Friday, August 1, 2008

Good news + updates

Ok, so if the last several postings have seemed a tad too much on the emo side of things, my apologies. I've never kept a consistent long-term journal before, usually when I write in a journal style it's because there's something significant on my mind, or something troubling me, and I write to sort things out for myself. So I guess that's sort of the default voice I've been adopting recently, especially since the last two weeks have been fairly high stress.

But just to show both (?) of you that I'm not always like that, this should be a pretty up-beat post.

So in the last five days quite a bit has happened. Monday morning I was informed by "Seahorse", the director of the summer research program that employed me up until today, that on Wednesday I'd be giving a 20 minute talk on the research I've been doing here all summer with my mentor here. Although I sort of suspected this would happen as 'Seahorse' and I had talked about it several weeks ago, this still induced a little bit of panic, as I still lack significant results from a summer's worth of work, even though I haven't exactly been twiddling my thumbs. Fortunately, to even explain the few results that I have at this point required providing a lot of backround material on the mathematics underlying my work.

While it was challenging to figure out how to provide this backround to my audience, several of whom had very, very little mathematics experience, in less than 20 minutes, I really had quite a lot of fun putting together a powerpoint with some humor in it, and carefully thinking out how I would try to teach material that it took me several weeks to teach myself back in June. That took up most of Tuesday, until rather late at night. I had enough time to practice it once in the morning before the session of talks began (all of the other students in my program were presenting as well, although for them it was part of a class project).

"Seahorse" made home-made donuts and brought them in for the talk session - they were awesome. I had two of them while sitting through a series of talks of varying quality (some of the statistics presented were frightening, in terms of the miss-use of statistical techniques and the invalid conclusions that were drawn. Biology students tend to have a very poor grasp on statistics, frighteningly. But I won't rant about that now). The talks all went long, and most were followed by quite a few questions, so by the time all of the regular students had gone, we only had ten minutes left before lunch started in the dining hall. Figuring that I was safe and wouldn't have to talk until after lunch, I snagged a third donut. Just in time for Seahorse to tell me to go ahead and present, and to try not to take too long. Throwing caution, and sadly my donut, to the wind, I launched into my talk.

And it went really very well. Quite a few people afterwards told me that I'd done a really good job explaining everything, and that they had found my talk interesting. One of these was the director of the entire biological station where I'm working/staying - really exciting. I even managed to answer the question she asked me at the end of my talk in an intelligent manner, drawing in part off of a point that another visiting eminent lecturer had made in a talk the previous evening (yeahhhh!). I was especially pleased though to hear from some of the other students that they had understood my presentation well; I want to be a teacher someday, so it definitely makes me feel good to know that I'm learning how to lecture a little bit (although I know that as a prof. I won't have all day to prepare for a 20 minute lecture, which will challenge me for sure). The only disappointment was that my mentor for the summer didn't make it to the talk. :-/ I always feel like we never quite connect when we're talking, and would have liked the opportunity to demonstrate to him that I really do understand what I'm working on, and such. Oh well.

With that out of the way, I switched back to working on my old paper. By now, I'm pretty sure that I have a brand new draft to share as a surprise with my old, amazing advisor/co-author from my college when I run into him next week at a conference. Things are finally starting to fall in place there. I've chatted a little with Seahorse about it too, and those conversations have been helpful.

Spent some time tonight relaxing (swimming, eating, swimming, cherry pit spitting contests, eating, volleyball in the half dark, etc) with the other students in my summer program, as the majority of them are leaving tomorrow :-( It's been a real fun group of people by and large, and I will be sad to see them go. It'll certainly be a lot quieter here after i get back from the conference next week. Several other students from the station here will be at the conference though, along with some good friends from previous years, so that takes a little of the sting out of things.

I've managed to secure transportation to and from the conference, which is great. Part of my itinerary involves visiting a good science friend and her fiance, whom I've not had the pleasure yet of meeting. So I'm looking forward to that. In other transportation news, I have a bike now that I can use, so I'm less limited to finding rides from other people, although I did manage to secure a ride to the airport when I get back next week, so that I can pick up the lovely miss Bait when she comes to visit :-D

The only other positive bit of news is that I sent out a letter of interest and my CV this morning to a post-doc working on a field project in the southeast who's looking for field technicians for the fall. They do neat work, looks like it could be a fun job. Got a response back pretty quickly, and it looks like we could be meeting up next week at the conference to talk in person. So in a few days I might know what I'm doing this fall! This would excite me, as I'm getting a little tired of the place I'm at now, and having a cut-off date would be nice, especially if it gives me enough time to visit friends in relatives on my way back home, as well as spending some time back at my old college with Bait and some old friends. I'll keep y'all posted on what I find out.

I have a feeling this has been a pretty long post, so I think I'll end here. Want to get some good sleep tonight, as tomorrow I have to pack up my belongings again, and figure out what I'm going to stash here for my return, and what I need to take with me for my travels. I'm going to try to pack really light so that I can be really flexible in the coming week; we'll see.

Take it easy out there everyone!

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