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6 November 2014

Getting sketchy (when it comes to geology)

I was inspired to think about the topic of drawing (and markerboards) by the great post by Miles Traer on using stick figure animations to explain complex science concepts. I don’t know if geoscientists are a special breed in that they often default toward drawing out their ideas and thoughts, but I’ve always found it to be an invaluable part of my research process.


3 January 2014

What I’ve learned in grad school

A couple of weeks ago was my (gasp) six-year “blogiversary”, which I always forget about. But the end of one year and the beginning of a new one always seems to call for more introspective posts, and for my first post of the new year I thought I’d write about the main reason I started this blog: graduate school.


22 November 2013

Resurrected post: Academic jobs are “laid-back”? Not exactly.

Doubtless those of you who are interested in science careers have seen the many offended blog posts prompted by that fairly ill-considered Forbes article about how professors/academics have the most laid-back jobs because they only teach one or two classes a semester. After getting my hysterical laughter under control, I started thinking about all the comments where people describe how their typical academic day. I’m certainly not surprised by the long descriptions of everything that has to get done (and often doesn’t) during a professor’s day, but I did notice that there wasn’t much there from students.


7 November 2013

Pumpkin ‘cratering’ and a farewell to Buffalo

Despite the frantic packing and last-minute paperwork of my last few days in Buffalo, I managed to take a little time on the last day to go watch a UB Geology tradition: pumpkin impact cratering. It’s an introductory lab that we usually try to do around Halloween, one that I remember teaching almost four years ago now, where students get to drop pumpkins off the roof of one of the buildings on camps and see what happens. Obviously there’s a lot more involved for the lab students – they very diligently measured the pumpkins and the resulting impact sites and cleaned up quite nicely afterwards – but as a departing grad, I got to enjoy the show without having to do any recording. It’s a fun lab and a relevant one, especially since we’ve recently seen what happens when even a relatively small body heads for the Earth.


21 August 2013


It’s been very quiet around here, mainly because I’ve been working nonstop to finish writing my dissertation. (By ‘nonstop’ I mean I’m dreaming about figures and waking up a couple of times a night to write notes down on the pads I’ve started leaving around my apartment…) At any rate, posting is going to be spotty for the next month or so, until I get the craziness back to manageable …


6 May 2013

End of semester update

…and I finally, finally have a chance to breathe. It’s been a really busy couple of months for me – not just because I was teaching a lecture class for the first time, but because I was also getting ready for my technical thesis defense.


8 March 2013

My experience as a woman in the geosciences

Being deep in the throes of thesis-wrangling has left me little time for blogging lately, but as a woman and a geoscientist I definitely thought it was important to write a little bit about International Women’s Day, and about my own experiences. I first became aware that this was a day of celebration when my graduate advisor and I encountered a parade in downtown Xela when we were in Guatemala doing fieldwork for my thesis. It was a beautiful day and the parade-goers were lively and excited and enthused.


24 February 2013

So you want to be a volcanologist?

In addition to my blogging and on-again-off-again relationship with Twitter, I like to take my geologizing to places outside the office. Just yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk with a girls’ STEM club at my old elementary school about being a volcanologist. I actually do this fairly often, and I’m always really impressed by the questions the students come up with. They’re always inquisitive and thoughtful, and often catch me off guard – which is good!


11 January 2013

A foray into teaching – and a request for advice!

This semester, as part of an attempt to keep myself funded through the end of my PhD (always an uphill battle), I’m going to be teaching a smallish section of our introductory environmental science course. And the main topic is…deep breath…climate change! Not being an expert on climate change, this has me perusing background information to get ready for the content, but also looking at techniques for teaching controversial environmental topics. And I’m looking for help!


17 August 2012

So you’re a new geosciences grad student…

So you’re a new geosciences grad student…and you’re getting ready to start your first semester! Hopefully you’ve chosen a great department and surrounded yourself with professors and students who will excite and challenge you. You’re probably also plowing through a bunch of paperwork and maybe taking a training course on how to be a teaching/graduate/research/etc. assistant. If, at some point in all this, you say “What the heck did I get myself into?” and start feeling panicky, don’t worry – we all do this. Here are a few things to remember as you dive into the deep end of the pool:


25 May 2012

Stages of numerical modeling

I’m currently working on some modeling for my thesis. For unrelated reasons, I happened to read a description of the Kübler-Ross model for stages of grief, and I realized that the cycle actually describes pretty accurately what the past couple of weeks have been like for me. Not only that, but it’s gotten to the point where even if I get my model to run, I’m immediately suspicious of the results. However, I guess since the model is running, I’ve made progress. That doesn’t mean I don’t still have issues.


28 March 2012

If you were to wander into my office this afternoon…

…this is the scene you’d see playing out.


30 January 2012

What’s your geologic genealogy?

Every once in a while this topic pops up among geologists – and the phrase “who is your grandfather” really means “who was your advisor’s advisor?” It’s kind of fun to trace your geologic heritage, so I thought I’d give mine a go. This usually involves looking at graduate degrees (most people don’t list who their undergraduate advisor was, and when you go back farther in time they rarely talk about anything but who the person studied under for their PhD).


24 January 2012

Graduate School Advice: Part 3 – Staying Sane and Happy

Grad school can be an emotional rollercoaster, and there are a lot of cultural forces at work in academia that don’t have grad students’ happiness and mental health as a high priority. Still, it is possible to get through graduate school while minimizing the low points, and I think things are generally getting better in the academic culture (though there is always room for improvement). This is a huge topic, so I’m going to focus on several particular sub-topics: Impostor syndrome, doubt, and guilt (a.k.a. work-life balance).


11 January 2012

Graduate School Advice: Part 2 – Qualifying Exams

You’ve probably heard of the dreaded Qualifying Exam, but what is it like? Well, it varies a lot from school to school and between disciplines, but I can tell you what ours was like in Astronomy at Cornell. The qualifying exam (or “Q-exam”) was split into two parts for us. The first part is a written test at the end of the first year, taken along with the other first …


4 January 2012

Science Resolutions -or- Grad School Lessons Learned

Now that I have finished graduate school and am an older, wiser “post-doctoral fellow”, I was planning to put together a post containing advice on grad school. But then as I thought about it, I realized that the bulk of my advice fell into the “do as I say, not as I do” category. That, combined with the new year and accompanying new job, led me to re-tool my advice …


18 November 2011

Who reads this blog? Followup to a departmental talk on geoblogging

Because AGU’s Fall Meeting is coming up fast, and because we have a lunchtime seminar in my research group, I volunteered to preview my AGU talk. This is something that we often do as a trial run, although since the seminar runs for an hour and AGU talks only last 15 minutes, there’s usually a lot of condensing that goes on afterwards. This year at AGU, I was invited to give a talk in a public affairs session – not my usual venue as a volcanologist. But the session is perfect for a geoblogger:

PA33C. Earth Science Communication in a Changing Media Landscape I Wed. December 7, 1:40 PM – 3:40 PM; Room 302


14 September 2010

A question of time

*Note: Having been temporarily flattened by my yearly fall cold, I’m putting up a non-geology post that I was working on earlier this month and have just enough energy to finish now. I’ll make it back to talking about andesitic eruption deposits just as soon as I emerge from the haze of cold drugs. ‘Tis the season for the arrival of new grad students (geology and otherwise), and ’tis also …


27 January 2010


Quals are over and passed (pending some proposal rewriting and me promising to take a thermodynamics class in the near future). It’s nice not having that stress hanging over my head – now I can relax and get some research done! (Not to mention getting back to blogging more often…)


24 October 2009

GSA Update #3

I always head to GSA with good intentions (i.e., actually writing about things the day they happen), but I usually end up joining the ranks of those catching up with their writing instead. (There’s nothing wrong with this, since I’m not getting paid to write on a schedule or anything, but it annoys me when I do it.) Tuesday at GSA was another great chance to see talks; lots of …