Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Ups and downs
So lately I've been feeling very positive about my work and productivity. To summarize:
- I'm keeping up with course work for two classes
- I've presented at two different lab meetings
- I've attended a slew of seminars
- I'm making significant progress on two different manuscripts both headed towards publication, on both of which I'll likely be first author. Not earth shattering work, but interesting and solid in my opinion.
- I'm learning LaTeX
- I've been able to squeeze in select reading on a potential study system, and I'm feeding myself small morsels of a plant ecology text book and absorbing more knowledge on hierarchical modeling.
So I'm doing all of this stuff, and making lists and evaluating myself and checking things off. Which is good. Feels way better than last semester, and I'm more involved and interested in what I'm doing.
But somehow, all it took was a 30 minute interaction with my advisor while walking across campus, containing the phrase 'So, do you have any more thoughts on your thesis and what you want to do this summer?' and now I feel like everything that I've been doing is just filler, because I don't feel a bit closer to figuring that out or converging even slightly on a topic. 0 to substantial anxiety in under 60 seconds... yeehaww. Major downer.
I'm enjoying a lot of what I've been up to, even writing (!) which I often find to be a struggle/boring. But the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that I'm far too tool oriented. I like problems where I learn more tools - different programming languages, different mathematical techniques, more statistics or experimental methods. I'm fascinated by all of this technology... But I think I have to stop picking out projects based on the tools I get to learn! I really should be selecting them based more on the questions they're addressing... otherwise I'm going to end up being a hell of a technician, but probably not much of a scientist.
The sensations are very similar to my experience last year trying to pick out a graduate school/advisor, except there the alternatives were well defined and finite. This decision could be just as significant/important, but is so much more open ended. There's no way to make up a pros and cons list of insanity like I did last year. I don't know how to tackle all of this, particularly when it's so easy to fill up all of my time working on other things. Ugh.