1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me" AND leave your email address (or blog link) in the comment! I will interview the first three commenters to ask for it. I love you all but I've got a paper to get out people!
2. I will respond by emailing you (or commenting on your blog with) five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. (If you don't have a blog, I can post your answers here).
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
Cath: Exactly which parts of academia are you ambivalent about?
AA: This is a good question and I'm glad that you asked Cath! I've meaning to post about this since the inception of this blog but have just not gotten around to it. I started to answer it here and it's turned into a tome. So I'm going to have a post (or a series if necessary) tomorrow or in the very near future to address this fully because it deserves that kind of attention.
For now, let this suffice: when I refer to being "ambivalent" I don't mean it in the more contemporary/colloquial/conventional use of the word. I think that many people use the word "ambivalent" to mean "oh, I could take it or leave it" or "I really don't have any strong feelings either way". Corollary: "I just don't care that much."
The actual definition of the word is what appears in the blog header (in case it's hard to read I'm reiterating here):
a state of having emotions of both positive and negative valence or of having thoughts or actions in contradiction with each other, when they are related to the same object, idea or person (for example, feeling both love and hatred for someone or something [i.e., grad school, or academia]). (blue text is my addition)
This is quite the opposite of the popular usage. What it really means to say that I am ambivalent, is to say that I am conflicted about academia. In the same way that someone who is ambidextrous is equally strong or adept with either hand, I have equally strong feelings (both positive and negative) towards academia.
You've asked what exactly I am ambivalent about and I haven't exactly answered that...but I promise that I will in a subsequent post tomorrow. Or else very soon.
Cath: Did you generate your header image yourself? What is the staining for?
AA: Oh, I wish! The images are Optical Projection Tomography (computer generated) models of mouse embryos. I love this picture -- it relfects my passions for imaging and embryos. I found the image via teh googelz. Another variation of this image was originally posted on the Wellcome Image Award website. From their page:
Incidentally, I notice that the image has been copyrighted since I first acquired it (eep!), so it may not be in my header for much longer. I'm going to at least properly credit the image in a prominent place near the header...does anyone know if that will satisfy copyright laws? I hate to take it down because it's so freakin' cool.
Mid-gestation mouse embryoThe new technique of Optical Projection Tomography (OPT) helps to reveal the internal structures of stained whole embryos and small pieces of tissue without the need for cutting sections. The mouse embryo shown here has been stained to show parts of the nervous system in green, the floor of the spinal cord and other tissue in blue and the heart in red. Unstained tissue appears grey. The OPT technique enables different elements of the staining patterns to be revealed in more detail using the computer to selectively remove overlying tissue. This process can be observed in the accompanying on-screen animation.
Optical Projection Tomography image by James Sharpe.
Cath: If you had to choose, would you rather be deaf or blind? And why?
AA: I think that I'd rather be deaf than blind from a purely pragmatic standpoint. Blind people lose so much more independence - they can't drive for one...not that I do much of that, but it's really nice that I can. Also, I really really love imaging...hard to make a career of that if you can't see. On the other hand, I would desperately miss music -- I used to play a variety of woodwinds...don't have the time anymore so I satisfy the need to hear music with an iPod. I suppose if I were blind I could always listen to radio transmissions for SETI like that guy from Contact, which would be pretty awesome though not quite as cool as some of the emergent imaging technology.
Cath: Do you think you'll keep blogging when you graduate and move into the next phase of your career?
AA: Oh hellz yeah! This has been such a cathartic experience for me (and I only started a few months ago -- I don't know how I survived without it)! I really love this little conrner of the blogosphere and all the people in it. It's been incredibly encouraging to find out that there are other people out here who are struggling to make the whole science/life thing work (in the many ways that this may be manifest)...and generally succeeding! It's great to know that I'm not crazy...or at least that I'm not alone in my madness. I've had PI blog-friends offer me post-doc positions without knowing my real name or what I do, just on the strength of my communications here and that makes me feel like I am valued outside of the data that I can produce, which is pretty refreshing. I've received more support and good advice here than I imagined I could expect from many of the people in my real-life research-hat environment. Most importantly, I've made a lot of good friends here and I'm not about to give that up! I've got hope that at some point I can offer the same kind of support and relative sanity to someone else trying to swim up this fish-ladder so maybe I'll be able to return the favor.
Cath: What would be your perfect Sunday?
AA: I am happy to report that I recently had one. Sunday is my super-sacred gardening day. Because I live in a sub-tropical sort of city, this is possible pretty much year round, though significantly more tolerable in "winter" months. [I have to say though Cath, being a PNW born-and-raised girl I am exceedlingly envious of your shoe of the week. Not something I would have a chance to wear here though :(] Sometimes I have to go into the lab on Sundays (don't get me wrong, most of the time I love my research...but I love it a lot more if I get to have one day a week when I get to think about something else entirely). This last Sunday I didn't have to go into the lab. Instead, I got to completely rework the last hideous remains of the previous home-owners' garden and turn it into a lovely little tropical corner. Or perhaps I should say that I got to supervise while BH sweated buckets doing the actual work. Last Sunday BH and I slept in, then when we finally got up, I let the pets outs into the yard while he made coffee. We sat out on the deck drinking coffee and enjoying a rare day of perfect weather, then without any prompting at all BH brought out his crowbar and saw and extracted the repulsive suburbanite boxwood shrubs that were making a sorry attempt at concealing the ugly siding of a closet addition (for which I am NOT complaining), so that I could replace said offensive shrubs with a few palm trees, elephant ears, Monstera, Philodendron, and croton, and some canna lilies too. BH dug all the holes to put them in as well. He's fantastic. I don't tell him often enough. It is much prettier, and in a few weeks after all danger of frost I will be planting some very exotic pepper plants in amongst the stuff that is already there. Then we went to a little get-together with some of our favorite friends...didn't watch the game at all but that's really not what we were there for. That's pretty much a perfect Sunday. If you'd asked about a perfect weekend I might have had a more adventure-filled answer, but that one day a week of relaxation and un-science stuff is just so wonderful.
Thanks for the interview!