Friday, July 15, 2011

How quickly we fall back into good habits

Working on my PhD project necessitated developing a number of good habits with regard to work patterns. Although it has been two full years (and a week or three) since I finished my thesis and got on a plane to start my first post doc position it turns out that some of my work habits from here are tied to the town, not just the house in which I lived then. Now that I am back in Tasmania I am finding it easy to pick up the pieces of that project and get back into "thesis mode", breaking the list of things that need to be done into tiny bits and working on them. Taking breaks to exercise, get food, and catch up with friends I have not seen in a couple of years, but still being way more productive than I have been in the past six months since that post-doc position ended, when I was on what is better described "vacation mode".

While it was a delightful vacation, I find that I am enjoying working on this project once again. Today I looked at thin sections of my samples in the microscope. The first thin sections I have seen in person since leaving (I had plenty of microprobe time analysing the experiments I did, but no actual rocks to play with). I would say that I had forgotten how pretty they are, but, really, I hadn't. I do have plenty of photos (and good ones!) of these samples, but there is something nice about being to rotate the stage and see the colours change.

Monday, July 11, 2011

why you should publish before you finish your degree: a cautionary tale

When I completed writing my PhD thesis two years ago I boarded the plane the very next day to head off to my first post-doctoral position. Somehow, while I made a few attempts to write a paper based on that research during the 1.5 years of that post-doc contract, I didn't actually finish writing it—the first couple of drafts were still attempting to include too much information.

It will come as no surprise to anyone to hear that I continued to not work on that paper during the six months I was in Scandinavia on a visitor's visa living with my new-found love. Now that I have returned to Australia to submit my application for a permanent resident visa so that he and I may continue living together I have begun again, at long last, to working on that paper. One advantage to waiting until now is that instead of discussing the paper and the proper aims and scope thereof with my erstwhile adviser over email I can stop into his office and get real time interaction and feedback.

Today we had our first face-to-face meeting in two years, and he cautioned me that he expected that, given how long it has been since I have worked on this project, that it would probably take a good three days just to re-familiarize myself with what I was doing so that I could move forward on the project. How I wish that he weren't correct in that.

I recall having, on more than one occasion, cursed previous researchers who studied these rocks for the information that they left out of their theses or publications. Today I am cursing myself for what, now, appears to be a fairly random organizational system which has made it difficult to find the spreadsheets I need.

An additional complication I have encountered is my computer upgrade. I purchased a much-need new computer last October, and while I was able to replace most of the programs on it, it was not possible to replace my copy of ArcMap. This is the program in which I recorded the positions of each and every analysis point from every microprobe session I ever did during my PhD research. It is a wonderful program which permits one to accurately align photographs with x-y coordinates such that one can see at a glance where on each crystal each analysis point is located.

In the course of my research I exported the images for many of the samples to CorelDraw in order to create figures to be used in the thesis. I now wish to create a new figure for the paper I am working on, but the exported version contains the location of the analysis points for three out of four of the minerals used in the calculations. This means that I need to open the ArcMap files. I should be able to do this when next I am at the university, by using one of their computers, but it will require a bit of effort to explain to the program the new location of all of the files required.

So now the researcher who I find myself cursing for incomplete information is none other than my past self! There is no one to blame but me, each time I chose to do something other than writing this paper while the information was all still fresh in my mind I was also choosing to make the eventual writing of the paper just that little bit more difficult. I freely admit that, at the time I made those choices, it seemed like a reasonable price to pay, but now the time is nigh, and, indeed, it looks like it just may be a good three days to get back up to speed on this project so that I can finish it.

Wish me luck—as one of my colleagues pointed out to me today "research which is not published is wasted effort", and I do not wish all of that effort to have been wasted.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Google+ for geologists

I am not certain if this is a good idea or not, but when a friend sent me a Google+ invite to my personal email address, I used that address to send an invite to the address attached to this blog. After all, this is the address that I keep logged in and have my GoogleReader geology feeds set up. Unlike the account associated with my personal email address, which had no suggestions of people I may know, this address came with a bunch of suggestions, several of whom I recognize as fellow geobloggers. Therefore I created a circle called "geologists" and added them to it. I have no idea if it tells you that you are now in my circle, but if it does you now know why…

It let me set up "sparks" for "metamorphic petrology" and "orogenesis", but they don't look like they have much information available at this time.