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I’ve been accepted to the science writing program at UC Santa Cruz! The offer came with an unrestricted scholarship. Ironically, it is sponsored by a company in the healthcare industry, Roche Molecular Diagnostics. Hehe. To get the money, I have to have lunch with the sponsors at Roche, but I do not have to work or intern at a specified location nor do I have to follow a set career path after I graduate. I’ve accepted the offer of admission and the scholarship.

Santa Cruz is on the quarter system, so school will start in September. I return from Germany at the beginning of July, so I’ll have a couple of months of down time between my internship and starting the program at Santa Cruz.

This gives my confidence a great boost as I get ready for my defense. Despite the struggles of the past few years, I got myself headed in the right direction! If I can do that, I can certainly handle an hour of questioning!

My thesis is finished.

Last Friday, I got the final revisions from my advisor and spent two hours doing a quick experiment in anticipation of a question during my defense. I got some useable data, but it doesn’t change the end of my story. No problem. When I came home that day, the world looked different. The sun was brighter and warmer, the grass was greener, the wind more refreshing.

I’ve spent the weekend putting on the final touches and printing 6 copies of a 200 page document. Thankfully, there have been no printer problems. I’m really good at putting in new ink cartridges and refilling the paper.

Now, I have to put together my talk and do a little studying. I have most of the slides already prepared; the rest I can take from the figures in my thesis. Chris and I are planning to go backpacking at the end of the week, rain or shine. The end is near!

Countdown till thesis is due: 16 days.

I finished my experiments on Wednesday. It’s been an emotional week and half as I frantically worked to get data for the conclusion to my thesis. It involved some long hours, a few boxes of Kraft mac-and-cheese, a cold, and one complete meltdown. After all that, it turns out the end to my thesis is somewhat unsatisfying.  It leaves some loose ends dangling, but I’ve just simply run out of time to tie them into a neat bow.

There’s a piece of me that’s mourning the loss of a tidy end to my story. Though I hated doing the lab work, I was dedicated to the question my research asked. I decided to finish my degree because I wanted to answer that question. And I almost did. I’ve done the heavy lifting for my project, so it should be fairly straightforward for someone else to repeat my work and finish the story fairly quickly. The answer will come–I just won’t be the person to collect the final pieces of data.

When I get sad, I remember the words of a wise eight year old. “I know how you feel. We feel the same about Pluto not being a planet…But we Just have to get over it-thats [sic] science.”

In 2006, when Pluto was ousted from its planetary status, many kids were upset. They wrote angry letters to Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in NYC, protesting the change. Two years later, they had calmed down. Their letters became empathetic and apologetic. The reminder to “just get over it” came from one of these later letters. Check out this letter and others here.

Meanwhile, life pushes forward. I’m heading to an internship that gets me started on the path towards becoming a science writer, a road I’ve been eager to travel for two years. I’ll carry with me the life lessons I have learned during my quest for the answer–the importance of struggling with difficult questions and listening to myself; the feeling of spinning my wheels for many months, frustrated by the lack of progress, but not actively trying to solve my problems; remembering the extreme joy and relief after I buckled down and dug myself out of the quagmire; personally understanding what it means to do research and be a Ph.D. scientist. These lessons are more important than a tidy ending to a few years of hard work. After all, science is messy. Get over it and move on.

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