Thursday, May 31, 2007

"I Want to be a Scientist When I Grow Up!"

I am hungry to be a scientist.

When I was a little kid, Scientist was an extraordinarily romantic notion. I've mentioned before that I was drawn to all types of Useless Science from a very young age, and they all seemed to have fantastic jobs associated with them. Marine biologists spent all of their time on boats and in mile-deep ocean rovers discovering new species of squid. Paleontologists lived in tents and always had a half-excavated dinosaur under the nearest tarp. Astronomers lived on mountaintops and peered through telescopes every night while their data analyzed itself. Archaeologists traveled all the time and had Harrison Ford hats. Everyone was perpetually on PBS, and everyone was undyingly passionate about what they did.

Well, the PBS cameras haven't shown up yet and I'm surrounded by grouchy grad students, so that bubble has definitely been burst! But we've been asked how we are hungry, and I'm still hungry to be a scientist. The dramatized notion of what this means is long dead, replaced with the land of tenure, publication counts, field work, funding, and conference proceedings - and in all of its administrative gore, I still want it.

I have finished just one year of grad school. I am just shy of 23 years old. I am definitely a fledgling scientist when it comes to years of experience in research, paper-writer, advising (I've just started helping my adviser's summer student this past week, which is a whole new experience), time-management, committee-work, grant proposing, etc. Right now my age and my training level effectively invalidates any of my efforts to be really taken seriously as a professional in most people's eyes, even if I'm sometimes right. And I realize this.

What I'm really eager for is to get the necessary experience under my belt, to the point where I am looked at as a Scientist rather than a Scientist-In-Training, where my intellectual ideas are educated enough to be given weight and my contributions are treated professionally. I really seriously adore what I do, and when it all comes down to it I just want to reach a point where I am participating fully in my field. Even if this means less time doing research and more time spent on committees, it will mean that I am a professional in my discipline. I may still be a young professional. I may still be an inexperience professional. I may still be a "female" professional, something which I think will actually become more emphasized as I progress through graduate school and post-docs and the surrounding population of females is depleted at every turn. But I will be a professional. I would like to naively hope that at some point I will step back and look at myself and realize that I have become what I wanted to be when I started down this road as a college freshman.

This whole feeling simultaneously inspires fear, skepticism, and excitement.

On the fear side, I know this is partly driven by a desire to "arrive" as a Real Scientist in order to examine what sort of lifestyle it demands and decide once and for all if this is what I want, which is a decision I can't make as a beginner-grad-student.

The skepticism comes from those early PBS-Scientist days: when we're pre-teens and teenagers, we all desperately want to be "grown-ups", because everyone knows that when you're a grown-up all your problems are solved and all of your anxieties magically evaporate. As the equivalent of a Useless Science preteen, I'm hoping that this isn't just another version of "I wanna grow up". I KNOW that being a post-doc and a tenure-track professor can be incredibly hellish and that people look back on the straightforward graduate school years with longing. But it doesn't stop me from wanting to cross over the point where I am taken seriously as a scientist.

The excitement is really the best part. When I considered the "How we are hungry" question, this was the only answer that I could even imagine, and there's something extremely reassuring and pure about that fact. I'm hungry for lots of small things (more time with TB, a car, a tomato-and-mozzarella sandwich...), but what I am hungry for more than anything else is what I am working towards harder than anything else: to reach a position where I am building a life, professional and personal, as a Scientist. Not as a student. Not as a scientist-in-training. Not as someone whose hopes and dreams can be brushed aside by people with dismissals of "Oh, you're still too young to know what you want" or "Wait 'til you see what science is REALLY like, then you'll be sorry". As Elli the Scientist.

Now about that sandwich...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I Salute You, Burrito Guy!

This morning poor TB unloaded on me with some industry idiocy he's been dealing with - people who can't get their shit together, can't get simple tasks done, can't take direction, can't check their egos at the door, and have no concept of urgency, of getting work done when it needs to get done, or of helping others.

About an hour later I got a similar rant from a friend I talked to over IM - she's working as an intern at a biochem company over the summer and already has some awful stories about the people who are supposed to be her mentors and superiors basically behaving like petulant children.

Then I went to lunch with a few people, out to a fast-food burrito joint. There was one guy in charge of making the bulk of the burritos. You know how these places work - you fire out an order as rapidly as possible, bits of chicken and tomato cubes fly through the air, and a burrito lands in your hands about 2.3 seconds later. Well, this guy didn't disappoint. I placed my order, had it repeated back to me perfectly, and then got to watch him work. The dude absolutely FLEW. As he fielded about 15 orders from grouchy hungry people he was also refilling bins of ingredients as he ran out, restocking the drink fridge, and helping out a guy who was experiencing some sort of chicken-grilling crisis.

I would hire this guy to do ANYthing. He was a machine. He was better than a machine. Let's see what he did that the average MBA dolt can't seem to manage:

  • he completed the task assigned to him. I wanted a burrito. He gave me a burrito. And it was a good burrito.
  • he could hustle. Fast turn-over is an advertised product of a fast-food place. I got my burrito quickly, and so did all of the other people in line.
  • he could identify what needed to be done, and then he'd DO it! While he was working he emptied his bin of rice. There was no "someone get me more rice". No staring at the empty rice bin and wondering who to ask about it. No, "well, the rice bin is empty, so clearly there's nothing more I can do today." He looked around, realized he was the person who should get more rice, and got more rice. Problem solved.
  • he could take instruction. When asked to help the guy at the grill, he did.
  • he could give instructions. He didn't just drop what he was doing to help Grill Guy - he called over a girl (who was looking rather listless over by the lettuce) to please help him out so his job wouldn't go neglected. And he wasn't an ass about it - it was "could you help me for a sec?", not "hey lazy come do what I tell you!"
  • he was a considerate and professional human being. He moved quickly when necessary, he spoke clearly, he listened, and he did it all without a hint of attitude. No "mumblemumblewhat'dyousay?" No morose slouching. No eye-rolling or bad attitude. He wasn't a forcedly-perky "Have a scrumdiddlyumptious day!" type of employee (you know the type - they're threatened on pain of death by their managers to wear 37 pieces of flair and smile dammit smile at every customer who rolls through) - he was just awake and paying attention to what he was doing.

Now I'm sure this dude has his bad days, where he grumbles at customers and rolls his eyes when he runs out of rice. But bad days are one thing - adopting shitty work habits as a way of life is quite another. This guy gets it. He's capable, he understands what "work" means, and he knows how to behave in a professional setting (and when the fast-food burrito shop is treated as a more professional setting than an industrial biochemistry lab, there are problems with the world). Please, everyone - hire Burrito Guy.

Seriously - can we require all MBA candidates to take a semester of "Burger King Drive-Thru 101" before they're allowed to receive their degrees or start working? In addition to puncturing inflated egos and giving some of the more spoiled ones their first-ever taste of a summer job, it seems like they'd learn some of the vital skills that help someone succeed in business. Or at least make them more tolerable colleagues.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

An Apology to Professors and TAs Everywhere

(Inspired when Addy N. directed me to Rate Your Students, my most recent source of blog-crack)

Please - PLEASE - know that there are students out there who agree with you. Who hate the lazy, grade-grubbing, plagiarizing, Daddy-dialing little bastards who populate our classes. We want to learn. We want to be good students. We want to be respected as intellectual beings. Heck, we want to do good work and want you to like us. When those things happen your job is easier and our grade just might be shinier. Everybody wins!

I apologize for the kids who plagiarize and then act like they don't know what it means. Isn't that an eight-grade vocabulary word? I apologize for the guy in the front row who asks pompous tangential questions in a painfully loud voice just to prove How Smart He Is to his peers. I apologize for the Little Grade Grubbers who ask why they got a 58 instead of a 60 on their exam, or the PreMed Grade Grubbers who gulp and sob over a 98 vs. 100 discrepancy when you are already a generous grader. I especially apologize for the Beastly Grade Grubbers who call in Mommy, Daddy, the Dean, Daddy the Dean, or all of the above, in an attempt to prove to you, by sheer display of Other Grown-Ups, that you're being unfair. I can't really apologize for the kids who forget their pencils, their paper, or their pants, or who answer their cell phones during class, as this level of rudeness really is beyond my comprehension. I simply wish for your sakes that they disappear.

I apologize for department chairs who base your worth on the evaluations of bitter D students who just wish you'd inflate their grades a little more because really, who does it hurt? I apologize for the favoritism shown to professors who can't teach for crap but hand out A's at the drop of a hat. I apologize for any persons in power who treat a university like a business and think that "the customer is always right" when in fact "the customer" is a spoiled dumbass who thinks that their tuition is seriously paying your salary. And the powers-that-be believe them.

But hey, this isn't all because we, the decent students, feel badly for you, our dear professors. We're the self-centered know-it-all spawn of the baby boomers, after all - we apologize because we hate the awful students too. When Johnny Moneybags the Third needs a two-week extension on his paper draft because his business-major self has had a stressful Greek Week at the frat, it hurts us all. Their 20-bullshit-excuses-per-week dilute the one situation per year that some of us really do need a break on. My idea throughout undergrad had been to never EVER ask for an extension unless it was a ridiculous level of emergency, precisely because I figured that when I finally needed help, the professor would know it wasn't "just another excuse". With someone as stubborn as me, this wasn't the best policy.* I eventually figured out that most of my professors are not ogres with hearts of stone - provided I don't pull an "i need an extension plz its rly important" stunt every week, they'll look at my past record and help me out if it's reasonable**).

I TA'd a couple times. Fortunately, since I was an undergrad TA in a class of relatively smart kids, they knew enough to take most of their bitching over my head. I didn't get much more than a few "wait, do we get our lab books graded THIS week? I forget" emails, and a couple exciting excuses for missed labs (personal favorite: "I fell in the river and my roommate was in the shower with her boyfriend so I couldn't shower and had to go to Health Services because I came down with pneumonia." #1 - was "with her boyfriend" really a necessary detail? #2 - ostensibly you could have emailed me while waiting for said shower sex to conclude. #3 - kid, if you fell in the local river you'd have a lot more than pneumonia to worry about). I know I would lose it if I had to put up with a lot of the crap students fling at their teachers.

And finally, I personally apologize for any time when I might have BEEN that student - emailing about something I could have answered by looking at the syllabus, writing a grumpy evaluation because I thought I should have done better in the class, or maybe asking a question just because I wanted to prove to you that I was Listening, Attentive, and Smart. I hope you took off and bitched about me as you rightfully should have, and I hope that I have learned from my mistakes!

Elli The Student

*What I learned: don't sit through a two-hour exam instead of going to Health Services for a UTI. You will fail. You will wind up in the hospital. This does not make you smart or dedicated or a good student. This makes you a dumbass kid who isn't taking care of themselves properly.
**the worst example of "oh god my professor's going to kill me" in recent memory came from a kid in my officemate's lab section, who called him, from the hospital, after being run over by a car, to explain that he could finish prelab assignment in his hospital but wouldn't be making it to lab the next day as he was in traction but he would try to get the prelab faxed to our office sometime the next day and he was so so sorry for the inconvenience and if they wouldn't accept it late he'd understand that his grade would have to suffer and of course he would provide the university with the necessary hospital information and when should he try to make up the missed which point my officemate cut him off and started hollering "For the love of god, forget the damn prelab. Rest, get better, turn it in whenever, and we'll help you reschedule your lab when you're healthy!"

Saturday, May 19, 2007

This girl is freaking awesome.

She's 18, and she just summited Everest. She's now climbed the seven summits - the highest peak on every continent.

Take a couple minutes to check out the rest of her website. There's a bunch of news stories going around on her right now, but I think her website says it all the best. And yeah, she's also an all-state oboe player. And a dancer. And a great writer!

I simultaneously feel extraordinarily boring and lazy, and like maybe I should put "climb ONE of the seven summits" back on my life list.

Seriously, though: goddamn. Everyone should go read about this girl; the more I read, the more incredible this is! What a great role model for kids, women, men, ANYone!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

competitive feminism?

I was waiting by the hallway printer this morning, trying to coax one of my old papers out of its leisurely innards. The paper was printing slowly enough that I got to skim each page before the next one emerged. This was a two-year-old paper that I was third author on, so as I read I came across occasional scientific facts I didn't remember. In this vein, I stumbled across something that was extremely cool and tied into research I am doing now. I chuckled at myself, rolling my eyes at the fact that information I had been hunting for was sitting right in one of my own papers. Clearly, my memory sucks.

One of my least favorite grad students, DramaGirl, was walking by at the time. She shot off some "You look amused" comment (she has, in the past, criticized me for looking happy while in grad school, so alarm bells should have gone off right away). Since the comment sounded harmless and even friendly, I replied, without thinking, "Yeah, it's just sad that I can't remember what's in my own papers."

DramaGirl has now informed the other students in her year that I am a bragging little snot, so enamored with myself and the fact that I've published sooooo many papers that I like to flaunt the fact that I can't even remember what I wrote.

When I initially heard this I felt awful. I don't like people with inflated egos and would hate to get one myself. After all, who was I to toss out such a comment? Didn't I think about how it sounded, or that I was insulting her, or...

Then I thought about it again. It's not my fault that I've published a few papers (not really "soooo many" in my book), and since when is publishing someone's fault?? True, I didn't think ahead before I opened my mouth but hey, if a professor or an older student had said it it would have been fine. And it's not my job to accommodate her insecurities - professors call students stupid, for gods' sake, so her angst about someone else's publication record is definitely not my problem.

This girl has groused to other students about how she used to be "the best" student around here because she had a couple published papers, but now I had come along and was "beating her" by having more published papers and "competing with her" by coming in as early as she does.

Yeah, it doesn't make sense to me either. "The best"? "Beating her"? What is this, third grade? Do I get my name on the blackboard with a star next to it if I publish another paper? This level of competitiveness and cattiness is quite foreign to me. There are not a finite number of department Ph.D. issued every year. If I come in at 9AM that doesn't prevent her from coming in at 8:30AM. And our subfields are about as different as they could be, so it's not like we'll be competing for advisers, postdocs or jobs. As far as I know, she's smart, a hard worker, and a better student than me. It's our personalities that rub the wrong way. She hits an alarming number of behaviors or personality traits that I just do not click with (some of which I'll certainly talk about in the future), so I mostly try to avoid her. Unfortunately, one thing she does which I hate is seek out excess drama and conflict, so she does NOT try to return the favor and avoid ME.

DramaGirl is a Feminist, as she will readily and eagerly tell you. When her old adviser suggested she do more analysis and wait a while before publishing, he was being sexist. When our summer students stats came in and were largely males, she bugged individual professors about going down the waiting list until they found a girl who wanted to come here for the summer. At the same time, accomplished or assertive females who aren't her are "bitches", dorks who work too hard, or "playing the gender card to get ahead" (that's a direct quote). I am completely convinced that, had I been a male student, she would not have gotten pissy and spread this information around.

I'm not the feminist police - I hate hearing that women who wear skirts, shave their legs, or give blow jobs are "fake feminists". But labeling yourself a feminist because it makes you sound politically aware and then putting down other women to make yourself the most accomplished girl in the room makes her, at the very least, a damn poor feminist. Despite DramaGirl's feminist self-identification, she carefully parses her world into "male" and "female" categories, and only appears interested in making sure she's at the top of the "female" pecking order. It's some perverse kind of feminism I see once in a while in academia - she tries to make herself the most accomplished female around on the theory that, the next time a department is looking for a "token girl", she's first in line. Never mind that this reinforces all those damn notions of tokenism and "women" being a separate, lesser applicant pool that gets dipped into out of charity - this is how her world works.

(hey, I can be jealous and competitive with the best of them, but I'll go after the males too - the minute I read Anne of Green Gables and watched Anne studiously compete with Gilbert Blythe all through her schooling, I've had me a role model :P)

Either way, I now like her even less. And the net result has been me thinking that, if everyone is going to think I have a huge ego, I might as well work on cultivating one - they'll get to be right, and I'll get to practice my self-promotions skills well before I have to start applying for postdocs!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Random Bullets of Aaaaargh

  • I am studying for the most useless, pointless, waste-of-time "final" exam ever (administered before official finals week because our professor is as sick of the class as I am!) The professor hates grading and has not given us our other exam or half of our copious amount of homeworks. He will most likely not grade the final and assign final grades by throwing darts or rolling dice. Most of the other students are slavishly copying their notes over and over - because if it didn't click after the sixth time, the seventh time's the charm?? I am grudgingly studying our old (uncorrected) exam problems, but I have, you know, Real Science to do (my research is making me explode with excitement, and I have a presentation I'm itching to get rolling on). Memorizing and regurgitating is not a good use of my time right now.
  • I have been waiting for a while to hear back about a research proposal I submitted to our department. Supposedly the decision was made a couple weeks ago. There is no news - nobody has gotten any emails or letters. Other students who put in proposals have advisers on the committee who tell them, "Oh, you got funded and approved!" I tried hunting down two people who I peripherally know that are on the committee. They have both been in hiding all day, and were also in hiding all day Friday. I hate that.
  • Dr. Talks-A-Lot is also not in today. I had lots of questions for her that I'd prefer to get answered sooner rather than later. Damn.
  • Apparently the bank down the street closes very early on Mondays. I foolishly went by there a little after lunch to deposit some reimbursement checks that came in a cool ten weeks late (no, really), and was met with perky ladies smiling at me behind the locked door and shaking their heads - no, they closed two minutes ago. No, I can't come in.
  • TB is out of phone contact for the next few days. Which is never any fun. He was also rather mumbly and grouchy last night, and would only tell me that he and a (female) friend had gone to see Spiderman 3 and vent about their lives. Am not exactly jealous of the female friend, come she gets to hear about his day and I get "*grunt* Movie was all right...I'm working right now, sorry I can't talk...*grunt* Now I'm going to bed."?
  • My mother is on my case about visiting home. Weirdly. She wants me to focusfocusfocus on school and research, but thinks that when I next manage to scrounge together free time I should come home, rather than going to see TB or sticking around to get work done. Sigh.

In short, it is a grumpy whiny day. On the bright side, I did have a tofurkey sandwich, veggie chips, and dark chocolate for lunch today (mmm), and I have some boil-and-stir vegetable risotto to make for dinner. I think I might throw in the studying in a couple hours and spa out - shower, paint my toes for no reason, do yoga, and read (I just got this book via ScienceWoman's recommendation, and it's wonderful).

Friday, May 4, 2007

Damn paradox...

I need some help convincing my body that, if it goes jogging in the morning, it is more productive and focused for the day. It seems to think it should sit in my apartment and try to get stuff done until it's time to shower and go into work, rather than waste time by something so silly as exercise. It refuses to believe my theory that losing a half-hour or so to jogging every morning is worth it, as I will gain that half-hour back later in productivity. Never mind that I lose ample time every morning/evening to websites, blogs, email, bad TV, reading, etc. It's the running that manages to get cut out of the day.

I am at one of those funny points where I have lot of work that is hard to do, but interesting (in other words: starting one paper and polishing another). Once it's done, I get to work on stuff that is a lot less hard and interesting - proposing a contributed talk for a meeting, putting a couple presentations together, gathering my thoughts for my next project. Good stuff. There are no data snafu's causing my problems - it's plain and simple lack of motivation that means I don't get enough done in the day.

And the way to get more done in the day is to take a half-an-hour away from it every morning and go jogging.

I believe it. It's my legs that don't. :P

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Work, Life, Vagina: Pick Two

The Boyfriend and I have been dating for some time now. We joke about getting married in that "oh gosh what a scary ridiculous thought" way, but really, it's starting to occur to both of us that such a future could actually be likely. We're not married, or even engaged, but we're Seriously Committed.

Recently, an opportunity has come up for TB to relocate to College State in the future, and he has asked me to go with him. It would be a temporary relocation (one year), and would happen after I had gotten started on Teh Tehsis. I have friends, family, and ample opportunity for collaboration in the state, and I like it there. I have plenty of time to plan such a move. Logistically, this is doable, and my adviser is on board - she's been looking up connections she might have and groups I could work with, suggesting fellowships or grants I can apply for to fund me during my PhD thesis, etc.

Despite this, I have heard a deafening litany of concerns from my parents and my older advisers about how dangerous this could be for my career. Forget that I have over a year to make sure that this move goes as smoothly as possible for my professional life. Forget that a five-year long-distance relationship WOULD be dangerous for me and TB. They are Worried.

My older advisers/colleagues (many male, some female) ask me why TB (who they have never met) can't move himself out HERE, why he can't put HIS entire career on hold and mark time until I'm done, why I can't just plan to finish my thesis faster and then move to where he is (yeah, I loved that one). The emphasis is largely on him - "why is he making you do this? Why do you have to move to where he is? DANGER DANGER ACCOMMODATE A MAN AND YOUR HARD WORK WILL SPONTANEOUSLY VAPORIZE!" My mother in particular is terrified that this might be a death knell for my career. Keep in mind that I have an older sister with a husband AND kids AND a career, who is an excellent role model. She's still convinced that any decision I make that might factor in TB is a bad decision, made for foolish emotional reasons that will just come back to haunt me. She also wonders why he can't "get some job in his field where you are" and follow me.

I do understand that these worriers come from a different time, when women following their husbands was the status quo and they were widely expected to put their careers on the back burner. I know that times haven't changed as much as they should have. But it's curious: everyone who is worried about me has told me that I am "very talented", "brilliant", "valuable", "passionate", other recommendation letter superlatives, etc. - yet apparently they think all my talent and brilliance and value and passion can be wiped out in a flash by the mere suggestion of a committed relationship. The implication here - saying that I shouldn't consider such a move, that TB should move to where I am, that he should put his career on hold - is that he'll be fine and happy and none the worse for wear even if he throws roadblocks in front of his future, but I'll be doomed if I so much as consider a future that isn't maniacally devoted to work, work, and only work. Plus, I highly doubt anybody would corner TB and say "Why can't your girlfriend just hold off on her degree for a while and get some job? Why can't she just transfer to a school closer to you?" They might think it, but it's way too un-PC to actually say "your girlfriend should follow you". How can someone get off on saying "your boyfriend should follow you"? The person who can more easily follow should do the following, or ideally a compromise should be reached. End of story.

I seriously suspect this is partly because he's in industry, and academia often sees industry as this magical land where the work is easy, the money grows on trees, and the employment opportunities are perfect and omnipresent. I've also found that academics perceive their industry counterparts as lacking ambition and drive - I suspect that because TB is in industry and I am in academia, I am seen as being more committed to and ambitious about my job. He "just works". Never mind that he is busting his ass, devoted to what he does, and working longer hours than I am. It's just a cushy easy little job, after all. Meanwhile, I am *~*researching*~*, I am *~*getting a Ph.D.*~*, I am *~*passionate*~*. I am enduring grad school for this, and everyone knows grad school is the hell of all hells! [eye roll] The result is a belief that he should prostrate himself at the great altar of Academia without regard for his career future. After all, if he really cared about his profession, he'd be a grad student in it! [snort]

I also think that this is good old-fashioned sexism dressed up as "concern". I'm foolishly trying to "having it all", I can't possibly have a job and a partner/family/life AND a vagina. I've decided to be a woman in science and now I better not want to be anything else. Clearly, they see female intellect as tenuous and easily derailed by frivolous distractions, rather than a tool I can wield to help build myself the life I want. I also see some really ridiculous condescending crap going on here: "You realize that if you have a family, it makes it harder to work." My gosh, if you hadn't told me, I never would have known! I never pay attention to these things! I'm just a little 22-year-old woman with a Bachelors of Science! Thank goodness someone keeps me posted! You tell me I'm smart, but clearly my intellect is narrowly confined to that thing I have a degree in, and doesn't translate to any kind of knowledge about other things, such as My Life.

I know this isn't a new experience for Women In Science, but it's a new experience for me, and it's alarming. The people whose opinions I value, who are in a position to help me and support me, who tell me I'm a smart and capable woman, don't trust me with my own future. How does one respond to that??

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Blog repairs and Office Space

I have been out of the loop lately and just finished a post I want to submit to Scientiae. Of course, it's the 1st of the month so my timing is less than ideal, and I am sitting on the post until tomorrow so it can go into the carnival on the 15th.

In the meantime, I fixed my comments so anybody can leave one, not just registered users. I also cleaned out some old drafts I have sitting around.

The Office Space Follies are imminent and promise to be violent - we've had a spat of recent dissertation defenses (all successful! w00t!), and as a result offices will be opening left, right, and center. I had previously planned to just stay where I was, but now the prospect of a windowed office beckons. We have an unprecedently large (and, oddly, all-male) incoming class, and we can't just stuff them into the basement. Best of all, two grad students who share an office have just had a drama-choked "I don't want to be your friend anymore!"-type spat, and have made it clear that they will not continue their professional cohabitation.

I've cooked up that future Scientiae post and have posts in the queue on professional dress for meetings and seeing some fellow grad students write their first papers. So I'll start writing more - I swear!