the smokin' chemist

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month one as a graduate student [rebel lab report]

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i did it: i survived month one as a graduate student.

month one as a graduate student

the obligatory first day of school photo, disseminated through group text to my mom & siblings, so they could share in the action with me ūüôā

all in all, month one as a graduate student has been uneventful; i really have no major complaints, no horrific stories..

august 29- september 23

[first day ]

a relatively easy day, as far as first days are concerned. to begin with, i only had one class to attend. of course, in typical first-day-of-school-grace fashion i was 15 minutes late due to traffic/parking.  in case anyone was wondering, YES, parking on a college campus is still a complete nightmare, nothing has changed, especially on the first day of the semester. good lord, should have seen that coming.

anyway, finally make it to the class, & all we did was the syllabus review nothing else. same goes for my online class; spent time getting situated with the sites, downloading the lectures, etc.

i also went and got my student ID afterwards, which actually went surprisingly quickly, given the number of people with the same brilliant idea as me.

other than that, an uneventful first day overall. day 2, wednesday, started with the actual lectures & assignments.

[weekly seminar experiences]

no one had really told me exactly what this was [shocking], so i was not sure what to expect the first week. it is basically just a weekly group meeting for all the grad students & faculty in our group to stay up to date with current events, such as conference info, equipment issues, research updates, etc. it also includes presentations of research project updates.

the other first year girl & i were introduced at the week 1 meeting, though apparently she was already at the meeting last week, so i was the only new one. as usual, i am the last to find out anything. it was also awkward when i was asked, in front of everyone, about who i am assigned to/working with/about my project, as that situation has not been worked out at all. meaning, i have no plan for the course of my research whatsoever and no idea what i am doing. of course, following that, the other new girl answered the same questions, & she has everything obviously all planned out. awesome.

i went over to speak to my advisor, who is also the director of the program, after the meeting. i  explained to him what was originally proposed as my plan, way back when i came for open house. the plan involves working on research with an outside company that also has ties to the university. their work lines up with my background, & also the area i want to continue working in after i graduate. however, the week  before classes started, wendee, the program secretary, told me there is some contract issue going on right nowbetween this company & the university.

so, we went to his office and sent an email to our main contact at the company, asking about getting things going.

the following weeks, we started to have research presentations. the first was regarding work to deposit Tc99 in glass; it will be interesting to learn more about what everyone in the different parts of the group is working on.

[research updates]

there is not a whole lot going on in this area, yet. we are still trying to get things sorted out with this company that i am supposed to hopefully work with.

after contacting the company during the first week, we [my advisor & i] went to a meeting at their location on friday of week 2. the meeting seems to have went well, & they appear receptive to having me working there in some capacity. i  hope this will get the ball rolling on a project.

the following week, [week 3] i spoke with my advisor about at least beginning work on what was discussed at the meeting. we arranged to meet that friday, to get me all set up in the lab & such, but i had some very unexpected life events come up. i had to cancel the meeting; those events also caused me to miss classes & the group meeting this week as well, so no further progress has been made.

[month one as a graduate student: time management adjustments]

every week, it seems random meetings come up on fridays- i am sensing a pattern here. as such, i think i need to just incorporate this into my schedule plan as basically something to expect, even though i only ever find out 1-2 days prior.

after the first week, i realized i definitely need to be more strict with my time management, before that gets away from me. i am sure it can snowball real fast. i  know that i am going to be working all weekend, every weekend, so i really have commit to getting everything done before friday, no excuses. it was not a big deal that week since we had monday off for labor day, so i was had extra time to finish things, but i absolutely do not want to be starting bad habits.

the following weeks have been much better, in regards to completing what i need to do by friday. this enables me to be stress-free all weekend too, & i do not have to focus on anything besides going to work.


classes during month one as a graduate student have been okay, so far.

i have always had a rough time with physics, but i am managing alright, 4 weeks in. the first homework was awful; the schrodinger equation, etc. right off the bat! i literally spent like 5 days just trying to get through it & figure out some answers to put down.  in the end, i realized i was probably overthinking it & trying to go too far. i think the teacher was intending it more as just a brief introduction of some ideas to have a general familiarity with, & not so much anything we are going to focus on past that homework assignment.

plus, i ended up getting 100 on¬†that, my first ever grad school grade, so yahoo ūüôā

i had a minor crisis the second week- i was attempting to do what i thought was the homework for the second lecture in chemistry, & was having an extremely difficult time. i had to ask the other first year girl to help me, & when we met up to work on it, we realized i was doing QUIZ #2 instead of homework #2. that was a relief, lol. i was able to complete the actual homework pretty easily.

after that, the last two weeks have been pretty smooth in both classes. homework has been time consuming, but not crazy hard. the actual due date for quiz #2 for chemistry is this coming wednesday of week 5, so i have been working on that. it has not been too bad, i have been able to get through maybe 80% so far- not sure if any of it is correct, though, lol. one of the problems involves using a speciation program through; i am not having any luck with that.

i have my first exam in physics coming up in week 6, so most of this week will be spent studying for that.


what was your first month like as a graduate student? anything i should be doing differently?

grilled camarones adobados: mexican marinated shrimp

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well, me & my buddy rick bayless are at it again, this time with camarones adobados..

ancho chiles + garlic = always amazing.

this week: [grilled camarones adobados: mexican marinated shrimp]

adapted from: authentic mexican by rick bayless

here in america, anything we order with the term en adobo or adobado is usually some variation of a red chile sauce/marinade, so most of us have come to associate it with that & take those dishes as the definition of adobo. however, as i learned, those terms are just the general words for marinade/marinated, not for a specific recipe.  who knew?

i have never made a traditional mexican adobo recipe before, so i did not know what exactly to expect. rick gives a basic recipe for a red chile adobo, similar to what we might expect- dried red chiles, garlic, & a whole bunch of spices.  i used it not so much as a recipe, but as the 3 basic parts of the template;  using that knowledge, i filled them in as i chose, experimenting with the types of chiles, amount of garlic, types of spices, etc.


orientation week [rebel lab report]

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orientation: check. grad school: here i come.


tomorrow [monday] is my first official day of grad school!  i plan to keep a regular account here of the events & progress throughout this process.  i want to have a record of my experiences in grad school, to be able to look back & remember the details of this whole journey, how i felt, what i thought, all of that. i also want to connect with others who have already gone through it/are going through it now, & perhaps can offer advice drawing from their own experience.  or, maybe they can just commiserate with me when things are tough & celebrate the wins when things are going my way.

with that in mind.. orientation week is officially OVER & there is no time to turn back now ūüôā


mesquite smoked shredded chuck roast [high heat experiment]

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how to smoke a chuck roast in less than 4 hours for some sexy shredded beef

in the past, i have had success using the high heat method for smoking brisket. after i made that discovery, i pretty much decided i would never spend 12+ hours smoking a brisket again. so, when i wanted to smoke a chuck roast today for shredded beef, i arrived at the brilliant idea to apply the same technique here. now, to be fair, traditional smoked chuck roast does not take as long as a brisket, but.. still. so with that in mind, i smoked a chuck roast for some delicious shredded beef.