Archive for the ‘post-doc’ Category

September Scientiae: Missing Out?

Karina, over at Ruminations of an Aspiring Ecologist, is hosting September’s Scientiae. She asks bloggers to write about “…what types of tools other people rely on for their research.”

I had to think long and hard about this question because, honestly, my research is pretty boring when it comes to necessary tools. Why? Because I basically sit in front of a computer all day long. ALL. DAY. LONG. It bores me just thinking about it, let alone writing about it! The only thing I could think of to write about was how I use the internet for pretty much everything. Boring!

This makes me sad, and it sometimes makes me feel like I’m not a “real” scientist. I read other blogs where they talk about having to spend time at the bench, or their equipment breaking down, or traveling to do field work. DH also has a very hands-on job: he’s in the lab all the time, designing things, building things, fixing things.

Even though my masters and doctoral work were categorized as observational astronomy, I did very little observing myself. Most of my research was based on archived data. If I did get new data, other people (professional observers working at the telescope(s)) obtained it for me. I did do some observations using the local telescope, and I did take two very short trips to use another telescope on my own. But, that’s about it.

During my two short post-docs, I really wanted to pick up a small project or two that involved using my hands, being in the lab or field, even if it was on the side. I was involved with such a project during my first post-doc (with my PhD supervisor), but the project was only in the initial stages that all I was able to do in the four months was to order some of the equipment. In my current post-doc, the plan was to go out in the field once or twice to help install or fix GPS equipment. But, then Baby G came along, and the trips were postponed, and it just hasn’t worked out.

It makes me wonder if I missed out on something. It makes me wonder, had I had these types of experiences in grad school, if I would have enjoyed that time more and not want to jump the research ship so readily. But, maybe this is why I enjoy outreach so much. I get to be out there, interacting with people, showing them stuff that doesn’t involve me sitting in front of a computer.

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Zero Motivation

I have about 3 months left before I start my pregnancy/parental leave (November 15th unless something comes up like bed-rest or Baby G arriving early) , and I have absolutely no motivation to work.

The plan is to use Baby G’s arrival as a kind of a deadline for my academic career – my “get out of academia free” card, if you will. So that means I need to wrap up my work before then. But, I’m finding it hard to concentrate on working on any of my projects, and I find myself wasting time at work by surfing the net, reading blogs, and finding other new, exciting (or not-so-exciting) ways to procrastinate.

I know I just need to deal with it, get to work, and get this stuff done. After all – it’s only 3 more months, and then I’m free!!

So, what would I like to accomplish before November 15th?

1. Get that frickin’ masters paper submitted, and hopefully accepted for publication.
This one is out of my hands right now. I sent the most recent draft to my MSc supervisor at the end of June and am waiting to hear back. Just FYI – it’s been 5 years since I handed over my first draft of this paper.

2. Get a good start on my new post-doc project so that it doesn’t die when I leave.
This includes documenting what I’m doing so I can hand over the stuff to whoever will be working on the project next.

3. Write up how-to packages for earthquake outreach material
When I first started this post-doc, I was given the task to buy a bunch of earthquake-related supplies to create hands-on activities. I need to write up how to use these materials so they just don’t sit in a box somewhere, collecting dust.

4. Finish up a lit-search for post-doc
Another smallish project I was given was to do a lit-search on a certain topic, write up a summary, and include abstracts/links to pertinent papers. I got a really good start on this, then it just died.

5. Education conference duties
I really need to start and finish finding papers by Canadians who have done research on education at the post-secondary level in Physics and Astronomy. This work will be presented at a conference next summer, and then will be put into a paper after that. I’m also on the organizing committee for this conference, so I need to make sure someone else can take over my duties while I’m on leave.

6. Astronomy outreach
I have two events still to come – another open house on August 21st, and then another event on September 18th. I also need to decide what grants to apply to, if any, this year for the observatory outreach program, and I need to figure out what’s going to happen with the program while I’m on leave. Finally, I hope to secure an outreach position for when I come back.

7. Post-doc association stuff
I am a member of the executive for the post-doc association on campus. In all honesty, I haven’t done much, but I do want to make sure someone is able to take my place once I leave (or before).

That seems like a hell of a lot of crap to do in three months. So, why can’t I motivate myself to do any of it (except the outreach stuff, which is fun….and which I don’t get paid for :P)? Is it because the amount of stuff is overwhelming? Is it because I’d rather focus on preparing for Baby G’s arrival? Is it because it’s summer? A combination?

I need a game plan

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that research is not my intended career path – outreach and education is. Ever since I started my post-doc, I’ve been feeling like I’m back on the wrong path again…or at least moving away from my intended path.

I need a plan to get back on track in seeking out a career in education and outreach.

I am:
– heading up a steering committee for the observatory project I hope to get off the ground.
– attending weekly outreach meetings to keep myself in the loop.
– keeping in contact with a PI that might be granted funding for an outreach program (including a full-time position).
– keeping an eye out for any job postings that might be of interest.

and I can:
– volunteer for more outreach events, just to get my “fix”.
– put together some applications for funding the observatory program (this is already in the works, but I could do more).

I’ve also been looking into…perhaps…doing more schooling. By this I mean either doing a year of teacher’s college so I could teach K-12, or do a masters in education. However, the deadlines for both of these programs have passed for a September 2010 start, so I wouldn’t be able to apply for another year. Something to think about though.

Any other ideas?

4-Day Work Week

When I was negotiating my contract with my PI, I asked to work four days a week. That way, I could use my day off to work on other things — such as the education & outreach program I’m trying to develop for a nearby observatory, catching up on my reading and/or knitting, working out, or doing chores.

It was all nice at first, but now I’m finding it strangely stressful. I almost feel like four days a week isn’t enough time to be as productive as I’d like to be. I end up feeling guilty for not working on my day off, because I should be getting more things done.

I’m sure it doesn’t help that my progress is pretty slow because of the high learning curve. All I did the first 3-4 weeks was read, and there is still so much that I want to learn, but I wanted to move on to…you know…actually doing stuff.

I also feel like I should be performing at a higher level because I’m a post-doc now, and I should just know how to do shit. I know that I’ve changed research areas, and my PI is very understanding of that, but I don’t want to disappoint her either.

Another issue is that I seem to have about a million and one other things I’m working on. I’m heading up the steering committee for the education & outreach program, and I’m on another steering committee for a new education conference. I also want to finish up the work I was doing in my other post-doc, and write up a paper on that. Then, I’m a member of the post-doctoral association executive council. Oh, and then there’s the whole we-just-bought-a-house and trying-for-a-baby things, plus trying to keep up my hobbies of reading and knitting…and trying to get to the gym too…oh, and keeping up with my two blogs…

It’s nice to be busy in a way, but I’m finding I can’t concentrate on what I’m doing because I’m thinking about everything else I need to be doing. I know I’ve juggled stuff like this in the past, so I’ve started to make more specific goals each day so that I can focus more. It’s been helpful, but I still feel like I’m all over the place sometimes.

Sigh – does life ever calm down?

A Couple Days to Go

So, only a couple more days until I start my new post-doc! I met with my new supervisor this morning to sign the necessary papers and such. She talked a little more about what I’ll be working on (a more extensive project, now that I’ll be working four days a week), and it sounds really cool. Although, I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about what she was talking about! LOL I guess that will be one of my first tasks: reading, reading and more reading. She also introduced me to a couple people I’ll be talking to on Monday, and showed me where my office will be. I really like her so far, and think we’ll get along pretty well.

She will be away for most of the week next week, but she gave me a small project to work on. She has a small outreach budget from one of her grants, and she wants me to do a bit of research on what we can do with that money. I’m thinking we can get some sort of hands-on earthquake science kit that grad students can take into classes (or do as a workshop at the university). There is also a day-long event for high school students coming up in May, and she wants me to come up with ideas for a 1-2 hour workshop we could do.

I will also be working on some data analysis from my PhD/1st post-doc work, since we want to get a paper out on that work soon(ish). I’m giving a talk to my new research group too, which should be interesting.

As much as I love (and I mean L-O-V-E) having this time off, I’m excited to start something new and, honestly, to get out of the house!

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