Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The adventures of an accidental scientist, part VII

Kids, I have arrived. The committee passed my thesis, and I just have to make a few revisions, mostly to get it formatted properly. It was a long, hard road, and although I feel really good about the defense, it surely didn't tell my story, although it told the story of the plants I studied.

About six months ago, I told Dr. J that I wanted to title my defense "A Two-Year Study in Murphy's Law." This was about the time that I originally should have defended my thesis, and I still didn't have any data to work with. This was when I was spending fourteen hour days in the lab regularly working to get my results, and not seeing any results. At all. Everything was failing and nobody knew why.

I've come a long, long way since then. Standing near the end and looking back across the whole experience, I can pick out so very many things that I would have done differently or sooner, or wouldn't have done at all if I could go back and do it again.

I think it's a little bit like how I'll feel at the end of my life, when I'm looking back over the whole experience. I think I'll be pleased with what I accomplished with my time, and I think I'll be able to see how much I've learned and how far I've come and developed, and I think I'll also see a lot of things I'll wish I'd done differently.

There was one pivotal moment in this whole situation that really sticks out to me. Last summer, as I tried harder and harder and continued to fail, I started becoming very depressed. I was stuck and I had no idea how to get out. Then, in the course of a couple of days, with the help of my good friend Cim and a visit to the temple, combined with lots of deep, deep prayer and contemplation, the weight was lifted. The situation itself didn't change at all, but the terrible weight was gone and I was happier than I had been for quite a long time. Also, let me clarify that this contemplation and prayer took place over the course of months, not days. It was just that the experience of the burden lifting took place over a couple of days. It makes me think strongly of the experience that Alma the Elder's people had (notably verses 10-15).

Sometime after that, towards the very end of June, things suddenly and inexplicably started working. And then I wrote the thesis, and now it's defended, and my committee were very complimentary about my grasp of the information and my presentation skills. And they don't hand out compliments like peppermints, either.

Also, a lot more people deserve credit than I was able to acknowledge in the actual defense.
Stu and Troy- for the counseling and blessing they gave me right before I went to Missouri to troubleshoot. It did my soul much good.
My brother Matt for all the other blessings as well as all the encouragement and cheer.
David, whose words of wisdom, written on Sunday, pretty much geared me up for anything:

That's good that your defense got pushed back, so you have a bit more time to prepare. I think however that you should start calling it an attack rather than a defense since you're going to totally show those profs who's boss.

Heh. Thanks, David

All the other grad students who I worked with, especially Taylor, who always made me laugh. Especially the time we got into all the professors' offices and swapped all their family photos. They were trying to re-sort them for weeks. Also, Christian gets a special mention for helping me develop more of an ability to say what I think without mincing words- it was either that, or let him walk all over me. Somehow we ended up being friends, sort of. Also, Jared always managed to surprise me with his niceness. And Leilani bought me lunch on my birthday. And Derrick always tried to startle me by walking up behind me really quietly so the first time I was aware of his presence was when he spoke in my ear. I am pleased that I rarely gave him any visible signs of being startled. We don't want to encourage that kind of behavior.

Then there were the students who did their research when I was still an undergrad. I have been kicking around this lab way too long. Dave and Shawn, who were always hanign together, and always, always made me laugh. Man, oh man, I miss those guys. They were great to have around. And Marc, the death stick, who is now close to done with medical school at Johns Hopkins University. Marc was one of the most energetic people I have ever known. He couldn't even be frustrated without being enthusiastic.

And of course, there was Shanna, the first grad student I ever knew up close and personal. She was the only grad student when I started working in the lab- it was her and meand fourteen guys. She told us often that she had sworn off men until she was thirty. She would also tell the boys in the lab that she was very glad that they were married so they understood her big mood swings. We'll just leave it at that.

I was also glad that the boys in the lab were married, because it meant that I automatically had fourteen big brother figures. Upon one occassion, Nate, who looks like Mr. Clean, told me that he and a guy named Jared were my godfathers. He then assigned Jared the job of providing my dowry.

And all you awesome people who came to my defense even though it was probably kind of boring- what good family and friends you all are! Dad, Matt, Tricia, Laura (who skipped class the be there!), McKay, Josh . . . my roommate Kristel wanted to come, but we thought it might be kind of tricky to bring her whole class of first graders. So she sent treats instead.

I felt so loved when I walked out of the room after my committee grilled me one-on-one and found everyone still waiting for me outside the door. I'm kind of surprised I didn't start crying right then and there.

And now this post is really long and really sappy, so I'll go get to work on the revisions that need to be worked in to my thesis. Thank you, and good night.


Ross & Amanda Goodman said...

That is really great! I am so happy for you! I actually did try to find a sitter for my ankle biters so I could be there, but no one could be found. Sorry. I would not have understood anything but it would have been good to see you in all your genius glory.

Maria said...

Amanda, I'm really touched that you tried to come. Like, really. Especially considering everything that's going on at your house on top of having two little girls. I consider you as having been there in spirit. :-)

Moonsahra said...

Congratulations, Maria! That's so huge! I wish I could have been there, too. Good luck with your revisions, and enjoy your success.

Nasty Butler said...

Congratulations! You are awesome!

Danielle said...

GREAT JOB! I was there, hiding behind the bookshelf. Just didn't want to make you nervous, and also wanted to hear what the profs said when they dismissed everyone else.