Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thesis Proposals

Well, a few weeks ago I passed my thesis proposal. For our proposals we have a 1 hour talk that is open to the public, the audience can ask questions, and then after the audience Q&A only the committee members and the student stay in the room. They then discuss the work, what they think of the proposed work, etc. Then the student is kicked out of the room while the committee discusses the work further, then the student is let back in to be told that they passed and what the committee wants to see for the thesis to be considered complete.

I was actually nervous, even though I essentially knew I'd pass. I think many of my practice talks went much better than the real one, but everyone said it went well and that they were intrigued by my work. Our department chair actually stopped by my cube last week to ask a question, give a suggestion, and say he was really interested in what I was doing. So it seems to have gone well! Also, multiple students have stopped me to talk about it and how it might apply to other fields, so I'm feeling better and better about it!

Now is the crazy part: all I have left to do is finish it! My goal is to be done in May 2011, although I hope to finish most of the main research before next fall so that I'll be ready to start sending out applications. How exciting!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Obama Fencing!

This is so cool! Apparently two Olympic fencers were at the White House on September 17th, and they showed the President some fencing moves! The best part is they were saberists!! I'm so jealous. Can you imagine both being an Olympic saber fencer AND getting to meet President Obama?? Hopefully Tim Morehouse is right, and this might help encourage people to start with the sport who have never considered it before, or might help encourage areas without fencing lessons to find instructors. It's a lot of fun, but so many people never even try it or know if there are lessons near them!

One thing I think is pretty funny though is that they were wearing their lames and other electric fencing gear, even though they weren't fencing electric! I guess non-fencers would be confused by a saberist not in full saber gear, but it's still amusing. At least they don't appear to be wearing wires...

So Broke!

Wow, having a fellowship can really work out in your favor! Although I knew that, I'm really feeling the effects right now. The past three years I was paid via a fellowship. Now that the fellowship has run out, I am a TA for my department. I make $600 less a month now! That is really going to make a difference in my budget. Sure, I saved money over those years, but I also didn't worry about going out to eat every now and then, or stress too much about travel expenses for all these weddings I keep going to. Yes, I'll be fine, I lived on this amount easily my first year of grad school (before I had the fellowship). But it's hard to take a pay cut!

I think the bigger worry for me though is whether or not I'll have full funding next year. I'm planning to apply for dissertation fellowships, since my department doesn't usually have enough money to pay full TA-ships to everyone who needs it, and my advisor may or may not have RA money for me. I'll be a sixth-year graduate student then, and even though that is still below the average number of years it takes to graduate in our department, many sixth-year students find themselves without full funding. People have ended up with 1/2 funding, which isn't even enough to pay the necessary bills and buy groceries! Let alone gas, medical expenses, required travel to conferences, etc. Who knew that in a wealthy area such as Computer Science, even graduate students making good progress have to take out loans just to be able to eat? I want to avoid that; I thought by being a computer scientist I WAS avoiding that, but c'est la vie.

So, thus begins my second round of fellowship applications. Hopefully I'll be as successful as I was last time! And hopefully I'll still find a way to continue to save a little bit of money this year as well. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sorry we missed you, Summer!

Wow, it's already the middle of September. How time flies! I have multiple half written blog posts from earlier in the summer that I should finish later. Maybe this weekend?

It really feels like we never had summer at all this year. We had some nice days, and two weeks of sweltering heat, but mostly we had rain. Once it got nice out I was so busy working on my thesis proposal that I didn't really see much of the sun! Now it's getting cold and dreary out, which really is more of what I expect for the school year anyway. At least the new students had a week of sunny days before the dreariness swept in. You would think we were in Seattle!

There are so many things I wanted to do this summer: hiking, biking, vacation. We did some of it, but not as much as in the years past. I think this is due to Tim working on his proposal in the beginning of the summer, me working on my proposal at the end of the summer, and most of free time spent either moving or traveling for one of the 4 weddings we went to. I enjoyed all of that time, but I guess it really ate into the time for other outdoor activities!

The good news is that we still have at least a month before it's too cold to do hiking and biking without tons of layers, so we are going to try to get out as much as we can between now and then. Technically it is still summer until the end of the month, not that it has felt that way the last few days. But we'll make the most of it! And maybe by then we'll be finished moving in and can spend our free time actually relaxing. Assuming we have any to spend on anything!