Tag Archives: Work

Happy Anniversary Flu!

You know those friends who, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen each other or even had much of a conversation quite frankly (read: primary means of communication = FB chats), you can pick up with right where you left off so many days weeks months years ago? That was the story of my last weekend. An old friend, from what seems like another lifetime now, came to visit Dr. Trot for the weekend. We hadn’t seen or spoken to each other, much less seen each other, in over 5 years so while I had high hopes, the four days really could have gone any number of directions. To my delight it was immediately clear that any/all fears I had were totally unfounded. It was like those 5+ years didn’t exist. It was like we could have last seen each other yesterday. It was like we could have been staying up and going out and drinking and dancing like never-tiring, hangover-resistant early 20-somethings all this time. And so, this is exactly what we did. All. Weekend. Long. :-/

In three short days we consumed more Yuengling than I have in my entire life, de-briefed Dr. Trot on a number of music genres for which her working knowledge is slipping, walked the entire city of Philadelphia – twice (this isn’t an exageration…not at all…thanks to the good Dr.’s market finding deficiencies…), toured a prison (Eastern State Penitentiary to be exact)

(not what you do when you go on vacation? what’s wrong with you?), pretended to be Rocky, chased our favorite form of public transportation (not a week goes by without…), played board games, watched bad horror movies, hiked the Appalachian trail

(well, 10 miles of it anyway),
and gorged ourselves at (not “on”) Tortugas (which you can read all about here)

In the blink of an eye we were back to being 22 — enjoying a carefree yet exciting weekend in perpetual motion.

Then, all too quickly Tuesday morning reared her head and with an equal but opposite eye blink  — BAM!!!

It was back to reality.

A harsh, tired, achy, coughy, 30-something year old reality. 😦 It was 4 days of playing catch-up at work (complete with plenty of fumbles), the cough turned into a sore throat and more coughing and stuffiness and sneezing, and the tiredness and achiness pretty much staying put.

So it goes.

My pre-weekend risk assessment suggested this might happen. But, sometimes you just have to go for it anyway, 22 yrs old or not.

Now, my most-definitely-NOT-22-yr-old self is wrapping up a #%@&ing  lovely Saturday at work, with a economy sized bag of cough drops

and a bottomless mug of green tea.

For those of you who have made it this far (and are wondering WTF the title and content of this post have in common) I have saved the best for last. The best part of this whole mess is that today is exactly the 1 year anniversary of my PhD defense! One year of being in the real world as a post-doc and getting my professional priorities in order and making progress towards the end game of landing a fancy, big-time, grown-up academic position…


One year seems like such a long time, but how little has actually changed (aside from the jug-handle left turns and no longer pumping my own gas).  Maybe academic careers, and the crazy people who chase them, are (for better or worse) like old friends. They are interesting, fun, challenging and exciting. Yet (at times) they can be careless, necessitating lengthy recovery regimes. Finally, changes is slow and bad old habits die hard, so when you choose to stick around, it had better be because you enjoy the ride (or are truly that bat shit crazy)

And with that, please excuse me while I go and fetch myself another celebratory mug of tea.

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Sometimes your very best just isn’t good enough (and not just for Shalanie, for normal people too)

On the heals of a disappointing Monday for one of my favorite distance runners, I had the pleasure of downloading quite the colorful set of reviews of my F32 application. And if the title of this post wasn’t a total spoiler, the reviews were collectively NOT in favor of funding my most novel and impactful research projects. (I’m not biased or anything…)

If you remember my previous discussion about this horse shit F32 fellowship application process, I was waiting for my impact score, the result of a panel discussion of the research I had proposed and the training plan that would be in place for me as a post-doc. Well, apparently with this line of thought I was being more than a bit presumptuous as my application never even made it to the panel discussion!! x-(

So to get to the discussion panel stage each proposal has to make it through a first round of screening, During this first round 3 reviewers assess the proposal and applicant for scientific merit and potential. Two of my reviewers saw the world in a way similar to myself and although they raised a number of very valid criticisms, they both gave me very constructive feedback and scores sufficient to pass me onto the panel discussion.

Enter Reviewer #3.

To his (I’m assuming here) credit, he also raised a number of constructive and valid objections to my merit and the potential of my proposal. HOWEVER, I have a hard time keeping this in the front of my mind as he also had a field day with my proposed research at the expense of maintaining his own scientific integrity. Let me summarize my most frustrating grievances in a few bullet points and then leave it at that:

1. Works that are published AFTER my proposal’s submission are NOT something I should have been familiar with at the time of submisison.
2. It is prudent to at least skim the paper that you’re referencing (read: using as a basis for trashing my fellowship application) to confirm that the title (as you are interpreting it) accurately describes the research project.
3. It is even more prudent to read said paper well enough to asses if the data collected do in fact support the claims being made.

Now I do get that everyone is busy, very busy. The task of carefully reviewing lowly post-doc fellowship proposals is a thankless chore and I would most certainly struggle to do what I consider an acceptable job. Being still many steps below this point in my career I really can only complain so much. I simly need to be grateful for the constructive comments I received and make my best case possible for round two in August.

HOWEVER (there is always a “howerver”), regardless of the point of your career that you’re currently in, of how very junior or senior you may be, you still need to do a good job. You need to do your best job. Like what little Miss Shalanie did on Monday. This is what will ultimately make or brake your end result of course, but your efforts also (and maybe more importantly) impact other people. Sometimes a lot.

Some Most days people will be better than you and off you’ll fall to 7th place, or worse…maybe much worse. Truth be told, this is very very very likely where I would have ended up had I made it thought to the discussion panel…if I were so lucky.

But, one day you/me/SF won’t fall off. One day it will be our day too. It will be. And while we patiently wait for that day to come, please please please don’t be the a$$ hole that takes everyone else down with you!!!

(And now I can go draft my polite yet very concerned email to my program officer inquiring about WTF happened?!?! scientific inconsistencies in the review that may have impeded a just assessment… )

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Where did everyone disappear to again?

Have you all been working hard in the lab?


A little science + religion for the Easter season

Running and bike riding in the nice spring weather?


The first bike ride of 2014


Running in skimpy apparel (weather we are ready our not)!

Going to a bridal shower for one of your favorite partners in crime?


Dr. T; Dr. Partner in crime #1; Dr. Partner in crime #2



Knitting and potting with your crafty lab groupie?



I ask only because these are a few of the things that I will use in attempts to justify my absence.

There has also been some running of course. Not nearly enough considering that a beautiful, warm, fragrant, balmy spring is finally here (please don’t instantly hire a hit-man if you’re reading this from a snowbank in MN) and that marathon training will be starting up VERY soon. But, some running is better than no running, so I’ll take it.

Frankly, in VERY short order I am going to have to seriously beef up my multi-tasking + time management skills. The summer of a gazillion (think, lots of zeroes) weddings + mad work + visitors coming east + me going west + everything else that makes up a busy life is about to commence in royal fashion. While I don’t have any real serious goals for this year’s Team CEMS Marathon (aside from finishing it more quickly than I did suffer-fest-TZ 2013 and not breaking my leg…no offense Dr. S…) I would like to be comfortable at a ~4 hr pace, our team uniforms need to be cute (I’m thinking 2014 = teal and argyle, thoughts?) and I quite like being in marathon-training-shape as the summer progresses (minus the inevitable inability to zip my boots up all the way, but never mind…) My hope is that this can all come together with the following:

Tues: tempo short-mid distance
Thurs: mid-long distance
Sat: long run
Sun: mid-long distance

Given that Dr. Partner-in-crime is -3 hrs from me, my current master plan is to keep summer hours such that I can get most runs out of the way first thing in the morning, buckle down for a full day in lab and then with some quality Facetime company and heavy drinking. We will see.

For now I (like everyone else I’m sure) just need to keep my head above water long enough to keep useful info (slowly but surely) coming out of the lab and enough miles being run. (And OF COURSE passing on bits and pieces of the process being passed on to you!)

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Spring Time

I can’t believe I forgot to wish everyone a Happy First Day of Spring the other day! So, Happy Belated First Day of Spring.

Unfortunately today was “one of those days” (think a full day in lab on 4 hrs of sleep — Kerry Washington and mom, I simultaneously love and curse you both — fueled by left over seminar pizza, grocery store doughnut holes and bad Hoyt Lab coffee (made with water that may or may not be safe to drink). The good news (there always has to be good news, right?) is that I have great group mates who make work super fun. Today we even had a special temporary guest group mate:


The bad news was that this is that this was a particularly poor way (even for me) to prepare for an after-work run on a beautiful spring day. 😦 Once I was finally home I knew that I should get out and “enjoy” the spring +50F and sunshine but I just did not want to. Fortunately, an aforementioned awesome group mate put a little bug in my ear this morning when she off-handedly mentioned that she was going to be doing a 12 mile run this afternoon. (Yup, future Dr. Dr. T eats double-digit runs for breakfast…kinda like me and my doughnuts… :-/) As part of me was worked hard to convince the rest of me to hunker down for a lazy Saturday night (What better way to top off a rough rest of the day, right?) another part of me kept going back to T-sweet’s comment …and then I’ll go get a longer run in…oh, you know…about 12 miles or so…. Thankfully, the latter me won this battle and before I could change my mind I was out the door. If T-sweet is doing 12 today than I’ll be damned if I don’t do at least 6!

As always, the transforming power of 6 measly little miles is amazing! I felt like whole new person in a whole new day – damn it for being 7 pm! 😦 It was a beautiful night, there was no reason (never mind the excuses that left over pizza slices and bad junk food will try to sell you) not to get out and there is no reason not to do the same tomorrow. Plus, pulling out the spring running kit for the first time in months is always exciting 🙂


Now I can get on, with no feelings of guilt, with the my lazy relaxing Saturday night with these two:


Hope you can do the same!

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Well is this long over-due or what?!?! And to be honest, I’ll be damned if I can tell you what I’ve been doing that takes up so much time!

I did go on two wonderful runs over the weekend, and once this week.

On Tuesday night “one beer” with “a friend” turned into multiple beers and whiskey and Triumph and The Ivy and all the roommates from freshman and sophomore year … and then quite the hang over for a Wednesday. Ugh.

I wasn’t particularly prepared for work today (see above paragraph) so there was a lot of near eff-ups in the lab and frantic experiment slavaging.

Tomorrow will be a big-time experiment day. I mean, why not plan two experiments that you haven’t done before for the same day and make sure that their busiest times overlab? There was no heavy drinking today, or consequences of previous heavy drinking, so I have high hopes of making it through the experimental circus without ending up as the clown of the show.

In contrast to what is suggested in the above paragraphs, today was actually a pretty big-time day when it comes to a work-related item – my F32 study session met today! For everyone who isn’t a slave to the prospect of academic research, the “F32” is a class of post-doctoral fellowships funded by the NIH that (in combination with a hell of a lot of blood, sweat, and tears…and a bunch of luck and a little fairy dust…why not? it won’t hurt…) have the potential to MAKE YOUR CAREER.

There are three application dates for said fellowship each year. I submitted my application on Dec 9th — way to be prompt NIH — errr….I mean, take as much time as you need, oh gracious funding agency! Anyway, each “applicaion” is actually a monster of documents that includes a 7 pg research proposal, personal statemnt, biographical sketches from the applicant, mentor and all co-mentors (these are substantially more work than one would think), statements about your institution, your collaborations, your training opportunities, your research ethics, your teaching opportunities…the list goes on and on and on and on and it is all in the context of your long term goal of becoming the next great academic research hot-shot.

So, my big fat ass paper monster was turned in on December 8th and the study session that was assigned to review it met today to do just that. The top applicants (selected by the study session…typically ~10%) will then be awarded fellowships that fund 3 years of post-doc salary and $x000 for travel to conferences, meetings, etc…

Now, as you may imagine, it looks damn good to be in this top %10. It opens the doors to funding opportunities that come at the end of your post-doc career/ beginning of your junior faculty stint (think K99 territory my fellow nerds). Ultimately it then helps build your case for why one should consider entrusting you with said precious junior faculty honor.

So, yeah, today was a big day. I’m not sure when I’ll actually find out the decision of my session (if the time between the application deadline and today are any indication…never mind…) but I will most definitely keep everyone in the loop when I do (as I obviously haven’t anything of actual interest going on in my life right now)!

I hope everyone has had a nice week and will make it to the weekend also without donning the village clown costume. In the event that you do end up in said costume, make it count!! 🙂

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Purdue Prospective Faculty Workshop Recap

I survived Purdue (and, maybe more importantly, Newark Airport)!

Both Monday and Tuesday were packed with engaging lectures and opportunities for Dr. Trot to talk about herself and her research. (In the unfortunate scenario that you DO NOT know a scientist personally, given the chance to talk about their work they will a) find a worm-hole up to cloud 9 and b) refuse to get down and shut up until they go hoarse.)

Instead of going into all of the gory details of the topics we covered, I’ll just include main, most interesting points of the day —





The outfits of course!!

Actually, that’s only partially true. It was super interesting to hear about the parts of working with people from different cultures (“culture” = age, location, language, religion, training ideology, etc…) that you often aren’t aware of and the significant influence they have on a project’s outcome. Presentations on what to consider when striving to be a successful mentor for graduate students (or anyone for that matter) and as a classroom instructor were also super useful. The absolute top highlights of the workshop were as follows:
1. The opportunity to meet with the faculty of the Chemical Engineering Department
2. Presenting my current research and ideas for future research directions to the CE faculty
3. Potbelly!



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Purdue Prospective Faculty Workshop: Fun Facts and Pot Bellys

Fun fact: West Lafayette, IN follows Eastern Time rather than CST. This will be true even if you fly into O’Hare and (incorrectly) assume that your desination, only 2 hrs away, is in the same time zone. Doing this will simply result in you being an extra hour late to your first engagement of the evening. :-/

The good news is that I actually didn’t miss out on anything because the dinner spread at said engagement was nonexistant!!

The even better news is that I somehow managed to make 2 adorable new friends during those precious final 15 min of the Welcome (non)Dinner who I then coincidently ran into while we independently scavenged the Purdue campus for emergency dinner supplements! In the case that I hadn’t instantly had a science-crush on them at the Welcome (non)Dinner, I would have totally fallen for their great taste in late night sandwich shop choices. Now we all know that I love food and I love to eat, but this is often in the context of trying new things and tackling new challenges rather than being a die-hard groupie for a particular restaurant or recipe. That being said, when I stumbled upon by beloved Potbelly after venturing only three blocks from the hotel, I was way excited. When I noticed my new friends drift in after me I was beyond excited!


Laughing your way through one of your favorite sandwiches, that you’ve apparently missed dearly since moving to the land of 8.5 restaurants, is a great way to cap off a long (and actually rather stressful) day. Hopefully it is also a great primer for the next two intense days that are waiting on deck, and in the hole. (Why do we always forget about who is waiting in the hole?)

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Pre-Prospective Faculty Workshop – Planes, Trains and Automobiles (and breakfast)

Dr. Trot is on her way.


We took the NJ rail from Pton Junct to (the wretched) EWR. After a complmentary 30-minute delay (of course) we are finally en route to Chi-town. Upon landing it’ll be a mad dash to fetch what is likely be a go-cart posing as an “eco car” for the final leg to West. Lafayette. (At $79.99 for 3 days I really have no justification for being picky…)

Assuming all goes well above, I’ll report back re: the welcome dinner tonight and just how panicked I am about my talk that is still 2 days away. (I’m sorry stomach lining…and I will continue to be until 4:30 pm on Tuesday.) The good news is that I am now down to 10 min and something resembling a coherent discussion for each slide and transition. The bad news is that the majority of my flight’s passengers now think I’m totally nuts.

Alrighty, it’s just about time to sharpen up the elbows and make sure boots, tights and skirt are properly adjusted for optimal mad-dashing. (If the don’t already think I’m nuts…)

Good thing I’m well fueled from this most delicious start to my day…


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Pre-Prospective Faculty Workshop – Secret and Destroy!

Dr. Trot’s best efforts from ~7:30 am until nowish, ~1:30 am, (not to mention the best efforts of a number of my very patient, smart and helpful group mates and friends) have produced what will hopefully be a sufficient 10 min talk on my current and future research for the last minute demand making brilliant faculty of Purdue’s Chemical Engineering Department. Secrete and Destroy! The slides are a little heavy on cartoon bacteria and a little lean on data points. (Never mind the bast background knowledge that’s supposed to be packed away upstairs in the noodle.) But, quite frankly, that’s about as good as you could ever hope to get from this kid in t<20 hrs Purdue.

While I might be just a titch underprepared in terms of my "expertise" that got me invited to the shit storm outstanding professional growth opportunity that I’m sure the next two days will bring, I spent my precious little non-presentation-preparing time ensuring that I was well prepared in the outfit department. 🙂 It’s all about priorities people! Honestly, in the end that is what really matters anyway, right? Right? Anybody? Hello?

Speaking of priorities, Dr. Trot had best call it a night. One needs to build strength for such ventures as going through the living hell masquerading as Newark, NJ, and then driving half way across the one-and=only Hoosier State. (Never mind that Mother Nature is robbing us of an hour of sleep tonight for absolutely no good reason. What a great way to start my adventures in The Crossroads of America!

Please wish me luck!


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Pre-Prospective Faculty Worshop SURPRISE!!

By some unlikely alignment of the stars, a generous act of god and/or an erroneous “acceptance” email sent to me by a member of the selection committee, I will be attending a Prospective Faculty Workshop at Purdue University over the next few days. 😀

The rather short back-story (you’re welcome) is that the university will apparently be hiring to fill 107 new tenure track engineering faculty positions over the next 5 years. With this in mind they are holding a 2-day long fishing expedition worshop for 30 “senior graduate students and post-docs” that have the intention of applying for faculty positions over this time frame. Enter an optimistic/delusional Dr. Trot.

God knows how many people applied, but somehow (see above) your’s truly was selected to attend!! 😀

The workshop is two days long, starting with a welcome dinner tonight. The schedule is largely divided into 1-hr segments dedicated to different relevant topic: What is expected of new faculty members? Proposal writing: the art of persuading a sponsor to invest in you! Engineering across cultures. Preparing a personal development plan. Mentoring graduate students. Effective techniques and tips for creating successful learning experiences in the classroom or lab. There will also be a poster session during which all of us present our research, tours of various departments and meetings with a number of current faculty members.

Fortunately I managed to find a direct flight to ORD from (unfortunately) EWR. Please say a prayer. (After a series of irritating logistics email exchanges) I have decided that it then makes the most sense for me to rent a car for the 2.5 hr drive to West Lafayette. I am passing up a 4 hr (each way) shuttle ride (at very inconvenient times) – as difficult as this may be, I’m working hard to get over it.

So this is where things stood 24 hrs ago. A 2.5 day workshop that is super relevant to what I want to do in ~3 years and a direct flight to get there. Good. Great. Grand. Happy Dr. Trot.

And then I received this…

“The Head of the School of Chemical Engineering is requesting that each ChE participant prepare a short 10 minute presentation on their current and future research. This presentation will be in front of Chemical Engineering faculty and a computer will be provided. There are no other guidelines.”



Terrified Dr. Trot.

In addition to this, a schedule was attached to the email stating that I will have “meetings” (read: interrogations) with three department faculty, including the department head! In the blink of an eye my useful and interesting, yet totally benign, next few days have mutated into a most intimidating prospective faculty interview two years too early! And happy Dr. Trot has transformed into a terrified and anxious yet excited, 3-um-of-stomach-lining (max) away-from-an-ulcer Dr. Trot. :-/

Wish me luck in preparing the 10 min talk of my life!

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