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Photo taken by me in 2003, Cinque Terre, Italy

33 days until my dissertation is due to my committee. I’ve struggled with finding the big theme that links my collection of results together. At first, I tried to connect them as a progression of logical steps, but  hindsight points out the flaws in the logic. How do I tell the story of my science?

Then it hit me. A thesis is a story of exploration. I was treating it like a story of results, like my short seminars. The technology my group uses is by no means standard practice in labs across the country. It’s rather strange to most people when they first see it in a presentation. I have to spend a lot of time teaching my audience about how to think about this technology, so that they can understand how we use it. That doesn’t leave time to talk about the exploration and experimentation. That’s why I was struggling to write.

I took the photo above in 2003 when I was doing a study abroad program in Florence, Italy. Our group took a weekend trip to Cinque Terre, a string of five towns on the coast in northern Italy. Most of the group spent the day at the beach. I hiked the trail that connects the five towns, stopping to explore each one, getting a bite to eat, some gelato, or refilling my water. From the last town, I took the train back to the first. To this day, I still remember that feeling of accomplishment when I returned to the hotel. I wanted to hike the trail, so I did.

This photo brings back those feelings….excitement, amazement, contentment. My thesis is like the story of my hike, just with some chemistry terms thrown in there. It’s the story of an adventure.

Image from TerenceKearns.com via Flickr

My thesis is due to my committee in 5 weeks. I’m not done with my experiments for my last chapter. To continue my work, I need data from collaborators, who I’m hoping will respond in a timely manner. Despite all of this uncertainty, I feel great! As I write and revise my thesis, my determination grows. I will finish this chapter of my life and I’m excited about starting to write the next one (literally!). I had no idea that I would actually enjoy these final few months of grad school, but I’m sure glad it worked out that way!

Today I needed to go for a hike, but didn’t really want to drive too far away. I checked my guidebook and found Lone Elk Park. It’s less than 10 miles out of town, with a 3 mile hike around a lake. Perfect. I packed my daypack, grabbed my trekking poles, put on my waterproof boots, and headed out.

I can’t believe it took me 5 years to find this place!  It’s great quick hike, with plenty of elevation change and wildlife to see to keep it interesting. I saw a brown and white speckled hawk, a red-headed woodpecker, a mother elk and her calf, and a dad elk. Mr. Elk was in the middle of the munching on some grass, so I headed off into the woods to give him some space.

Turns out Lone Elk is a wildlife management area and part of the park is a bison area. Apparently the bison are mean, so you can only drive through that area, not hike. Driving through that area, I found the bison herd and some wild turkeys fighting in the middle of the road. I took a video of the battle and posted it to my flickr site.

Refreshed by my time outdoors, I’m ready to start the week.

I’m a fan of a big Sunday dinner. Nourished by food and rest, it’s a calming start to the week.

Last night we had smothered pork chops. For dessert, chocolate stout cake and an unexpected blessing. My labmates used this recipe to make over 100 cupcakes as our wedding cake. They got rave reviews all afternoon and I gave out the recipe for weeks following the celebration. As we ate our cake, we found ourselves reliving the joy of our wedding.

An added bonus of having “our wedding cake” recipe on file–no frostbitten cake for us on our first anniversary! We’re having a fresh one!

It’s going to be a quite an exciting year for me as I transition from doing science to writing about it. In a couple of months, I will be finishing my Ph.D. 10 days later, I leave to go to Germany for three months for an internship. I’ll be working communications at the Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates. More about that later.

I planned to start this blog as a place to share my adventures in Germany, but then I realized that they won’t end there. I hope to continue this throughout the year to share my view of the world with you, from new places I visit to inspirations from daily life. Enjoy!

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