life and expectations for a graduate were just horror stories channeled by PHDcomics. I read them all, laughed, shared a few on Facebook, and continued on in vague disbelief.  Read more

Materials Girl: Year 2

Skimming through some of my first posts as a graduate student, I noticed that I’m really whiny! For example, there’s the entry on writing fellowship applications: I gripe about physics, grades, writing personal statements, and generally having to work hard. Ah, youthful innocence – or shall I say, stress without merit. Thing is, I wasn’t even working hard compared to what I’m doing now (mostly in regards to research). Last fall, I spent months just to write a few essays and fill out application forms. This year, I’ve already done half the work in a week, and it is of higher quality.  Read more

Materials Girl: Sunshine in June, but the lab has no windows

Three years ago, while still an undergrad with zero notion of “research”, I wrote a post that briefly pondered the summer life of a grad student. The following year I discovered that summer = vacation for the younger masses only. Now that the regular school year is over, I’m experiencing my first summer as a graduate researcher. So far, this has been time to catch up on the research that I neglected during the school year. (Apparently, a grad school B– = undergrad C– = failure + retake class = extra motivation to maintain straight As! Plus, TAing is awesome, even if in an often painful manner.)  … Read more

Materials Girl: Evaluation

Some say that you go to college to find out who you really are, but I say that undergrad is just the starting point. Maybe you agonized for the first couple years about your major, or you had your next ten years planned out since high school — give or take changes once actually reaching university. For those who end academia at a Bachelor’s, sure, that’s enough to get a job and to establish a career. From there, real life, and the real you.  Read more

Materials Girl: Conference etiquette

There often exists an unfortunate lack of connection between presenter and audience. What with non-native English speakers – bless them – insufficient amplification, convoluted PowerPoint, and all the rest, we all may find ourselves itching to be at another symposium. Unfortunately, leaving mid-talk constitutes disruption and some insult to the presenter. (I’ve made it a habit to sit unobtrusively in a corner, and to only sneak out of large, full rooms when the speaker’s back is turned.)  … Read more