Turned 30 and suddenly M.I.A.

The 29th year project has come to an end, and I didn’t even have the time to wrap it up.  After my birthday weekend, which was one of the happiest birthday celebrations I’ve ever had so far, I needed to go “full-warrior-mode” and tackle the 600-lb elephant in the room that has been staring at me for quite a while now… my thesis.  It has been a struggle writing the dissertation, as you might glean from previous posts.  I only have less than three weeks before I submit the written dissertation to my examination committee and I haven’t met my personal deadlines for the draft.  I have to say that I have three chapters done by the middle of this week, and it has been sitting on my P.I.’s desk, untouched.  I understand why he couldn’t get to it sooner – we had to prepare all the necessary files for our journal re-submission, and I know he is also in the middle of writing another manuscript.  It didn’t help that I had to do extra experiments for the manuscript revision or that I have to supervise the undergraduate volunteer as he embarks on a new lab project.  I am not a master of time management, and the past few days challenged me to spend my time wisely.  The last five days, my diet while I’m in the lab consisted of chocolate, pretzels, chips, more chips and an overdose of caffeine (the strong brew from the Seattle’s Best kiosk in the hospital lobby).  It’s tough, but partly I am to blame.  I could have done more when I had the time, but my brain doesn’t function very well when it’s not under pressure.  This is something that is hard to change.  Today was my most productive day in terms of progress with the last two chapters (and the most critical chapters at that – Introduction and Discussion).  I just have to march ahead through the weekend and finish the draft by Sunday night so that I can send it out for comments from my P.I. by Monday.  This will give me the rest of the week to refine the overall draft, put them together and get it ready for printing come Monday next week, which is the deadline for  written dissertation.  I know I can deliver.  I just need to hang in there.  And stay sane.

P.S.  I’ll have a separate post for  the weekend that was… hopefully soon.


T minus 3: Dots to the right, alright!

Finally, my final experiment (which has been the final experiment for a month or so now) gave me the results that I’ve previously seen, but haven’t been able to replicate with the frozen vials I have stored.  I’ve gone through several vials and even the positive control wasn’t giving me any response.  I needed to show additional controls to demonstrate the specificity of my T cell line and after going through several frozen stocks of said cell line, I found a good vial!  The cell counts were just enough to set-up all the conditions I needed and more than 95% of the cells were viable after doing the assay.  I finally was able to wrap up the revision of my manuscript and address the reviewers’ comments.  What a relief!

Just a couple of the conditions I needed to test my T cell line against.  The cell line responded to influenza virus infection but not to vaccinia virus infection. Sweet!

T minus 4: a snowy leap day

I got another birthday wish fulfilled!  Well, I’ve been telling friends I would love to see snow on my birthday.  Given the mild winter that we’ve had so far, I wanted to have some “closure” with the season.  I needed a snowstorm.  It didn’t come exactly on the birthday itself,but  I think it is all for the best, as I  wouldn’t want to spoil the weekend plans with a snowstorm.  Hopefully the snow accumulation sticks around until Sunday, although I doubt it.  Anyways,I feel like it was my first time to see snow – getting giddy with excitement and marveling at how pretty the winter landscape is with a dash of white goodness.  I guess February 29, 2012 wants to be remembered as that day when winter made a comeback.


If my original plan had pushed through, today would have been my defense day.  But it’s pushed back further to April 3rd.  Thinking about it right now, I can feel the pressure – from family, from friends, but most of all from me.  My written dissertation is still not solid, I am at a loss as to how I am going to spin it off.  I am not feeling confident about my work, my data.  Up till now, the hypotheses we have come up for the project are not really addressed by the data that I have and I’m really scared that my examination committee will rip me apart.  I want to send out a draft to my P.I. for him to read, but I don’t want to give him a crappy draft.  According to my schedule, I should have been done with the Introduction chapter by now. Actually, I have stuff written for all of my chapters, they are just incomplete at different levels.  I tell myself to focus on one chapter, but I end up staring at the screen for quite some time, I feel I’m wasting time.  Add to that the unplanned experiments that had to be done for the manuscript that is under revision.  And I didn’t factor in the time I have to allot for the undergrad who is still doing volunteer work in our lab.  I don’t think extra time would make a difference.  What I need is a change of mindset and a thorough convincing of the self that I can do this, that I need not worry about the other stuff for now.

Let the job hunting lie low for the next couple of days, you’ve sent out a couple of applications.  Let them go through your CV.  You will hear from them eventually.  Press pause for your personal life for now, although this doesn’t mean you shun the world entirely.  You know what I mean.  Don’t worry about being “penniless” in the coming months.  What you need to do right now, at this moment, is to finish your draft.  That’s all there is to this.  For now.

So get back to your word document and just write.  Write, as if your life depend on it – well, my life as it will be and as it unfolds in the coming days, will really depend on it.

T minus 5 days

I realized I haven’t been even paying attention to the countdown myself.  It used to be that I am excited about my upcoming big 3-0.  But now, all that is taken over by more pressing matters.  Like this dissertation for instance.  It’s all that is in my mind right now – am I writing it up correctly?  Will my examination committee rip it apart?  Why do I feel that my “story” doesn’t seem strong enough?  Add to that the pressure of finding a job ASAP.  I get distracted now and then with thoughts of the next chapter – precisely because I don’t know how or where it is going to be.  It’s daunting to be moving forward, not knowing where exactly I will be in May.  The job hunting is going slow, and it’s killing me.  Well, maybe it just seems slow.  I’ve started applying out of state now, who am I to be picky?  My personal preferences – I’m throwing them out of the window.  And as much as I love Massachusetts, I have to be open to other opportunities because I don’t have the luxury of time and money.

My birthday is this weekend and I am hosting a party, but somehow, my heart is really not into it.  I want to press pause, take a breather, maybe postpone the celebration.  But I am only going to turn 30 once, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to celebrate the life adventure I’ve had.  This is a tough time in my life for sure, but as the cliche goes, the show must go on.  Life has to go on.  I will be celebrating my birthday and I will be putting my party-face on.  Maybe this is the breather that I need.


I was checking out abstrusegoose.com today for a new comic strip and as the page loaded I was taken aback by this:


I thought my computer got hacked!  I use Google Chrome for my browser and Gmail for most of my emails, and to see my name on it…  it took me a few seconds to realize that THIS was the comic and it was not a “hacker message” of sorts.  Phew!


18 days still… and I get my first 30th birthday present!

I was really taken by surprise today!  Who would expect anything on an ordinary day?  But my friends surprised me big time!  Great timing, perfect execution.  I did not see it coming.  Not this early.  And I got a little extra (Valentines day gift) too!  I cannot thank them enough.

29 days left to my 29th year project

This counting down business has made me think about life in a quantitative manner.  I am not a mathematician or a physicist, thus my version of “quantitative” is very elementary.  I don’t have elaborate formulas or beautiful equations to represent my day-to-day life, I just tend to associate life to a certain number – i.e. 29 days till my 30th birthday; 2 months to go before the defense.; fifteen minutes to write a blog entry; five minute break to play words with friends; five solid pages to accomplish for the dissertation today.  When, I saw this comic from Abstruse Goose (by virtue of clicking the random comic generator on the website until I found something interesting and not fortuitously, as the romantic in me would have wanted),  I envy how people can be so clever in how they look at life.  936 blobs.  Who knew.

And I hit the 30-mark

30 days to go.

And now, some random musings.

I decided to give my blog a little makeover.  I realized that the last few posts were mostly bleak and sad (as pointed out by my avid reader, my sister Joanne).  The previous theme that I chose was a little too dark, and maybe changing up the theme a bit to a lighter tone would help brighten up future posts.  I also uploaded a new header, a photo I took of the sunset in Dennis, MA.  I’ve always loved sunsets and sunsets over a body of water are my favorite!

I now have exactly two months until my thesis defense.  The writing has been slow, mostly because I do not push myself too hard.  For a while, I didn’t have the actual defense date because of scheduling conflicts among my committee members.  I fell into a complacent mode – not really caring about how much writing I have done in a day.  But with the date all set and my time running out, I need to compel myself to work hard and write fast.  It’s not an easy task, and I still am overwhelmed as to how I am going to write-up my introduction, but I have most of my chapters done.  I need to take one day at a time, and I’m glad that even if I started working late today, I have added a substantial number of lines and tables to the dissertation, more than what I have added to it in the last 10 days.  One day at a time.

I also have a confession to make…  the progress has been slow because I watched an episode of “Vampire Diaries” and got hooked!  I started last weekend, and now, I have finished Season 1 (all 22 episodes) and I’m 8 episodes into Season 2.  Talk about using my time wisely…. tsktsk.  I didn’t expect that I would like the series, but I did.  A little mindless entertainment while I fold clothes, do chores or get ready for the day… well, I really don’t have good excuse except that I liked the series and can’t get enough of it.  Howell.

Car woes.  Yes.  I have been in and out of the car repair shop this week.  The check engine light of my car lit up, the first time it happened since I got it in 2006.  Turns out I needed to replace a valve (EGR).  My car is old (1997 Accord), but it has served me well.  I really don’t want to shell out any more $$$ because I just paid a deductible for the repairs done after the freak incident in October and I had the rotors and brake pads replaced over the summer.  And the near-accident a couple of weeks ago… But I can’t afford not to have the car fixed.  So out goes another couple of $$$…

39 days and counting… I have a date… and another countdown begins

I’ve been counting a lot lately… counting down the days till the big 3-0, counting down the days till my defense date… I finally have a date for my thesis defense (after one thousand years – it took forever to have all my committee members’ schedules aligned).  4.3.2012.  And the birthday countdown? T=0 on 3.4.2012.    Talk about memorable dates!  Life milestones up ahead!  It’s a scary and exciting thought!  I am looking forward to a new decade, to a slew of wonderful life adventures.  I can’t wait to be done with graduate school and begin a new chapter in my career.  There are so many things to think about, it’s a slurry in my head.  There are tons of things to be done, and I am getting anxious every now and then.  I usually don’t worry, and lately worry (and self-doubt) just creeps into me.  I am a walking bag of mixed emotions, it’s driving me crazy.  It’s the last leg, the last lap.  I am almost there.  And all will be well.

(P.S.  After re-reading this, I realized I am giving myself a little pep talk here.  Crazy.)