Posted by: unlikelygrad | April 10, 2014


Today, right after lunch, I meet with my committee to talk about my thesis proposal.  Writing the beast has made me realize exactly how much I have accomplished, even though I still don’t have a first author paper.  (I’m working on it and I hope that that will change soon!)  I was very happy to hear that the “proposal defense” was not an adversarial process.


Yesterday I was in with Dr. Hand-Waver, going over my presentation for today, when the provost and the department head stopped by.  Evidently her promotion was authorized yesterday afternoon; she’s now a full professor. So congratulations, Dr. Hand-Waver!!

Posted by: unlikelygrad | March 31, 2014

Welcome little one!

MacGyverina had her baby girl  last weekend!  I went over to the hospital yesterday and held the Adorable One for half an hour.

I always forget how small they are when they come out.  When I picked her up, I asked MacG if she were smaller than usual.  No–she was over 7 pounds.  That’s not small for a newborn, but it is small for a human being in general.

We haven’t submitted our paper yet (still waiting for Dr. HW’s final approval–she’s been swamped and is going out of town this week) but it’s mostly put together.  We’ve even started filling out the submission form.

In the mean time, I’m writing like mad.

Posted by: unlikelygrad | March 21, 2014

The changing face of the Hand-Waver lab

For a long time, the Hand-Waver lab consisted of me and DannyBoy. We then got a postdoc, MacGyverina, and a couple of undergrads, Jim-bob and Earnestine.

I don’t think I’ve updated the lab roster since then, though there have been a lot of changes. We also had a third undergrad, Diana, during roughly the same time period. Both Jim-bob and Earnestine have graduated; Diana, who completed her required year of research, is still around but doesn’t bother coming around any more. We now have undergrad #4, whom I’ll call Midnight. I don’t interact with him much, for reasons I’ll explain shortly.

About six months after MacGyverina showed up, we acquired a second post-doc, hereby known as PatchyGenius. He was hired to do work in a field that’s only somewhat related to what MacG, DannyBoy, and I do; he got Midnight as his assistant. Thus, the lab is now split into two factions. Our latest acquisition, a master’s student I’ll call Barty, is also squarely in Faction #2.

I just got word yesterday that we will be getting a new Ph.D. student in the fall. (I think she seems like an ‘Alice’.) Hallelujah! She will be picking up where I leave off and I may get the privilege of mentoring her this summer. I met her at prospective grad weekend and she seems smart and curious.

The lab is still only at 6 people (MacG will be leaving before Alice arrives) which is quite a manageable size. I’m glad that Dr. Hand-Waver is finally getting, and maintaining, a good-sized group.

Posted by: unlikelygrad | February 24, 2014

pub list

Dr. Hand-Waver and I have sort of been at loose ends about what to do with my field data.  In all cases I was in areas where the stuff I was measuring existed right at (or just below) the limit of detection for my methodology, so my numbers are flaky at best.  As of late last week we finally sorted that mess out.

Here’s the list of pubs I’m likely to have when I defend my dissertation:


  • Diatom survey paper (as written as we can get it, until we get the last few dribs and drabs of data…hope to submit by April though)
  • Bacteria paper (not really started–luckily there’s almost no previous pubs on this work, so I don’t have to do too much in the way of lit review for the paper)


  • MacGyverina’s Pacific paper (mostly written, except for the parts I’m sending over today; will be submitted by mid-March)
  • MacG’s Scripps/methodology paper (not written, though my parts are mostly written up.  MacG writes fast though.)
  • DannyBoy’s freshwater survey paper (needs one more round of edits before it gets submitted, hopefully by March or April)

One of many authors (fourth or fifth)

  • MarsGirl’s astrobiology paper (on last round of edits before submission)


* * *

MyU has a publication requirement for graduation.  Three first-author pubs, of which two must actually be published (not just submitted) by defense date.  Exceptions can be made, and have been made, for people who have engaged in lots of team projects and therefore have a number of second-author pubs.

Obviously, I have to go the latter route.  Dr. HW is pretty confident that three second-author papers will be good enough, in the department’s eyes, to sub for a first-author paper.




Posted by: unlikelygrad | January 22, 2014

things that drive me nuts

People who generate lots of dirty glassware and leave it next to the acid bath hoping I will clean it.

Cole Parmer changing the order number on stuff I’ve been ordering for years.

People who think there is only one right way to do things in lab (e.g.: keep a notebook, etc.) who tell you off for not doing things their way.

My chocolate allergy.  And people who really ought to know by now that I have a chocolate allergy, who give me chocolate as presents.

Slow wi-fi in my office caused by 300 undergrads using their smartphones etc. during lecture (I’m very near the big lecture hall).


That’s enough ranting for today.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Posted by: unlikelygrad | December 27, 2013

recipe for disaster

For some reason, when I do a lot of writing, my body craves sweets like you wouldn’t believe.

I am doing a lot of writing right now, and the house is full of Christmas cookies, Christmas candy, etc.

Needless to say, I do not want to step on the scale.

Posted by: unlikelygrad | December 21, 2013

any environmental chemistry undergrads out there?

Dr. Hand-Waver would like to take on at least one new grad student next year.  So if you have any interest in doing environmental aquatic (mostly redox) chemistry, let me know and I will get you connected!  I can promise that there will be field work involved.


Posted by: unlikelygrad | December 21, 2013

baby shower, scientific style

So I went in for my weekly meeting with Dr. Hand-Waver a few days ago.  She was pleased with the experiments I’d done that week, but she had a more pressing issue to discuss:

“Should we give a baby shower for MacGyverina?”

I said we probably should.

“I would do it, but I wouldn’t know what to do,” she said.  “I’ve never been to a baby shower before–I didn’t even have one when Little Hand-Waver was born.”

I told her I’d be happy to put it together, so long as she agreed that there would be no hideous baby-shower games.  “Heavens, no!” she responded.  “I was thinking more along the lines of tea and cookies and chat.”

But then, the following day, psi*psi posted a link to the Cards Against Science game.  I’ve got to do it–this will be hilarious.  Everyone from lab will be invited, so three guys and four gals (including me, Dr. HW, & MacG) all with a scientific bent and wacky senses of humor!

Posted by: unlikelygrad | November 13, 2013


You know the most annoying part of grad school?  Trying to schedule committee meetings.  Trying to get five different academics (from four different departments, in my case) to agree on a two-hour block that works for them all is hell.

It only took me a month to schedule my thesis proposal defense.  My first committee meeting took closer to two months to schedule.

The defense is happening about a month later than I originally wanted.  Of course, this means I can finish writing over Christmas “break”…though if I weren’t writing my thesis proposal, I’d be writing one of my papers then.

I can do this.  I will finish.

Posted by: unlikelygrad | October 11, 2013

A conversation with Dr. Hand-Waver

After discussing my thesis proposal (which I will be defending in a bit over a month, hopefully) and the timing of another departmental hoop that I have to jump through before defending my dissertation, I said to Dr. Hand-Waver:

“I feel like I was plodding along at a nice steady pace and suddenly everything went wild and crazy and I’m going to be done soon.”

“That’s because you suddenly realized how much you wanted to be done, and then you got motivated,” she replied.

I acknowledged that I was, in fact, running low on funds, and that I was sort of desperate to get a job that paid more than $25k a year.  But then I said, “But that wouldn’t have mattered–I need to get most of the labwork before MacGyverina has her baby [in early spring]!” 

She couldn’t deny this.  Two of my three projects are joint with MacG, where she measures one thing and I measure another (related) thing, and we compare production rates.  Her baby is due in spring, as I said, and by the time she gets off leave her post-doc contract will have expired.  So if we’re not done by then, we’re screwed.  I have to admit that this is one reason we’ve been trying to work like crazy.  

Of course, I do have a project that she’s not involved with–but that’s the precursor project to one of the joint ones, the one I’m hoping to wrap up really soon.  So yes, I will be done soon.  Labwork done by spring 2014 (I hope), and then writing for a few months, and then defense in mid-summer or so, depending on the schedules of my committee (most of whom do fieldwork in the summer).  

It’s a bit crazy.  I was starting to think I’d never get here.

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