Thursday, April 23, 2015

30 Days

This post will be updated...maybe not every day, but it will be updated. 

08/Apr/2015 | 30 days left

Remember when there were 880 days (or so) left until Graduation? I do, because that's about when I added the countdown. Shane kept asking me the days until the end of Sophomore year and until graduation, so the countdown was born. Now it's 30.

Today I signed up for my Senior Design final presentation. E-Days starts tomorrow. There's too much stuff that needs to get done, all within 30 days, most way less than that. My goal is to not die.

Excitement level: minimal. I'm trying to minimize the objective function that is my emotions right now. Bleh.

17/Apr/2015 | 21 Days left
This week was definitely the most stressful week of the semester. So many things piling on...
One bright spot was our annual Department Banquet on Thursday. Having attended Banquet the past four years (since I was a sophomore), it felt surreal to be one of the Seniors giving gifts to the professors.

But the adventure started after the Banquet.

The banquet was held on top of Lookout and I was helping out Austin, SSG prez, with stuff. The roads were fine going up. The snow had picked up a lot during the banquet. We were the last to leave, naturally. We were going to follow a car with Dawn and Dave and go down the I-70 way.  But on the first turn, Austin's Jeep gets stuck in the snow

Dawn and Dave don't see us lag behind and keep driving onwards, leaving us for dead! So Austin is like, ok, I'll back up until I can find a less steep gradient/get traction (he has rear wheel drive). He slides onto the incoming traffic lane until we are dangerously close to the left edge of the road--there is no guardrail and our death (well, not quite our death) would meet us mere inches away.

His phone is dead. I'm at 9%. Service is spotty. 

I call the Treasurer. No answer.

I call the VP. No answer.

Then I call Rosie because I know she has all-wheel-drive. In the meantime, we use my remaining phone battery to call AAA. They say they'll send a tow truck within the hour.

While waiting for Rosie, three cars drive by and ignore us. A plow asks how we are. Thanks, plow guy. 

Anyway Rosie and Stefan take me down the mountain, and so I charge my phone. Rosie gave her charger cord to Austin, so I could call him. The tow truck company calls and says he's about to head up Lookout, so should be there soon. I say great, and call Austin and say it'll be about 30min. About 35 min later, Austin callls me. "Uhh, so I know I keep saying this, but there's been an interesting development. A car just stopped by and said that they saw a tow truck that had just slid and crashed off the side of the road."

He calls AAA again, and sure enough, that was supposed to be the truck to pick him up. At this point, I'm extremely tired but laughing because this is too ridiculous. So Austin calls for a ride and gets off the mountain at like 1AM finally. What a crazy night. And of course, it was stuck in the snow when we went up the mountain to get it the next day. So we had to dig it out before some people came and helped push the car out of the snow. 

All this plus a normal week's workload of insanity. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How to Find a Grad School #2: What to do before applying

Juniors and underclassmen keep asking me, "When should I apply to grad school?" The short answer is that the deadlines for grad school are around December of senior year. But the real answer is that the process could start at the end of Junior year. So assuming you want to apply to grad school in 9 months, here's my advice for you.

  1. Figure out where you don't want to go / live, as I wrote in #1. 
  2. This might be point 0, but figure out what sort of field you want to go into...kinda important. 
  3. Make a huge list of places from point 2. 
  4. Sign up to take the GRE in the summer (you really don't want to take this during school).
  5. Download the practice test software from ETS to study for the GRE. Study...a little bit. Focus on quant, and especially not running out of time on quant.  Worst case scenario, if you fail the GRE, you could still apply to schools outside the US (you won't fail though, right?). Uh, but take the GRE seriously. It's too expensive to retake, let's be honest. 
  6. As the summer goes on, look at the departments and the research being done. Once settled on a subfield of research, read the prof's websites and look at the papers to see what kind of research they do. Can you imagine doing that sort of research? Good. 
  7. Add potential supervisors to a list. This should be a sort of short list (less than 10?)
  8. Update your CV. 
  9. Begin drafting and sending the Inquiry Email to these professors that you would like to work with. This is a very important part of the whole process! This should ideally happen late August to early October. In November, profs get a lot of these emails because students realize the deadline to apply is in Dec and they need to find a supervisor! (Some schools work differently, but for the most part, it's good to reach out to show interest, inquire about funding, and find out about the research opportunities).
    Here is a good resource on how to do this:
    Post 1
    Post 2
    Make sure your email seems like you are a focused individual. Avoid typos (don't be me). You can attach your CV. Or if that makes you feel weird, you can wait until they reply back and ask for your CV. So it's good that you have that ready. 
  10. Ask people for letters of rec in advance -- give them a heads-up and tell them when the deadline is, because some of them like to procrastinate like us. 
  11. Continue inquiry emails and the stuff that goes along with them. There are a few outcomes. Either they:
    -won't reply (*crickets*...don't feel bad though)
    -will reply saying that they can't take another student
    -will reply saying they might/will be taking a new student
    -will reply asking if you're available to talk on the phone or Skype. You're available, of course.
    There are a few variations, of course...sometimes students are the ones to initiate a Skype meeting, which is cool if the prof is not busy.   
  12. If you get a Skype meeting set up, treat it like an interview: but that you're interviewing them, too. Come prepared to talk about your experiences and prepared with a list of questions you have about research, the school, or application process. Don't ask all your questions during your Skype meeting though. It's good to save a question or two to send a month or so later to show that you're still intersted. Send a follow-up email a day after the meeting. 
  13. If you are still interested, get ready to actually apply to the school. Whoa. 
  14. But not without seeing how many windows per capita the department building has. 
There was only slight sarcasm in this post. It is mostly serious. Actually, all of it was serious except point 14. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fluid Mechanics

Deposition and erosion. Everything is deposition and erosion. Mountains climbing higher and higher, being scraped of their skin by water and ice. Sediments are carried for miles and miles, leaving only the strongest bits.

Everything is stress and strain. Even deposition and erosion. Life piles on more and more layers and sheets of paper with lists of things to do. What is the failing point? Like caramel stretches farther and farther until it breaks. Like an abused rock cracks after being squeezed so much. Deformation is caused by stress and strain. The heart beats. Extension and compression.

A pebble becomes entrained and makes a great journey downstream. Fluid mechanics.Weaving through a crowd of students. Mist crawls over the mountains signaling that it's a good day to sit and drink a cup of coffee.

Heat flow controls everything. Stress and strain. Deposition and Erosion. The transformation of a cake from goo to deliciousness. Mmm...remember infinite cake?

Dispersion and propagation can describe anything. Heat flow is dispersion. Light propagates. Waves of sea water crash onto the rock face. Erosion.

Yet timing is everything.

I realize this more so than ever. There is an hour glass of pitch and an hour glass of very fine sand that were turned over at the same time. Time crawls but is escaping way too quickly.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014 Was Weird

But weird in a cool way. As I begin my last semester, I can't imagine what 2015 might hold. Funny though: even when you think you know the storyline there are unexpected things that happen. Here are 2014 things that happened in my year:

Went to four time zones*
Helped build an android app
Commuted across state lines every day
Celebrated Tesla's birthday
Gave a talk at one of the biggest geoscience conference in the world
Spent more on coffee than food...probably
Helped start a club on campus
Gained more elevation than a popular 14'er in four hours*
Spent more money on Red Sox tickets than Rockies tickets*
Got chosen by the Grav Lyfe*...multiple times
Decided what I want to do with the next part of my life
Traveled out of the country for the first time
Applied to grad school
Became able to run for ten straight minutes
Started a band that has fans
Drove a vibroseis truck
Started learning Dutch
Drove 85 in a 55
Drove 100 in  a 75
Traveled to eight states*
Had six flights
Learned about magnetotellurics, exponential filters, total electron content, and the method of Frobenius, and many other things
Watched two lunar eclipses...well, one. Does working in Eclipse count?
Fell in love with Maine black bear ice cream, poutine, and london fogs
Saw fireflies for the first time


*:

- I had a layover in Chicago. So that counts. But not as a state visited.
- Mount Yamnuska in Alberta has more elevation gain (base to peak) than Mount Bierstadt.
- I payed ~$35 for a Red Sox vs. Cubs ticket at Fenway Park. I went to two Rockies games all season, both in April, which cost me $20.
- Remember: we don't choose the Grav Lyfe, the Grav Lyfe chooses us.
- My layover in Chicago doesn't count.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pressure Gradients and Uncertainty

Lately, I've been losing sleep. Part of it is Nyquil withdrawal. I was sick for two weeks straight (since Thanksgiving week), so I was on Nyquil cough syrup for those same two weeks so the cough attacks would have a less chance of shaking me from my sleep. Unfortunately for my sleep schedule, the end of the semester also coincides with me pumping caffeine into my blood system.

The other part of it are the things that take up my thoughts. Thoughts of mostly uncertainty in data analysis and uncertainty in life. At least the semester is almost over.

Oh. The semester is almost over.

The M on Mount Zion in Golden has a countdown each semester to the number of days until graduation for the last nine days. We've now seen it seven times.

"Look at the M. Next time it will be for us."

***
A rallying cry for the Geophysics Junior's hardest class that we Seniors stumbled into

It is during the last ten minutes of a last final of the week that one probably is the most unmotivated. I was particularly unmotivated during this semester's last one, for it was an open computer final and had concepts that contradicted fundamentals from the final I just took an hour earlier.

Plus my hand hurt from writing so much. Even though I stayed up until 2AM studying on accident, I wasn't stressed out about finals. I have done it so many times by now. I was more stressed out about getting my talk finished and everything else. After Tuesday...I would be relaxed.


***

The semester is now over, and the tail end of the year quickly following after it. My sources of December stress are resolved, but uncertainty carries into 2015.

The year I graduate college. The year I start grad school...somewhere.

I was able to reset my sleeping schedule at the AGU Fall Meeting, ironically. Usually people don't get much sleep at giant earth science conferences, but the first two days had me waking up at 6:30AM to prepare for my talk, which was on Tuesday afternoon.

This AGU Fall Meeting was my second, but already was very different from my first, when I was overwhelmed by the bigness of geoscience and taking in the amazing facets of our field of study. This year, my Fall Meeting was defined by prep for my talk and networking. And sushi. I ate sushi twice. (Can I just say how much I love that NSF supports my caffeine and food habit?)

Networking is actually cool because these are my kind of nerds: from people who sing and write poems about geoscience to people who I might be working with in the future. My week was also busy catching up with multiple circles of friends that converged at AGU: Mines Geophysics peeps, 2014 REU friends, and 2013 REU friends. 

My talk went well, and though it was a lot of pressure, it was a huge honor and actually a lot of fun to give. I ended up being up a lot less nervous than I expected it being my first AGU talk. Probably because I was singing in my head the entire talk before mine.

"Ain't no mountain high enough..."

***

It's my last trip of the year. From my first trip of driving through the Arizona desert during Spring Break and receiving the email that I was accepted to the Haystack REU, to the drive to Field Camp, DEN to BOS, BOS to SEA, SEA to BOS, BOS to YYC, driving back from Calgary, DEN to SFO, SFO to DEN.

What's next?

I can't begin to think about going back to school right now and starting my final semester at Mines and all the uncertainty beyond that. I just want to stare at geology from thirty thousand miles above the ground.

The Sierra Nevadas