Been there, done that.

After six years of grad school, there are a few things I've picked up from personal experience and a whole lot of time talking with other female grad students (AKA procrastinating). I've always wished there had been some kind of handbook about how to handle the whole world of graduate school, so I figured I'd start a friendly place to discuss what it's like to be female in grad school, and maybe pass on some wisdom too!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Grading Papers? Play some Bingo :)

Thanks to everyone for chiming in on squares to add. This was one of those random, quick things that I've wanted to do for some time, because it cracks me up. I can think of several ways to play the game (maybe a little competition between several TA's from the same class?), but I'll leave that up to you. Hope you have fun!!

So, over the last couple of days there has been a HUGE influx of people to see this, which is awesome, but if you're going to use it, please cite back here! Thanks!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Myth of Spring Break

I remember a time when there was such a mythical thing as some time off in the spring. A break. A vacation, even. Such a thing has ceased to exist for me, and may it rest in peace. Someday I may try to revive it, but for the moment, it's long gone. See, this "time off" between quarters has become a mad dash to attempt to finish research before the next slew of conferences, get the rest of my life back in some semblance of order after neglecting it all quarter, and otherwise attempting to regain my sanity. If I can sneak in a day off, all the better. But most of this past week of "break" has been spent at work. And I'm not alone in this. I have had the good company of quite a few grad students roaming the halls, looking slightly less stressed than normal (not me, I have been pulling my hair out), but at work all the same.

So, for today's belated post (I have had this awesome thing I wanted to do all week, but hopefully I'll get to it on Sunday), I want to ask: are you working during spring break this year? Or are you getting away? (No, getting away to a conference doesn't count either. That's still work.) Are you happy about it? Or are you catching parts of the endless spring break coverage on TV and wishing you were somewhere with a bikini and a beer? (Or, at least sitting somewhere quietly, not working.)

I do like hearing from people, so pipe up in the comments!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Take Home Conference Messages

Every time I go to a conference for my field, I come home wondering where some of the people come from. For the most part there are a lot of really great people who put their best foot forward at these meetings and I really enjoy meeting them. Then there are the others. So, on a bit of a lighter note today, what not to do at a conference (all inspired by this past week's meeting):
  1. Don't go barefoot. Seriously. I saw not one, but two people wandering around the Hilton without shoes. Um. Yeah.
  2. If you're going to present, don't dress like you're headed to the bar for drinks. And then don't wonder why people aren't taking your quite so seriously.
  3. Don't go over time when you're already behind schedule, but think that because you're the moderator, you can still do it. Especially when you're reading your talk and it's a majorly dull topic.
  4. Don't NOT use statistics. Or don't use them poorly. Nothing will make me want to poke you more (and I'm no expert on the subject, but seriously, if you have data, at least analyze it!).
  5. Don't spend your whole talk discussing the stats you used to look at your data. Your talk should say something more than an equation--unless, ya know, you're at a math conference.
  6. When meeting someone new, don't spend fifteen minutes bragging about how Berkeley asked you to design a class around your material from last year and now you're lecturing there for the benefit of all. Because I just don't care. Sorry.
  7. Don't see your former/current TA and point and whisper with your friends while she can still see you. (This is especially good to note when she still has your paper and final to grade. Not that I would actually let that influence me...but it did piss me off.) TA's are people too.
  8. Don't be boring. If you can help it. I mean, I know I'm guilty of this, but the best talks are the ones that are engaging (and maybe even make you laugh a bit). At least act like YOU are interested in your topic.
Okay, that's all I've got. But really, the conference was a good one. I loved the session I was in and found it really interesting. I loved getting to see a few people I haven't had a chance to chat with in a while, and I really enjoyed getting some new information out of them. Lots of good stuff there. I also loved seeing the people wandering around barefoot and finding it highly amusing. Ahhh. Gotta love it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Almost every field of study has a large gathering once or twice a year. Some have more, some less, some are broken down by region or sub-field, but they have a one big thing in common: people in your chosen field are going to get together to share their work. This will usually be done in papers given (little speeches often with power-point), or posters (large sheets of paper with all your data on them). As I am currently totally procrastinating writing my talk for next weekend (ugh!) I thought I'd touch on this topic a bit today.

I have a small confession about conferences: I really don't like them. Now, I know a lot of people do, and find them totally engaging and a great way to meet people. I don't. Just the thought of them kind of makes my stomach curl into a small ball and roll around my abdomen (wow, that was a strange image!). BUT, I still end up going to them, because they are a great thing to add to your CV, and a good way to get some traction for your work. For those of you applying to grad school, they are a great way to see what research is currently being undertaken by researchers of choice, and also a great way to introduce yourself to potential collaborators and advisers. Of course, if you're shy like me, you might also find yourself grumbling at the thought of talking to people you don't know, and quaking at the thought of having to get up and deliver a paper to a room full of people (why this is different from giving a lecture to a few hundred students--which I really don't mind--is totally beyond me).

I swear this is what every room I've given a talk in looks like!
Okay, moving on. You're thinking about attending a conference. If you're not presenting or enrolled in a grad program (or living nearby) I don't recommend attending one of the big meetings if it entails traveling and lodging and a lot of $$ spent to get there--it's probably not going to be in your best interest. Of course, this depends somewhat, but do keep that in mind. Otherwise, I do recommend attending to present your research. Remember that signing up to present can take place almost a year ahead of time (WHY they do this makes me nuts!), so get those abstracts in early. If you're shy, you might want to have a friend in your field go with you. Prepare and practise what you'll say ahead of time. A lot. Dress professionally. You know, the usual stuff. I don't have too many pointers for the presentations itself--I still don't have this down. I probably never will. Honestly, I find myself looking forward to a day when I can send someone else to give my talks for me :)

If you are looking to speak with certain people while at the conference, making an appointment ahead of time is a good thing to do--a quick email of introduction and reason for why you'd like to take a few minutes of their time is fair warning. Then you should attend their talk and actively listen--maybe come up with some questions. If you know someone who is a mutual friend with the person, have them introduce you (this works best, imho, as I think it helps cement who you are and can make things easier to start a conversation). Also, be brief. Conferences are hectic with stuff going on all the time. If you're meeting afterwards for dinner/drinks (of which there are always a lot), that's a different story, but waylaying a person in the hallway to chat is probably not the best thing to do, at least for very long. Also, if the person doesn't look eager to talk, don't take it personally: they are probably trying to hustle to their next meeting. It happens. Sending an email later, with some detailed (but not trip-them-up) questions can also be good to do.

Dang, that last paragraph has a lot of random stuff in it. Overall, remember conferences can be great resources. But they're also chock full of presentations, meetings, and oftentimes beer. You can gain a lot if you're willing to put yourself out there and speak with people, along with listening to all the talks. If you're shy, as I said before, bring a friend. It makes things a whole lot better, and you don't have to look like a total dork wandering around for days by yourself (*ahem* like I have for the past several years *ahem*).

Okay, now I swear I'm going to go work on that talk. Really. Honestly. Right after breakfast.