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Post Archive
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January (2)

*sigh*
Friday, January 7, 2011

Update on crazy
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2010 (45)
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In need of a break...
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finding the "Merry" in Christmas
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Down time
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The pump and science juggling act
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But I don't wanna go to work
Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rejections
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In reverse
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Back in the lab, sort of...
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

12 months of blogging...easy enough
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Open letter to committee head
Tuesday, November 30, 2010

By popular demand - The Arrival
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to do it all
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Cabin Fever
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Donation reward - new pics!
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Totally non-science news
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Why am I doing this?
Saturday, November 6, 2010
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Bribe time
Thursday, October 28, 2010

On the market - what to do with a priority score
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

DonorsChoose - more projects to support
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Oh, the guilt...
Monday, October 25, 2010

Priority Score Confusion
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Working from home sucks; aka "Preeclampsia for Dummies"
Monday, October 18, 2010

Editor's choice
Thursday, October 14, 2010

Let the obsessing begin
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

DonorChoose - start giving!
Monday, October 11, 2010

Careful what I say...
Friday, October 8, 2010

To dance or teach...
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tailspin
Sunday, October 3, 2010
September (6)

Challenges at the bench
Monday, September 27, 2010

What am I really?
Monday, September 20, 2010

A double standard
Friday, September 17, 2010

The Little Lab Bench That Could
Saturday, September 11, 2010

What I'm glad I didn't know before...
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Round Up: 8/29 - 9/4
Sunday, September 5, 2010
August (11)

Procrastinators beware...
Friday, August 27, 2010

You don't need no stinkin' permission
Monday, August 23, 2010

I'm still alive, just buried
Saturday, August 21, 2010

NanoKids!
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dr. O's advice to new grad students
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Open Letter
Monday, August 9, 2010

What you should know as a new TT faculty
Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tagged?!?
Friday, August 6, 2010

A little professionalism, please
Thursday, August 5, 2010

How picky is too picky?
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hello LabSpaces!
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
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Dr. O

After a frustrating year on the tenure-track job hunt, my eyes are still on the prize, and I've learned that sheer will might be the most important quality required for this career track.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Monday, August 23, 2010


It's been a crappy few weeks in my world, culminating in an absolutely terrible day at work, which then led to a doctor's appointment, and finally talking Hubby into letting me watch Grease with him on the couch tonight. (Like I said, it was a really bad day.) I refuse to get into that stuff here, since I see this as more of a science/career-focused blog. Plus, I really need to move on from the whole mess, and what better way to calm my nerves than writing about a topic as innocuous as, say, writing? Of course, there are those who might disagree with me, but I find writing very soothing. It refocuses me, gets me excited about that which I'm writing, and leads me into a very Zen-like state. I never worry about how things sound as I start writing - I just type. A sort of keyboard diarrhea inevitably ensues, but I clean it up later. And the whole process ends up being very therapeutic. So what better way to get past this horrid day than writing about writing?

Of course, I don't want to just write about writing per se; I have a bit of a bone to pick on the subject. Over the past year, I've heard a number of grad students talk about getting "permission" to write their dissertation. While I've heard this phrase many times before, I worry about the fact that several of these students are actually waiting to get this formal "permission" before writing a lick of their thesis. I DO NOT GET THIS ONE BIT. I guess it's possible that their committee intended for this outcome, but I seriously doubt it. Alternatively, the committee likely wants the PhD candidate to continue working at the bench until given "permission", assuming that work on the dissertation-writing front is ongoing. I just can't see the desired intent being that a grad student waits until the very end of their doctoral degree to write up any of their work.

On the contrary, grad students should be continually writing throughout their thesis work, one results section at a time. For papers, if possible. If not, then for practice. Writing is an art, and it takes lots of practice. You understand your data and results better when you have time to write and reflect on them. Speaking on those results is important too, but unless you can convey your message on paper, you're doomed.

So grad students, start writing now. Take some time - once a week, every two weeks, at least once a month - and write up some of your results. No results? Then write up an introduction and rationale for the experiments you're working on. Write up your methods. Write up results/conclusions for imaginary data (but don't mix these up with an actual manuscript draft later on). JUST WRITE SOMETHING. Please, do not wait until you're under the gun. I've seen it happen before, and it's a recipe for thesis disaster. Five/six years into graduate school is way too late to learn how to write about your work. You don't, and will never, need permission to sit down at your computer and write about your work.

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Disgruntled Julie
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My program is apparently bizarrely strict about actually getting permission to START writing. I wanted to be on top of things and write as I went... and my PI told me I was absolutely not permitted to start writing anything in sentence form until I had signed forms from my committee members. I've been making outlines of what I want to write and making figures, but I can't actually write. I don't understand this at all, especially since our program gives us only 8 weeks from "permission to write" to the actual defense date. But if everyone else has made it work, I guess I will, too....

biochem belle
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I have a couple of things to say to your program, Julie:

1) That's stupid!
2) How the hell do they know whether you wrote it in that 8 weeks, or had some packed away already?
3) Why does it matter?
4) What do they think manuscripts are?

Brian Krueger, PhD
Duke University
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I didn't ask my committee when I was going to start writing. I told my boss I was going to write, set-up the defense date, and no one asked any questions until my defense meeting.

"Brian, did you ask us for permission to write?"

"Uh, no..."

"Oh, ok, well it doesn't look like you needed to anyway."

Thanks.

I think you offer some great tips in here. It's always helpful to write on topic and keep an idea of what the bigger picture is. Unfortunately for me, that only came when I wrote up data for papers or wrote my thesis. It would have been much better to stay on top of it from the beginning. I probably wouldn't have been able to keep up with it all though ;)

Odyssey
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Great post! I've always found the whole "permission" thing stupid. I think it's really a misnomer. IMO, what the committee is really trying to tell you is that you've done enough at the bench and that you can now concentrate on the thesis. That doesn't mean you can't have already started.

@Julie:
Why let that stop you? You can write but not show anyone... Not that I'm encouraging you to break rules. Not me.

Dr. O
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@Julie: I agree with the others about this rule (obviously). If you're worried though, I bet you can start writing up some of your results under cover. Maybe type up a summary of the results and insert them into your lab notebook. That way, the writing is under the guise of keeping your notebooks updated...just tell 'em you like keeping a very complete notebook. Then, when your 8 weeks starts, you can compile all those pieces and work mainly on refurbishing and flow.

@Brian: My main concern is those who don't write anything up until they're at the end of their thesis work. I've seen several students wait to write up their papers, thesis, all of it...the only things they've written are their comps, and maybe a brief report or two for committee meetings. Learning to communicate about your science is a huge part of graduate education, and it seems to get pushed way behind the actual research all too often, IMHO.
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