Thursday, March 06, 2008

Happy thoughts

I was perusing the blog this morning, trying to decide if there were topics I wanted to talk about other than some of the drama going on in my life. I'll get to that. What I noticed is that I've been very overwhelmed, and overwhelmingly negative, since I came back to work.

And that's not me. Ok, it's me in the sense that I am feeling very overwhelmed. That's true enough. But life is not all negative. In fact, much of my life has been joy. It just seems like many of my blog posts have been venting--I haven't had the time to post when things are making me happy. And I don't like that.

So, despite how my days have gone recently, I just wanted to say: yes, I am exhausted, overwhelmed, totally and completely emotionally drained, and ready for a long vacation (even though I don't have one coming up), but I am doing ok.

In the spirit of at least posting an informative update:

-I had my thesis committee meeting on Tuesday. It went about as I expected: good in some areas, bad in others. My advisor didn't throw me under the bus, as is his habit. I didn't get any lectures about not having everything finished (almost like they understood I just had a baby--almost). They did, however, do a full reversal on what they want me to finish before I get my PhD. At my last meeting, they told me to work out the kinetics, write it up, and send it out, and then I've got my two papers (if my old lab gets that one published) and I'm done. Tuesday they decided that even if I get my two publications, my newest project may not have enough to be a full thesis, so they want a mechanism. That sounds simple, but it so isn't. My boss and I had talked like a mechanism would be a totally separate PhD project for someone. And now they want me to add it on. That realistically means I've gotten set back a year for med school, best case scenario. I was angry, but polite. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

-And oh, by the way, my grant support is up in September and my boss told my committee he can't afford to pay me. But they still want me to stay.

-My mom and I went to see "Wicked" Tuesday night. Of course, that is when the giant ice storm came through town. We saw a ton of accidents just going up the 5 miles on I-77 we took to get downtown. It was really frightening--I tried not to freak my mom out, but I hate driving in crappy weather. It took forever to get there, by the time we got there the garage was full and we had to park outside, and the weather was horrid. But, all things considered, we were only five minutes late. We missed part of the opening song, but so did a lot of other people. And we had already listened to the soundtrack--we knew what was going on. I have to say--the musical was fantastic! I haven't seen a show in a long time. My mom loves the Wizard of Oz, and I think she really enjoyed seeing this other side of it. We both agreed that it was everything we had hoped for!

-I'm currently trying to bust butt to get things done. In addition to wanting a mechanism for my project, my thesis committee also wants: a copy of my paper with Frank's lab, a written manuscript of my current project in three weeks, and also the completion of all the bacteria work, assays, Western blots, and IPs so that we can have another meeting in a few months. So, I'm swamped. It's hard for me to even know where to start. I'm taking a brief break now, and then it's back to the grind.

So that's the update for now. I am very overwhelmed with work, and we haven't lost any of the other drama (house stuff especially) that's been going on.

But last night, when I was rocking Sophie to sleep (the third time she woke up), I was just very peaceful. She's such a gem. When I get the chance to just shut everything else out for a while and hold her--it's a complete cure for me. I just need to let things go. I've pretty much given up on keeping up the house--I figure people will understand--and I've got to find a way to balance all the demands at work with all the home stuff. I know neither work nor home is going to give me a break soon. Maybe I just need to accept that things aren't going to be the way I want them. The balance may come in the future, but for now, both work and Sophie need 110% from me. And I've got to find a way to give it.

Really, I know how blessed I am, and I thank God every night. We have all of the essentials of life (food/clothing/shelter), plus loving families, our health, and decent jobs. I know I like things perfect. And things are currently far from perfect. But I get so down on myself when I feel like I'm not living up to my own standards. I've got to get back to a place where I prioritize what really matters. When I die, people won't remember what journals I published in, how clean my house was, or how often I cook. They'll remember me as Tim's wife, Sophie's mom, people's daughter/sister/aunt/cousin/friend. That's what matters. And I've got to let the rest of it go.

1 comment:


    The most rigorous part of the dissertation includes the

    Methods Section
    Study Design
    Research questions and hypothesis formulation
    Development of instrumentation
    Describing the independent and dependent variables
    Writing the data analysis plan
    Performing a Power Analysis to justify the sample size and writing about it

    Results Section
    Performing the Data Analysis
    Understanding the analysis results
    Reporting the results.
    When you enter this phase of the program, you are nearing the end of the journey. Given the difficulty of this phase, one often wishes they had previewed what was to come.
    Many Ph.D candidates seem to hit a brick wall and feel disarmed when called upon to work on the methods and results section of their dissertation.
    This is the point where many students diligently search for help calling on their advisor, peers, university assistance and even Google.
    This is also the time when the student asks themselves the question" HOW MUCH HELP IS TOO MUCH".
    Surely no one will deny that having your dissertation written for you is very wrong.

    On the other hand, it is not unusual for doctoral students to get help on specific aspects of their dissertation.(e.g. APA formatting and editing) It also is not unusual for advisors to encourage students to seek outside help.

    If you are a distance learning student it is almost essential you seek outside assistance for the methods and results section of your dissertation. The very nature of distance learning suggest the need for not only outside help but help from someone gifted in explaining highly technical concepts in understandable language by telephone and e-mail.

    Distance learning, and the availability of programs, has increased exponentially over the last few years with some of the most respected institutions (Columbia University, Engineering; Boston University and others) offering a Ph.D in a variety of fields. If you are enrolled in a distance learning program, or considering one, you will be interested in reviewing the reference sites listed at the bottom of this page.

    As stated above, many students hit their dissertation "brick wall" when they encounter the statistics section. Frequently, a student will struggle for months with that section before they seek a consultant to help them. This often leads to additional tuition costs and missed graduation dates.

    If I were to name a single reason why a PhD candidate gets off track in their program it is the statistics and their fear of statistics.

    So, the question is whether or not it is ethical to get help at all. If so, how much help is too much.

    I don't know if there has ever been a survey of dissertation committee members who were asked this question, however, I know many advisors take the following position when they suggest or approve outside help:

    To a large extent the process is self controlling. If the student relies too much on a consultant, the product may look good, however, the student will be unable to defend his/her dissertation.

    It takes a committed effort on the part of the student and the consultant (resulting in a collaborative/teaching exchange) to have the student responsible for the data and thoroughly understand the statistics. The day the student walks in front of the committee to defend, there should be no question as to his/her understanding of statistics.

    When their defense is successful, the question of "was the help too much" is answered.

    If you are a Ph.D candidate and would like additional information, you may email me at:


    Reference sites: