Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Next round

Hi everyone!!
I'm still alive. Barely.

It took several sleepless nights, and some cajoling to make the first submission deadline, but I made it. My adviser made it very, very clear though, that this is all contingent on my next experiment (which is in progress) giving the right results. So keep your fingers crossed. These plants are alive, and they do have a mind of their own. I'm coming up today for a quick gasp of air, before going back under for the next stretch of deadlines to meet.

I have to work on the experiment, analyze some more data of previously harvested experiments, revise the chapters so that they're in good enough shape to be submitted to the rest of my committee. I also have to start working on applying for a change in immigration status, and pay whopping fee. If I fail to graduate on time, I can withdraw that application, and re-apply at a later date. And re-pay the fee, of course.

Anyone want to get together for lunch, or coffee before all hell breaks loose again?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

3rd down

I just sent off Chapter 4. While I was waiting for F1-3 this morning at her ballet class, I got quite a bit written for Chapter 5, so I'm hoping to wrap that up this evening. I haven't gotten any feedback yet on Chapter 3 from my adviser. I'm getting there. Not fast enough, but I can only do so much.

This afternoon we had lunch on the porch. I was feeling really drained. I'm running out of steam. After lunch I fell asleep on the porch chair. I must have slept for an hour or more. P1 didn't wake me up, he figured I needed the nap. I was furious with myself after waking up, but in retrospect it did give me the energy to finish off Chapter 4.

You know what's most frustrating about it all? That working to the pointing of killing myself now, is not by any stretch a guarantee that I'll make it on time, that my adviser will approve, that my committee will approve, that I will pass my defense, or that I will graduate. But I have no choice at this point but to go on. Ok, back to it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's getting harder

I may not be able to make it. Here is an overview of the dissertation:

chapter 1. Literature review
chapter 2. Really good stuff doesn't work in these cute plants
chapter 3. Really good stuff does work in this plant, and it does fantastic things
chapter 4. Data analysis of large scale experiment done by other people
chapter 5. Overall discussion

I sent off chapter 2 to my adviser two days ago, and yesterday I sent off chapter 3. He sent my chapter 2 back last night, telling me I have to add ALL my data in the dissertation, instead of writing, this experiment was performed X more times with similar results. That may be good enough for a publication in a journal, in the dissertation you need to provide everything.

It's not that I mind, really, it's not. But man, that is going to take me *Forever* with a capital F. I have to get all that data, perform statistics, prepare new table, figures, you know, the works. Can be done, but not on time!

I was hoping to submit chapter 4 today, but it's not looking promising.

After that I was hoping to write chapter 5. The BIG picture, how fabulous is all of this to the survival of the universe? Then I was going to go back and write the literature review of chapter 1. Then there are a bunch of other things that need to be written, a biographical sketch, a summary for the general public. Nothing earth shattering, just stuff that takes time. A lot of it. After proofreading and formatting, I'll consider myself lucky to turn this in anywhere near the deadline without rewriting an entire chapter.

I was hoping to get some more data gathered, finish up some stuff in the lab and the greenhouse. Pffft! No way! I'd rather get more data, than revamp old, negative data, but that's just me. You see, chapter 2 was the chapter where I summarized all my negative data, the stuff you don't want to be reminded off too much, the stuff that never went anywhere.

Anyway, enough ranting, back to chapter 4. I'm going to ignore chapter 2 for now, and get back to it when I'm further along. It just means that I will not be able to graduate this semester. And that is rather depressing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


There may not be a enough coffee in the world to get me through the next week. Widespread shortages of coffee should be expected.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Oh no!

In my experiments I test whether an additive to the soil does good things to the plants. We'll call it RGS (Really Good Stuff) for now. When I add RGS, I also add (because it's part of the chemical) something we'll call ES (Extra Stuff). To verify that the observations are due to RGS and not ES, I have a control to which I add only ES. This is a negative control.

A while ago, I analyzed my plant material and noticed that the plants that had only gotten ES, tested positive for RGS. I had already seen that the observations weren't as expected. ES plants were behaving too much like RGS plants.

The next experiment had the same problem. As I was writing this up for the past few weeks, I had a real problem explaining my data, because the ES plants were doing weird things. I did some tests last night, and more detailed ones this morning. And the verdict is: someone must have mixed up the labels on the container and put a form of RGS in the container labeled ES. All the while I though I was putting in ES as a negative control, I was simply adding another RGS treatment.

When I started noticing these problems with my plants, I added another negative control to my experiments, to which I didn't add anything at all (no ES or RGS). Those experiments are still salvageable, because at least I have a negative control. The ones where ES was my only negative control are useless.

I now have to re-do the entire statistical analysis and go back over all my data, trying to figure out when exactly this problem occurred. On the bright side: my data makes much more sense now. ES plants were behaving like RGS plants, because that's exactly what they were. It's easier to explain, but I really didn't need to spend more time analyzing data, thank you.

I'll spend the rest of the day working on statistics, and making new graphs and tables for the chapter in question, and sadly, tossing out a bunch of experiments.

This is exactly what the negative control is supposed to do, though. Science did do it's job here, and let me know that something was up. At least I figured it out now, and not after the paper was published. I would have had a hard time explaining my data.

I also have to notify all the other people in the lab that might have used ES as a negative control. They're likely to run into problems too. If I ever get my hands on the person that mislabeled those containers....