Thursday, March 17, 2011

Guest Posting at Engineer Blogs

Ever wonder if an engineer's brain turns off? Answer is no, no it does not - even while cooking.

Check out today's post on Engineer Blogs.

I was having dinner with a engineer recently, and we split the last appetizer. It fell to me to divide the morsel in half. As my friend watched me size up the little wedge with my knife, he laughed and asked, "Trying to find the centroid?"

Why yes, yes I was.

Takes one to know one, that's what I say. :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Let's Move on to Doing!


I carefully prepared, and then had a committee meeting. I got the required "Proceed" designation on my thesis card.

So now I need to proceed! After spending so long doing background research and writing, I am so so excited to get back to actually DOING things. Experiments! Building! Machining!

Ah, machine shop, it's been too long...

I get antsy after a while if I don't get my hands dirty. I have to find something to work on - in the past when I get antsy I've taken a Saturday to build houses with Habitat for Humanity, or to help my friend renovate his house. If there aren't any houses around to build, I'll pick up a side project to work on. But recently I've got too many side projects as it is! And I've been traveling, so my laundry and dishes and packing/unpacking/repacking have kept me from spending too much time tinkering.

But I miss tinkering.

So I'm pleased that now not only do I have my advisor's full approval to tinker, my tinkering antsy-ness can be directly applied to research. And eventual graduation.

And what's not to like about that?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Guest Posting at Engineer Blogs

This week's theme is "your favorite class." I have a lot of favorites, but check out the one I wrote about here - it might surprise you.

What was your favorite class?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Committee Meeting #1

I thought I'd give an update on my first committee meeting - I wrote about making slides for the meeting here and here.

I'm pleased to announce that the meeting went well! On the specified day and time, I had slides ready, room reserved, a few snacks and water bottles, samples for show and tell, and my lab notebook ready to take notes. All I needed was a committee.

My advisor showed up first, and then five minutes later the second member showed up. But then... no third member. At fifteen past, I started to get a bit worried. I had reserved the room for an hour and a half, and only planned on taking an hour (hopefully).

At twenty past, I looked up the phone number and called to check on the missing third member. The secretary answered the phone, and I said "Hi this is Miss Outlier, and I had scheduled a..."

The secretary broke in, "Oh, honey, I know who you are. Your committee member is on her way! She'll be there in just a few minutes. Don't worry!"

So the secretary was feeling for me. Bet she's seen a few flustered grad students in her time...

At twenty-five past, we were all assembled. I went through my slides, and I'm pleased to say that I had intelligent answers for questions as they arose. They had some critique, which is good, and I noted down all of their comments. That's what I want them for, right, their expertise? So bring it on!

It took about an hour, and we finished up just before the room reservation ran out, so all is well that ends well. The only thing I screwed up is that I forgot to bring my thesis card. I actually had it at my desk, and I had thought earlier in the week I should bring it, but it just slipped my mind.

But fortunately, I was able to get my advisor to sign the appropriate spots on the card later that day, when I brought the card to his office. I'll get the signatures from the other members next time we meet. The only critical piece is that the committee chair (my advisor) has to write "Proceed" in the comments section for the meeting.

It was even a little thrilling to watch my advisor write the comments section of the thesis card for this meeting. There are words in my thesis card. Signatures. I'm official, this is happening. One day I will be Dr. Outlier. My advisor bent over his desk, putting down a few notes about the critique I got from everybody - and then he stopped, put down the pen, and looked at me with what I swear was a twinkle in his eye.

"Anything else I should write?" he prodded.

You betcha there is. Mark down my "Proceed," sir!

Figure: I know you can't read that handwriting. Focus on the right - Proceed!

And so am officially past committee meeting #1 with flying colors.

The regular lunch crew was sitting around the table yesterday eating, and one of my friends asked me a question about my PhD topic. Turns out it's highly relevant to her work. I rattled off a bunch of information, and then answered all of her follow up questions with carefully thought-out answers, and offered to send her references to back up my reccomendation for her project.

"Man," said another friend, "Sounds like somebody just had a committee meeting! You just machined-gunned out information for every possible scenario!"

Well, yep, so I did. Didn't get the "Proceed" for nothing!

So, well, I'm on to proceeding.