My Officemate/Roommate

My new office is in the environmental science department (which is the department that actually funds my research, even though my affiliation is with statistics). One of my officemates is a new Ph.D. student in environmental science who has the same advisor as me (i.e., he’s part of my “research group,” in a broad sense). He’s originally from (a Scandinavian country), and he just arrived less than three weeks ago, so he hasn’t yet found a permanent place to live for the year. He was sleeping on the floor of a friend on campus, so I offered my place as an alternative (with my roommate’s permission, of course). I don’t have an extra bed, but I have lots of space and a couch (which is technically in the living room aka my roommate’s room). He took me up on my offer late last week, and he’s been staying with me for the last four nights (tonight will make five). He sleeps in my room, using the couch cushions as a bed on the floor.

Quick side story. My old roommate from last year graduated and moved out at the end of the summer, so a new student fresh from undergrad took his place (he’s so young!). He’s a lot cleaner than my old roommate, so I never have to worry about a powerful stench coming from my kitchen anymore. He actually does his dishes right after using them, which is the same way I was taught to do dishes. We get along pretty well too. We’ve gone grocery shopping together twice in the last three weeks, and I sometimes chat with him after I get home late from my office. It’s been good living with my new roommate.

Anyway, back to my officemate, who I guess is currently my officemate/roommate. It’s been a lot of fun having my officemate stay with me. I get a lot of opportunities to get to know him. He a tall, blond, athletic straight guy. He’s exactly my type of guy, except for the straight part. More importantly, he’s a really nice guy. His two best friends are gay, and he even let one of them stay with him rent-free for a year. He also plays the saxophone and used to be on his college rowing team. I could probably gush about him more, but I trying really hard not to crush on him. It doesn’t help that he sleeps in his underwear…

Since my officemate is so new,  the department hasn’t made him an office key yet, so he relies on me (or our other officemates) to open the door for him. I like that he relies on me for both opening the office door and for a place to stay. It somehow makes me feel valued or important on some small level. The shallow/self-deprecating side of me thinks I like to be needed by good looking people because it somehow makes me feel better about myself.

Regardless, I like having a friend around. I’ve been in my office so much lately that I don’t see my other friends very much. I spend most of my time with my advisor (I’m turning into his right-hand man), so it’s great that there’s someone else around I can talk to.

Belated Four Year Anniversary

September 28th was the four year anniversary of this blog. I’ve been unbelievably busy lately, seemingly more than ever before (but I always seem to say that).

Some landmarks from the last year:

I bought a MacBook Air.
I was so sick that I had to miss singing in choir concerts for the first time.
I spent Thanksgiving by myself.
I held my college friend’s baby when he was only a day old.
I was the best man at my high school bestie’s wedding.
I bought an iPhone.
I started doing research in statistics.
My brother became a doctor.

I haven’t mentioned this landmark anywhere, but it happened before September 28th: My advisor got me an office! I share it with seven other people, but at least I have a desk and chair that I can call my own! Unfortunately I’ve been staying there until past midnight for the last two weeks…

My list of landmarks seems to get shorter every year. The next year should be full of interesting decisions and possibly big changes. Stay tuned!

The Hope

The first few weeks of August were some of my busiest of the last year. There was one particular week when I worked until 6am almost every night and even pulled my first all-nighter of the year. The hard work paid off, though. My advisor said that I’m the most productive person out of all of his students, even though I’m the youngest academically (his other students are Ph.D. students and postdocs – I’m the only master’s student).

My advisor gave me the biggest compliment I think I’ve ever received. He called me “The Hope,” as in “The Hope for the Future of Statistics.” It was a nickname that his advisor gave to him, and now he’s passing it to me. I’m apparently a rare breed in that I enjoy applied statistics but don’t shy away from theoretical statistics either. With my math background and workaholic work ethic, my advisor believes I can be a superstar in academia. He gushes about me all the time. I still don’t have such confidence in myself, but I’m definitely flattered by how highly he thinks of me.

Near the end of August, my advisor went on a business trip to Australia for a couple weeks, so I finally got to take a summer break while he was away. I spent a few days visiting my math grad school besties (and their twins!) in Canada and spent the rest of my time at home in LA. Given how focused and productive I was all summer, I assumed that I would still continue to do some work during my break. I surprised myself by how easy it was to stop working.

I had a fantastic break. I hadn’t been home in five months (a long time for me), so I had to see and catch up with a lot of people. My social calendar was completely booked for two weeks straight. I saw family, high school friends, college friends, math grad school friends, old work friends, and even a Target friend. I went to two aquariums (one in Canada, one near LA), Disneyland, Griffith Observatory, and the Hollywood sign (the last two of which I had never been to before).

The problem with my break was that it was too fantastic. My friends kept asking if I will pursue a Ph.D. after I finish my master’s, and I honestly don’t know. I thought I knew what I wanted, but now I’m not so sure. When I’m at school and focused only on statistics, pursuing a Ph.D. seems like the natural progression, especially since my advisor constantly expresses his confidence in me. But when I was at home, it felt so wonderful not to be focused on statistics and to have a life outside of school. I forgot how much I missed my friends and family and how happy I am when I’m around them.

I’ve been back at school for a little over a week now. After such an amazing break, it’s been really difficult getting back to my old level of focus and productivity. I keep going back and forth about the decision I’ll have to make in a few months. My advisor says he doesn’t want to put pressure on me to pursue a Ph.D., but “The Hope” is a nickname I’d like to live up to.

Negative For Malignancy

I’ve had a pretty busy month, half from school and half from my two-week break from school. I will post an update soon.

More importantly, I wanted to update on my last post and report that my mom’s thyroid biopsy results were negative for malignancy! Yay! She has to take thyroid medication (hormone replacement) for the rest of her life, but she was already doing that anyway.

Thanks to everyone who sent positive thoughts/vibes and well wishes! I don’t personally believe in prayer, but I certainly appreciate any positive sentiment.

When The Inevitable Happens

My mom is in her late sixties now. A few months ago, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and was put on a thyroid medication (a replacement hormone or something). A couple weeks ago, she told me that her doctor thought she might have a couple nodules on her thyroid, so she needed to get an ultrasound.

My mom got her ultrasound a few days ago, and the results showed that she indeed has a couple nodules, about 2cm wide (I’m guessing that’s each). She’s now waiting for a referral to get a biopsy done to see whether the nodules are cancerous or not.

This is the first time either of my parents has had any sort of potential cancer scare. It’s still too early to tell, so I’m not really sure what to think. I certainly hope it’s nothing, but I’m a bit worried. My brother (the new doctor) said that thyroid cancer is very treatable in that even if my mom has to have her whole thyroid removed, she just has to take a pill every day. Still, that scenario doesn’t sound too pleasant.

My parents are getting older, of course, and they won’t be around forever, but I still can’t imagine what it would be like without them. My maternal grandfather is 91 and still kicking (although his pacemaker is apparently doing 95% of the work for his heart), so I guess I was hoping to be my mom’s age and still have my parents around. My parents were older when they had me, though, so it’s probably more difficult for that to happen.

During my lifetime, I’ve lost a few aunts and my paternal grandparents, but I wasn’t particularly close to any of them. I didn’t mourn for them in the same way I would expect I will for someone in my immediate family (or even my closer relatives).

My mind is definitely jumping to conclusions, but it’s hard not to think about these things when cancer is even mentioned. It’s probably difficult for anyone to face their parents’ mortality (or their own). I can’t imagine anyone is ever really ready for the day when the inevitable happens.

Only One Step Ahead

My summer is still as busy as ever. My research is going well, so my advisor told me to set it aside for a couple weeks to focus on making the lecture notes for the new class he’s teaching next year. He says it’s easier to write notes than do research, which is somewhat true, but writing notes can be equally time consuming, especially since I just learned the material I’m writing about! I also have to find/create data sets for examples and write homework problems, all without an official textbook (since my advisor and his colleague are creating the class themselves).

When I taught calculus in math graduate school, I had a strict syllabus and a single textbook, and I still spent many hours writing my lecture notes. Now I’m dealing with topics I barely know and writing notes for someone else. I’m only one step ahead of the students and am expected to write like an expert. It’s definitely an interesting and demanding task. I keep telling myself that this is a great learning experience, but I’m really stressed out.

Busy Summer

The school term ended swiftly about a month ago. My finals were all scheduled on the first day of finals week, and I didn’t do nearly as well as I wanted on them. I don’t have perfect grades anymore, but I’ve made peace with that now.

The summer term is in full swing now. I’m still working on two research projects with my advisor, although one of them is wrapping up very soon. My advisor wants to submit my research paper (for the project that’s almost done) for publication in a prominent statistics journal. This paper will be my first publication, which is a big deal, since I’m still only a master’s student. A publication will put me at an advantage when I’m applying for the Ph.D. program in the fall (assuming I’m applying for the Ph.D. program, about which I’m still undecided).

As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, my advisor made me the TA for a course that he is co-creating with a colleague. Over this summer, I will be helping to make lecture notes and coming up with homework problems. When the course is actually taught next year, I will be the TA and hold the lab sessions. It’s a great opportunity, since this is the most hands-on experience I’ve had so far in creating a course. Not only that, but this course is an advanced topics course in statistics that’s targeted for 8-10 Ph.D. students in the environmental science department. I haven’t even learned half of the topics (yet), but I’ll be a lowly master’s student being the TA for a Ph.D. level class! Crazy! I’m sure it will be a very different experience from when I was the instructor for a freshmen level differential calculus class in math graduate school.

My term break between the spring and summer overlapped with my brother’s break between medical school and residency, so my parents and he visited me for about a week. We did a lot of the more outdoorsy and touristy things around my university that I wouldn’t do on my own. I showed my parents around the university campus and even found a huge museum that I didn’t know existed! I really don’t get out of my apartment enough.

About a week ago, I went to a Pride event with the couple who live in my building (my two main friends here). The last time I went to a Pride event was five years ago in Canada with my two math grad school besties. Of course, I wore my It Gets Better shirt. My friends and I didn’t do much besides see the tail end of the parade and visit the various booths, but it was wonderful seeing so many people celebrating and supporting gay people.