Jan. 30th, 2014

Right, I have a LJ

Today I accidentally filled the kitchen with smoke because I entered the microwave settings to boil water for tea when I was defrosting a bread roll. It was needlessly exciting. I also learned that we don't have a working smoke detector because it really should have gone off for that.

In better news, I have not one, but two in-person second interviews. Oddly enough, both are in the state of South Carolina, which I have never been. My single in-person interview last year was in Georgia. I wonder if I radiate an aura that makes me attractive to Southerners, despite my Midwestern accent and Yankee word usage*. The first, at a high school for science/math-interested students, is a week from Monday, while the second (a college looking for a physics and astronomy instructor) is later in the month. I need to start writing my 'lesson plan' as both expect me to teach a class (or a mini-class) to show that I can, in fact, do what they'd like to pay me for. I also want to consult with a few people about doing more than a board lecture, since I talked up my ability to use modern teaching methods in my interviews.

Tomorrow I'm also giving a lecture at the university here: more aimed at the physics undergrads. One of my professors also invited me for pizza with the undergrads after, for advice on grad school. Since the seniors will probably be starting to get acceptances/rejections back, it's good timing. I don't know if he expects 'Rebecca went to a fancy Ivy League graduate school and it has taken her over a year to find a job' to be part of the lesson. (Honestly, even if I end up teaching high school, and if graduate school gave me a case of the crazies, I did enjoy my time there, and my graduate assistant stipend was enough so that I didn't run myself into debt doing it. I could have used a better exit plan, since I ended up being more attractive as a teacher than as a researcher -- and had I a chance to do a year or two over again, I would have buffed up my teaching credentials and practiced teaching more** -- but as has been noted, we can't all aspire to our adviser's job.

* I lived on the north part of the East Coast of the US until age 10, when we moved to Nebraska. Most of those accent and dialect quizzes place me as one of those 'vaguely Great Lakes'/'inland northeast' dialects, since I sort of have a mix of both Great Plains and Northeast Coast in my language.

** Or started making deeper contacts in the field. I have a few, but not as many as I should have to get a research job, and I know people enough for them to recognize my name, but not enough to really find a postdoc.

Sep. 16th, 2013

Thesis defense: 7 days remain

I forgot how much work writing a talk is. Especially a long talk.

For a conference talk, I pretty much have one point I want to get across, and I have 7 to 15 minutes to do so. If I have anything that requires length, I do a poster and just have to give a short (like 1-2 minutes) and non-technical elevator pitch, and anyone interested will swing by to chat with me about the details. But for a conference talk I have a captive audience ranging from my adviser (who has been following my progress and has probably heard me rehearse) to 'that undergrad who wandered in because rings sounded interesting'.

The audience is a bit similar for a thesis defense, in that, say, a cosmologist might not know much about the rings of Saturn besides 'they look very nice'. Considering I have a cosmologist on my committee*, I need to talk for her as a general 'knows physics and astronomy, but does not know about 35 years of ring research** and does not need to know all of the details'.

But the length means there's a temptation to put all that in, since I'm trying to summarize a 200 page document that took me *cough* years to do. Thankfully, several friends sat me down after the practice talk and said 'you are bogging down in details, cut as much as you can from that and focus on the major points of your research and the background people need to understand that'.

They also suggested labeling the giant picture of Saturn we have in the room I'll be defending in with post-it notes so that people can look at it if I start naming ring regions. Which, hey, if I got it, I might as well use it.

* Rules are you need at least one person outside your field, so I have two planetary scientists, a theorist that models gas disks around stars, and an observational cosmologist. The last two have appointments outside of astronomy as well. (So one is both a Professor of Astronomy and a Professor of Physics, and one is both a Professor of Astronomy and Professor of Applied and Engineering Physics. For that matter, my adviser is the only one who doesn't have a dual appointment -- the other planetary scientist is also a Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Most people get around Cornell's requirement that you have a 'minor member' by a professor with a dual appointment... or an Earth and Atmospheric Science professor if you study rocks or something.

** 1978 is the earliest paper I cite in the dissertation.

Sep. 9th, 2013

Today's Accomplishment

Finished getting the scheduling form signed.

Look, you try tracking down professors for paperwork. At least the last one I needed is the one whose office is just down the hall from mine.

Now to finish these revisions.

Sep. 8th, 2013

Not Dead, just Defending

What the subject line says. I am actually finishing grad school. My dissertation defense is set for 24 September (well, once I hunt down one more signature). A second-to-last draft of my dissertation mostly exists (I have one more section of the intro to revise, then it goes to my committee -- previous drafts were only seen by my adviser*). I also have a practice talk scheduled for this Friday.

Still no job. I'm heading to a conference in the first week in October, and a few group members suggested I bring a sandwich board that says 'will teach physics for cash'. After I get back from that, assuming no job leads, I pack up, ditch as much of my furniture as possible, and move back into Mom's guest room until I find a job. (Academic openings tends to be seasonal, with most job postings going up around now. A teaching position would be likely to start next fall, while a postdoc or fellowship can be more flexible. But, since many budgets go from a fiscal year starting in summer...)

I skipped my normal summer vacation to get my dissertation done; I'd be happy to take the rest of the year off after this (except for sending my CV out and hoping someone would hire me, and finishing up my last paper). I'm getting back into art, and I'd like to do more (fiction) writing, but spoons are on reserve for finishing.

* Technically, I was required to supply a first draft to the entire committee or get their permission to waive this. They all told me if I gave them anything that wasn't ready to go, they wouldn't read it. A few were surprised this was even a rule the grad school had, since NO ONE does this in the department.

Jul. 30th, 2012

There are days when I want to pick up, leave Ithaca and go teach high school somewhere. And they aren't days when I'm sick of my *%&#*&!@ dissertation. Well, not always. )

Jul. 1st, 2008

-- You can now call me Becca Stareyes, M. S.

So, I passed my exam. My committee did ask me to do an outline for my thesis, with some dates, and we discussed whether or not an earlier project I did should be included, but I passed.

Today also marked the beginning of the Cassini Extended Mission. I celebrated by heading down to a toast with all of the Saturn people (except the summer student, one researcher and Steve Squyres, whose life has been consumed by the Mars Rovers, and, thus, has done very little with the moons of Saturn). I then fell asleep and decided that heading home for the day would probably be good.
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Apt Choice of Reading...

I am currently reading, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynmann. For those who don't know, Richard Feynmann was a famous physicist, and Surely You're Joking is a book of his writings. As it happened, the last essay I read last night was called "Monster Minds" and was about Dick Feynmann as a grad student at Princeston. He had come up with an interesting idea, and so his adviser had asked him to give the weekly seminar. And then started mentioning, "Well, I mentioned this to Dr. X and Dr. Y, and oh, yeah, Dr. Pauli is coming in from Europe, and Dr. Einstein doesn't normally come, but I asked him to this time", and Dr. Feynmann mentions being well and truly freaked out.

It makes me feel better. It's just my A exam. At least I don't have to talk about physics in front of Einstein.

(The essay had a nice conclusion -- Dr. Feynmann mentions once he started talking, he just focused on the physics and forgot about all the smart people in the audience.)

My A exam is at 10 AM. Expect a post around early afternoon my time telling people how I did.
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Jun. 29th, 2008


My practice for my A exam on Friday went well -- I got a lot of questions, but thankfully most of the comments were along the lines of 'organize your talk better'. I also spoke to my advisor and got some plots on Saturday. He reminded me that I am allowed to shunt questions off if I'll answer them later, and to say 'I don't know -- I haven't done that yet' and 'well, I haven't done that yet, but if I can speculate...' (in other words, to make it clear when I am talking out of my ass and when I think I should know it). Which is funny, since that's the exact opposite of my problem with my qualifying exam -- I would just say 'I don't know' if I couldn't answer it perfectly.

My advisor also asked me to make an Important Mission Decision for Cassini. Well, not an especially important one. Seems one of the observations we're planning doesn't have enough data volume, and we can't go begging for more, since the Enceladus folks are also on that day's run and they are short as well. My advisor's cut out all the obvious things, and asked me what the best thing to do to get rid of 1/3 of the data we take without losing much science, since I'm the one who works with this kind of observation. Hee! Power!

In under 48 hours, I'll either be getting a Master's Degree (and cleared for a Ph. D) or being told to pack my bags. I am a bit scared. Better then I was, since my peers and my advisor seem to think I can do it.
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May. 13th, 2008

D A-Day

So, I set the date of my A-exam (the date where I take an oral exam to get my Master's Degree and the right to start my Ph. D. dissertation) -- July 1. I've started reading up for it, and soon will send around the form that tells the grad school I'm taking it.

In happier news, I got a Tegaki-E blog, so see web-doodles
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