Field of Science

The year to come

I have blogged before on the transition into grad school and my progress in the past year, but this month's Scientiae is about looking in the future to the year to come.

This coming year is going to be pretty wicked. By this time next year I will hopefully have become a published scientist, defended my thesis, gotten a job in government or industry (please oh please oh please), and moved into a much better apartment or townhouse.

The published scientist bit will hopefully be happening sooner rather than later. Next week I'll be sending the first draft of a manuscript to my advisor and collaborator, and if everything goes as planned, we'll be submitting it before the summer is over. I plan to aim high; Advisor thinks it might be PNAS-worthy, and I'm inclined to agree. They published a semi-related paper by my collaborator two years ago, so I'm hoping that lightning will strike twice. I'll start there and then work my way down, probably to the comparative zoology and physiology journals, if it isn't accepted.

I am pretty confident on the thesis front. As I mentioned before, my thesis is basically written. There's a small side project that my advisor wants me to do that I'll probably tack on to the thesis, but otherwise there isn't much left to do to it other than revise and refine. I don't think many master's degree students are this far along at the end of their first year (certainly not in my department, where it is pretty normal for an M.S. to take about 3 years), so I'm thankful for that. Defending the thesis, however, will be a whole different beast. I hate public speaking. I hate standing in front of a room of people and talking, especially when I have to memorize what I'm saying instead of just winging it. You'd think winging it would be more nerve wracking, but no. My 'teaching' requirement involves me hanging out in a room while students come in and ask me questions about the lecture material, so I've gotten good at explaining things on a whim, but I suck at prepared speeches. I even took a public speaking class! I guess for some people it just never gets easy.

I think I am most nervous about finding a job. I intend to graduate in the spring of next year, at which point I have to decide if I want to get a PhD or a job. Right now I am leaning towards job, and there are several big science companies in my area, but I don't really have any contacts. My high school friend's sister works at one, but as a chemist, not a biologist, so I don't know if she could help me. My grandpa knows the governor, but I doubt that would help me much in getting a government job. Honestly, I have no idea what to do at this point. I have a few more months to brainstorm before I need to get started searching, so I hope something comes to me.

I have been feeling like I've outgrown my current apartment, which I've been living in for four years, for a while now. I think moving into a new place will help me move past the college/grad school mentality and shift into adult mode. I also really, really want a dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer. I don't know how I've lived without them for so long. K and I have already agreed that if we're still together this time next year when our leases are up, we'll get a nice big apartment together. On top of wanting to be around him as much as possible, it's also financially sensible.

So, yes. Those are my goals for the coming year: publish, thesis, job, and apartment. In that order.


  1. I completely understand on the public speaking front! When I have to give a presentation that should be memorized, I tend to screw up much more than when I’m doing a casual presentation. I’ve found that the only two things that seem to help me are memorizing exactly where the halfway point is in my presentation/not practicing too much. If I practice more than 7 or 8 times, I’ll get flustered and lost if I even miss one word of my memorized presentation.

    It sounds like you’re going to have an exciting year! :)

  2. Don't think of the defense as a memorized speech. Use the prep time to make sure your visual aids have a logical order and no gaping holes rather than to decide exactly how you'll explain things. Then you can flip through them in order and talk as if you were explaining to a student what you do (albeit at a different level). Beyond that, you know your research better than anyone, so you're the best possible person to explain what the visuals mean and how they fit together.

    I admit that I haven't tried this for a defense yet, but it worked well for my seminar. The concepts should be transferrable, right?


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