December 01, 2007

As the Semester Ends

As the semester draws to a close, everything accelerates. The grading is about to really pile up on me. In the next two weeks, roughly, I will be involved in grading one exam, one final exam, one homework, a lab practical and best (ugh) of all (ugh) about three dozen attempts by first semester students at writing a scientific paper on an experiment done in the lab I TA. I thought ahead enough to have already finished grading the last round of homework and the last lab exam, so I'm that much ahead of the game. Still, I expect to devote the vast majority of this weekend to grading papers.

I genuinely enjoy teaching. I don't much care for the grading bit, though.

Lab practicals start on Monday. After my Monday night students take their exam, they have the opportunity to fill out an evaluation about me. I'm sure I'll get good reviews. My students love me because I'm wonderful and lovable and thoroughly human. Or not. Who knows what they're thinking. I guess I'm going to find out, though. I'll get to learn what they thought after the last grades for the semester have been entered for everyone.

I also have my own work to do, of course. I've gotten approval from my adviser on my dissertation topic, so the next step is to draft a proposal and assemble my committee. I have a pretty good idea of who will be on that committee already and I've thought through the series of studies that will form my dissertation down to the nuts-and-bolts of particular techniques. I'll get as much of that down on paper in an organized fashion as I can during the winter break. I'm also going to start researching grants at that time; being a TA eats up a lot of hours that could be spent in research, so as much as I do enjoy teaching, I am going to need that time a year from now.

I have a whole bunch of sequences from chitinase genes downloaded on the computer in my office. I tried aligning them, but the alignment is a mess. Did I say alignment? I meant that the mess is a mess. A most messy mess, indeed. The problem is that so few of these genes have been sampled outside of the Prokaryotes that there's very little to align, really, and the sequences that do exist are from extremely divergent organisms. I am certain that I'm going to need to do quite a lot of the groundwork for this. That's not a bad thing, but it is a time-consuming thing. I guess that's why we get four or five years to do this whole doctoral thing, eh?

Hmmm... somewhere in all of this, I need to go food shopping and do laundry, too. Universities ought to offer free tuition to undergraduates willing to do such things for their valuable graduate students. That way, they'd never have to let us out of the lab. We could just have some sophomore feed us dinner right at the lab bench or in the library. Any volunteers?

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