Archive for the 'Late-stage PhD student' category

Never Touch a Grad Student's Radio

Apr 11 2013 Published by under Late-stage PhD student

I know. The title should probably say Winamp Pandora or Spotify or something a little bit more current. But, this was a mistake I made years ago during my pregrad school days when as a tech I had anointed myself lab DJ. I walked around like I owned the place--playing my CDs (remember those?) and changing the radio station at whim with so little as a peep of protestation from other lab members. Since no one ever said anything--at least, not to my face--I just assumed people were cool with my music choices.

On this particular occasion, the offending song was a cover of Roxette's Listen to your, I don't think you can really blame me for changing the station.

No, but this song was different, you see, because as soon as I touched the dial I heard this:

""Excuuuuuse me. Were you raised in a barn? I was listening to that."

I froze. Things got real quiet in the lab. I don't think I had ever been admonished like that in my life. Caught somewhere between the urge to start bah-ing like a sheep and actually feeling sheepish, I mumbled through an apology and told the grad student that I didn't really appreciate the dig at how my parents raised me. Then, I backed out of the room mad tentatively.

Anyway, moral of the story: Not everyone has impeccable tast Don't be an inconsiderate jerk. And have a democratic process in place for electing the lab DJ.

4 responses so far

Permission to write

Mar 27 2013 Published by under Late-stage PhD student


funny gifs'''

Writing a thesis should only take a couple of weeks, right?

4 responses so far

Communicating science in my native tongue

Mar 15 2013 Published by under Asian Americanism, Late-stage PhD student

Several months ago Drug Monkey asked me this:

Communicating science is tough as it is, never mind doing it in my native tongue. Especially, as I'm embarrassed to admit, when my spoken Vietnamese is atrophying like a disused muscle and my written skills are, well, nothing to write home about.

One of the reasons I started science blogging was a compromise to my father. In the minds of many Vietnamese immigrant parents--this probably extends to other ethnic groups as well--only four career options exist for their children: doctor, lawyer, engineer, or garbage man. No disrespect intended toward my fellow waste collectors, but this is the view of many of our parents. However, my father's dreams for me went a little against the grain since he wanted me to be a journalist. You can only begin to imagine how perplexing it was for me that my dad was disappointed in my affinity for the sciences. Of course, while blogging was an attempt at finding middle ground with my dad, the central irony in all of this is that my writing isn't really geared towards him. His English is only a hair better than my Vietnamese. Now, that's not to say we don't talk science at all. In fact, many of our conversations range from science news he's read on Vietnamese-language websites--some of which require elaboration if not outright debunking--to the details of my own thesis project.

Our conversations, however, can be a maddeningly staccato, mish-mash of Vienglish (I know, it lacks that certain yo no sé qué of "Spanglish"), with me attached to either my phone or computer ready to consult Google translate and my dad with his four hardcover Vietnamese-English dictionaries open and ready at his fingertips. But despite this, talking about science is one of the more rewarding experiences I get to share with my dad. For one thing, I practice using simpler analogies and try to find culturally-relevant examples to get around the language barrier. Recently, for instance, while on the topic of fermentation we talked about my dad's perfected recipe for making dưa chua*, a Vietnamese specialty of pickled mustard greens.


Even more rewarding than honing my own communication skills, however, is being able to witness my father's inquisitive mind at work. We're talking about someone whose formal education ended somewhere in grade school. His questions and insights from our countless conversations tell me that the limit of one's curiosity isn't set by their level of education.

As for my father, I have to believe he enjoys our scientific conversations, as well. Otherwise, he wouldn't be making cheat sheets like this one:

cheat sheet

*not my dad's recipe.



9 responses so far

Undergrads say the darnedest things

Mar 05 2013 Published by under Late-stage PhD student

Overhead this gem from our undergrad who presented at lab meeting this morning:

"I'm learning by failing a lot and redoing everything."

Welcome to science, buddy.

3 responses so far

When an experiment works...

Mar 01 2013 Published by under Late-stage PhD student

...but you're the only member of the lab.


2 responses so far

Vetting My Outsider Reader Candidates

Feb 22 2013 Published by under Late-stage PhD student

I recently went through the process of choosing an outside reader for my PhD thesis. An outside reader is generally faculty from another institution (or sometimes another department) that is brought in “to keep the "inside" people honest, and make sure wacky things aren't going on.” Keep the funny business to a minimum.

Anyway, this was something I took fairly seriously. Influenced, perhaps, by my recent obsession with The West Wing, I came up with a shortlist of candidates and put them through vetting that would make the selection process of some vice presidential nominees look like child’s play (looking at you, McCain ‘08).
I applied multiple litmus tests to the candidates, such as how hir area of expertise would complement the expertise already present on my thesis advisory committee, hir working relationship with my PI, hir proximity to my institution, and of course, hir h-index (kidding). The process, in fact, wasn’t so dissimilar to picking faculty for my thesis advisory committee.

If you went through this as well, I’d like to hear how you chose your outside reader? What were some of your considerations? Or was it just another box to check off?

8 responses so far

#Altcareer in Mixology

Feb 21 2013 Published by under Late-stage PhD student

For all of you PhD's-to-be,

Here are 7 charts depicting the state of the job market for young scientists...just to bum you out a little. Fun stuff.

On a brighter note, if this whole "biology-PhD-career" thing doesn't pan out I think I might have a promising future in mixology.

Behold my latest creation: The Pink Martinez.



No responses yet

Landscape-to-portrait switcheroo

Feb 07 2013 Published by under Late-stage PhD student

If you're like me then you probably prefer reading papers in, well...paper form. Even though I fancy myself a pro-digital kind of guy, I don't really enjoy reading pdf's on a monitor. Not being able to see the whole page of a paper onscreen just kills me. Yes, I know I can zoom out, but then the font's all extra tiny and shiz. Also, scrolling up and down is a pain in the ass.

Then, I noticed what a fellow grad student in the lab did, which I hadn't thought of before. He took his monitor and pulled the ol' landscape-to-portrait switcheroo. Boom, problem solved.

Portrait Monitor

Just turn the monitor dawg

*** UPDATE ***

The same graduate student just reminded me that PubReader offers an enjoyable web-based reading experience for papers archived with PMC--independent of monitor orientation.

5 responses so far

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