Thursday, January 7, 2010

2010: Graduate Semester Two

*high five* if you get the subject line book reference...

One of my biggest "New Years" resolutions this year has got to be trying to implement regular, constructive evaluation of my work and progress. I need the self-awareness and motivation that I hope this will increase. In this spirit, I tried to put together a big big list of what my goals are for 2010, academically and personally. Things I would like to do. Things that I have to do, but hope to do well. Almost all of that list is here (it's long, no obligations to read it):

  1. Dissertation topic - I need one. Even in a vague incarnation. So that I can start directing my reading, and planning summer experiments.
  2. Graduate committee - this sort of has to happen after #1, but also has to happen before I know that I've finished my coursework.
  3. Publications - I'm currently sitting on 2-3 projects that, if written up appropriately, could almost certainly be published somewhere. I need to do this. I've been sucking at making headway, mostly due to procrastination, and this needs to change if I'm going to make this science thing work. I care less right now about where they get published than that they do get published somewhere, and that in the process I start figuring out a good system for writing. Maybe I need to schedule a weekly time for doing this.
  4. Finish coursework - after this fall's experience with classes, I've pretty much decided that there aren't anymore classes that are really important/useful for me to take, that I can't learn more efficiently and effectively on my own, if I'm disciplined enough. I wasted a lot of time. Now I want to finish off the bare bones requirements that I have remaining, and move on (there's some hope of actually accomplishing this by the end of this semester, subject to the dictates of the committee I need to assemble - see #2).
  5. Be selective about seminar attendance.
  6. Take better notes - when reading and in seminars. Things make sense at the time, but I don't remember them as well as I usually think I will. I also need to take notes in a more organized fashion so that I actually can find, and go back and look at the information I bothered to record.
  7. I need to start practicing generating ideas. I'm going to get a special notebook and write down all of my crazy ideas and questions. Maybe I'll keep track of how many I have each week.
  8. READ MORE - fewer classes for me this semester. I need to sit down and actually read through the stack of interesting books and reference materials I have fun picking out but rarely actually read. Same goes for journal articles. I'm good and finding and collecting them, I need to get better at internalizing them.
  9. Statistics - one of my old undergraduate bad habits reappeared this past fall. Despite loving my statistics course, I shirked on the reading from the assigned texts. I really need to go through this stuff, I know I would find it interesting and useful.
  10. Learn LaTeX - I'm auditing a seminar on this weekly.
  11. Spend less effort on classes and more on my own scientific interests - probably.
  12. Remember to be EXCITED about what I'm doing and the opportunities I have.
  13. Every time I read a theory paper, I need to try to think up a corresponding experiment. I've decided there's no one around here that's going to force me to think about this - I have to push myself to do it if it's going to happen. And this is a skill I dearly want to have, so I don't end up spending my life generating, but never empirically testing, theories.
  14. Table of Contents - I signed up to receive a lot of them. So I need to actually read them instead of letting them sit in my inbox for a few weeks and then deleting the backlogs.
  15. Learn about experimental opportunities at my field station - talk to people about what they're doing, and what resources, data sets and opportunities are available to me as I'm designing my own project.
  16. Hang out with more empiricists - I'm going to try to sit in on some lab meetings of another lab group that does a lot of good empirical work, again as part of trying to train my brain.
  17. Reading lists - I want to find a good way to compile them and actually make use of them, instead of just dumping reading material into folders from whence it rarely again sees the light of my LCD screen.
  18. Self evaluation - On a regular basis, look at my goals and evaluate my progress towards them.


  1. Regular exercise - this makes me better mentally and physically. I need to set up something regular here in the city; attending weekly soccer games on friday nights out at the Bio station didn't work well - by that time I was always just too tired mentally and physically to have the motivation to make it happen. I may join a different team here in the city; my cousin and I are also going to try to set regular racquetball matches.
  2. Break some habits - less TV, less eating out, a few other things
  3. Food - do a better job of eating regularly, more fruit, less processed stuff. I should do this to unwind instead of TV shows on hulu.
  4. Plan my garden - for this summer out at the station!!! very exciting
  5. Spend less time being stimulated - that probably sounds weird. What I mean is, not spending 12+ hours in front of a computer screen consuming random information and noise and visuals. I could use more regular, healthy doses of silence and existence, instead of information overload drowning out self reflection.
  6. Meet non-science people - I realized the other day that everyone I know here in the city, and actually the whole state, on anything like a friendship basis, is a scientist of one variety or another. While I love scientists, I really need more balance and diversity than this. Not sure how to go about it yet.
  7. Try attending the catholic graduate student group get-togethers - this might help with #5 and #6 if I stop chickening out.
  8. Sleep wake cycle - get up earlier, go to bed earlier, make both times more consistent. I'm a morning person, and I need to get that schedule back again, even though a lot of my friends are more night owls. I'll be happier and more productive.
  9. Correspondence - stay in touch with friends better.
  10. Say NO more often
  11. Do something creative and non-scientific
  12. Volunteer - I think I'd be happier if I were engaged in some fairly regular activity doing something with tangible, short term, realized positive results. Would make me feel less useless/pointless, and meet new people.
Might add more things as I think of them. This is a lot to do... but no one ever accused me of not being ambitious in my projects!!!

Happy New Years everyone!


Karina said...

Oh my! So much to comment on. This is quite an ambitious list of goals and reminds me that I still need to finish mine and post them.

A8. Read more- This always seems to be a problem for me! So many books/articles and so little time!

A10. LaTeX- After working on this short note with just two tables and nothing very complicated, I certainly understand its utility. I'm mildly tempted... but probably not tempted enough to try it in the next year or so. When you learn more you should write a post about it. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

A17. Reading lists- You should try organizing your papers in Mendeley. Or do you have a mac now? I forget. If so, you should buy Papers. Both will really help you organize and prioritize your readings.

P4. You're going to have a garden at the field station? That sounds awesome! I am very excited about being around for the summer so that I can greenify my balcony and work in the community garden. Recently I've been excited about terrariums, which is a great winter mini-gardening activity.

P6. Are you at all interested in babysitting? My SIL and BIL live in your city and have a 5 year old who I think occassionally needs watching. He's a social scientist and she's a lawyer (both profs) but they might help you meet some of their grad students who might expand your social circle. Also, SIL and BIL are great people and they have fun parties (there tend to be a lot of 3-5 year old in my experience, but still). Also, BIL and niece go to a United Church of Christ church that they like.

P12. Volunteering- I think this is a great idea. Any ideas what type of thing you might like to volunteer for?

Thanks for sharing your resolutions, Theo. I'm glad you're still blogging so that I can kind of know what you're up to. :-)

Ethan said...

Regarding A14, I'd highly recommend shifting over to using your feed reader for following Tables of Contents.

Transient Theorist said...

Ethan, thanks for the comment and the advice! I took a look at your blog post, and I'm convinced. Time to bump this to the top of my list of technology tools to learn about.

Thanks again!