Catching Up with STS – Meridith Edition

HELLO FRIENDS! It has been a long, tough year since Rachel and I have posted here on Sweet Tea, Science. We’ve tried to keep up with people via Twitter (Mer’s, Rach’s, and the STS accounts) and Instagram (again we all have one!) but we started feeling that blogging itch once more, so we’re back. We wanted to start with updates on our academic and personal lives, because this blog is about the science journeys of two actual living people. We’ve had some highs and lows. Some heart-breaking tragedies and some magical love-filled unions.

Summer 2017

This time last year I was enjoying the perks of summer in Colorado while exploring the in’s and out’s of working in an industry setting. I’ve had many summer adventures/internships/travels, but any work I’ve done has been 100% within the realm of academia. However, via a connection made through my advisor at the big statistics conference (Joint Statistical Meeting or JSM), I landed an internship at an environmental consulting agency. The further along I get in my studies the more certain I am I’d like to explore career options outside of academia; so this was an amazing opportunity.  

I worked with Neptune & Co., a small but growing environmental consulting company focusing on environmental decision making though quality assurance, data science, and risk assessment. As an intern, I helped the other statisticians working on a project modelling the future (millions of years future!) risks and impacts of nuclear waste storage around the US. I loved being able to learn about an important issue from experts in various fields while applying what I’ve been learning over the past few years in my PhD studies.

We focused on the biotic impact portion of the models and worked to use what precious few data are available to create some distributions for variable such as: plant root shape,root depth, burrow depths, etc. All of these factors can potentially bring up buried contaminants if the burrows or roots venture too deep. It’s important to represent these as distributions (e.g. a Normal distribution LINK) rather than a point estimate (e.g. a mean or median) because it allows for more representation of uncertainty in the model.

Also we did lots of hiking and took adorable photos!IMG_7278.jpg

Fall 2017

Classes, teaching, and yelling at my code. Y’all feel me. Also, we started learning how to brew our own kombucha. It went very well right from the start. 

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Winter 2017-2018

After the fall semester commenced, I was able to breath a bit and enjoyed spending some time with my partner Benjamin. We have talked about future plans throughout our relationship and the prospect of getting married, and we finally decided why wait any longer? LET’S DO THIS. With a few phone calls to our families and some quick planning, we had a date and two weeks to throw together a wedding! And that’s exactly what we did.

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I’m so grateful for all the friends and family that were able to be there AND to Sur La Lune photography for taking all these AMAZING photographs. Carrie and her husband Ganer are also WKU Talking Club alumni (like Rachel and our other NYE besties <3) and they also shot Rachel’s wedding. Carrie even blogged about our wedding (with TONS more amazing photos). 

Our wedding was amazingly timed as we had already decided to have our annual besties New Year’s Eve adventure in the lovely land of Kentucky. Rachel and Daniel were already in KY, Chelsea flew in for the wedding and stayed for adventures, and the boys only needed to come down one day earlier than expected. After an epic day of wedding celebrations we were off to our cozy cabin for some classic Kentucky times.

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Spring 2018

Classes, teaching, yelling at my code, and lots of comprehensive exam related stress. January held a lot of residual wedding-bliss relaxation, but as I got closer to my exam (a research write up, a presentation of my research thus far and plans for future work, and finally  an examination by my committee) the more stressed I became. I discovered some serious errors in my code that required me to rerun ALL of my analysis and rework my write up to reflect these changes. February and March were brutal (no weekends off, lots of panic about my abilities and work, etc.), but on April 2nd, I passed my exam and slowly but surely life returned to normal.

Finishing the semester also marked the end of taking AND teaching classes, which really helped to usher in a new era of Research-Only Days.IMG_1476 3.jpg

Summer 2018

In the  afterglow of a Post-Comps Life, I’ve been fairly productive this summer.  I have wrapped up my first project and gotten a really good head start on a second. A couple of amazing PhD firsts I’ve recently accomplished include: first statistics paper submitted, first statistics paper promptly (but politely) rejected, first time re-submitting my first statistics paper to a different journal, first time sending an e-mail to inquire about future postdoc opportunities, AND first time traveling to an international conference!

Basically totally nailing it.

I’m once again grateful for having a extremely mobile programmer husband I can take with me on travels. He accompanied me to St. Andrews Scotland for the International Statistical Ecology Conference (check out this fantastic #scicomm public lecture). While I networked, presented my research (and through Rachel’s help even won one of the best presenter awards!) and tried to score some cake, he just needed a quiet place to work and some internet to be productive. As excited as I still about having attended the conference love-child of ESA (ecology nerds meeting!) and JSM (stats nerds meeting!), I am MOST excited to extend our stay in Scotland for a few weeks of traveling and honeymooning. I don’t want to overwhelm y’all but we ARE currently staying on a farm with “hairy coos” and will be mega instagramming all of the coos and hiking. 

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Fall 2018 and beyond

It’s still so wild to think about starting my fifth year of this PhD program. These four years have both crawled on slowly and dashed by in a flash. The idea of going on the job market, exploring the start of a career rather than studies, and leaving behind academia, my constant home for my entire adult life, is exciting and anxiety inducing. I’m going to continue to chip away at the research and learn as much as I can in the time remaining, but I’ll also begin to prepare myself to move forward. Part of what Benjamin and I have always envisioned for our future is living abroad for a few years, and this seems like a perfect time to explore this option. Barring that, I’m 100% moving in next door to Rachel and Daniel. [Editor’s Note: This plan already has bilateral WiggLo Family approval.]

Tune in on Thursdays for new posts! We plan on returning next week with Catching up with Rachel!

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