Burning the midnight oil…

Well, not literally. I can’t. I’m in a room filled with chemicals…that would just be crazy talk.

It is 11:15pm and I have another 2…er…3 (?) hours before I can leave my lab. It is a Friday night, the last one of the semester, and I know quite a few people who are out doing it up in Downtown Fort Collins. Me? I am tearing it up too!

No, that’s a lie.

I’m finishing up lab work.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have another job that requires a lot of hours sometimes. This week, we had a Orientation for Transfer Students going on. What does that mean for me? Waking up at 7am to go to campus to convince people to use the SLiCE office (my other home away from home). So, getting to the lab this week was a bit harder and in order to finish my project, I have to come after hours.

This is not a normal Friday night. I’m way more exciting…I stay home and watch all the TV shows I missed for the week ^_~.

However, this is the exciting life of a Grad Student. You get stuff done…and then you find a soft flat surface to crash into.


Post Turkey Slump? … or epic rush to the end?

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that most people spend with family, eating way too much, and pretty much doing nothing. What did I do for the week?

Spent it sick in bed.

So, all those fun, crazy plans…like doing some reading for classes, getting to my lab for to get ahead, or stopping by and getting some extra hours in at my job?

Nope. Nada.

Thus, trying to get back into routine, is a struggle. I think that can be said for any time off (one of the reasons why I’m not always a big fan of taking time off…does that make me a workaholic? O_O  ). With only three more weeks of school left, every minute counts.

That’s what it means to go to Grad School. You have only twenty-four hours in the day and probably 30 hours of work…and don’t forget, for eight (if you are lucky) of those hours are spent sleeping.

But it’s totally worth it. The opportunities you are given, the connections you can make are completely unique. Of course there’s that whole learning thing (I love science), which honestly is something should be a continuous thing for everyone. Use it or loose it people. Use it or loose it.

So I’m going to have to keep plugging away…and drink loads of coffee.


Changing Weather

Colorado is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. I’ve traveled to Europe (Cinque Terre, gorgeous), the east coast, up and down Cali, and still find moments when my breath is taken away from me. With the weather changing, the trees are being colored with nature’s paintbrush. There are golds, reds, and left over greens. The temperature is dropping and I’m starting to pull out my gloves and scarves (yep, this SoCal girl is ubber prepared).

However, the exact moment when I understood that the season has changed was when I saw the geese. Fort Collins, during the colder months, is home to hundreds of far traveled geese. No seriously. I have to drive to one of my classes to the Foothills Campus and all along the road (aside from the periodically meandering mare) are these random geese…that are just chillin’. I laugh out loud when I see them. They are just sitting there…doing absolutely nothing…just hanging with their homies…

I bring this up in order to remind both those who are hoping to start a grad program and myself that there are things outside of my textbooks. Tests, research, lab meetings, and all the jobs I take on require me to to spend hundreds of hours inside. Many of those places do not have windows…I’m not sure if that is to keep us from noticing time passing…or to prevent the light from glaring off the projector screen. Either way, it is a clever time-suck that keeps the average grad student ignorant of the outside world.

Luckily, my lab is equipped with a beautiful set of windows…so I know exactly when the light is gone and how many hours I’ve been their past sunset…

So, when you are planning your life in graduate school, make sure to schedule time outside your course work. You never know what you are going to miss.

Geek Chic

So last week, I was “blessed” with the opportunity to show off my knowledge with…(insert dramatic music)…MIDTERMS! Yep, even in a master’s program, we are subjected to being tested for the knowledge that they are giving us every day. My stress revolved around Reproductive Physiology and Endocrinology…ya…I think I sound smart!

Now, I mention this wonderful (?) fact about testing because 1) I need to show an excuse as to why I didn’t write a post last week…and 2) to explain Grad Fashion.

Being a “Hip” Fashionista (just go with it), I love to doll myself up. I accessorize, I love dresses, and will occasionally stuff my feet in a pair of heels (torture devices). I work in an office that frowns upon pajamas (although, my Pillsbury Doughboy pants are wicked cool) and a lab that requires closed toe shoes (there goes my San Diego footwear). Thus, the excuse to dress well.

However, there comes a time in everyone’s life when how you look takes a backseat to what you know. This being one of those times. So, to give all of you folks out there a reassuring pat on the back that there IS“Geek Chic”, here are the acceptable perimeters of any hardworking Grad Student:

  1. Sweatpants and sweatshirts are standard.
  2. Wearing those same sweatpants and sweatshirts two days in a row is perfectly acceptable (and more then likely unnoticeable).
  3. Glasses instead of Contacts will save you time (and are super cute!).
  4. Make-up is optional…in fact, put down that eyeliner, you’re running late!
  5. The “Sleep Deprived” look is expected.
  6. Shoes without shoelaces will shave off at least two minutes.
  7. Random writing utensils in your hair not only save space in your bag, but are great in a Testing Situation (and, if you are talented, can keep your hair up!).
  8. Anything more then the above is considered, “Dressing Up”.

So, my fellow suffering Grad Students! Keep up the hard work, because when it comes right down to it, Brains are way sexier then what you are wearing!

Warning: Geek Moment Ahead

Now, going to grad school has its highs and lows. Some may consider the following as lows: late nights (sleep is for the dead…or the very lucky), ramen meals (luckily I love noodles), and learning words that you really can’t pronounce…(especially in the sciences). As to high…one of the coolest parts is being able to listen to firsthand research from people who are experts in their field.

The Toxicology program is administered through the Center for Environmental Medicine here at Colorado State University. They hold a monthly seminar series. I mention all of this because last week, we got to listen to the research of Steven Dow, DVM, PhD. He presented his most current research, the lecture being titled, “Connections Between the Immune System, Reactive Oxygen, and Antibiotic Therapy”.

Now hold on! Don’t get your eyes all glazed over just yet! This is some serious science here!

If you have yet to experience any kind of science seminar, then I can see where titles like the above or something similar can be kind of intimidating. The first time I went to something like this was as an undergrad and quite honestly…I only understood probably the intro…the fact there were cool pictures…and then maybe 10% of the conclusion. Most of the words were too complex and flew directly over my head.

After being forced (in the most loving way!) to constantly read current literature, understand the methodology, and be presented research throughout our coursework, we are much better prepared for these types of opportunities.  I’m proud to say that I understood 95% of what was going on! (HELL’S ya!).

So for all of you who are planning on a career in science, be prepared for moments when you feel like a king (or queen) when you understand EXACTLY what is going on…and accept the fact that there will still be times when you’re going to have to work at it.

Liking Where you Live

One of the most amazing things about Fort Collins is that every weekend there seems to be something going on. I’m from a big city on the West Coast and although one could argue that there was always something happening somewhere in the city, this didn’t always mean you would be able to find it. Fort Collins, on the other hand, is a perfect sized community to allow you to stumble upon something if you just leave your home.

Last Saturday, I decided I needed to escape my home for a few hours. I don’t know about you, but once I enter that place, it’s like a time suck. All my efforts to be productive go down the drain (and land on the bed where I will be asleep “napping” for 4 hours <– that’s a nap, swear). So, I decided that I was going to go downtown and find some cute café and study.

What lucky god was I born under? Instead of only finding a café, I found an entire FESTIVAL!! It was FORToberfest: Fort Collins’ version of Oktoberfest. Their tagline: Bikes, Bands, & Beer. Now, I might not be into ALL of those things, but it was WAY COOL!!! Fort Collins is a huge biking community. Believe me, most mornings I worry about being run over by a stampede of bicyclists on Campus, but A+ on the green living! This festival had all kinds of bikes (and bike providers) being shown off. I saw this 7 PERSON bike…with 7 people carrying different types of alcoholic beverages. They were fist-bumping to the music from one of the three stages where performances were going on (My fav of the day: BEATS NOIR!).

If that doesn’t sell you on the cool, imagine all of the yummy vendors lining downtown and all the families with their dogs tagging along just enjoying the perfect weather. It was a bit cooler for me (well…anything under 70oF is a bit chilly for me…I’m from SAN DIEGO PEOPLE), but the air was crisp, music was being played and I was enjoying the day all from the patio of this nifty café: red table café (they legitimately have ONE red table).

That’s one of the things we forget about when we’re choosing our programs: Where are we spending the next few years while we’re filling our heads with knowledge? For some people that might not be a huge thing. Cool. Gravy. For me, it plays a huge part in my decisions. I need to make sure that when I’m not studying, I am somewhere in the world that I will be happy. Fort Collins is VERY different from what I am use to (San Diego and Los Angeles? Ya, WAY different). But this city has a charm that is unique to itself. And although I complain about the weather (and even then, only when it gets into the imaginary numbers…like -7…that’s a fake number…right?), when the seasons come they paint the city with such a beautiful brush that sometimes I gasp in surprise.

There is something always going on, for the college-minded individual, family oriented soul, or someone like me, who just wants to try EVERYTHING (they have bike-in ß yes, as in BICYCLE movies…way wicked). I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next weekend…


Toxicology and me!

My name is Tina De Giso and I have been in Colorado for a little over a year. Since late summer of 2011, I have been lucky enough to be able to slave away…err…work hard toward a Master’s in Science in Environmental Health, specializing in Toxicology here at Colorado State University. My hope is that through this blog and this upcoming year, I will be able to share all the craziness that comes with  finishing that process.

Now, as for a background on who I am: I am a hapa SoCal girl from the sunny city of San Diego, California (where it does. Not. Snow…). I graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor in Science degree in Neuroscience from UCLA. I took two after graduation to work in a hospital in the radiology department. After working two years on the night shift (and boy, do I have crazy stories from that time…I love sick people), I decided that coming back to school was something I definitely wanted to pursue.

Why Toxicology? No…wait, the first question I always get is: what IS toxicology? For all of you uninitiated souls, toxicology is the study of how natural or man-made poisons cause adverse effects in living organisms. As to the why this program…? Well, my ultimate goal is to enter Medicine, and with my two years’ experience in Radiology, Toxicology seemed to be in line with what I went through. Diagnostic Medicine was like being surrounded by map readers of the body (except the maps where all made from radiation and written in a foreign language that I wanted to learn). Although I may have yet to have had the decoder ring for those maps, the program here has opened up so many other options on exploring and explaining what is going on in the body. Since coming here, I have had the opportunity to expand not only my knowledge in science (and my nerd impact factor is at least a 13 now), but have the pleasure of getting to know some A-MAZING faculty members. As large as my undergraduate school was, this program is unique in the fact that you truly get one-on-one time with your professors. They WANT the students not only to succeed, but to flourish. Regardless of where our end career goals are in life, they want to get us there.

As for my daily dose of life here at CSU here is an outline:

  1. Fall out of bed (the floor rushing to my face is a great wake-up call)
  2. Gym (yup, 6 days a week)
  3. Work (I work for an office on campus known as: Student Leadership, Involvement & Community Engagement)
  4. Class (I AM a student)
  5. Lab (I am so blessed! I get to study PD in Dr. Tjalken’s lab. I LOVE THE BRAIN)
  6. Work (I work for our Department as a Student Coordinator)
  7. Work (I also work for a couple of business off-campus)
  8. Study (I AM A STUDENT!!)
  9. Cook (ya, I have to pack all my meals so that sometime in between all of THAT [insert exhausted pointing finger at the rest of the list] I can eat something)
  10. Sleep (if lucky)
  11. Repeat

So, I will say good-bye for now, but I look forward to sharing my adventures this year.