A Grad School Summer

It’s been a full year of graduate school and about 4 months since my last post, so the time seemed ripe to finally write again. My goal for this year is to update more regularly (and remember to actually tweet) – we’ll see how this goes.

So, what have I been up to this whole time? My non-graduate student friends tend to mistakenly think that since I’m still in school, I have the summer off and, based on my Facebook photos, have been living in a tree on a mountain somewhere. I wish. While I have spent a lot of time atop various mountains (I am a dedicated weekend warrior), it hasn’t all been fun and camping. Here’s what my first summer of graduate school looked like:

  • summer field course on identification, classification, and genesis of northern California soils from late June-mid July
SSC 205: Many soil pits were dug
  • setting up a VERY OLD gas chromatograph (tool I use to measure rates of N fixation and denitrification) to work in my lab…still a work in progress
  • slowly chipping away at the herculean task of organizing our lab into the efficient space every grad student dreams of. Sans lab manager, this is a tough job!
  • back to the east coast for less than a week to see my friends/family
Proof that I a) have beautiful friends and b) own clothes other than hiking pants
  • grant proposal writing – gotta get those research dollars
  • learning to extract DNA from soil and re-learning quantitative PCR
  • helping my brilliant housemate and fellow NSF graduate research fellow, Kelsey Wood¬†organize a workshop for NSF GRFP applicants in our departments – she has done the bulk of the planning and has done just a fantastic job
  • project planning – it sounds silly and can make me feel useless, but a lot of my time this summer was spent reading papers, taking notes, trying to wrap my head around ideas, and eventually come up with hypotheses and plan ways to test them. I think this aspect of grad school is overlooked by those not in it. Being a scientist does not mean I am full of big, brilliant thoughts and just run around in a lab to test them. I spend a lot of time reading and processing in order to have even tiny, somewhat novel thoughts. Project planning takes time.
  • helping a good friend out with fieldwork that has taken us from the Sierra Nevadas to the southern Cascades – not a hard sell
Photo credit: Toby Maxwell
  • training to run the Napa Valley Ragnar Relay – it’s on Friday! We’re running from San Francisco to Calistoga! 205 miles! I’m running 12.4 of those miles! In case you couldn’t tell, I am incredibly excited.
  • and okay, yes, a lot of camping and backpacking. When in northern California…
It’s been a busy summer, and it’s not over yet (because UC Davis is a strange place where classes don’t start til October 2). Sometimes I felt like I had nothing to do and way too much time, and sometimes (like right now) I felt like I had way too much to do and no time. Time management in graduate school is tricky business – we have absolute freedom, which is both a blessing and a curse. But that, my friends, is a subject for another day.

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