It’s Thursday again and time for one of my least enjoyable weekly tasks. Fish tank cleaning.
Got to scrub off some (not all though) of that algae off the front so we can see the fish. Got to siphon off 30% of the water (no mouth siphoning or you might get fish tuberculosis!). Got to dump out that smelly water and probably end up dumping half (or sometimes all of it) on the floor and you. Maybe clean out some of the empty tanks that have been sitting there collecting algae since you arrived in August…
Is this really what you do for my PhD?
Responsibility comes with the job – if you want to have fish for research someone’s got to take care of them.
Don’t you have undergrads for that?
Good question, I’m not sure why the undergrads don’t do some of the fish cleaning, they are using some of them for their own experiments. Maybe this is a Michele thing that she decided to spare them the grunge work or just enjoys fish tank cleaning – but she did get me in on that task pretty quickly…I know part of the thing is they fear sucking up any of the baby fish (SHWOMP into the dump bucket you go little feller, sorry bout that!) but Michele handles all of the tanks with babies in them so couldn’t they clean my tanks and leave the babies to Michele and I? (Michele points out that it makes more sense to have them collect data rather than use their time to clean fish tanks during the school year but in the summer when they’re here 8 hours a day 5 days a week then we get them to help. Excellent…)
Does it really take 2 hours?
Well yes, it does actually. I can’t multi-task that well so keeping an eye on filling tanks to keep them from overflowing is a huge challenge when you pair that with trying not to suck up zebra fish or having to hold the siphon in the water because if you leave it the tube will fall right out. But actually this time is much better than it was when I started when it took 4 hours for the two of us to clean tanks. I wonder if some of that doesn’t have to do with the process, you see we were getting in each others way previously but now that she’s not cleaning at the same time as I it only takes me 2 hours and I suspect it only takes her 2 hours as well.
Is this ALL you do for your PhD?
Actually no. I have to put in my time for TAing which usually amounts to grading (at least this semester) and office hours. I attend a couple of classes which means that I have homework to do too. I attend lab meetings which are centered around articles that are useful, the data collection process, and our productivity. I attend lectures that fall into the comparative cognition domain. I actually collect data for my own First Year Research Project (FYRP), work to analyze that data, and, someday, will write-up a brilliant article for submission in a journal. I have to help collect data for the other research project going on (human stuff). I have to pick my own topics for my Second Year Research Project (SYRP; which is essentially a Masters – there’s a long story behind why I won’t be getting my masters… I’ll explain that another time) and eventually for my PhD dissertation. I have to help to ensure that none of our undergrads are entering crisis mode. And I have to keep track of emails
Technically my program has a few fine documents that indicates how well we’re doing in the program but there is one in particular that is the most relevant as it tells us approximately how long it will take us to graduate based on what we’ve accomplished. In order to be graduating in 4 years I need to:
- To maintain a minimum of a 3.0 (shouldn’t be too hard) to be considered “satisfactory” in the grades department (a 3.7 would be “excellent”) so I need to put in time and care to my grades – but not too much. They worry about 4.0’s if you’re falling behind in other areas like research realized, presentations presented, papers published, etc.
- I need to select a committee for my FYRP.
- I need to submit my prospectus for my FYRP.
- I need to have my prospectus initiated.
- I need to have my data collected.
- and I need to have presented or submitted the results for publication.
And that’s just for the first year.
P.S. – I’m getting my second Incomplete in my life… apparently you get INs if you haven’t completed your thesis when you sign up for thesis credit hours. (And yes that totally freaks me out, despite the fact that it’s apparently normal.)