Monday, January 19, 2009

Hey, I’m an international expert!

For the first time today I received a random e-mail from a stranger asking for help with a geologic question. I happened to check my hotmail address (for the first time in at least a month), and saw a very short note from a researcher in India, who asked me to assist him with creating “pseudosections” for his samples using THERMOCALC, and he attached a file of his data. I opted not to open the attachment, but instead sent a politely worded note letting him know that I don’t actually know how to use THERMOCALC, but that I had been taught to use PERPLE_X, which gives similar results (and added a citation to a paper which used both programs to compare them). I added that for prompt replies, he’d be better off using my uni e-mail address, as I only check the hotmail account about once a month. I did not provide said address, but it is available in a few places on line if you know my name.

Much to my surprise about a half an hour later there was a longer note from him in my uni in-box, explaining that he’d tried using PERPLE_X, but had encountered problems with a specific step in the process, and could I please help him create pseudosections; one of his papers was being held up in the review process because he hadn’t created a pseudosection for his data, and that he’d be happy to give me full credit for the assistance—but if I couldn’t, could I perhaps send him my build file so that he could figure out how to edit his so that it would work.

I happen to have a Word document which I call upon any time I need to use the “build” program in the PERPLE_X suite of programs, wherein I have all of the questions the program asks in black, and the answers I give it in blue. Any time I need to run a new sample, I edit that document first to contain the data for the new sample, and then run build and copy-paste the answers into the program. Therefore it was the work of perhaps three minutes to reply to his e-mail with a copy of that document and suggestions of how to use it and what to do afterwards, along with an apology stating that I wasn’t able to do the work for him, as I really need to finish the writing of my PhD, which is behind schedule. Aren’t they all?) This got me a very polite letter of thanks. I hope he is able to make the program work.

Somehow, being seen as enough of an “expert” in my field to get random letters from strangers asking for help with their own research feels pretty good. It has been an intense 3 ½ years working on this project, but the end is in sight, and I can tell from here that completing the degree isn’t really the end, but rather is just the very beginning. There is ever so much more that I can learn, to build upon the knowledge I have gained here. I am starting to see post-doc positions advertised in my areas of speciality, and am applying for them. Each one has its own appeal, and would draw upon different strengths and use different skills. I can’t yet tell where my path will take me next, but the glimpses I’m starting to see through the trees are very, very intriguing.

1 comment:

Silver Fox said...

It's really neat that you could help him out that way (and that he turned out not to be someone just sending you a fishy attachment). For emails, I have my blog email forwarded to my real email address, so I see any that come fairly quickly. Then I can choose whether to respond from the anon email or my real one.