Friday, March 13, 2009


The April Scientiae topic: Tell us about that most firey fire through which you have had to walk in your scientific career. How did you overcome the challenge? Did you have help along the way, or was it a solo effort? And what did you learn? Why are you a better scientist given the difficulties that you have encountered?

Peeps, I am in the most fiery challenge of my scientific career right now. I am not going to go into details, but my dissertation writing is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I began writing this thing back in early 2007 and have had a bastard of a time with it since. There are difficulties with professors involved, I have become angry at the system and I feel it has greatly let me down.

I have not overcome this challenge yet, but I know I will sometime. I do have help along the way. I have friends who are willing to listen sympathetically and who also are willing to not ask when I say I don't want to talk about it. R is great at reminding me to be self-confident and at reading my chapters critically and coming up with awesome insights that really help my writing. I have also started going to counseling, which has been amazing for helping me remember who I am, and that I am a smart, successful person, even when others say I am not.

I have also really learned a ton. I have learned about facing huge obstacles and harsh criticism and about how I work best. I think this last part has been most useful. I've often tried to work how I think others work, or how I think I should work. But it is only this semester, when I am teaching 10,045 classes and writing that I have really found what works for me. I have carefully scheduled writing time that I CANNOT make up if I miss. Really. If I don't write between my two classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays I don't have time to write for that week. This knowledge really makes me cut the procrastination. Also, the time chunks I have are short enough that I don't get bored. I am forced to stop by needing to go teach, which always leaves me wanting to get back to my work. And I have finally accepted that I don't work well in the house. I have access to a great office that I am using a lot, and I recently added two more hours to my work time by staying after my classes for an hour at night.

When I am not too upset by the whole situation, I know that this really crappy dissertating experience will in the end make me more sure of myself as an independent scholar, and will make me more able to take rejections and criticisms of my ideas in the future. I also wouldn't wish this experience on anyone, and hope it will help me be more sympathetic of any grad students I may get to work with in the future.


1 comment:

Angela said...

I found my way here from candid engineer's page...
Just thought I'd say, I understand - and great job of sticking to the writing!