Soul searching seems to be a term that we throw around a lot these days.  In an era when more people are claiming to not believe in such a thing as the soul I catch myself wondering if the meaning of this phrase has wandered away from its words to mean something less substantial, more tawdry. Also, I have been finding myself stating that I have been soul searching lately.  What do I want, what is important, why cannot I do what I feel I am being seemingly pushed to do? Why? Two words…Graduate School. Not for the faint of heart, or the person needing to aggrandize their own ego, Graduate school is almost as difficult as giving birth.  I say almost, not having had the latter experience I will not speak for an experience I have not had but there is a similarity.  Graduate school can be a lot like giving birth to yourself. You find yourself full of more questions than answers and most of the answers are unsatisfactory.  You do it to get the degree, you do it because they say so, you do it because it is a hoop you have to jump through…just jump already.  But why did you do it in the first place? For yourself, there is nothing altruistic about going to graduate school.  People can say there is, concoct wild stories about how it will save the world, protect people, and even my own thesis is developed with others in consideration but really, I am doing this because I want to know something, for myself, and yes, about myself.   While the other aspects exist, the reality is that even if I left tomorrow I would still pursue this question. Why? Because it is my question.  The question that lies in my soul, down deep inside.  What drives me forward? There is something I have to know.  Everything else fades away.  Only this remains. And that becomes the problem… What is between you and what you want? What you want to know? The committee, the all-powerful committee, like god, they hold all the power in graduate school.  Well most of the power. Why not all of the power, because you chose them to help you, to support you, to guide you.  If they cannot do that is it not also your fault for having chosen them? But what choice did we have, when schools overestimate the availability of professors, overburdened with committees, research and already needful students.  Ultimately, the good ones are overburdened and the ones that are left, well they are working through their own personality issues, and you might see them in the campus counseling center.  Well you hope you would. That is not to mention to optimistic representation of college campuses.  I have watched people who were complaining just the day before about how little support there is at a university turn around the next and sell a different story to some unsuspecting High School Senior how helpful the professors are.  Apparently, not the one they were complaining about the day before.  This has happened and EVERY university I have ever spent significant time at.  I will admit, sometimes the person I am talking about is myself. I want to believe my university could be the rosy picture I paint and that it is only because I suck as a student it isn’t. When I have been the TA, I have tried to be that overly helpful one, I want my students to have the success I seem to be unable to find.  So then what, I am the one that makes the overworked professors look bad.  Yeah, not a path to graduate school success…never make them look bad by caring about your students. NEVER!!! Why? Look up Impostor Syndrome.  I double dog dare you.  Are you prepared to find what is there?  I doubt it. But there is something about the loving your school camaraderie, you want every word you say to be true, a prayer almost. To make it so, so you can belong and be a part of the vision. And yet…after that HS student leaves we are back to griping, miserable, counting down weeks to finals, hating out professors and the farce of it all. Sure, the support I find, only to discover it wains under the strain of my weight.  That is what happens when there is a disability, like dyslexia, involved with trying to get a degree.  I managed to get through undergraduate, fighting and batteling every step of the way.  So yeah if I look angry, it is because I am.  That is deep down in my soul.  My world does not want me.  It needs me, but does not want me.  It wants the things I can accomplish, Apple, Windows, Virgin Records…but not me. You got accepted into graduate school because someone in the admissions process thought you could do it and yet schools are dropping students like flies.  Oh, they matriculate, with a Masters, but if the original admissions was for a Ph.D.  that feels like a consolation prize, heavy on the consoling.  And worse than that, if people know that degree is not a degree that can be directly applied to anything remotely like a job that degree may not be worth the paper it is printed on.  Then you start to question your own mind, your own ability.  Some recover but I would argue that most don’t.  The plethora of PhDs who never look at academia again, the ones who look no further then adjunct teaching.  Academia who wants that life again.  It was a romantic ideal, I have to wonder about the people who stay in it.  I wonder why I stay. Self-immolation thy name is Ph.D.  Suicide rates, divorce rates, increases in prescriptive or addictive dependence are sad realities of the Graduate School life.  And yet increasingly these types of degrees are what were are told are necessary to be important, to do what you know you were meant to do.  M.S., M.B.A., M.F.S., J.D., M.D….the list goes on an on, and that is just what exists in the U.S.. Are they the right committee? Is it the right school?  How many times will you jump ship to find that place you belong?  Does such a place even exist?  Can you afford to jump ship, or do you need to find a way to jump through those hoops instead? What if the reason that committee is so miserable is because they have not jumped ship enough to find where they belong and they don’t even know if they can be happy.  Maybe they have not done enough soul searching and they are just passing on their misery to you.  Do they even know they are miserable?  Sure those pieces of paper on their wall make them happy?  (You have not looked into impostor syndrome have you…knew you would not.) With more and more people wondering if education is all it is chucked up to be, with the hundreds of thousands of dollars that can be added up before that final piece of paper is in hand, they call it terminal.  Perhaps we are just destroying ourselves in their pursuits of our passions, muted by the pain of those we would seek to learn them from. All to fill our soul, that soul we are searching, are we searching the depths of our soul or searching for it.  I know what path I will walk, what is written in the depths of my soul.  I found it, finally.  How many seek this path before they have?  I did, three times even. How about you?  

Read More →

I am standing in the woods.  Am I lost?  I don’t know if lost is the right way to say it.  I can feel the trail under my feet and yet if I step in any direction I cannot find the trail again.  I am standing on the only part of the trail that remains. How did this happen? I knew where I was going and the path seemed clear, or at least traced out.  And then like Alice that sweeper dog came along and wiped out the path. I know this forest has no wolves, well none that would tangle with me.  I am not afraid of the wolves in this forest.  They will keep their distance because they know I am not afraid, not of them. I am not at risk of being eaten but where do I go from here? I have blazed trails before, but, I am more confused why I would need to in this moment. Why did the path get swept clean?  Did I hand the broom to someone who did not know where to sweep?  Or did they clean everything because they were afraid to leave some things well enough alone? Perhaps I should follow what they say in boy scouts.  If lost in the woods stay put.  I wonder how long I can manage that, being a trailblazer. I don’t sit still very well. Where have my companions gone? Perhaps I should have chosen better companions to share this journey.  They seemed sort of accidental companions, perhaps I should have known better. I will have to make a decision soon, even not making one is a decision. I think I hear the echo of waves against a cliff nearby, perhaps it is time to see if those wings can truly fly. They don’t look like wax.

Read More →

I had the opportunity to go to a museum with some remarkable art from the 19th century western plains a few weeks ago.  There was a poetry in the smiles of the Native Americans depicted that spoke oceans from the depths of their souls no amount of words could ever express. These…

Read More →

Welcome to the Elements Marathon The whole theme of this marathon is to literally learn every element one by one on the periodic table.  You would be surprised how useful this tool really is.  As for the first lap of the marathon, the element to start is none other than Hydrogen with atomic number one. http://www.chem4kids.com/files/elements/art/001_symbol.png If you would like

Read More →

The premier Name Reaction of the Week Just to clarify, the name reaction highlights from this category will be from the text “Strategic Applications of Organic Named Reactions in Organic Synthesis.”  I recommend you get a copy of this text, because there is a lot of fine detail and the book is very well organized. As far as the first

Read More →

Coming Soon!!! To keep things interesting, there were will be other weekly and monthly posts to highlight interesting chemistry.  Specifically: Instrumentation Reactions Name Reaction Review Cascades Functional Groups Pick the Reagents Reagent Highlights There will be other aspects, but the general goal will be to give insight and inspire a better understanding of organic chemistry and to further organic research.

Read More →

The First Weekly Retrosynthetic Challenge!!! I found this natural product from the ASAP postings of Journal of Natural Products.  The molecule itself shows some cytotoxity, but the main interest as a synthetic chemist is the macrolide structure.  This compound was published in the article named “Cytotoxic 14-Membered Macrolides from a Mangrove-Derived Endophytic Fungus, Pestalotiopsis microspora”  by multiple collaborations. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.6b00473 Here

Read More →

Hello, The article “As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush, was quite impressive in my opinion.  I think his entire process of thinking was really creative and I was really surprised how accurate his predictions of the future were.  I think my favorite example was his thoughts on the future camera.  What’s everyone else’s thought? Nick

Read More →
Uncategorized

I recently came across this article by danah boyd while I was contemplating real name or pseudonym for this blog.   http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2007/09/07/controlling_you.html In her blog post danah advocates for having a public identity.  That is fine, for some, and even for myself someday, perhaps.  But why use a pseudonym, even for a little…

Read More →