Mission Dissertation

A sustainable engineering production.

Truths, Data, & Stories September 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Briana @ 11:47 pm

The simplest truths are the most elegant.
Truth is not always simple.
Or is it the stories we tell about truths that are not always simple?

Allow the data to tell the story!
(Just don’t influence the data.)


Death by Wednesdays September 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Briana @ 10:12 pm

(Plural only because I survived …)

We are officially three weeks into the Fall semester. The first week was a teaser for me because I only had one class and none of my research meetings. The second week started out just fine, especially with the Labor Day holiday on Monday. Wednesday of the second week, however, proved to be the game-changer. Despite my best efforts to spread semester obligations evenly throughout the week, all of my high-stress meetings got crammed into Wednesday. By the end of the day, I was not only exhausted, I was utterly drained. Thursday was a productivity-waste, and by Friday, I got sick. (I also suspect I had my first-ever migraine, but that’s a story for another day.) This Monday will mark the beginning of the third week.

Clearly, something has to change. I would love to hole up in my apartment or in an inspiring café until I finish writing this dissertation, but that’s not very realistic. I still have classes to take, meetings to attend, and other campus-based responsibilities to uphold. Wednesdays aren’t going to change either because the day’s schedule was painstakingly crafted around many other people’s schedules. What to do?

My current solution is to treat Thursday and Friday as the “weekend” in terms of little-to-no productivity and to treat Saturday through Wednesday as my work week. Of course, I wish all seven days were productive, but I’ll take what I can get. I will try out this schedule for the next few weeks and report the results here. In the meantime, I would be interested in hearing from all of you. Aside from the basics of sleep, nutrition, and exercise, how do you make your work week as productive as possible? What creative methods have you picked up along the way?


1 Week Down, 16 to Go September 4, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Briana @ 9:20 am

The first week of classes was rather tame. The research meetings will make all the difference, and they don’t start until next week. I was grateful to be able to work on my dissertation proposal for multiple hours at a time this week. Those blocks of time will disappear once the meetings begin and so I will have to get creative about when and where I work. I wish this final graduate year were just about writing the dissertation instead of having to worry about classes and meetings. A girl can dream.

I did do a lot of scheduling this week. While I will likely spend every free moment writing my dissertation, there are a few upcoming events for which I have specifically set aside time. One of those events is the visit of Dr. Vandana Shiva. Dr. Shiva is being honored with a local social justice award for her work within the environmental movement, particularly within the realm of biodiversity conservation and farmers’ rights. Originally trained as a physicist (Ph.D. 1979), she took a few years off to explore scientific policy issues, and eventually found herself immersed in activist struggles surrounding biotechnology and human rights. The link above describes her life much better than I ever could, but I do want to mention one of the aspects that makes Dr. Shiva so inspirational to me: her ability to combine intellect with activism. Intellectuals (of the professorial persuasion) are often seen as theorists trapped inside the ivory tower, while activists are often seen as extreme, single-minded fools with unyielding viewpoints. While Dr. Shiva did abandon traditional academia, she did not trade in her intellect for mere passion. Instead, she used everything she learned in academia to fuel her new work. With this philosophy in mind, both in content and in spirit, Dr. Vandana Shiva represents an entire movement I wholeheartedly support.