Howdy, all! I consider it a great honor to be asked to blog here at Scientopia.
I’m a grad student known online as UnlikelyGrad. Regular readers of my blog (found here) can easily figure out my real name, but for the sake of my kids (and especially my advisor) I try to keep things 100% pseudonymous. (Conveniently, my real name is relatively common, so that Googling it is likely to turn up someone else.)
My moniker reflects the fact that many people thought I didn’t have a chance in hell of getting into grad school, except maybe a master’s program at a dinky state university. I used to be one of those people, too. But I worked my butt off and proved them wrong: I ended up getting into a top-10 program, though I decided in the end not to go there.
So, why do I still use that pseudonym? Partially out of habit, I admit. But being a non-traditional student in a generally very traditional program, I tend to stand out just a bit from my cohort. For example:
- I have kids. Not infants and not toddlers, children—if you can even call them that. One of my four is old enough to be a college sophomore, and another is on the verge of graduating from high school. People have asked me if it’s hard to be a grad student and a mom simultaneously. Answer: yes and no. Of course it’s hard: it’s just hard to be a mom, period. But I have the great joy of sharing my passion for science with my children. I love sharing what I do with my friends, too, but it's way more amazing to share with your kids.
- I spent a lot of time before grad school doing non-traditional, non-academic activities. For example, my advisor (known here as Dr. Hand-Waver) regularly defers planning of outreach activities to me because I have more experience in that arena than she does.
- I’m not afraid of the professors in my department. Don’t get me wrong; I have a healthy amount of respect for them. But if I think they’re doing something wrong, I tell them. Some professors appreciate this more than others. (Luckily, Dr. Hand-Waver is humble enough to admit that she might be wrong about some things.)
But, despite being different, I’m still a grad student with all that entails: going down blind research alleys; spending long days, and occasional late nights and weekends, in lab; tearing out my hair because my results are all screwy; and catching power naps at my desk because that’s all that’s going to keep me from falling asleep while driving home after a 14-hour day.
What do I actually do? Again, I keep that sort of fuzzy on my blog because there are hardly any groups that do what Dr. Hand-Waver does (and all of the other PIs are men). Suffice it to say that our group does environmental geochemistry. Right now I’m supported on a chemical oceanography grant (!!!) which is not what I expected to be doing in grad school. But oh well, I’m not complaining too much…even after getting seasick!
I tend to write about a variety of topics on my blog, and you can expect the same from me here on Scientopia. Several of the blog entries for the next two weeks were written well in advance, so I can say with certainty that you should expect several posts on going to sea, a couple of posts on teaching, and at least one post on doing outreach. And, given where I’m coming from, at least one post about how people should treat other people.