Tag Archives: Graduate School

Congrats Dr. Maroof!!

Last Friday my partner in crime defended his PhD 🙂

Congratulations Dr. JP!

A number of immediate perks of doing this include –

a) Dressing up in fancy clothes and talking for an hour (or however long you damn well please) about what you’ve invested the last 6 years of your life on, to an audience that is obligated to pay attention and act like they sincerely give a shit…


b) Eating this for dinner…


c) Spending the evening with your friends on a swanky rooftop…


d) Having the biggest concern of your Saturday morning be whether your eggs benedict should come with salmon or crab cakes…


Now PhD defenses always make you feel pretty special, but you know you’re really cool when have these three attendees in your audience…




The one-and-only DFR (pictured) AND Wolfie!! (The Wolf = not pictured; rather, snoozing away in the kind-of-pictured green stroller.)

The one little catch of this  situation is that after the lovely post-defense weekend it’s balls to the wall in order to —

  1. Finish paper and thesis revisions,
  2. Pass off everything to the next generation,
  3. Pack up and ship or sell everything that has been accumulated at Club 321 over the last 4 years by the end of the month and
  4. Ship off to Berkeley, CA with a few suit cases of clothes and a Penny cat.

Not that any of this is so horrible or anything…kind of like how drinking out of a fire hose can’t be that bad… Having survived the last 6 years however, I’m sure everyone will be fine.

So, CONGRATULATIONS DR. JP and best of luck with that fire hose over the next 3 days.

Has anyone shipped a shit-load of books (or stuff in general) across the country recently? Any great insight on what the cheapest options are?

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Dr. Trot, PhD

Now that things are a bit more under control than they have been in the last few months (and since I have no friends to hang out with in Princeton yet…but never mind), let me fill you in on the major events of the last handful of weeks.

First off, Dr. trot now has her PhD!!

I defended my thesis, Gene expression control and antimicrobial peptide production by haute couture bacteria, on May 3rd. The PhD defense process for our department is quite similar to the way most programs work (I think…).

First, there is a bunch of time sensitive paperwork to first scavenge from a number of ambiguously described niches of the interweb, then fill out and finally submit to a variety of seemingly unrelated (however, all apparently somehow very important to my graduation) offices.

Next is the fun part, the actual defense. So the defense is technically an exam. However, it’s also really a celebration and feels a lot more like this then like an exam. When you’re ready to defend you’ve already done all of the work, run all of the experiments, crunched all of the data and written all of the papers. You have become the expert on your work and are given a stage from which you can arm-twist your family and friends into being a captive audience for 45 min to hear about what has consumed the previous 4-6 years of your life (and a damn good excuse to dress up in a shirt with crazy frilly sleeves and pointy, paten leather, red heals :-). During the first ~45 min, you present your work to your adviser, your 4-person faculty committee and the family and friends who prefer NOT to receive lumps of coal in their Christmas stockings next Dec. whose schedules are flexible enough to allow them to attend in the middle of the day. Next, the floor is open to questions from anyone. This usually lasts 20-30 min. Last, the public (friends and family) are kicked out politely asked to leave, and you are left with only the committee to continue closed door discussions for another 20-30 min. After this, you are asked to step out of the room so “the committee can deliberate.” This is really just a formality though; I have never heard of anyone even coming close to failing. After a brief wait in the hall, your adviser comes to fetch you and your committee parades out the door, shaking your hand and congratulating you along the way.

At this point you have a very precious piece of paper work that you have to submit (w/in 24 hrs of your exam, or something crazy like this) to the graduate school and then it’s PARTY TIME!!!

One other very important point to note is the defense food. When you defend, you’re responsible for providing snack for your committee and audience members. My family’s arms were double twisted into coming AND bringing food, and a good choice by me (if I do say so myself) because the snacks they brought were amazing! They brought a butt-load of homemade sweet breads (banana +\- chocolate chips AND nuts, blueberry oatmeal, and chocolate) and savory bread (zucchini cheddar), fruit, coffee and water. It was all absolutely wicked good. This is important as both students (whose behaviors towards their colleagues are very food-mailable) and faculty (whose moods/senses of humor/empathy towards lowly graduate students are easily influenced by good/bad grub) hit up the snack table first thing as they walk in the door. So, T, F, & L, thanks so much!!!

Our department tradition is that the new Dr. takes their family and friends hour for happy hour(s) at a local establishment of their choice. You basically hand over your credit card with the lowest interest rate and assign someone to making sure you reunite with it at the end of the evening and make it home (rather than to detox for example) in one piece. (Thank you SmAdj 🙂 No one wants this tradition to end. 🙂 I had my defense party at the Kitty Cat Klub, the same place I celebrated passing my qualifying exam (10 days shy of ) 4 years earlier and woke up without a plastic ID bracelet (thanks again A 🙂


While I’m in the business of thanking people, I also need to thank Sir. K, one of my very good friends from undergrad who came all the way from Chicago to attend my defense and spend the weekend in Mpls. Thank you!

After nursing the defense weekend (yes, weekend) hangover, the final steps in wrapping up were to make a few final thesis edits, print and bind the friggen expensive thesis, complete exit paper work and pass my work (lab samples, supplies and reagents, files and papers) on to my next of kin. It’s funny how a month seems like so much time to get all of these things done, until you’re living in that one (what the hell was i thinking?!?! month. :-/

And with that, ready or not (hint: one never says this if they are ready) I was off for NJ!!

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Where did the 12 days go?

Holy crap has it been a long time since I’ve posted anything!

To make a long 12 days very short, the following have happened:

  1. Anna’s wedding shower (on April 27th, but I still haven’t posted about it)
  2. My PhD defense (on May 3rd, but I also still haven’t posted about this!)
  3. Ian’s and Samia’s defenses (May 13th and 15th — which I largely blame for my absence)
  4. Finishing and officially submitting the final draft of my thesis : Gene expression control and antimicrobial peptide production by haute couture bacteria.
  5. Drinking heavily 11/16 days/evenings since my defense

In addition, the following items have most certainly NOT happened:

  1. Regular work outs
  2. Healthy eating
  3. Enough sleep
  4. Proper preparations for moving half way across the country

No guarantees of course, but over the next few days I’ll try to catch all 4 of you up on what has been going on in more detail. 🙂

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My final recruiting weekend

This weekend was our department’s second prospective recruiting weekend of the spring.

What does this mean?

  1. Thesis? What thesis?
  2. Implementation of the hangover cure.
  3. Thesis? What thesis?


Confused? Fair enough. Let me catch you up. First, let me give you a bit of background. Here is roughly how the admission process goes for us (and many other Chemical Engineering departments as far as I know)…

  1. Students apply for admission during the fall of their senior year (or after). Applications are due at some point in December if my memory is correct 
  2. The admissions committee looks through applications, dumps about 3/4 in the trash and sends out acceptance letters  to the remaining 1/4 lucky winners by the beginning of February (Note: these are totally RE numbers, but for the sake of this description that should be good enough. Second note: RE = Rectal Extraction.)
  3. Students who are accepted are then invited to attend one of two visit weekends to meet with the department faculty and graduate students and get a flavor of the campus and city. These weekends take place in March. (DING!! DING!! DING!! They were this weekend!!)
  4. April 15th arrive and triggers have to be pulled. This is the date set by all (or most?) departments by which students must make their decisions of where to go (if they are so lucky as to have more than one offer).
  5. We all live happily ever after.
  6. Until the fall.
  7. 1st year, 1st semester = welcome to hell.

As one of the few females in our department I was shackled and dragged had the opportunity to attend many activities that were put on for the prospective students. We went to lunch together in small groups, had casual informational interviews, went to dinner and enjoyed 324 glasses of wine too many shots and subsequent arguments with my adviser a few adult beverages consumed responsibly and stimulating conversation, and then went out to the piano bar but could only stay for a short while thanks to the aforementioned wine indulgence.  Not bad for a Friday.

Saturday morning on the other hand…

Hangover cure.

Hangover cure = water, Bolthouse Farms mango juice, toast with LOTS of Nutella. 🙂

But there is no rest for the nerdy wicked. Saturday morning starts with more interviews followed by brunch and then an afternoon activity. Dinner is in small groups again at some of the nicer restaurants in town and then it’s off to see some stand up comedy at Comedy Sports. (Note: if you live in the MSP area and have never been to Comedy Sportz you must have absolutely no sense of humor or are unbelievably lazy or are very ill-informed regarding one of the funniest places in town. EVERYONE should check out Comedy Sportz.) Now this is when the official activities of the weekend end. However, there is this little bar called Legends that we just can’t pry ourselves away from. After the comedy is finished we load up the students and head for the basement of Legends…think cement floor, 2 for 1 drinks with a college ID (yes, many of us are almost 30), pool, darts and booty dancing to the Top 100 and the absolute best tunes of the 80’s. There is something about this trashy little gem that keeps us coming back for more.

After a few hours at Legends 2 am rolls around we are all ready for bed White Castle! (Disclaimer: by we I mean all of the idiots that think White Castle is a good drunken choice at 2 am. White Castle is never under any circumstances a good choice.) The majority of the group, current and prospective students finally actually truly close down the weekend with a few (Note: a few = too many) White Castle sliders.

And then it is Sunday and you wonder why your thesis hasn’t written itself, why the laundry isn’t done and how the hell did my heals get that dirty?!?! Maybe it’s just me.

Crazy? Totally. Worth it? Totally. I’m oddly kind of going to miss this crazy shit come next year. :-/ The next few days of thesis writing are going to be a bit too reminiscent of item #7 in the list above I’m afraid…



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