NYC R Conference

Just got back from the 3rd annual NYC R Conference this past weekend. I have been honored to be one of the few speakers for the 3rd year in a row. This year’s talk, “So You Want to be a Data Scientist” gave a whirlwind tour of the tools and skills needed to be a Data Scientist. I conveyed all this information in 56 slides and did it in 20 minutes.

Working While Pursuing a PhD

My lab has extended me an opportunity to be a research scientist and helping out our current senior data scientist with the daily analytics and IT support the lab needs. It’s a very enticing opportunity, but I need to stop and think about my options I’d get paid more! What kind of graduate student would not want that? But I would really need to consider and clarify with my advisor and rest of my lab how this can fit in with my PhD.

Education in the United States

As people start sharing their educational experiences from around the world, I realized how lucky I am to have been educated in New York City, and how much less the United States focuses on education when compared to many other countries around the world.

The People that Keep Me Sane

Coming from CUNY Hunter College, I never really had the typical ‘college experience’. Going to college for me was almost no different than going to high school since so many people were commuters; there was no campus, especially when compared to Virginia Tech. I snowboard. After not going during the 2 years of my master’s, I decided the first thing I did when I started Tech was to find the ski/snowboarding club and go on a big winter trip.

Should You Attend Grad School?

I’ve been asked a few times about whether one should attend graduate school. I usually follow up by asking whether they are planning to do a Master’s or a Doctorate. If it’s a master’s, sure, why not. Master’s programs are typically no longer than 2 years and very well structured. You come in with a cohort of students, and everyone struggles together and becomes friends. PhD programs are much more variable and different.

From NYC to Blacksburg, VA

I’m from New York City. Born and raised in Queens, and went to school in Manhattan for high school, college, and masters. So, coming down to rural Blacksburg, VA has been a big change in scenery. Blacksburg is a beautiful town. There are many aspects of the area that I love: clean air, quiet, and plenty of outdoor activities. As someone pursuing a PhD, I am essentially a professional student, so the lack of distractions is much appreciated.

How Learning Works

Susan Ambrose’s book “How Learning Works” is probably one of the best investments for people who teach. The next best (time) investment is reading Greg Wilson’s paper on “Software Carpentry: lessons learned”. I’ve watched Greg Wilson’s corresponding PyCon 2014 and SciPy 2014 talk numerous times, and is well worth the listen.

Teaching and Mentoring

Software-Carpentry 1 has made be a better teacher because of the way we collect feedback during our workshops. When teaching a technical class, we use low-tech sticky notes to signify whether individuals need help or not: Green for no help needed, Red for help needed. This is extremely effective while teaching. As an instructor all you need to look for is a red sticky note and you know someone has a question, or if everyone has a green sticky note, the class is following along.

Where Do I Fit in Academia?

It’s always a good idea to take a break and think about all that’s going on in life in perspective. As I approach the end of the coursework phase of my PhD program, I need to think about what’s next. My preliminary exam… but beyond that, I need to think about the (glorious) life after I graduate. Do I go to industry? or stay in Academia? Currently, my duties are closer aligned to that of a scientific research software engineer.

Communicating Science

The communication science workshop at class reminds me of the various acting warm-up exercise I did when I took an acting class in high school. The drills require individuals to coordinate and communicate with other people in the room, but also serves as an icebreaker by doing ‘silly’ things. One of the first exercise we did in class was to describe our current research. This is a skill that I have refined over the past few years as a PhD student.

Accessible Education in the United States

In the United States, higher education aims to be accessible to everyone. Although historically, college and university degrees were mainly for privileged, white males, throughout the years, in order to decrease the socioeconomic gap, more colleges aimed towards local regions and demographics were created. From Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to Land Grant Schools, to Community Colleges, each `type' of College/University was aimed to be more inclusive. This puts things into perspective and I’ve considered teaching at community colleges.

Journal: Why am I Journaling?

I’m taking “Preparing the Future Professoriate” this semester at Virginia Tech, which is one of the core classes for the “Future Professoriate Certificate”. The class has us writing blog posts along with weekly journals. Since I’m now transitioning into the phase in my doctoral program where I need to transition into writing papers, just getting in to the habit of writing more can’t hurt. Let’s work on just writing more, then focus on tailoring my voice towards different audiences.