Life After the Defense

3 05 2010

My life seems completely different, now, than it was just last week. It feels like a huge burden has been lifted off of my shoulders, and I can breath again. In reality, my dissertation is due to the university today, but unfortunately mine will not be turned in today. Our dissertations have to go through and extensive format review process that can take up to 8 weeks! Due to various circumstances, I was unable to obtain full format approval from the university before the deadline, but thankfully our university has contingency plans in place. Since I had the body of my dissertation complete and I have successfully defended it, I have been granted a “walk extension.” This means that I will get to fully participate in graduation, walk across the stage and get hooded, and receive my blank piece of paper. However, I will not get my official diploma until my dissertation is accepted by the university. I have until July 31 to complete this task, and my diploma will still say May 2010! I will receive and “I” on my transcript until it is turned in, but then it will be changed and the university will provide me with written documentation to provide any potential employers. You all should have seen me Friday running around trying to figure out what I was going to do since I didn’t get final approval in time, and then when I discovered this process I let out the biggest sigh of relief…ever! In theory, I don’t have too much more work to do on it, so hopefully I can knock it out ASAP and be done with it completely.

In related news, my official interview (that I have known was coming for over a month) has finally been approved, and I should get the details today. It will be this Wednesday and Thursday! I am very excited to go and see if I will be a good fit for this place, and to meet the faculty in person. I’ve learned that you can NOT tell a lot about people from their faculty pictures on the school’s website. The good thing is that my talk is a research talk, so I will just give a shortened version of my defense presentation…that makes it a lot less nerve racking for me! I’ll be sure to let you all now how this one turns out!

JB, Ph.D.


The End is Nigh

25 04 2010

The past 5 years has had its share of ups and downs. There have been times when a year would pass in what seemed like a month, and then there were times when a month felt like a year. However, this semester has passed in what seems like a week! It has been insane! Between family, writing my dissertation, the job hunt, etc…life just hasn’t stopped. Alas it is all drawing nigh. My defense is this Thursday!!!! I can’t believe that this moment is finally here. Do I have time to savor it? Absolutely not! Between making final corrections on my dissertation for my boss, correcting format issue for the university, and finishing the presentation for my defense, I have no time to savor this amazing time. I guess that will have to wait until Thursday night!

Well, it looks as though I may have a choice between two jobs when it is all said and done. I am going to be offered the position with the university at which I recently interviewed (although they are waiting on university officials to send back the offer before they can officially offer me the position). I have also been informed that I am the top candidate for another position that I have an interview for during the 1st week of May (in other words, I should expect an offer unless I screw it up big-time)! While I was hoping that this would be an easy choice (i.e. I would only get one offer), it may ending being a decision that comes down to one or two deciding factors. If it does come down to that, I’ll be sure to post my pros and cons list so that you all can help me make up my mind!

Ok, now that my break is over…back to work!

The Beat Goes On

23 02 2010

Well, not much has changed on the job front since my last post so I won’t bore you all with that right now.

Today, I was just thinking about the Ph.D. process and how it differs between science fields and between universities. My Ph.D. process has been rather disjointed at times. It seems that the profs in my department never really seem to know what needs to be done and when.  When I first started, I would ask someone, “Do I need to take class x or class y?” I would usually get an answer that was either, “Well, we don’t offer that class anymore,” or “I’m not sure, go ask prof x.”  It was very frustrating.  I somehow managed to survive my coursework.  Although, I think I took entirely too many courses, and some that don’t even have anything to do with my field! During this time, you would form your committee.  That was not bad since my boss pretty much told me who I should have on it.  So, after I finished the majority of my course work (usually after about 2.5-3 years), I took my qualifying exams. 

This process seemed to change every year. When I started, you could take them whenever you wanted, you just had to make sure everyone in your committee was on board. However, when it came time for me to take my exams they said that they could only be taken during x, y, or z months! So I waited for x month to come around and I got my committee together and they agreed that I could take my exams.  My exams consisted of 1 written exam per day for 5 days (1 from each of my committee members).  After you have taken all of your written exams, you had to get your committee together again, and have an oral exam.  This was where your committee got to ask you a bunch of random questions…it was insanely nerve racking for me because I tend to get very nervous around my committee for some reason!  However, I managed to survive! I then had my committee sign some forms, and I officially became a Ph.D. Candidate!

So here I am in my 5th year.  I’m in the process of writing my dissertation, applying for jobs, finishing up some lab work, and praying that I can get it all done and land a job ASAP.  I will then have a whole new set of things to worry about!

How was your Ph.D. process?  Any tips on how to get and stay focused enough to write on your dissertation for any appreciable amount of time? 

Have a great Tuesday!


14 02 2010

Monday is coming too soon! I am trying to work on my dissertation, but I can’t find the motivation. I have to meet with my boss tomorrow for a research update, but I don’t have anything new to tell him…which really sucks! I am very nervous about meeting with him simply because I don’t know how he will react to the fact that I haven’t been able to get much done in the lab recently. It is very stressful trying to work on my dissertation and finish up benchwork at the same time…not to mention trying not to neglect my family.

I am one big ball of stress right now, and I don’t see that changing for a while.  Must get back to writing!

So Many Things

12 02 2010

     I have so many things that I want to talk about in these first few posts that I don’t know where to begin. I could do one LARGE post, but that would be to time consuming on my end and too boring for you to read on your end. I think that I will start by talking about graduate school, and what my journey has been like the past 5 years.   I got accepted into a graduate program straight out of undergrad. I decided to go in straight away because I was afraid that if I took a year off, I would never go back…and I probably wouldn’t have. My time in grad school has been good overall.  Just like life, it has had its ups and downs.  For starters, I am not in a “traditional” graduate program. I am at a professional school where the only programs on campus are graduate programs (i.e. Medical School, Pharmacy School, Dental School, and other health related fields).  My program is rather unique on the campus in that it grants Ph.D.s rather than professional degrees. This was initially a great things as my wife was going into a health profession and was accepted in her program at the same school. It started off great, but as time went on I realized that this may not have been the best choice for me.  My particular lab in the department was far and away the best and it has afforded me many great opportunities.  For that I am truly grateful!  One thing about my school that I REALLY dislike, is that it is not a traditional college campus.  It is a stand alone branch and does not have the feel of a traditional campus by any stretch of the imagination!

     If it was not for my lab, I probably would have left that particular program. It has been on the decline since I joined that program…not my particular lab, but the program as a whole.  There are probably only about 7 true graduate students left in my department. That is down from around 15 when I started. While this seemed to be a nice fit for me when I started, at that time I didn’t know what my career goals were. Now that I know I want to become a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution, I realize this was not the best choice.  I have had the opportunity to be a TA for some of the professional students, but it is not the same as getting to TA/teach an undergraduate course. That is a really big why sometimes I wish I had gone to a larger research oriented university with a large undergraduate student population.  In the long run, it would have made me more desirable for my current ambition.  I do feel that in my lab, I have done some great chemistry…well some was only attempted, but hey whatever counts right!  So I have no problems with the level of bench work that I have done, and I actually could have done better work if I had pushed myself harder.  However, I am the type of person who enjoys life outside of the lab, and decided from the get-go that I was not going to live in the lab.  That did have an impact on my work at times, but I am very glad that I haven’t spent the last 5 years of my life locked in the lab.  I know that many graduate schools, and their professor, have different feelings on this subject, it was something that I was not willing to compromise on because I was already married when I started grad school. 

     While my graduate school situation may not have been ideal, I have made it work for me. I think that I have gotten a good education and some great research experience.  I know that I have missed out on some experiences that most graduate students get, such as teaching undergraduate classes, but I also know that I have had some experiences that most graduate students don’t get.  I think it has been a pretty even trade-off.  I know this is probably pretty roughly thrown together, but I have so much more to say….I just had to start somewhere.  I have plans on writing about the dissertation process at my school, my job search and all that entails, and many other things! I hope that you can get past the rough grammar (I will usually type these rather quickly just because I am so busy now) and stick around to see what I have to say!

The Beginning

11 02 2010

Hello All,

I have decided that I am going to start a professional blog for myself. This is going to be a blog that documents my journey as I finish up my Ph.D. in Chemistry and the trials and tribulations that come with the territory. It will also be used to document my career search as I look to find a job in academia.  Feel free to comment along the way with your thoughts and/or suggestions! I hope that you will enjoy the ride!