Lessons from the Field 4: Science-ing on Rooftops

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Hi! Did you miss me? I missed you!

I know I promised I’d come back months ago, but apparently my life had a different plan for me and everything just got waaaay too busy. You’ll forgive me, right? 😦

So, this blog post is going to be split into two (three?) parts. If you want to get an update on my life (complete with pictures) and know what I’m thinking about the future of this blog, just keep on reading. I even put subtitles for your convenience! However, if you want to just skip to my attempt to make fun of my field experience, you can skip to my fourth edition of Lessons from the Field by clicking here. And if you want to see the previous three posts from this series or anything else about my research, you can check that out here. Continue reading

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Why I Do What I Do: Atmospheric Chemistry

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So I had an entirely different plan for a blog post this week. But after everything that has happened with the US elections, I really can’t offer much useful advice right now on stuff related to academia. So, sorry for that. I feel bad, especially after missing last week…If it’s any consolation, I will say that I have quite a few drafts right now on topics ranging from burn out to lit reviews to how to take tests, so look forward to that? Also, if you have anything you want me to talk about, let me know and I’ll do my best!

Anyway, one of the many things that this election means is the possibility of cuts on science funding—especially to the important agencies that support, fund and research topics in climate science. If you’ve happened to ventured onto my research tab or professional website, you’d find that my graduate research is in the field of atmospheric chemistry which happens to indirectly deal with the current and future effects of climate change. So, among all the other ways that this election has/will affect me (as a minority woman born from a family of immigrants), it’s just the cherry on top to find out that our president-to-be is already working on “restructuring” climate policies (read: getting rid of them completely… *sigh* Can we…just have a moment of silence…).

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STEM Quick Tips: Creating Research Questions & Ideas

When I applied to the NSF Fellowship the first two times, I was just in the midst of switching fields and starting grad school. As such, I didn’t have a research project, nor did I have any real knowledge of what kind of research was going on in my new field. So, when fellowship season came around and I was was asked to write a “novel” research proposal, I just about panicked. How would I ever come up with legitimate research question in a field I was unfamiliar with?

Now, one year later I am being forced to come up with research questions for candidacy–on topics not even related to my research! So, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how I’m planning on approaching this, in hopes that it might help some of you in similar predicaments.

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Summarizing Research Articles

Back in my senior year of college, I took a graduate class that required me to summarize one or two research articles a week. Though I absolutely hated it at a time (mostly because I hadn’t yet figured out how to read research papers yet), I found that it became an invaluable skill. What better way to make sure that you understand a research paper than condensing its many pages into a measly paragraph or two?

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How to Read Science Papers: An Update

I have been doing a lot of reading lately. A lot of reading. I’ve been scouring through the literature so I can have a solid foundation before/while I write my NSF fellowship  proposal for this year…the last year I can apply.  However, as I’ve been reading, I’ve noticed that my methods of going through my many, many piles of papers has changed since this time last year. Perhaps it’s because instead of reading just to read, I’m actually reading for information; to appear like less of a dumbass in my field. And because my methods have changed so much since the last time I wrote about this, I asked Tumblr if I wanted to see an updated version of this kind of post and I got an astounding:

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So here we are…Again.

I shall note that the following tips are just what happens to work for me at this point in my academic career and I’m still modifying my methods as I go along (so stay tuned for next year?). This is probably a good reading technique if you’re just gathering background information, but may not necessarily work if you’re combing through methodology or doing anything more critical… Either way, I’m simply hoping that if anyone is struggling to read papers, this or last year’s post can at least provide good starting points in order to develop your own way of reading papers. Anyway, moving on!

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Science isn’t Glamorous: A reason to unveil our struggles with science

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Science is boring.

This is probably a phrase you heard at least once in your life. Most likely, it came from the mouths of those who didn’t particularly enjoy science or didn’t do well in science-related classes. It was a comment that us scientists (or soon-to-be scientists) were always quick to defend. Maybe a little too quick. Because regardless of who said it and in what tone it was said, I am a scientist and I’m here to tell you that I agree…science can be boring. In fact, more often than not, it kind of is. Continue reading

Lessons from the Field 3: Looking on the Brighter Side

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I was thinking about just skipping this week’s blog post because I’ve been in the sourest mood this week. Many things have gone wrong and it seems that every day there’s been a new problem. As such, my first attempt to write this post became a whiny, complaining mess which in my opinion was not very fun to read, and I feared that I would deter some younger readers from the idea of field work. Because, yes, field work is messy and complicated. When things go wrong, they really go wrong and require a lot of tireless improvisation. But field work is also an exciting and rewarding experience. I would have never learned as much as I have these past few weeks by simply staying in a lab all summer. I’ve met so many cool people, learned plenty of lessons from the field campaign veterans and got not only a really unique and hands-on experience in the field of instrument development, but also a crash course on the awesome science we’re studying here at the PROPHET site.

And besides, important lessons seem to arise from difficult times. So here is the third installment of my Lessons from the Field series! This time, hopefully, with a more positive twist. Continue reading

Lessons from the Field 2: Becoming MacGyver

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The field is tough. This whole blog post could probably be summarized by that one sentence. In fact, I might as well stop here. But I won’t. Because I’m mostly stress writing at this point. But anyway, if you haven’t done field work, take my word for it, while it can be a very rewarding adventure, it can also be a giant pain in the ass. (Or, in my case, both at the same time!)

Somehow I’ve managed to survive until now. We’ve reached the half way point of the field campaign and we have some preliminary data, I suppose. But, we also came out here with a brand new, never tested, homemade instrument (designed and built within a year, might I add). Therefore, even when all this is over, there is still tons of work to be done in order to characterize the data, figure out our sensitivity to certain species and, well, figure out what the data we managed to get really means. Nevertheless, I guess by anyone’s standards, we’re actually doing pretty good. After all, at least half of our instrument is working (!!), but I digress. Continue reading