I’m sure everyone reading this has experienced the feeling where you have a lot to do but no motivation to do it. It’s frustrating. It needs to be dealt with somehow though.
I deal with it in different ways (depending on my mood, how time sensitive the to-do task is, etc.), and no one way works in all situations.
Lately, when I’m feeling unmotivated about science or research, I’ve been trying something new… I go answer questions on Quora.
The past two weeks have been interesting to say the least. On Sunday 10 June came the completely unexpected announcement that University of Virginia President Sullivan resigned in a “mutual decision” with the Board of Visitors. Since then the Grounds have been in varying amounts of turmoil, particularly once details of the ousting began to emerge. Rather than try to summarize or explain the events, I’ll point you to the UVa Faculty Senate website which contains a chronological list of articles related to the events.
I am starting into my 3rd 1-year term as a Vice-President of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Council at UVa. In these roles I have been involved in communicating with the graduate student population in the Council’s efforts to advocate on behalf of graduate students and support the academic & social events organized for grad students, in addition to general work to improve the effectiveness of the Council.
My activity the past two weeks has been dominated by this ongoing turmoil. While I do not personally claim to have the information needed to make the judgment call on whether President Sullivan should remain in her job or not, I do know that the way in which the Board took action was counter to the values and expectations of the University Community. My action thus far has been in response to this.
I have spent the bulk of my time communicating with graduate students, both on an individual level and as a group. This included passing along information about rallies at the Rotunda and other ways graduate students could become involved. I was also heavily involved in the drafting and passage of a statement on behalf of Grad Council. At yesterday’s Rally for Honor I gave a statement on behalf of the Graduate Student Council. The text of the statement and some photos of me giving the statement have been posted to the Grad Council website.
While this continues to be a trying time for many in the UVa community, I am glad to have had the opportunity to be involved and work with my fellow graduate students to be sure our voices are heard.
We’ll see what happens next!
This weekend has been one of transition. On Friday my class took their final exam. By the evening the exams were graded and I was left feeling purposeless. No lectures to prepare, no homeworks to write, no office hours to have. Teaching had completely consumed me for the past four weeks, so reaching the end was an odd feeling.
I had an excellent experience with the class. Preparing 2 hours of lectures every day is more than a full-time job, never mind the homeworks, exams, and grading. It was very challenging deciding what to talk about and then implementing that in a lecture. But it was also a lot of fun.
I am transitioning adventures at the moment though, and am returning to full time research. This first step actually involves leaving! I am doing some last preparation for an observing run at the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India. It should be a very exciting trip! I will post pictures through the trip (depending on how often I have internet access).
Yesterday marked the midpoint of the summer class I am teaching: Introduction to Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe. I knew it was going to be a lot of work but I don’t think I could have possibly understood how much. The content is split more or less between background & stars (two weeks), and galaxies & the Universe (two weeks). We just wrapped up the stars portion with supernovae and the deaths of stars. The summer classes here are intense, two hour lectures five days a week for four weeks. Factoring in somewhere between four to five hours preparation per hour of lecturing and it quickly becomes a sizable investment of time. Oh yea, you also have to write assignments, quizzes, and tests.
Getting to bed by midnight is becoming a luxury, reserved for the weekends! However, having said that I am very much enjoying the experience. I am fortunate that my advisor is okay with me taking four weeks off from research so I can focus on the class (and get a few sweet hours of sleep each night ). Teaching a class has been very informative, not just in terms of teaching, but also in terms of appreciating the broad knowledge base one needs when talking about science. As I am preparing lectures, I frequently realize that my presentation relies on prior knowledge that I cannot assume everyone has. As people say.. if you really want to understand something, try teaching it to someone else.
Two more weeks to go in the class, and we will be getting into the topics where sizes and distances become more and more difficult to comprehend. Galaxies outside our own, ranging from the nearby Andromeda galaxy all the way to galaxies we see when the Universe was a fraction of its current age! But before I can talk about it, I have to write the lecture.
On Monday I will be flying to New Mexico to attended the 12th Synthesis Imaging Workshop at NRAO in Socorro. It won’t be my first time in Socorro, but I always look forward to going back. This trip will be particularly enlightening as I will be listening to and learning from world experts in Radio Astronomy teach techniques.
I have some experience in radio astronomy from research I’ve already done, but I am expecting that basic knowledge to make this workshop even more beneficial. In addition to the knowledge, we will also be getting a tour of the new, Expanded Very Large Array. I have toured the VLA before, but seeing the upgraded instrument should be very exciting!
I suspect I will be fairly busy over the next week and a half with the workshop and meeting new people. At the minimum, I should be posting pictures to flickr over the course of the week (particularly from the group hike and the EVLA tour).