Hello all you wonderful readers! I’m sad to say that this will be my very last blog post for the graduate student blog. These last two years have been such a roller coaster, and I’ve loved being able to share it with all of you. Hopefully you’ve all enjoyed reading about my experiences as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about them. But first, on to some more positive topics before I get all teary-eyed.
This week was quite a whirlwind for me. I volunteered as part of a mini enrichment camp with the chemistry department. It was a two-day chemistry camp for junior high students, mostly in grade 7 and 8. Running around and helping them prepare colourful crystals and doing small chemistry demos was so much fun! They were all so excited about chemistry and it made me so happy to see their enthusiasm. Chemistry is very exciting and it’s great to share that excitement with others. They synthesized many different colourful compounds and learned some lab techniques. The colours definitely made it more exciting, but they thoroughly enjoyed the whole camp. On top of this, we did a few small exciting demos that they loved. The liquid nitrogen ice cream was especially popular. It looked amazing and tasted even better, and it’s not often that you get to eat the demos. Even the kids who had seen the demos before were excited and very enthusiastic during the whole camp. The whole event was an insane amount of fun, and I’m so glad that I got to be a part of it! I probably took more pictures than the kids did.
On top of this camp, I had an interview on CTV’s ‘Your Morning,’ which has been stressing me out to the max all week. The interview was a total of three minutes long this morning, and yet it stressed me out to the point where I didn’t sleep last night and am still shaking as I write this now. It was an amazing spotlight on my research but was probably the scariest thing I’ve done in my entire life. Now that it’s over, I can say that I’m glad I did it! Now I’m ready for a nice relaxing weekend filled with uneventful writing so the adrenaline can settle down.
Lately I’ve been spending most of my time writing up my thesis, which is quite difficult to get focused on. After my seminar in March, I went on a short vacation to Toronto with my boyfriend. We went to many Blue Jays games, saw Muse in concert, which was the greatest experience in my entire life (words cannot express how amazing it was), and spent some time with old friends. I had a bad cold the entire time, but still managed to have a great time. It was a nice break and much needed but coming back to Mun and writing all day long was difficult. Writing a thesis that doesn’t technically have any deadlines is challenging. I work very well when there are set deadlines and obvious check points to hit. I’m going into Education in the fall for the Intermediate/Secondary program, so while I want to be finished early so I can recharge before going right back to school, the deadlines seem far away. It’s just like everything else in life, if the deadline is in three months, you don’t rush to get it finished now. It’s hard to get out of this mindset and work on getting my thesis completed. Luckily, I tried to start writing last fall in between other work, and I managed to get a good bit done ahead of my seminar. My first trick is to try and give myself small deadlines. I tell myself that I have to complete a certain section by next week and think of some small punishment if I don’t get it done. It’s also easier to focus on writing one section at a time and break it up with other work. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a windowless office for the entire day and doing nothing but writing. It can get very lonely and boring writing alone in an office. Sometimes a change in scenery can refresh my brain and get me to write some more, other times it’s just more productive to take a break from writing and do something else. That can be working in the lab, characterizing some samples, or just a quick walk around and chatting with a friend. It’s important to refresh your mind with small breaks. It will keep you refreshed and hopefully motivated to get some writing done without burning out.
Another thing that I find helpful for writing is to keep track of my word count. I have an excel spreadsheet that I enter the word count for each chapter at the end of the day, along with the date. I made a little plot of the total word count on each day and watching that line go up makes me feel really accomplished. It can also help to set a goal for what work count you want to hit by the end of the day. Small goals like that help me get things done. If I set small goals, it feels like I’ve accomplished more. Word count isn’t everything, especially in chemistry, but it can be a good way to track your daily progress. Everyone is different on what helps them stay focused and get writing done, but I hope my perspective helps a bit. Many places, including Mun, organize writing sessions in a quiet place and for a few hours you have a group of people to write with. It can help you focused or get advice from other people who are also trying to get some writing done. Find what works for you and even try other tricks. There are so many tips online to help you, so try all of them and something is bound to help.
As I mentioned earlier, in the fall I’m going into Education here at Mun for the Intermediate/Secondary program. Being a teaching assistant in the lab and covering a few lectures over the course of my Master’s degree confirmed my love for teaching. The closer that it gets, the more excited I get for it. Many of my friends are teachers and they all had great things to say about the program and teaching in general, and I can’t wait to start it! It’s going to be a weird change of pace from my research now, and completely different in terms of the work that I’ll have to do. It’ll be an odd adjustment after two years of busy research and writing my thesis, but I’m ready for it. I’m ready to go out and start my career as a teacher, and hopefully encourage many people to pursue careers in the STEM fields.
That’s all folks! It’s been a great experience writing for the graduate student blog. I hope you all enjoyed reading my posts and continue to read the blog posts from the other fantastic graduate students. And with that, so long, and thanks for all the fish!