Thursday, March 30, 2006

Academic Papers

Academic papers are interesting to write. I'm in the process of writing my first academic paper on my work in graduate school (I had a paper published last fall from my undergrad work), and it's been busy. I have an abstract due on Monday for a conference in Switzerland this summer that is perfect for the type of work I'm doing. So, we were writing the paper first and now we're going to pull the abstract out of it (2 page maximum). We still have a small amount of work to do on the project itself, but we have enough results so far to have a mostly finished paper. The goal is to have the project done by the end of the school year, so the final paper will be ready in time for the conference if necessary. If my abstract is accepted, I'll either be asked to submit a final paper or a poster. If not a paper then we'll try to publish the paper elsewhere.

So my last week or so has been finding references, writing, re-writing, and doing runs to get results. Writing an academic paper is definitely an art form, and I'm glad I have a good advisor to help me with it. As she puts it, you have to learn many skills in grad school and how to write scientifically is one of them. I am not quite up to par yet, but we have been keeping my original organization as well as a lot of my wording so it's not too bad. I really can't wait until I'm good enough to be able to chug out a paper much easier. Granted, writing research papers is never quick, but the first few are definitely harder to do than the later ones.

Writing this paper has made me feel like a real graduate student; I've been staying up until about 1AM an then getting up around 7AM, whereas I used to go to bed around 12AM and get up around 8AM. I feel energized, and am happy about my progress. I'm not sure how long this schedule will last, but now that it's light out in the morning I find it easy to get up, so it might last at least a few months.

I've learned some good things about paper writing and the life of an academic this week, but since I'll be truly done writing tomorrow (at least for the current deadline) I'll wait and write about that in a few days to make sure I don't leave out anything good. I should be up rather late tonight finishing up this abstract, so we'll see what sorts of insights lack of sleep provides.


gavin said...

It continues to baffle me how the gap between what I learned in my undergraduate tenure at Tech and what I'm doing now at my current job continues to widen on a daily basis. College ingrained in me annoying, perfectionist qualities which paid off in spades when grades were released. However, I now find that these perfectionist qualities, so prized by professors and teaching-assistants (world-wide - mind you (i'm famous, after all)), are merely a detriment to me in the "real world"; where everything needs to be done two days ago and you're always struggling to produce finely-polished software when your project has nowhere near the budget to do so.

Good luck on your paper, I'm sure you'll be a shoe-in for Switzerland. It seems you've crossed that ethereal line dividing the academic purists from the white-collar code monkeys. There's no turning back now; keep running while you still can!

Megan said...

Yea, school and work are definitely a lot different. There are qualities that are valued in one that are not valued in the other, and vice versa. I think that's one of the reasons I came to grad school...I excelled at work, but I didn't enjoy the atmosphere as much.

Thanks, hopefully it will get accepted! I should know by the end of April, so cross your fingers! Although I'm not sure if I've crossed that line yet...I still have to do all the coding for my simulation! Maybe in a few years I can hire an undergrad to do that part of the project, haha....then I will have crossed that line. ^_^