Home Science Communication Three months after leaving the lab

Three months after leaving the lab

by Eva Amsen

I still have the keys to the lab. Well, they’re not “keys”, they’re two magnetic cards. The one for the hospital is probably blocked by now, but I’m pretty sure the other one (to get into the research building) still works. I haven’t been back since  leaving the lab December 9th, the day of my defense. That’s exactly three months ago today.

I’m going back on Wednesday to meet with someone I did some work for back in October, to discuss those data. I guess I can let myself in with the key card. I’ll have to go by my own lab to pick up the binder, and only scheduled in 15 minutes for that (mostly time I predict I will need to search for the binder.)

I’m also e-mailing back and forth with a collaborator for a paper I’m third (?) author on, and will need to look for that binder as well. My memory is starting to fade. I know what he’s supposed to do calculations on, but I’m not sure if I’m describing it right without having the binder to look at.

My thesis is still at the binder. I think it should be done soon. I found a terrible formatting error that got into the final version. The tables in chapter 4 are mislabeled. I was close to crying when I noticed, even though I know that nobody is actually going to sit down and read my thesis start to finish. I guess I can still change the version for the National Library, and I can add an erratum to the version for the department library. That one has an ugly library permissions form bound into it anyway.

I found the mistake(s) when I was re-assembling a chapter into a standalone thing – a paper, if you wish – for submission to somewhere I can just dump the data and forget about it. They’re negative data, but random people have said that I need to publish it. I would have liked a peer-reviewed paper, but it’s not worth the hassle and stress and disagreements about the merits of publishing negative data, and I’ll probably just put it in Nature Precedings. I finished the first draft of this last night, and e-mailed that to a colleague – former colleague, I guess, after my leaving the lab – who had offered, months ago, to proofread it.

Once the weather settles into a definite spring, I also need to get my bike tuned up for the season, and bring that to work one day, so that I can make it back and forth to the hospital on my 30 minute lunch break and return the key to the bicycle cage that I still have, despite leaving the lab and hospital months ago, and for which I can probably get a deposit back.

It never ends, does it?

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Åsa Karlström March 9, 2009 - 5:41 PM

hm, reading this it felt a bit sad? (not to mention that I thoughth about where I was 3 months after defending – a trip down memory lane a Monday like this.)
And I wouldn’t stress too much about the “mislabelling”. There is always something that is missed and slips through. Otherwise people wouldn’t be so eager for a reprint… (like that was ever going to happen with my thesis? duh… I’ve still got like 40 copies on my parents’ attic – I dare not ask my former professor how many he still got in “storage”)
Btw, I want to bike too. But i don’t have a bike here anymore…. nor a possible bike route to work either…

Eva Amsen March 9, 2009 - 5:50 PM

The frustrating thing was that it was _fine_ in the version I had at my defense. I screwed up the labeling _after_ that when I had to add another figure somewhere and redo the page numbers. I made my thesis worse instead of better!
I only have 5 copies, and only actually _required_ two: one for my supervisor and one for the department. Well, you know the North American system. They’re HUGE. I got one for myself as well, and my mom wanted one, and my sister -demanded- asked for her own. They cost about $95 each, everything included (printing, binding) so I’m miffed that they’re not _perfect_ and with such a stupid mistake. I am an idiot!

Cristian Bodo March 9, 2009 - 6:28 PM

Don’t worry too much about that, Eva. See, your supervisor must be happy to be able to include one more Ph.D mentored in the CV, your mom and your sister are only going to read the Acknowledments section anyway (hope you included them, because that’s what they’ll be looking for!), and your committee should have already read the whole thing before your defense, so it’s unlikely they’ll do it again just for fun.
I’m affraid that’s pretty much the entire list of people who may show interest in reading a Ph.D. dissertation (outside some rabid Queen fans that may have shown interest in Brian May’s). Just be happy that you’re done with it! As a particularly cool member of my committee told me after I was done with my defense: “OK, you’re a doctor. Now go out and celebrate like crazy, because there are not many opportunities to do that if you plan to follow an academic career”

steffi suhr March 9, 2009 - 6:30 PM

Eva, try to imagine that the error adds a personal touch… nothing’s ever perfect!!!

Eva Amsen March 9, 2009 - 7:10 PM

But it ends up being so _many_ errors: Table 4.1 is called 1.4, and not in the index or table of contents. Table 4.2 is called 4.1, etc. – but are all referred to as their correct number in the text, so even if someone just wants to look something up, they’re going to get confused. (Of course this was the chapter with all the tables in it!)
I also just realized that I forgot the appendices for the paper I sent to my friend last night. I’ll see if he notices. I can always pretend it was a TEST to see if he actually read it! =P

steffi suhr March 9, 2009 - 7:13 PM

Ok, I guess you really did mess it up.

Kristi Vogel March 9, 2009 - 7:37 PM

When you leave a university, you realize just how much you’ve invested in key deposits for every single room (or bicycle cage) to which you have access. We can get replacement parking hang tags for free, but you have to bring in the UV-embrittled shards of the tag, which you’ve painstakingly collected from the floor and air vents of your vehicle.
Eva, your thesis sounds as if it might be a little bit beyond the “wabi-sabi”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi aesthetic.

Lee Turnpenny March 9, 2009 - 10:27 PM

Eva, be careful you don’t break a tooth (I did). You’ll look at it in five years and still spot something you didn’t see before. It bothers you because you _care_, not because you’re careless.

Jennifer Rohn March 10, 2009 - 7:44 AM

I think errors make us human. My book is on its third printing and I’ve discovered yet _another_ typo. There must be an entire section of our brains devoted to glossing over things we see that are wrong, to make them look right and fit the pattern.

Eva Amsen March 10, 2009 - 1:58 PM

Mmm. It’s just – it was fine in the version that I defended. Then I added a figure and fixed some stuff, and thought I made it _better_ but I screwed up something that was always fine.
I also caught a typo in my thesis, but I don’t mind that so much. (It says “of” instead of “or” somewhere. I do that ALL THE TIME. The keys are right next to each other, the spell checker doesn’t spot it, and then of course “of” actually _means_ “or” in Dutch, so it’s actually a miracle that I still manage to type “or” most of the time to begin with.)

Richard Wintle March 10, 2009 - 6:02 PM

Eva – you mean they let you leave with your ID badge (or did you have some other kind of maglock card for the hospital)? Usually they don’t give you your last paycheque until you hand it in.
That said, until recently I had my original ID badge, despite having left the place (the first time) in 1997. And I still have ID badges for two hospitals and the University (including one hospital I never ‘officially’ worked at).

Eva Amsen March 10, 2009 - 6:17 PM

There was an expiry date on it. They never asked for it, so I guess it just expired? I was supposed to leave it at the lab, but thought I would have come back later that week that I was last there 3 months ago.

Eva Amsen March 10, 2009 - 7:39 PM

Now with added grammar and syntax:
“I was supposed to leave it at the lab when I finished, but thought that I would come back later that same week, rather than 3 months later.”

Eva Amsen March 12, 2009 - 2:39 PM

I just picked up my bound thesis (blog post when I get home) and I told my binder about the table labels, and she said she can FIX IT if it keeps bothering me! Just knowing that it can be undone makes me a feel a lot better. I may or may not get it fixed.
I also met with someone who was on my final exam committee, and she said the errors will make it unique. Then she asked for her copy back – the one she read for my defense and then gave back to me to make changes. Someone actually _wants_ my thesis!

Richard Wintle March 12, 2009 - 2:42 PM

Heh. One of my committee members *cough*Lap-Chee*cough* kept my thesis for a number of weeks, and when I liberated it from him, it was clearly marked up for the first ten pages or so, after which – nothing.
He returned it to me with the unforgettable words: “It has the format of a thesis, and the content of a thesis, so I guess it’s ok.”
Then he missed my defence because he was at a site visit in Vancouver. I replaced him with someone easier.
100% true story.

Richard Wintle March 12, 2009 - 2:43 PM

P.S. I passed.

Eva Amsen March 12, 2009 - 2:53 PM

Haha! Hm, you probably know the person who wanted my thesis back (she works one floor below you, on flies), but I don’t want to write her name in case this crappy blog post ends up as a high hit in Google for her (NN usually is).

Richard Wintle March 12, 2009 - 4:14 PM

Heh. Two floors, actually 😉

Eva Amsen March 12, 2009 - 4:20 PM

I thought you were on 14? I never get that high in the building, though.

Richard Wintle March 12, 2009 - 4:23 PM

Yup. Obviously I have no clue who you’re talking about because the person I’m thinking of is on 12, if her lab webpage is to be believed.
I think we may have totally derailed the comments now…

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