First Year Thoughts, Summer Adventures & Future Blog Updates???


Oh hi there… Uhm… Crap. Can you give me a moment?


Sorry. Okay. I’m good now.

Well, hello there! The quarter has officially ended in terms of classes! Yay! So, despite the fact that research is, of course, never ending, I can officially say I survived my first academic year of grad school! 😀

I can say without hesitation that this year has been soooo intense. I have gone through so many emotional rollercoasters and have learned so much about myself as a person. And this was just year one… I have like…five more to go? Craaaap. But I definitely don’t regret my decision to attend grad school (yet), and I don’t feel like quitting anymore. So, that’s promising, I guess.

Of course, I’m not saying that all is well in the world. Every day is still an emotional struggle. Sometimes I wake up and simply do not want to get out of bed. Because in grad school, every day can feel like a battle. A battle to not feel inferior. A battle to make progress in research. A battle to learn quickly and navigate the crazy maze that is academia. Small little battles that will eventually lead to a couple major wars. My first war? Candidacy.

IMG_20160507_110852But, I’d must rather not think about that right now. Honestly, it gives me so much anxiety every time the topic of candidacy or anything past this year comes up in conversation. Too many obstacles to be overcome. So many things to prepare for. (And so many potential blog posts to write! Yay, positivity!) Besides, I have much greater fish to fry right now. This summer (read: in a week + a day) I will be off to my first experience in doing research in the field!

If any of you have clicked around the pages of my blog, you may have stumbled across my current research page which discusses a campaign by the name of PROPHET. This weird project name that stands for The Program for Research on Oxidants: Photochemistry, Emissions and Transport, will be officially starting on July 5th, allowing ~16 groups of scientists to study the awesome chemistry that occurs over the forested areas of Michigan.
My group in particular has spent the past year building a whole brand new instrument from scratch and we are now on the brink of successfully finishing the testing phase and last minute preparations. It’s so exciting but so very, very stressful.

(Before I move on, if you want to learn just a tiny bit more about the instrument or what we’re researching during PROPHET, feel free to read my little blurb on it. I apologize for a lack of information, at the moment, but I’m not quite sure what can be said yet since there is a potential publication coming out of this. Ya know, academia things.)

image8Anyway, now that our instrument is almost ready for actual science, we will be driving up to the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS) next week to set up and do some last minute testing before the campaign actually starts (hopefully? maybe? idk…). And, of course by set up I mean hauling our half ton instrument up a 100 feet and 5 inch tower so we can sample biogenic emissions coming up from the tree canopy that is conveniently placed down below our inlet. It sounds like an equally amazing and nerve-wracking experience! This is especially so because if our instrument decides to break or do weird things for some reason, either I or one of the two lab mates coming with me will also have to haul ourselves up that 100 foot tower and fix whatever is going wrong with our instrument. Yeah, you see that tower which I conveniently put a picture of to the right of this paragraph? I have to climb up that thing. On the plus side, this SoCal girl gets to live amongst the trees for the month of July. Trees? What are trees? Look at all these trees!!!

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 5.36.58 PM

So yeah, that’s a quick summary of what I have going for me right now. Looking back, I find my first year kind of hilarious. Somehow after a few short months of arriving to Caltech, I not only had to adjust to grad life and balance classes, but I also got put on this field project where I had to help build part of an instrument with little to no knowledge and now I’m one of the people in charge of said instrument for the pretty much the rest of my grad school lifetime assuming that I and my lab mates can keep it working up on the tower 24/7 for the whole month of July. (Did you get stressed out reading that annoying run on sentence? Because I did! Hahahaha. And people wonder why I go see a therapist…) It’s okay though, because the important thing is despite that really weird first year experience is that I survived! Er…at least, survived so far. We still have to pack, after all. :p

But what does this mean for blog updates? Well, I haven’t exactly planned out how this is going to go. After all, I’ll be in a forest with questionable wifi until at least August 1st +/- 7 days… However, if my wifi is sufficient enough for me to do basic internet tasks such as typing out a blog, am probably going to be temporarily replacing my usual advice posts with a “weekly summary” type deal. That is, at the end of each week I’ll post a lots of pictures and an accumulation of random thoughts within the field. In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions on what kind of advice posts you’d like to see when I get back to my regular programming, feel free to leave them in the comments below or contact me!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this personal-type post about my recent and soon-to-be adventures!

~Krystal ❤

Credits: GIF from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. Pictures of PROPHET tower and site courtesy of UMBS.


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