Monday, October 21, 2013

Week 10!

It's week ten and I'm working my brain to mush. 

I aced my first class, which is good, but it was yet another water ecology course, so it doesn't really count as far as I'm concerned.  I'm taking two new seminars for the second half of the semester, in addition to the "parade of faculty" graduate seminar.  

The first seminar is on writing in hight impact journals.  The publish or perish mentality is thriving, as expected, in the ecology/evolutionary biology field.  I've been told I should try to write every day -- which is not difficult as I'm working to get my preliminary experiments planned and my proposal perfected.  I may start posting about some of the journal articles I'm reading -- be prepared for extreme nerdiness.  I may try to do a review paper and meta-analysis for my thesis, too.  I'm still trying to get my  master's work published too. 

The next seminar is an introduction to R.  "R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics."  My statistics know-how is need-to-know only -- that is, if I need to know it, I can look details up in a book and muddle my way to understanding.  I know enough that I can interpret statistics from journals etc -- but I'm lacking practical knowledge (i.e. how to run the programs).  I've used SPSS almost exclusively, but I'm finding R to be much more elegant and direct.  I am by no means a statistician.   But hopefully by the end of this seminar I can code some things in R and analyze my own data.  

It's been a stressful start, though.  I've been sick, stressed, and sleepless -- which doesn't help my 12-16 hour days.  BUT I absolutely LOVE being in school, doing research, and talking science with other, equally nerdy people.  There's something truely satisfying about being able to discuss the ideas and topics I'm learning and developing with people who are interested, engaged, and sometimes even excited about the science.  

I'm teaching, too.  This term I'm teaching outside the department, doing intro biology labs, which are a piece of cake since I've taught them using essentially the same techniques and the exact same book for lecture.  There are about 620 students taking just this section of biology, and I'm working with about 60 of them (two sections of ~30) for the labs.  

Teaching is great.  For me it helps to reinforce the basics of biology, while also reminding me that I need to be able to communicate in a way that someone who is new to biology will understand.  Having to explain (repeatedly) the simple concepts is a fantastic way to reinforce it for yourself.  

In terms of research:  I'm probably going to do a project examining interactions between bees and wasps and parasitoids, and the different landscape and habitat variable that might influence those.  That's a really REALLY broad idea, and of course will need to be narrowed down -- I like the idea of studying the mechanisms of parasitism, and the various tri-trophic interactions at play.  

Hopefully the rest of the semester goes a bit more smoothly -- and I DONT get the flu! 

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