grad school

The perception of female graduate students

Guy in bar: So, what brought you to Seattle?
Me: I just started grad school
Guy: What are you studying?
Me: Genetics
Guy: Oh, I would have thought it would be more shallow-like
Me: … *eyes bug out*

While I think the details are irrelevant, I feel compelled to add that I wasn’t wearing anything that could be even remotely perceived as “shallow-like.” Jeans and a t-shirt, no makeup. Nope, I just had boobs.

A new religious type of RNA discovered?

The backstory, from reader Arctic Ape, a Finnish graduate student:

Adjacent pic is from a whiteboard in a student clubroom at the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry (or, as we call it, “Wood & Weed Science”). Someone had drawn a crude chart of plant floral induction pathway and another(?) person had made some additions, including labeling “mRNA” as “missionary RNA”. I thought your readers might want to explain in comments what exactly is “missionary RNA” :)

Missionary RNA…I wonder what it does? Maybe this is the mechanism behind gene conversion *ba dum ching* (For the non-biologists, the correct label is “messenger RNA”)

I loved Arctic Ape’s PS:

(By the way, almost all our student clubs are curriculum-related, but we’re still mostly not huge nerds. For example, the rest of the whiteboard featured a poop joke in Finnish.)

Poop jokes: A universal staple in graduate student humor.

This is post 21 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

I’m alive!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Tuesday was my big end of the quarter research presentation, which means Tuesday night was my post-presentation celebration, and Wednesday was my recovery from my post-presentation celebration.
And right now I’m sitting in the Seattle airport, attempting to go back home to Indiana for a week. I say attempting because my flight is already delayed two hours thanks to thunderstorms in Chicago. Ahh, the midwest.
So…posts may be a little filler-y while I’m decompressing. My brain needs to be turned off for a bit before starting up summer research. Seriously, I know I’m stressed when I’m looking forward to going back to Indiana.

Consider this an open thread. What are you up to? What neat things have you read on the internet? Is there anything that could defeat a velociraptor with machine gun arms?

Let’s hope this is a non-issue…

But I’m wary. Every time I say that about someone’s personal religious beliefs, they end up becoming an issue. The newest potential cause for drama? The University of Washington (where I go to school) finally decided on it’s new President – Michael K. Young. The thing that set off red flags? He’s a graduate of Brigham Young University and devout Mormon (which is probably redundant to say).

Now, I know it’s entirely possible to be religious and not let your beliefs interfere with your job at a secular university. I don’t expect his first act as university president to be increasing the number of Mormon missionaries that hunt you down on Red Square, or to expand the campus LDS center that’s right by my building.

But when I read stuff like the following, I get a little worried:

In order to understand genuinely the world and all the things that we learn from secular sources, we should start the inquiry first from the perspective of the gospel and its basic truths. The rest of the world then begins to make much more sense. It isn’t so much that secular learning necessarily confirms the truth of the gospel in every instance, though I am frequently surprised with just how often it does exactly that, but rather that we much better understand the world and everything in it when we put the secular learning in a gospel context. In other words, if one first seeks the light of Christ and inspiration from the Lord, then inquiries about matters of science, politics, economics, history, indeed, society in general, are not only entirely acceptable, but likely to lead to a better understanding of the gospel and a stronger, not weaker, testimony. If we seek first the kingdom of God, then indeed all things will be added unto it.

Ah yes…the world makes so much more sense when you start with Mormon!Jesus. I’m sure all the non-Mormon researchers certainly appreciate that sentiment.

Please let the next 4 years be perfectly boring and free of blog fodder.

Initiate Panic Mode

It’s that time of the quarter again, so don’t expect a lot of updates from me this week. This morning I got the lovely surprise that my end of the quarter departmental research presentation was being moved from Tuesday March 15th to Friday March 11th, eliminating four days of preparation that I would have really appreciated. On top of that our professor finally passed out our take home final exam two weeks late…and I have to finish that while scrambling to finish my research. Gah.

At least this means I’m done with the quarter much earlier, so I effectively get two weeks of spring break instead of one. If last quarter is any indication, I will be quite inebriated Friday night.

So yeah. No sleep for me this week, and if I blog at all it’ll probably be while on the bus, which is about the only chance I’ll have to read blogs or write my own. Though, I could use those extra minutes to read more papers… aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!

Back to work. Yay grad school.

More quotes from the lab

There’s another first year graduate student rotating in the same lab that I’m rotating in, though he’s working on a different project from me. How do our projects differ, you ask?

1st Year: *talking to another labmate about something completely off topic*
Post doc: Hey, that’s five minutes you just wasted that could have gone toward curing autism!
Me: That’s why I’m not studying autism.
Post doc: *laughs* So you can waste as much time as you like?
Me: Yep. Evolution’s not going anywhere!

Joking aside, I actually have been getting a lot of work done. For the fellow biologists: I run my first microarray on Tuesday! For the non-biologists: I get to do cool nerdy stuff I haven’t done before!

This is why I don’t consider myself a science blogger. Too lazy.

Grad school is hard

Obvious statement of the day, I know.

But grad school is also pretty cool. The new quarter has started, and here are my classes:

Advanced Genetic Analysis (first half) – basically how to set up experiments using a bazillion different genetic tricks in order to investigate, well, anything. You know how cool it was solving Punnett square problems? Yeah, it’s like that on steroids. …What do you mean Punnett squares aren’t cool?

Molecular Population Genetics and Evolution (second half)- I can’t wait for this class. Should rename it “Jen has a giant nerdgasm every Tuesday and Thursday.”

Introduction to Statistical and Computational Genomics – I know the title sounds scary, but this will likely be my easiest class. Half of the time is learning how to program in Python, which I pretty much already know. Probably won’t learn anything new until the last couple weeks, where we talk about classes. But the other half of the class is a lecture on bioinformatics, which I basically know nothing about, so that’ll be useful.

My lab rotation still is about human population genetics and evolution, but this time instead of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) I’m looking at copy number variants (CNVs). …If I was a good science blogger I would take the time to explain what those are, but I have to run to class. Sorry, you’re stuck with Wikipedia for now!

You know it's the end of the semester when…

…the only time you’re not in the lab is when you’re at home sleeping.

…and you seriously considered just sleeping at work to be more efficient, but didn’t want to smell the next day.

…so you leave the lab at 1am after being at work for 17 hours only because you have to catch the last bus home.

…and while you’re standing at the stop, two of your classmates comes to catch the last bus as well.

…and it’s not the first time you all have done that this week.

…and you still don’t feel prepared for everything that you have to finish.

Yay grad school. At least we’re all going insane together?

Grad School Spirit

From PhD comics:Uh…

1. I know we’re the Huskies, but I have no idea what our specific mascot is called. I see a lot of undergrads wearing sweaters that say “Dawgs” on them, is that related?

Wikipedia informs me our mascot is Harry the Husky. Um, okay. Purdue Pete is way cooler.2. Purple and gold, right? …*checks Wikipedia* Phew, I’m right. It’s not some crazy-specific description like Purdue’s “old gold” (yes, there is a difference).

3. I have no goddamn idea. The only reason I learned Purdue’s fight song was because we were basically brainwashed during freshmen orientation.

4. Division I, Pac 10. I only know this from going to my undergrad at another Division I school.

5. No idea.

6. Derp?

7. I went on a bus by it once!

2 points. I am a graduate student!

Hey, I’m not as bad as some people. I’ve now been inside seven buildings on campus! …Though I’ve only been inside two of those more than once. Sigh.

End of semester madness!

What am I up to? I’m writing a “fake” research proposal for one of my classes on doing a genome wide association study and exome sequencing to search for genetic components of homosexuality. I say “fake” because it’s a project for a class, not something I’m actually submitting to the NIH or NSF. Well, I mean, I could theoretically submit it as a grant if it ends up being super awesome and a mind-blowing scientific idea, but at this rate I’m just trying to not embarrass myself when turning it in.

On top of that I’m attempting to finish my actual research from this quarter since our presentations are next week. I’m not nervous about the speaking part – heck, I do that for fun now – but talking about science is a bit harder than making jokes about atheism. So, yeah, again – aiming for not embarrassing myself. Frantically trying to learn R to make my graphics, since my professor nearly had an aneurysm when he saw I was using Excel to make my charts.

Aren’t the end of quarters great?!

I know a lot of you are also students – consider this an open thread to complain about all the work you have to do and to procrastinate doing it. Non-students welcome to whine too.

Why my building has key cards

Now I just need to figure out how to make the doors say “Good morning, Ms. McCreight” instead of “Beep.” Then I’ll really be living in a sci-fi movie.

(Alternate reason why my building has key cards: To keep the undergrads out. I like my reason better.)

EDIT: I originally had pi = 0.6 because my project is currently looking at heterozygosity in humans, which is represented by pi, but I realized the inevitable nerd rage I would invoke when people would think I was too stupid to realize pi (approximately) = 3.14. So x it is.

…I have become too nerdy to make nerdy jokes, gah.

Not that this is shocking, but…

“Money for Science May Be Scarce With a Republican-Lead House.” From the NYTimes:

In the Republican platform, Pledge to America, the party vows to cut discretionary nonmilitary spending to 2008 levels. Under that plan, research and development at nonmilitary agencies — including those that sponsor science and health research — would fall 12.3 percent, to $57.8 billion, from the Mr. Obama’s request of $65.9 billion for fiscal year 2011.

An analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science looked at what would happen if all of the agencies were cut to the 2008 amounts. The National Institutes of Health would lose $2.9 billion, or 9 percent, of its research money. The National Science Foundation would lose more than $1 billion, or almost 19 percent, of its budget, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would lose $324 million, or 34 percent.

And guess who gets to apply for NSF and NIH fellowships and grants next fall? Yep, me! As if they weren’t hard enough to get already. I wasn’t planning on applying for fellowships this year, but maybe I should while there’s still money left.

Well, at least I’m in a somewhat more secure situation. My program guarantees a stipend for the full five years, so I’ll still be able to pay rent and feed myself. And my department has one of the most well funded research programs in the university, so my research project will still probably have funding, especially since I’ll be working on humans (humans really like to pour money into studying themselves).

But the vast majority of science graduate students aren’t so lucky. Even right now, it’s common for graduate students to depend on outside fellowships for their stipends. And if you’re not working on some sexy topic like human disease or biological warfare agents, those grants are going to become even more competitive.

I’m not so much concerned on missing out on the prestige and small raise that would come with an NSF fellowship. I’m concerned that the United States is likely going to fall even farther behind in science.

But hey, I can always go abroad for my post-doc…