Annual Academic Review Time Already??

Section F. First question. Current Career Goals.

So far, the only question left blank on my annual academic review. What are my career goals? I reread last year’s review in which I wrote “To work in the pharmaceutical industry helping to develop medicines that help and take those that don’t off the market.” Still sounds pretty neat and different from what I’ve grown accustomed to. I believe I’ve grown up loving the idea of teaching others only because I had such a good experience being taught. I loved, and still do love, school and learning and I loved my student teaching placement when I had truly interested students. Though, once I had a taste of research from my REU, I wanted to find out more about that side of education. Now I’m in my doctoral program and I’m thinking about thesis work and what side of the work force to enter.

I am still in love with the idea of being an educator, yet I have become infatuated with the idea of a job outside of academia. At what point do you realize what side is the right one for a career? Is my decades-old desire to teach merely born out of familiarity or true ability? I’m not afraid to try industrial positions, I’d actually be very excited to try something new, but I’m worried I won’t perform adequately. I plan to do an internship next summer to gauge the quality of this infatuation.

How in the world does any one decide on a path and be able to put their whole heart into it?

Simulation Stress

 

\begin{rant}

Apparently, I need to babysit my simulation. I can’t seem to code it so I can press ‘Enter’ and walk away for a day. This is only the set-up part of the simulation, I haven’t even ran the methods on it! There’s always something that halts the process. This is one reason this reading/project has taken over a YEAR to complete. I don’t even know if my method works any better than the established ones! UGH.

\end{rant}

Silver lining: At least for each sample size I’m considering it only takes about an hour to finish prepping the data so I can study for my advanced quals. Not so true with testing the method.

The real perk of the week was finally finding all my REU materials that were packed away for the move last year! Now I can finally get back on track with those two projects. Papers for both were written two and a half years ago but one had a proof error that had to be fixed (and I haven’t found the written proof to check it since) and the other was being held up because I wanted to add a section using a topic of which I knew nothing. The latter is a statistical paper that was generalizing a one-dimensional method to a two-dimensional method, however the initial paper had included a section using coupling. Having been a math undergraduate with no formal statistical or measure theoretical training, I had no clue how to go about it. But now that I’m two years deep, I think it’s time to take another stab at the concept. I bet I’ll understand the basic concepts of the paper much more now anyways, it’s worth a revision. This was the project that got me so involved with statistics. Prior to the REU, I intended to go to graduate school for pure mathematics, which is why I applied for REU programs all over. I didn’t know what facet of mathematics I’d love and each REU had a focus, luckily the one I chose was more flexible for the topics. I worked on statistical and graph theoretical problems that summer, both of which I found to be extremely interesting. I then applied to statistical graduate programs and – ta da! – here I am.

This makes me miss my REU folks. They made my summer the best it could possibly be.

Now, regarding my current work – I’ve been debating topics to do a reading with a professor on, hoping that it’ll spark an interest for my thesis. Luckily, I’ve heard there’s going to be a course on smoothing this fall and since taking non-parametric inference this past spring, I was thinking of doing a reading on smoothing with that professor. I’ve also heard that model selection is on the docket as well. Again, too many courses to choose from!

On the home front, the house work remains at a stand still. I’m planning on changing that this weekend and continuing the demo process. Keith has really been the motivation for all that stuff because I get so tied up in my school work and don’t even think about it. Once he’s back in town, I’m certain the progress will pick right back up again. More pictures are sure to come! Now, back to work!

Where did that year go?!

Year two – done!

So take my plans for last summer as listed in my last post and put them here instead. Last summer fell away from me and I was caught up in so many things with family, studying for my basic qualifying exam, and buying a house (yes, a house!). This means that nothing academic really got accomplished and has been pushed off yet another year. Though, I actually got to organizing my REU research files and sent out the latest drafts to the group members! Not a huge first step, but a step nonetheless. Now, if I can only locate my handwritten notes in the attic boxes from the move. That’s the task for the coming week.

That research/reading on Cohen’s Kappa I’ve been doing since last spring semester is still going strong and *hopefully* finishing up this summer. I really want to do a reading with another professor but I don’t know with whom or about what. I enjoyed the topic of smoothing this last semester but the professor who taught it seemed a little rough and in a tumultuous time personally – and to be honest, I’m a little scared of him. I did my first seminar presentation/paper on smoothing methods and while it was confusing as my first solo dive into statistical literature, I think I remembered a bit of it! Very little though, just the main ideas. This time around it was MUCH easier to understand the concepts. Though, I think if I want to get into this area I’ll have to brush up on my asymptotics and convergence notes since that’s most of what we discussed in class. Luckily, we don’t have to have a thesis topic/advisor chosen yet. Even after two years of dedicated courses, I feel like I’ve barely scraped the surface and am not prepared to settle on a topic for the next few years. Time to branch out a little and dive into some new areas!

The Kappa reading actually led to a byline from my professor introducing me to a gentleman he did basic analyses for before. There was data he needed analyzed for an article and there I was, free graduate student labor. It was quite enjoyable learning a bit about the science topic in order to play with the data. It wasn’t a huge data set, in fact it was quite small, but it was a good introduction to consultation work. I ended up making a table and chart that got into the publication, which I thought was pretty neat! Though, it did take me longer than necessary to make the chart because I hadn’t made customized plots in R yet. With Google by my side, any plot seems to be feasible! You can find the article here as a PDF.

On a non-academic note, the house is basically torn apart after the boyfriend spent a winter within. Many weeks I’d come back to some piece of the house in the driveway, most recently the several layers of flooring in the kitchen. Below you can see progress chipping away at the huge half-bath that ate up all the prime kitchen area. Bye-bye bouquet stencil!

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Hello wall –Image

– So long!Image

With a recent vacation, this is about where we stopped in the demo process. Soon, we will need to start putting things back together. It’s been pretty fun planning out the new layout and considering colors and designs with the boyfriend. He’s been the muscles throughout these projects, thankfully! Also, the inspiration to jump on these improvements.

Well, enough for today. It’s about time I stop talking about what I plan to work on and just do it!

The rule or the exception?

Maybe I’m too new to graduate school, but I feel sorry for anyone who feels this way (Thought Catalog piece) about grad school. Sure, there are days when the stress overtakes every aspect of your life and you feel like you could quit, but would you really? I could never justify it to myself, I hope to never reach this point. If you hate reading, research, classes, and the academic environment, then why in the world would you willingly go back for more?! Am I really the exception and not the rule? Perhaps I’m biased because:

  • I love statistics and mathematics
  • Stipends are awesome
  • Because of that stipend, my only responsibility is my studies
  • I have my own desk to work at and so my books have a home while I can go to my own at night
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It’s much less empty now.

  • I enjoy reading
  • I’ve made friends that I’ll be keeping for quite a long time
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  • No Friday classes (Thursdays = weekends!)
  • Oh, did I say I love my discipline?

I will say there are some good points on there like #3 and #17. And maybe #22 for the first semester. I could give a more detailed rebuttal for the other 23, but I’ll refrain for time’s sake. Just ask if you’re truly interested in why I don’t hate my life as a graduate student.

Currently I’m troubleshooting and debugging my first R program for a project. I’ve spent all semester on this project about Cohen’s Kappa and today has been the first day that I’ve been able to devote to this project. I’m always torn between making some progress with this or working on an assignment that’s due in a few days. The homework always wins and this becomes back-burner work. As soon as I have something positive to show my professor, I’ll be able to give a more thorough description of this problem… just in case it doesn’t morph into yet another question!

After not touching the material for well over two weeks, it’s so tough to get back into the R code to decipher what is going on despite the comments I enter. I probably could do more comments than I have been, it’s just that when I’m writing it, everything is so simple and straight forward that I don’t feel it needs more commentary. If you’re an avid R user and have some tips or sites you use regularly that help you, please enlighten me! I’ve only begun this semester to code my own functions.

After this, there’s two more projects left from my 2010 REU program that I’d like to complete this summer. I have to completely redevelop a graph theory proof whose final version never made it into the final copy LaTeX code and I have no scratch work that was done for it – a big research taboo as I’ve learned. My research methods need to be much more meticulous since I have so much scrap work which could have important calculations on it, but I wouldn’t know it months after the fact. So once that proof is redone, my director can continue editing the paper that my group and I wrote up. The other project, also from summer 2010, is actually mostly done. I just don’t feel as though there’s enough new information for it to be published. But to do the extra section I’ve intended to do, I need to understand measure theory, to which I’ve never been formally introduced. I think some structure this summer will help me to get this all done. I hope to get it done also because these aren’t just mine – my group members have been waiting on these papers as well. Time to not be a slacker!

Survived the first year.

As all those who are also addicted to academia know, it’s quite difficult to blog while engrossed in the semester. So here I am, for once not completely worried with pending assignments and excited to be with a great group of people and the other no-longer-first-years tonight while we rid ourselves of finals-week-stress. My last final was this morning, well, actually a 9am-5pm exam but most finished early enough to head out of the department for lunch. We won’t know our grades for a bit, especially since this semester’s set of professors seem a bit unpredictable, but I’m feeling quite good about it. I’m confident that I studied correctly and I wasn’t just studying for the tests in particular because we don’t just learn the material and leave it after one semester. The qualifying exams require us to have a firm understanding of the core courses over the year and since this is my career, I might as well know it as best I can! It’s not like I hate this stuff =P

Tough part now is to keep myself motivated without any scheduled classes. I plan to treat this summer as if I have a day job (especially since I’m getting paid!) and truly spend those hours reading extra material, relearning concepts from each course, and completing a few papers that are in the works. If I don’t treat all that as such, I’ll keep putting things off since I’ll have an entire summer to work on it all. We all know how that turns out!

On the non-academic front, the boyfriend and I are continuing looking for houses in Rochester this summer after a short hiatus for finals week and other personal matters. I’m hoping that this whole process will fall into place the next few months. We’ve got a list of houses to check out soon enough and we hope to find one we like, at least enough for the next four years! I am so excited to have a place and a yard to improve and make our own. AND GET A PUPPY! I told myself I can’t get another pet until I have a house with a yard for it. At least living somewhere that doesn’t allow pets helps me to keep my incessant desire for a dog at bay. BUT I WILL GET ONE.

Festivities begin shortly, even if only for Kyra and I, so I should finally clean myself up from this studying marathon I’ve been involved in. Time to celebrate surviving my first year of graduate school! One down, four more until I get to wear the oddest looking graduation gown ever!

Quick Update!

Well. It has been quite a while since I last wrote. Tomorrow begins December and the last bit of new material for the semester. Finals start up next week. Scary. Midterms were 2/3 shitty so I hope to minimize this number for the upcoming tests. I love the department I belong to… and I truly belong there. This has to be my calling because I don’t think anything else could feel as right as having a concept click and fully understanding the material I read. The people I work (and play) with are amazing and are a ton of fun.

On top of the classes, I’ve been trying to finish up a paper from Tennessee my group and I have worked on for some time. Problem is, editing proofs you wrote nearly a year ago and haven’t touched is terribly difficult. Add to that the fact I can’t find where I wrote down a final conclusion to the proof… so I’m redoing it. Also still working on a second paper but I need to learn more on a topic before proceeding. But of course, these aren’t high priority when I have homework assignments due constantly so they’re not really getting done. I’m being the weak link in the group. Blah.

Though, I am perfecting my procrastination methods. Now I’ve just got to make them productive procrastination methods rather than watching TV shows online and playing sudoku. Oh, what happened to my ungodly motivation from undergrad? I hope I’m not burnt out already, there’s a few more years of this.

Other than classes, homework, papers, and procrastination, not much else is new here. There’s not much time left over after the procrastination takes place to do much else. I hope to find a more active hobby so I’m not sitting at desks all day throughout the winter. Ideas are welcome! Speaking of procrastination, I need to get back to my homework!

And it begins tomorrow.

I’m back in middle school, well, the last summer night before high school. I label and coordinate folders and notebooks for my classes. I fill my backpack with fresh pens and pencils. I make sure I have multiple colored highlighters for the different types of information I plan on seeing. Oh, wait… that’s what I’m doing right now… the night before my graduate classes begin.

Big difference between then and now? I used to be worried if I had the same lunch as my best friend and now I’m worried if I’ll even make it through the semester. And I haven’t even been to a class! Most of the students keep telling us newbies that we’ll be fine and we’ll make it through with no problem. I’m sure they know that hearing that won’t change any of the anxiety. Without the anxiety, most wouldn’t push themselves to be amazing at what they do. And so, I put those bad feelings to use by turning them into motivation. Prove to myself that UR didn’t make a mistake in putting my name on one of their department workspaces.

Keeping anticipation at bay.

Summer’s coming to a close and quickly, too. It’s a mere eleven days until orientation… for graduate school… because I’ll be a graduate student. Fewer days before I make the final move out there. Scary. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve examined my schedule and researched the books I may need. I’ve got the UR website mostly memorized. Is that obsession? Probably.

It’s crazy to think that I could have been moving to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, DC, or Virginia this month. I could have been packing my furniture into a U-Haul this month and shipping off for another state, but I’ll only be moving another 100 miles westward. My furniture has made it to my new bedroom safely and all that’s left to transport is a bit of clothing and myself. Did I mention I’m terribly excited? Because I am. Today, I actually longed for a desk chair, a notebook, and a new pencil. The smell of a textbook is one of the best scents out there. It’s 1am studying and 8am refreshers before an exam. It’s knowledge in a compact package, so much information. It’s group homework (or research) sessions with some of your favorite people. It’s that ah-ha moment when a procedure finally clicks after days of rereading the chapter. Such frustration and satisfaction comes out of each semester and every summer I feel so empty without that constant struggle. All I know is I better do a thorough job search once the hurdle approaches.

What has actually been helping me keep the anxiety at bay besides Keith’s antics and after reading the full seven Harry Potter’s (which was AMAZING) is the camera I got for my birthday. I’m getting my fill of learning while getting some neat results. Keith has talked a lot about photography over the past few years but it’s tough for that material to really sink in without practical use. Here’s one of my favorites from the first couple batches:


A thunderstorm came rolling in and Keith joined me on the front porch to watch it pass. The rain misting on the guitar gave it a neat look and I’m surprised I was able to capture exactly what I was aiming to. I’m loving the lines in the plate design, which is the most unique part of the guitar. My dad gave it to me back in high school when I was dabbling some with playing and now it’s Keith who plays it the most. It’s a pretty thing in both looks and sound. It was great to capture the curves and twists in the design that’s always fascinated me. There may be more favorites to share at a later date!

I’ve got my own August rush.

Twenty-three. That’s not old, right? Right.

I can definitely say it was great to be around family and with Keith this year, which I couldn’t manage last year. Unfortunately, all my friends have already moved to new places and this time of the summer is still quite busy for most everyone trying to make some money, so I will not be able to spend time with them. But thanks to my birthday and to my awesome boyfriend, I will soon be a proud owner of a Nikon d70 digital camera and even a lens to start out with! I’ve picked up a bunch of terms and tips from Keith over the years that he’s been working with his own camera and photo editing. Hopefully I’ll be able to really capture my new home for the next five years – Rochester!

Speaking of Rochester – it’s moving time again! August brings the joys of relocating furniture, my belongings, and myself to Rochester. The furniture is making the move this Wednesday (tomorrow!!!) and I’ve got less than three weeks till I’m fully moved in! I’m super excited to see the house in person finally, I’ve been looking at it online nonstop. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be meeting any of my housemates since they’ll be busy with school all day. My orientation at University of Rochester isn’t until the 23rd, so I plan on enjoying the time I have with the boyfriend before I’m back to my ultra-focused and super-busy self in roughly a month. I’m excited for something new, yet I’m terribly nervous. I can’t wait to get started! I love feeling like I’m moving forward and working towards something instead of sitting stagnant just working a summer job. It’ll also be a great feeling to not move for a while; just unpack and stay that way for longer than nine months. Though, this house I’m moving into will be just another temporary place for me. Time to go double check I’ve got what I don’t need these three weeks packed and ready for Rochacha!

The Show Goes On. Right?

The month since graduating has definitely not been boring.

A plus? Finally got a job. I’m back at Payless for the summer. It was an easy transition since I’ve already been trained at Payless so it was win-win for both the company and I. Since I’m already trained, my manager has given me great hours!

A negative? Recently, my car crapped out. For good. It’s repairable, but I don’t have the time nor money to do so. Actually, it’s kind of been a load off my shoulders so it could be considered another plus. I don’t absolutely need a car right now since I’m in Syracuse and public transportation is abundant and easy to get to work. The car was more of a money drain since I would have taken it to places where I’d spend money anyhow… plus gas. It worked wonderfully for my last semester at Oswego when I needed it most. That’s when it took it’s worst beating – 70+ miles per day plus a trip to Virginia and back. That is SO much more than it’s used to when I’m at school.

I’m still broke, but I’m not feeling too bad about it. I’m working enough that I’m in the green but I’m not out there shopping like mad. I’ve learned the ins-and-outs of being rejected for loans and credit cards despite great credit. I’ve learned the art of begging family for financial help even though I hate doing so. At least I’ve got them to back me up when I need it.

As for my research so far, I’m still working through a book on coupling. I’m terribly confused by the notation so it’s really slowing me down. I’m trying to read up on probability theory in order to understand the coupling book. I’m sure there is measure theory mixed into it as well, which doesn’t help me any. This is all in an effort to add another section to the statistical paper my group has been working on since last summer. The graph theory paper is in the editing process now, which may take until fall to become a submitted work.

And so, as things seem like they’ve been falling apart at times, I laugh. I laugh because there’s really nothing else I can do. No point in getting mad over it. No point in getting frustrated. Just laugh and figure out the next move. Why cry over something when the tears just blur your vision? Keep your sights clear and focused on a goal and push on because time goes only one way.