How to write and defend your PhD thesis in 2 months

Published November 10, 2014 by iampotassium
  1. Start working from home. It’s lonely but it allows you to have whatever writing schedule you need every day and keeps you from distracting yourself by hanging out with your labmates. Only go to lab for mandatory meetings with your advisor or to get information out of your lab notebooks.
  2. Teach your labmates all your lab jobs (editing websites, taking over the lab safety and hazardous waste removal jobs, etc) for you while you are out. They will do them so beautifully and without asking very many questions. For this, you are forever grateful.
  3. Sometimes working from home means going to a coffeeshop and drinking a cappuccino while working. Your advisor agrees to meet you at the coffeeshop so you don’t have to go all the way into lab to meet with her. Also sometimes your labmates will join you.
  4. Work every day for 1.5 months straight, taking breaks when you need them but never taking a break that lasts for an entire day.
  5. Get on an antidepressant that reminds you to eat and sleep on a semi regular basis despite all the anxiety and stress you constantly feel. As soon as you defend, you can get off of it but for now, it’s necessary.
  6. Go home to California for a week and write feverishly at the desk you used to do your homework at in high school. Your parents will make you tasty food, force you to take breaks when you need them, and cheer you on. Plus one or both of them will stay up late every night playing on their tablets while you write so you won’t be as lonely.

    You and Gustav making weird faces on a tiny plane heading home…

  7. Exercise at least a little every day. It helps break up the monotony and the lamity of sitting at a desk all day and it reminds you that you are a human – not a writing machine. Soccer, swimming, running, and biking work pretty well. Take Cobalt on your exercise adventures if he’s around.

    One of your exercise breaks includes going to see the aspens change color with Titanium and her mom. So pretty… you could have stayed there all day. You tried to but Titanium and her mom said you had to go back to work…

    While you were looking for pretty aspens, you also found this cute little puff…

  8. Attend two of your friends’ weddings. Weddings let you take a break from your stress bubble and remind you that you are surrounded by wonderful people. :)

    One of the weddings you attend is at the Denver Botanic Gardens during the Chihuly glass exhibit. Having gone to undergrad in Tacoma, Washington, you can recognize a Chihuly piece anywhere but you still find it beautiful in this setting…

    One of your favorites is this boat. You even come back after the wedding to photograph it all lit up at night.

  9. Let Cobalt take you to a movie sometimes. It’s nice to do stuff with just Cobalt even though you are a stress ball.
  10. Go to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta with Cobalt, your sister in law, niece, and nephew because it’s great to spend time with people you love and also because the balloons are majestic and awesome to photograph.

    You go on opening weekend and it is packed! But it is a perfect day for balloons so the sky is also packed!

    You and your family get there early (~6 am) to see the first balloons go up. Included is this Wicked balloon, which you think is pretty neat because you are going to see Wicked later that day.

    You are among the first people to ever witness the Yoda balloon, which was unveiled this day.

  11. Learn how to use Adobe Illustrator in 3 days (your skills expand drastically when you NEED to make Figures)
  12. Go suit shopping with your friends the day you turn in your thesis. This is great because you get to shop for fancy adult clothes in celebration of turning in something epic and also you really need a suit for your defense talk…

    Here you are super nervous because your defense is the next day. At least the suit looks great!

  13. Go to your favorite undergrad conference to recruit new graduate students to CU even though you defend your thesis in a week. You’re stressed out, yes, but the students’ excitement to go to graduate school and learn is inspiring. Plus you have really cool conversations with your fellow recruiters, your sister (who is recruiting for her school), and some of your friends that you haven’t seen in forever (who are recruiting for their schools!)

    Look at you and your fellow CU grad students at the SACNAS 2014 conference, recruiting new grad students for your school! You look like a freak, but at least your friends look good. :)

  14. Be prepared to reanalyze your data at least 4 times while writing and then again right after you defend.
  15. Surprise your advisor by finishing everything on time even when she thought that “no one” could do everything in that short amount of time.
  16. Present your research to your family and friends with only one minor technical glitch that is easily solved. Do not lose your composure over the glitch or over the whole situation because your presentation turned out awesome and you really know your stuff!
  17. Shake hands with your committee faculty after your defense because you’re a doctor now! Yes, it feels weird and anticlimactic now but just keep smiling and it will slowly feel more and more real! Congratulations! Now it’s time to figure out what’s next…

PS – Is it obvious that you just read Neil Patrick Harris’ Choose Your Own Adventure Autobiography?

We got a kitty!

Published November 3, 2014 by iampotassium

Yayyyyy! Look who’s posting again! It’s Dr. Potassium! That’s right! I am (unofficially) a doctor now! I need to edit my thesis and turn it in to get my diploma and officially become a doctor but the hardest part is over! Whew… it’s been an insane few months, you guys. INSANE.

But let’s save all that insanity for another post because today we have much cuter things to talk about! Cobalt and I got a cat and named her Tarantula (really, are you that surprised?)!!! Look at this adorable little puff.

So a few weeks ago when I was feeling really stressed out from all the craziness that goes into writing your thesis and then having to make a presentation to defend your thesis, my friend Titanium picked me up and we got coffee. It was great because we went up into the mountains above Boulder a little and sat on a rock overlooking the city. So pretty. As we talked, we decided that petting kitties at the animal shelter could make the end of our coffee time even sweeter! So we headed to the Boulder Humane Society to check out all the cats. They’ve seriously updated the cat area and now instead of rows and rows of cages, there are big rooms with tons of toys and shelves for the kitties to hang out and play/sleep all day! Titanium and I went into the “playroom,” the biggest of these rooms, to play with the kitties there. We met each of the cats there, including one super sweet but super skinny orange and black kitty. After we met all the cats, we sat on the bench in there and Miss Skinny came over and hopped up on the bench with us. Titanium put her on my lap where she proceeded to fall asleep! Awwww….

Soooooo I pretty much immediately fell in love with this cat and asked the Boulder Humane Society if I could put a hold on her so that Cobalt could come meet her the following day. However, we ended up having to wait almost a week for Cobalt to meet her because the Humane Society wanted to monitor her eating and make sure she was generally healthy before they released her. They finally determined that she was going to need some dental work done before we could take her home but that we could come in and see her before then. We got that news the day I defended my thesis which meant that my family (my Mom, Dad, sister, and sister in law) was in town! So the next day we all went to the shelter to meet our potential kitty. Cobalt fell in love with her too so the day of her dental surgery, we went to two different pet stores to prep our house for our new little puff and then we brought her home the next day!

I think Tarantula is feeling quite at home here now. She’s already looking a lot healthier and she is practically inhaling her food. Plus she loves snuggling and purring. At first, she was super distressed when Cobalt and I weren’t both in the same room but now she has calmed down about that. Awww yay! She also loves to look outside windows and has commandeered almost every window in the house for her personal viewing (downstairs in the morning, office after dinner, bedroom at night, etc).

Hey human! What are you doing outside?! Come inside and pet me!

In case you are wondering where the name Tarantula came from: one time, Cobalt and I went to go play with kittens at the local Petsmart. There was this adorable calico kitten named Tarantella but Cobalt and I read her name wrong so we kept calling her Tarantula! From that moment on, we vowed that one day we would get our own Tarantula (read: a cat named Tarantula, not the spider, much to Cobalt’s disappointment) one day. From the moment our Tarantula fell asleep on my lap, I knew she was purrfect. :D

Tarantula says “Stop talking about me and come cuddle with me!”

Finally, today is my mom’s birthday! Happy birthday Mom! What a great day to start posting again! :D I’m going to try to do twice a week but we might have to wait a little for me to work my way back up to that… Hopefully I’ll post on a semi-regular schedule again though. I’ve missed you guys!

Now it’s your turn: tell me about your pets. Tell me your favorite story about when you first got your pet! If you have a kitty, is she/he an inside/outside cat or just an inside cat? I grew up with mostly outside cats so it’s been fun learning how to have an all indoors cat. :D

One haunted anniversary

Published August 13, 2014 by iampotassium

Hey all! How are your weeks going? I am having crazy times trying to move (long story – maybe I’ll write about it later when it’s all over with :p) and also working on analyzing my FINAL DATA SETS for this paper I am trying to get submitted so I can finally write my freakin’ thesis and get the hell out of grad school!

Anyway, I thought that today I would share some pictures from Cobalt’s and my fun 2nd wedding anniversary trip! So this year has been pretty sad for the two of us – I mean we get along great still but a lot of really lame things happened during our second year of marriage. So we decided that we deserved to have a bit of fun for our anniversary.

So! Have you seen The Shining? You knowwwww REDRUM and All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, etc etc etc. Well the Overlook Hotel was based off of this hotel in Estes Park, CO (~an hour away from Boulder) called The Stanley Hotel. Cobalt and I have always wanted to stay there but then we found out that they had a “ghost adventure package.” This package includes a guaranteed room on the haunted 4th floor of the main hotel, a K2 meter (to hunt for ghosts), two glow in the dark squishy ghosts, AND two REDRUM mugs! :D Plus there was only one room left for our anniversary! It was perfect! We took it!

So we drove on up to Estes Park on our anniversary and checked into our lovely haunted room and got all of our fun haunted toys (the ghosts turned out to be a lot of fun to play with once it got dark)! We explored the hotel a little and then went into Estes Park for dinner at this place called The Dunraven Inn. We couldn’t decide if we wanted steak or pasta and The Dunraven Inn specialized in both! Score! Then we headed to the bar in the Stanley Hotel which has a ridiculous amount of different whiskeys. They are listed in “The Whiskey Bible” and the shots of whiskey range from a few dollars to over $300! Cobalt was in whiskey heaven and ended up trying this super fancy Buffalo Trace whiskey (it wasn’t the $300 a shot one). It was a pretty good evening. I highly recommend checking out the Stanley Hotel if you’re ever in Colorado (also visiting me and Cobalt… duh… :)). We still need to go back and go on a ghost tour! :D

Below are some more pictures from our adventures! Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we captured any ghosts in our pictures though… Bummer…

View from the front of the hotel

Hotel at night!

The meter is going crazy! It found a ghost!!!!

Oh wait… it’s just a glow in the dark squishy ghost…..

In other unrelated news:

  • Check out this kitty that I was catsitting this weekend. Look at that belly….
  • We just bought tickets to go to one of my best friend from college’s wedding in September! I am SO excited that we are going to get to go! Also in the same trip, we are going to be able to see some of my friends from my old lab here (yes I had to change labs in the middle of my PhD program…. another story for another day) and I get to go home for a week so my parents can spoil me while I write my thesis… (hint hint) :D
  • I am really sad about Robin Williams’ death.

Let’s just look at balloons…

Published August 6, 2014 by iampotassium

Hey everyone! It’s me again! I’m filled with all sorts of conflicting emotions right now (such as 1) Cobalt and I just celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary=yay!!!, 2) Cobalt and I are getting screwed over by our apartment complex and might not really have anywhere to live in 9 days=bad!, 3) I set my date to defend my thesis (October 24th) so I can finally get my PhD = YAY but also SO MUCH WORK = :-/?). So instead of talking about all these various things, I am going to post pictures of balloons.

A few weeks ago, Cobalt and I wondered how many helium balloons it would take to make my stuffed sharks fly. We decided to buy 20 balloons and see which animals would be able to fly with that amount. Turns out – stuffed sharks are heavy! But tiny Micro Squishable dinosaurs are light! So Sir Chandler “Cornflakes” Montgomery III got to go on a fun adventure – see below!

Sir Chandler and the balloons!

Looking out over Boulder!

We had Chandler tied to Cobalt so he couldn’t escape… Here they are looking particularly epic.

Cobalt wanted this picture taken. It looks like they’re having an important conversation.

That was fun! Can we do it again?!

Gustav is too fat to fly… :( Any guesses on how many more balloons we would have needed to make Gustav fly?

Yay! Balloons! Are you feeling better because I totally am… Okay back to reality for me… More posts coming soon!

Fourth of July Photo Contest Winners

Published July 23, 2014 by iampotassium

Hey all! It’s been a long time since I posted again and I apologize about that. I know I sound like a broken record here but seriously, this trying to graduate thing is ridiculous! -_-

Anyway, let’s talk about America! Today’s post comes from the 4th of July when Cobalt and I asked our friends to text us a picture of something “American.” We got a lot of fun pictures – so many in fact that we are only posting the winners this year. Thank you so much for sending us pictures everyone! Also, if you didn’t send us a picture/didn’t win – don’t worry – there’s always next year! :)

Let’s get started:

Grand Prize

Cobalt and I really liked the composition of this pic. Artfully done. :)

Second Place

We loved this picture – so cute and also awesome! :D

Third Place

This is a pic of a bunch of Americans celebrating the 4th of July in South Korea where they are teaching English!

Yay! Congratulations to our winners!

What are you guys up to? Did you do anything sweet for the 4th of July? Cobalt and I ate a lot… Now that July is also half over, how has your July been? Anyone going on awesome vacations? I’ve been working and trying not to kill the microscope out of rage (it keeps breaking!)…

The search for baby geese!

Published July 2, 2014 by iampotassium

This past Sunday was National Camera Day so I took my DSLR and my faithful camera buddy – the one and only micro Squishable T rex Sir Chandler “Cornflakes” Montgomery III – on a bike ride to the park by my house on a mission: find baby geese.

A few months ago, Cobalt and I were on a run in this same park when we came across the following sign:

and then were promptly chased down the path by one aggressive hissing goose!

It’s been a while now so Sir Chandler and I decided to see if we could find some baby geese! Sounds like a great way to spend National Camera Day!

We got to the park and set out looking for clues…

Sir Chandler found a feather! We must be on the right track!

We finally found them in the lake. Turns out that I kind of missed the “baby” goose phase and now the little guys are starting the awkward preteen goose phase… Still, they were really cute to photograph so I sat in the grass taking pictures.

The geese started swimming in my direction. Not wanting to make the parents mad at me, I retreated to a safe distance as the geese got out of the lake and started chillin’ in the patch of grass I had just been sitting in. Also I took some more pictures!

Ahhhhhhhhhh I love their awkward teenage puff feathers!!!

Anyway, I had a lot of fun photographing these guys. I had to be quick and quiet. I also wanted to make sure I gave the geese a nice distance between me and them – both out of respect and also fear of goose attacks (I am secretly scared of geese – too many close calls with my childhood friend’s crazy goose!).

Apparently my adventures with baby fowl were just starting because yesterday as I walked to the store, I saw a mom duck and her baby ducklings in the creek by my house! The baby ducklings were sooooo small and soft and puffy looking. I just wanted to hug them! Instead, I went home and got my camera. I am not sure the picture below accurately captures how adorably cuddly these baby ducks were but I didn’t want to get any closer to them – I think I was stressing the mom out as it was! Still! Look how tiny! And puff!

TINY BEAKS

How are you guys doing now that you’ve had a cuteness dose for the day? Seriously, I am so happy that I saw those baby duckys yesterday – trying to finish grad school is hard and seeing adorable baby ducks put me in a way better mood…

Eric and Clara got married (sneak peak)!!!

Published June 25, 2014 by iampotassium

This weekend, my friends Clara and Eric got married! Eric works in the lab next to ours and has helped me a lot with my complicated data analysis problems and Clara is his crafty bride. Every time I see her, she is making something awesome (a new wallet, cute stuffed mice for the children she nannies for, etc etc etc). One time, Clara and I escaped from a party to go to Michael’s Crafts and get painting supplies. It was an awesome adventure. Anyway, there’s something special about these wedding photos I’m sharing with you today. I often bring my fatty DSLR to weddings to take pictures of the bride and groom but this time Eric and Clara asked me to be their official wedding photographer! WOW! So Cobalt and I headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park this past Saturday with my DSLR and all three of my lenses! It was epic – generally I think photographers get more than 2 days notice about photographing people’s weddings so this one was a lot of playing everything by ear and herding family and bridal party members around to make sure I got pictures that I thought Eric and Clara would want. Overall I think it went smoothly – it was a beautiful day at the park and Eric and Clara were so happy and fun to photograph. They had a short ceremony in the morning and the rest of the day was spent frolicking with family and friends (and lots of eating). It was a great day and I feel so honored that I got to be such a big part of it!

Now onto the pictures! I took over a thousand pictures that I am going to be slowly editing when I need a break from science this summer but for now here is a sneak peak so you can see for yourself how beautiful this day was! :)





Because this was my first wedding ever, I thought I would write a little about my experience and give (myself and anyone else who is interested) some reminders/tips. First of all, I LOVED photographing the wedding. I’m not going to lie; it was kind of fun being bossy to get everyone positioned for pictures. Also, I relished all the thinking I had to do about poses, lighting, where I should be, etc. I was so happy and in my element being creative!

Finally, two lists to sum up my reminders/tips:

First: what to bring for a “survival kit.” I brought bandaids, tissues, water, and hair clips. I should have also brought sunscreen because we all fried to a crisp out there. >_<

Second: some things I think will be important to remember when prepping to photograph a wedding/engagement session.

  1. Get to know the bride and groom – I think this was easy for me because I work with Eric and I see Clara a lot too. This is really important though because I want to take pictures that capture the couple’s essence and I want to put them into poses that seem natural for their personalities
  2. Ask the bride and groom beforehand for certain pictures that they definitely want – this part caused some stress on my part during this wedding because I didn’t know which family members had come and I didn’t know who wanted to be photographed with whom. Also I think if the bride and groom and the photographer have an idea about the “set list” before the wedding, it helps the photographer plan the shots and the timing needed to get all of them beforehand.

That’s all! I hope you liked the pictures! I can’t wait to photograph more weddings/engagements/special events! Let me know if you want me to do something for you! :D

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