Time Flies When You’re Living Life

Time Flies When You’re Living Life

Ahhh, no post for about two weeks! I kind of needed the break, and life has been “much too distracting” to find the time and patience to put a post together. I haven’t even been perusing through the ‘gram much lately either. It makes me happy that I’m busy/engaged enough with life right now to not be glued to a screen.

I didn’t even go out for lunch or dinner over Easter weekend. That Saturday, I was extremely exhausted and ended up taking naps in the afternoon in addition to “sleeping in” until 7:30am. I did get some new flavors of bars to try and a jar of D’s Naturals spread…

salted-caramel
Post run noms from this morning! Got around to trying the Salted Caramel Oh Yeah! One bar and thought it tasted fantastic! Definitely has a salty kick, but the caramel-flavored shell coating and fudge-like center of the bar helped to balance it all out. And there’s something about that purple-colored wrapper that’s just so eye-catching. 😜👍🏽

I did force myself to get out of the house to go see a critically-acclaimed anime movie called Your Name. I went to a late afternoon showing at an indie film place in Santa Monica, and did not regret it! The movie was fantastic—the animation, storytelling, plot twists—critics say the director of this movie is the next Hayao Miyazaki and if they are coming to that conclusion based on this movie alone, I feel they are right on the money!

maple-glazed-dnut
This Maple Glazed Donut Oh Yeah! One nutrition bar definitely hits you with the scent of maple syrup when opened, but the flavor is quite bland in comparison to the other new flavors I tried in my previous recent posts. Be wary of delicious sounding flavor names!

Because I felt so exhausted on Saturday, I moved my long run workout for the week to Sunday. My coach usually has me doing Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday workouts as my “key” workouts, while the rest of the days are easy aerobic recovery days. So on Sunday, I set out to do a mix up long run that was 30k in distance, with fast intervals thrown in. Since the workout was broken up in 5k chunks, it was mentally manageable.

blueberry-cobbler
This Blueberry Cobbler Oh Yeah! One nutrition bar may be one of my new favorites. Served cold, it tastes like a blueberry ice cream bar. 🍦

Obviously, I was ravenous and smelly by the time that was over. I quickly showered and took the train over to E’s place since she invited me to her landlords’ Easter brunch. I didn’t have pics from the event since I wasn’t in a phone picture-taking mood, but we were fed well. I was also introduced to the delicious treat that is a Ferrero Egg. Where can I get more of them??

cocoa-glazed-cinnamon-roll-
On Saturday, I felt dead exhausted 💀 sleep 😴…the kind of tired that makes you feel like staying in bed ALL DAY is a very good idea…but I did manage to have this Cocoa Glazed Cinnamon Roll @dsnaturals Fluffbutter from Vitamin Shoppe. After snacking on this, and taking yet another nap, at least I had enough energy to go see @yourname.movie ! Loved this cocoa scented jar that had a soft butter texture just as much as I loved the movie 💕

Afterwards, E and I spent the rest of the day in downtown SaMo, walking down the pier and laughing at a sign that said “Weed Week” that was flying through the sky attached to a plane. We then walked in circles around the promenade only to sit down for coffee and later Pinkberry. When I got home, I crashed and fell into a glorious night’s worth of sleep!

The following week kept me busy—I honestly can’t recall all of the things I did, but there was so much done, yet so much left to do! #LifeofAResearcher . I was so exhausted by Friday night, and a new pint flavor was exactly what I was craving:

justlike a milkshake
This legit tastes like a {vegan} melty chocolate milkshake with cream-filled cookie chunks. Sometimes it pays off to try a new flavor—I was about to buy Snickerdoodle (which I know I love), but felt a little daring on a recent trip to Ralph’s. Now I think I may have another new So Delicious favorite…

It was also an interesting week for my training program too! My coach had me try a double run on Saturday…15.5 miles in the morning and 10 miles in the PM. It sounded daunting at first, but I was also looking forward to the challenge! I ran the morning run with one of my marathon team teammates, but the weather was not in our favor. It got hot really quickly, with temperatures reaching the 80s by 8AM. It was a tough workout for sure, but having someone to run the longer run of the day with certainly helped!

I noticed that my upper left calf started to feel sore, so I made sure to spend some time rolling it out/massaging it when I got home. Before getting in some hours of rest and recovery, I stopped in Culver City to address the other “R”: REFUEL.

Tender Greens seems to have locations all over So Cal, and in my two and half years living here I had yet to visit…somehow a Saturday that got into the 90s persuaded me to walk through the doors of their Culver City location…

Tender Greens, Culver City
Tender Greens, Culver City

The set-up was ordering at the front, and then walking towards the back to pay and get your meal. I found it odd that you had to pay in the back, and then even more awkward waiting around the front to pick up your meal, since they could have easily handed you a number placard to place on your table and have them find you. At least there was ample, spacious seating at this location, and some spots out on the patio as well.

sit
Very spacious

The unusual set-up didn’t bother me too much in the end though, because the giant Falafel Plate I ordered hit the spot and vanquished my hanger.

falafel plate
Falafel plate with side kale salad (garlic dressing + parmesan), a green dollop of hummus that looked like guacamole, tahini sauce, and a crisp crostini bread.

After eating everything though, I wondered how it would affect my PM run. When I did go out for my 10 miler in the evening, I was relieved that the temperature was much cooler. It helped that it was a beach run and that the sun was setting. I felt great for the first half, but then tummy issues slowed me down for the last half. I did make it home in one piece though, and was proud of myself for conquering my first long run double.

falafel_plate
Close-up of everythang.

After talking to my coach, he affirmed that practice makes perfect and that I’ll get used to these the more I do them. He also recommended that I try refueling with foods that are simple in carbs, some fats, and low protein no more than two hours before the PM run—recommendations that I’ll definitely put into practice for the next time!

Tender Greens Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

I have a huge 12 page proposal due soon, and with this on my mind the weekend before Thanksgiving, I was anxiously-driven to put in some concrete hours working on it.

picmonkey-collage
Tried a new RX Bar flavor from Trader Joe’s—Maple Sea Salt! I love how it has salt speckles that sparkle like diamonds!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go into lab that weekend, so it also gave me plenty of time to sleep in for a bit, and then set up shop at a local library.

apple-caramel-yogurt
Tried this interesting new seasonal greek yogurt flavor —> Apple Caramel Greek Yogurt? Tastes more like cream cheese with apple pieces…uh, I guess that could be appetizing but when you expect yogurt and taste cream cheese, it’s quite a surprise 🤔 .

I also had a hankering for pizza, so I made it my first priority to get myself a warm, hearty tomato-based pie before working. This meant waking up around 8 (because that’s my definition of sleeping in) and then heading over to Novel Cafe because I heard they had pretty good pizza, among other things.

vegan-pizza
Novel Cafe

The outside was covered in calligraphy and murals, while the inside had an interesting layout. There were one (or two?) shops within the restaurant selling what I assume was jewelry, but they also didn’t seem to be affiliated with the restaurant.

teninthemorning
Casual seating area

I sat at a table in the center, and in my view was an empty juice bar, and bakery cases full of pastries and bread. I was handed a long, laminated menu and my eyes immediately gravitated to the pizza section. I had to go for the organic vegan topped with zen buddha cheese…

vegan-pizza
VEGAN PIZZA,COME TO ME!

…it also came with other goodies like rich tomato sauce, zucchini, and mushrooms!

melt
That melty “cheese”

My pizza was a medium, but it was the perfectly-sized personal pizza. It took me a while to finish, but that’s because each bread-y bite took some work to chew. Each slice was thin enough to fold NY style.

I left with a full tummy and gathered enough energy to get to work on my paper for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. I spent a good three hours at the library, hard at work, before I decided to venture home and crash into a carb-induced coma of a nap.

The next day, I continued to put those carbs to use when I ventured out for a fourteen miler with my marathon team. My running buddy and I kept a consistent pace the entire time, making us enthusiastic about our marathon prospects. If all goes well, I may be significantly PR’ing come March 😉

veggie-wrap
Trader Joe’s Veggie Wrap w/ Hummus – The wrap itself is so soft…and each bite is chock full of hummus!

I did some grocery shopping after the run and before heading home, all on now-tight quads! I picked up a new-to-me wrap from Trader Joe’s for lunch while watching the latest SNL episode.

hummus-wrap
What I had to say about this wrap —-> Is it actually raining in So Cal today 😱?? I thought it was pretty good timing on my part getting back home after a 14mi run JUST before the downpour. I wanted to get a lot of my written proposal done, but a lot of napping, SNL watching, and veggie wrap with hummus eating happened instead 😛 But at least I did catch up in the sleep department 👍

I had my fair share of hard work and relaxation in the weekend immediately preceding Thanksgiving, but I am more excited to type out my Thanksgiving recaps! That is…if I ever finish this proposal 😛

Novel Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

That Lab Life

That Lab Life

I often reference how I have to “pop into lab” or “go out for lunch after lab” in many of my posts, but I have not had the chance (or the patience) to go into detail about my life in lab. I thought it would be fun to describe the usual hierarchy of a lab, so you could have at least some idea of what I have to deal with on a daily basis…

Before I became the dedicated PhD student researcher I am today ( 😉 ) , I was an overworked, overexhausted undergrad student, who was treated like a grad student during my first lab research experience. Not all was bad though, as I learned a lot, and had face-time with my boss every time I was in the lab, but as an undergrad student I could only spend so much time in the lab. My boss at the time didn’t understand this, and she kept pressuring me to stay longer, work more, etc. I was able to hold on for a year before moving on to my next experience!

The undergrads in my current lab are more like these guys though…

(source)

They’re not annoying, but most of them work under a post-doc in my lab who likes to call them “minions”. In my lab, they tend to carry out smaller experiments and tasks, but don’t necessarily have a project on their own. In comparison, I would say I had it a lot better (if we’re talking about getting experience and training…if we’re talking about the preservation of my sanity, then perhaps it would be the opposite 😛 ).

Next up on the lab hierarchy are usually research techs/lab assistants. Usually people that are at this stage are students that just finished undergrad, and are trying to keep busy while waiting to hear from the grad/medical school programs they applied to. I fell into this stage right after I graduated from undergrad a year early, and fortunately, it was in a lab that was very laid-back. I wasn’t paid (so that meant working evening shifts at a local outlet store for some $$…), but it kept me in-tune with the research world as I applied, which also helped with my interviews! But not all research techs/lab assistants are students-in-waiting. In fact, I’ve come across many people who are older adults, or people who got a B.S. or M.S. in some science major and had to take a hiatus from lab work due to personal circumstances.

In either case, they’re on a never-ending quest to prove that they’ve got what it takes.

(source)

Then there are the grad students, the PhD-type 😉 . Their origin can be one of these two: a continuing masters student, or one who is constantly replying “No, I came straight from bachelors” to anyone who asks “Did you get a masters first?”.

Compared to my years as an undergrad, I would say being a grad student is less intense. Shocked? Don’t be! I still have plenty of work, and with my qualifying exam coming up, I’ll probably be rethinking what I type here, but I am being completely honest when I say I felt more stressed/anxious/obsessive about my work as an undergrad than I do now. I view the work I do now as my job, and I don’t necessarily see myself as a student in the traditional sense. I do have classes I have to take, but unlike in undergrad where my focus was on class and doing well in class, now it’s produce work in lab and just show your face in class 😛

This will totally be me as I get closer to earning my degree!

Just above the PhD students, you have the post-docs. These guys and gals try very hard to make sure everyone knows that they are NO LONGER STUDENTS and that they do in fact have 100% earned the right to be called _______ , PhD. There is no denying the fact that they do deserve this, but it can get irritating when you have grad student vs. post-doc arguments debates. The PhD student doesn’t want to look stupid when he/she asks a question to the post-doc, and the post-doc wants to make sure that they give the right answer, and “look good” doing so. They also have added pressure to be even more independent than a student, and are often regarded as mini-bosses in the lab.

I think they’re having one of those grad student vs. post-doc “debates”. The grad student is a fiesty one 😉

Finally, we have the primary investigator (PI). The head honcho. The big boss. The don…

LOL! Can you imagine Shah Rukh Khan—the face of Bollywood—leading a scientific research lab?!

I’ve come across three PIs in my overall experience so far (not including rotations), and while they all have their own quirks and personality traits, a couple things stay common for all. As a PI, your biggest responsibility is making sure your lab has adequate finances. It’s what gives you the freedom to run your lab the way you want to. It’s no secret that funding is extremely tight, so labs can get competitive when it comes to raking in mon-ayyy. In order to make sure that your lab is successful, a PI needs to be assertive, exact, frank, and be able to compromise if necessary (especially when it comes to collaborations, as science is definitely a “it’s who you know” kind of industry)!

Me minus the fur :P
Me minus the fur 😛

It’s kind of funny that as a grad student, I fall right in the middle of all these interesting characters! At times, it almost feels like I’m in a sitcom or a TV show with all the crazy interactions and dynamics that go on around me or involve me. I do love it though 😛 !

Do you like your workplace?

Getting to Graduate School: A Look Back on the Application Process

Getting to Graduate School: A Look Back on the Application Process

Graduate school → a very broad term, but ultimately it implies going to school after getting your undergraduate degree. In order to get there, one could take many paths, depending on the field of study (humanities, social sciences, life sciences, etc.) and type of degree (master’s, PhD, etc.). Whether the journey is easy or hard is a matter of opinion.

For me, it was a process. I took a methodical approach, and I mapped out everything from scratch, outlining everything that I wanted needed to accomplish . I can now look back on my map with a sense of accomplishment and eagerness about what the future has in store. I also feel compelled to share how my experience ultimately turned out…

What/How many programs did I apply to?

My background is in molecular biology, but I wanted to pursue a PhD in something that was more specific to the interests I developed later on in my undergraduate career. I won’t disclose them here since they are very specific, but to give you an idea, I applied to about 16 programs that included my “top” choice, immediate top choices, and so-called “safety” schools. Looking back, I don’t really think safety schools should be an option if you are considering graduate school, because if you want to thrive and be happy wherever you end up, shouldn’t you apply to schools where you will be able to do just that? I realized this midway through the process, but I figured that if I had all of my bases covered from the beginning, I could make a more sound decision later on.

What factors did I consider when picking schools to apply to?

A lot of factors were considered, but the main ones were:

Location – I came into the process wanting to relocate to the city/urban environment. I’ve lived in a bucolic area for the majority of my life, and while that’s great for raising a family, I believe that the average graduate student in her early twenties should use the opportunity to seek out the city experience. At least that’s my opinion ;).

Faculty – I will admit that I was that girl who made an Excel spreadsheet listing faculty from each school I planned to apply to, and next to their names, listed their research interests! Embarrassing, I know, but it really helped me organize what the trend with the school/program/department was in regards to what was deemed “important” research.

Resources – When looking at programs, I was really interested in figuring out if the program took the time to outline what resources they provide for their students. Workshops, career counseling, grant writing help, etc. are all important things to me, and I wanted to be assured that the programs I applied to were able to afford me with that.

Graduation Rate and Funding – These were two very critical factors when considering which programs to apply to. I’ve heard of some programs where students have to struggle to find their own funding, which can be a nightmare when you’re juggling classes/the qualification exam/just living! Fortunately, all of the programs I was interested promised a standard stipend in addition to tuition and health insurance assistance. Depending on the location and cost of living in that location, the amounts from what I’ve come across can range anywhere from $25,000 – $34,000, before taxes.  Also knowing that a program wants to get PhD students out within 4.5-5.5 years is a good thing, since it shows the program is interested in the well-being of the student, and isn’t out on the hunt for “cheap labor” like certain horror stories I’ve heard suggest.

What things where part of my application?

Since I applied to biology-related PhD programs, my application was made up of the following components: GRE scores, statement of purpose and other essays, letters of recommendations, transcripts from undergrad institution(s), and filling out the program’s specific application. In science–related PhD programs, having previous research experience is key, so I made sure to highlight my previous experiences thoroughly throughout my application.

How were interviews?

Most of my applications were due in late November/early December, so I was pretty much a nervous Nelly until Christmas break was over. I happened to hear back from two programs before the holidays struck, which did calm my nerves through the holiday season.

Once January hit, I got more interview invites via e-mail. I was lucky to have almost all of my interview dates scheduled on separate days, and was able to avoid scheduling conflicts for the most part. For the one that conflicted with an already scheduled interview, I was able to have a Skype interview (technology being used for good!). I also had a few phone interviews during this time. Overall, I would say that my interview “platforms” were quite diverse.

February was interview season, and it was a blast flying out to a different place each weekend, learning about the school, networking with students and faculty (they are my future colleagues!), and being fed for free ;).  The first interview is always nerve-wracking because you don’t know what to expect, but after a while, there is a rhythm that you get into, and you become a broken record when someone asks you to “tell me about your research…”

It’s really difficult to be “bad” in an interview. You want to come prepared, but you don’t have to come in having already read your interviewer’s recent publications—actually, you don’t need to know anything about them at all!

Oftentimes, I found that my interview itinerary would change at the last minute since faculty members are extremely busy individuals. I learned the “hard way” about over preparing when I went back to the Excel spreadsheet (nerdy girl woes…) and researched my interviewers based on an itinerary I was given a month before my interview. The day of my interview, I was given an itinerary where half of my previous interviewers were replaced with new names. I had no clue about what these people were interested in researching in, but it wasn’t a big deal since during the interview, they spent half the time telling me about what they did anyway!

How did you make a final decision on your school/program?

Honestly, I went with my gut. Seriously though!

I interviewed at some pretty big name schools, and I was truly gratified by having such an opportunity. While having a big name over your shoulder isn’t a bad thing, I didn’t want that to be my deciding factor when choosing a school. Ultimately, I wanted to be in a program that was supportive of its students, well-funded, was conducting research that pertained to my current interests, and that cultivated an environment in which I could envision myself being happy. It’s not worth being anywhere unless you’re happy. With all that said, I believe my decision reflects that.

From a quantitative perspective, so many months have gone by for me to get to this point. While the application process was technically less than a year in duration, my preparation to be even considered a competitive applicant took years—considering my time in undergrad, the research experiences I had to be involved in and learn from, the time I took to retake the GRE—it truly was a process.

Right now, I am appreciative of the fact that I will be able to pursue my graduate studies at an institution that I believe is right for me, and I am excited to be able to start this next chapter in my life. I look forward to learning, growing, and yes, the stress of it all, because what’s life without a little bit of stress ;)?

What is your approach when it comes to achieving goals—big or small?

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