Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Quick Wardrobe Switch

Hey guys! I’m currently recovering from running a great but intense two-week summer course. More on that soon, but for now I’ll talk about an issue that plagues many geologists and/or people who do a lot of field work: needing a quick wardrobe change! I can’t say how many times that I’ve had a long day out in the field but I need to pop into school or the office for a quick meeting without going home. Here are a few tips:

Opted for my comfy lululemon jacket while I studied.

1.)   Add a formal jacket/blazer and change your shoes!
2.)   Wear jeans if you can.
3.)   Bring extra deodorant.

Wearing my crocs flats!

These before and after pictures were on a day where I needed to study for most of the day but wanted to go out with S later that evening for pho. I just opted for comfy jeans and a shirt for my library time. Then I switched out the shoes and added a blazer to finish a new look, and voila! Date outfit all set! For a more extreme change like going directly from active field work to a meeting, I’d recommend possibly changing the base shirt, too. And, on hot days, that’s when the deodorant comes in handy too!

If you feel like maybe your wardrobe is a bit sparse, here are some shopping ideas for you:

Link to the jacket here.

These flats are so pretty and look comfortable!

I like to have at least one of every clothing item in black because it’s so easy to work with. These jacket and flats seem both affordable and pretty decent quality. So let me know if you end up getting either of these! I’m tempted to try out the flats, and I’ll let you know if I do!

Sunday, June 11, 2017


Hey fellow nerds! Hope you're all enjoying the beginning of the week! I can’t believe it’s already June and officially summer! Between moving into a new place and doing deep edits on my thesis proposal, I’m working on a new summer schedule now that I don’t have to TA or take classes. I’m using the extra time to focus on research, and maybe a few fun things like shopping and traveling.

Got to hike to the Bright Angel Trail with my Dad and Sam in May!

Anyway, I’m itching to talk about drones! I’ve been working with and flying drones a lot this past semester as a way to learn a new skill for data acquisition for my research. It turns out learning how to fly a drone is not as easy as it looks…

The struggle is real!

But it’s been incredibly fun! You can fly drones for a number of reasons, whether it’s professional or recreational, like fancy-looking videos, photos, and surveys. For me, I’m learning that I can take large scale but detailed imagery of my study sites so that I can create high-quality hydrologic models for my research. To practice, I first performed a survey of a stretch of Revere Beach north of Boston:

Here's my study site on Revere Beach!

The purpose of the survey was to make sure that drone surveys could actually serve as an efficient alternative to manually conducted surveys for measuring beach erosion. We flew four flights on a beautiful April morning and were able to create this map:

Here's the orthmosaic showing the imagery from the drone survey with the locations of the four manual cross sections.

It was tricky, though. We were so close to the Boston Airport that the FAA authorities asked us to fly below an altitude of 80 feet to make sure we didn’t run the risk of hitting any planes. On top of that, piping plovers were nesting nearby, so we had to make sure that our drone didn’t disturb the birds. Luckily, we were not hit either a plane or a bird, and were able to come up with a few comparisons of manual to drone surveys:

Some of the cross sections are a little nicer than others!

I’m still doing some image processing to make the imagery a bit more accurate, and when I get it, I’ll definitely post it! But, in the meantime, feel free to contact me or comment below if you have any thoughts or questions!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Positive Vibes

Hey guys! You might have noticed that I’ve been a little MIA lately, which is mostly because my thesis proposal took over life. But! I’m almost done with it and I’m emerging with a lot of thoughts that I’m excited to share with you all!

At my cousin's wedding with S!

First of them being: I got a haircut! It’s a really fun change and also a really easy style. I usually just shower in the morning and let my hair air dry, and it’s fun to see how it air dries in different shapes every day. I would highly recommend this cut for busy people!

Ok, so I might be taking a lot of selfies lately! I'm just really into the hair! At Macy's Cafe in Flagstaff, AZ.

Second of my thoughts being: negative energy! I notice that there’s a lot of it, both in grad school land and in life in general. As a young woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, I know there’s a lot of resource and confidence barriers that pop up for women and people of color in particular, and that’s why it’s important to always maintain a positive outlook regardless of how high the odds are stacked.

But despite that, I also know that there are a lot of obstacles that people will put in your way, no matter if those obstacles are intentional or accidental. It could take the form of a friend who asks for a lot but gives very little. It could also be a family member who doubts whether you are qualified to be successful in your field, or it could take the form of a competitive coworker or a colleague.

No matter where you are in life, it’s almost inevitable to encounter negative energy from the people around you. And, no matter how strong and confident you are, it’s easy to let that negativity seep in. You might tell yourself, maybe I am being selfish by focusing so much on my career; maybe I don’t have what it takes; maybe I should stand to the side and make sure my coworker gets that promotion before me.

When those thoughts start to pop up, that’s when you know it’s really important to take care of yourself and surround yourself with positive vibes. For me, I find that positivity from my friends and family who want to see me succeed and truly wish for my happiness. Sometimes, it’s tricky to know how to find that positive energy, because, of course, human relationships are a lot more complicated than being definitively good and bad. But, if you generally enjoy spending time with someone, or if you feel recharged and relaxed around that person, or if you miss that person when they’re not around, then there’s a high likelihood that being around that person will increase those positive vibes that you need during those difficult moments in life.

How about the negative people in your life? Simply put, for me, I’m finding that distancing myself from those needy, exhausting, or negative people is really helpful. In life, there’s always a choice. Let go of those feelings of obligation to someone even if they’re family or a long-term friend. If they’re distracting or dragging you down, you don’t have to cut them out of your life entirely, but you can spend a little less time with them in order to spend a little more time on yourself. It doesn't mean you love them any less; it means that the best thing for your relationship with them is a little bit of wiggle room. 

Maybe there are people in your life that you would happily live without seeing at all. They critique, judge, require a lot of attention, and offer nothing in return. For those people, if you can cut them out of your life, then absolutely, without regret, do it! However, the closer to you emotionally, or the more ensconced into your life, the harder it is to cut a person out. For example, you can't completely ignore someone who lives or works with you. When you can’t entirely disengage, change your perspective on their role and presence in your life. Again, in life, there’s always a decision. You can choose to not actively engage in their criticism, or, in Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s words, you can be “a little bit deaf.” Let those comments pass. Choose to disengage and focus your energy on what matters most to you. If you decide to talk to that person, you don’t have to talk to them, you give them permission to take a bit of your precious time.

I have a lot of other thoughts to share, but I'll save them for later posts!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Thrifty Travel Tips

Happy hump day, fellow nerds! It's been a while since I posted, primarily because I've been editing my thesis proposal nonstop. Since it's a rainy day and I have a lot of desk work today, I figured I'd take a break to day dream about my vacation with S to Puerto Rico and share some travel tips that we've learned over the years:

A few photos from our trip!
We had a great time in Puerto Rico and I think we were able to enjoy the trip without breaking the bank. So here are our thoughts:

1.)   Choose home rentals over hotels. While a lot of hotels are pricing competitively with the emerging market share industry of home rentals, I’m still getting amazing deals from renting homes. We usually go to AirBnB for our rentals.
2.)   Use budget airfare apps and websites.  S and I used Hopper to get to Puerto Rico for less than $250 roundtrip per ticket.
3.)   Make your own meals. This will be perfect if you rent a place with a kitchen. S and I eat either one or no meals out when we stay in a place with cooking capacity. We usually eat an easy hot breakfast (e.g. eggs, toast, tea, etc.) and we have sandwiches for lunch. It’s amazing how much not eating out makes a difference in a budget.
4.)   Do the free stuff. When I visit a new place, I love exploring and seeing as much of the place as I can. Now that I’m on a budget, I’m realizing that a lot of activities (and in my opinion the most interesting stuff) are free! Outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, or biking are usually pretty cheap with the right gear. Museums often have suggested donations and student discounts. Make a list of all the free and discounted stuff before you get there so you don’t feel unnecessary pressure to blow cash when you’re in the middle of it.
5.)   Visit friends. As someone who deeply values building long-term relationships, I care about keeping in touch with friends and family no matter how far and wide they spread. That means that my door is always open to them, and it also means that I usually prioritize visiting places where my friends and family have moved. A convenient part of visiting friends means that you may not have to pay for a place to stay if they have the room. More than that, it’s a unique experience to catch up with old friends in a new place and to learn about the place they now call home.
6.)   Get TSA Pre-check and/or Global Entry. For $85, you get to forego long lines and you don’t need to take off shoes and whatever else. It’s worth the time you save, so that you don’t have to go to the airport early just to wait in long lines.
7.)   Invest in ear plugs, eye covers, and a neck doughnut. Our budget plane trips often lead to red eye flights, but it’s amazing how easy it is to sleep upright with a few gadgets.

So good luck with your travel plans and let me know if you have any questions or suggestions in the comment section below!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Announcement: Pre-College Course for High School Students

Happy rainy day, hydrologists! The grey clouds and puddles are a welcome change from the crazy snow we got up here in Massachusetts last week. I don't know what's up with that polar vortex, but I'm so ready for it to simmer down.

Anyway, I just want to share some info on a really exciting project I'm doing this summer!

I've noticed that kids really don't have access to understanding the hydrologic cycle and where their water comes from. Plus, I had no clue as a high schooler that I would be as interested in groundwater issues as I am now. So I'm teaching this class through UMass' summer program for high school students to help them learn about the water cycle and explore their interest in hydrology. Please share far and wide, and click here for more information!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Home Office Zen

My desk at home! With my computer screen on my "Arabic Word of the Day" e-mail!

Hey geo-nerds! I've gotten a few questions about my office set up and, since it's Spring Cleaning season and I'm all about revitalizing spaces, I figured that I would talk about how I find my zen in a home office environment. I admit, it can definitely be hard to find focus in a place where there are often so many extractions, but with a little attention to detail you can create a zen-rich work place at home.

As you can see from the photo above, my desk layout is pretty simple and minimalist. I got my desk online on Amazon. My chair is from Target, but I couldn't find my original chair so I'd recommend this one from Stein Mart, and my lamp is from IKEA. I always like to start filling a space with white or neutral colors and then building from there with accents, like picture frames, wall color (my current wall is a mellow yellow!), carpet, and curtains. These are more budget-friendly options for my fellow grad school enthusiasts out there, but high-end style like this is available everywhere.

I had a Chinese-German friend in college who diligently adhered to feng shui, so learning from her, I actually found that following a few basic feng shui rules really helps create focus:

1.) Place your desk so that it is in sight of the rooms doorway. You should be able to move your head 90° or less to see the door. If you need to position the desk so that your back faces the door, hang a decorative mirror so that you can see the door from your desk!
2.) Add a plant or two!
3.) Keep your desk free of clutter. I have a mobile portfolio organizer that I just stick in the closet when I'm not working.
4.) Add pictures or imagery that inspires you or reminds you of the importance of your work. For me, it's photos of my research site in Chile.
5.) Make sure to decorate with a balance of both light and dark colors!

Good luck with your office! And feel free to share your personal tips for working at home in the comments below.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

On Failure

Happy March, guys! I don’t know how many of you have managed to take a vacation lately, but I took Spring Break as a chance to recharge after a very hectic couple of weeks. I’ll talk about how to get great travel deals for a grad school budget soon, but in the mean time I’ll touch upon an important point that I think is great for every grad student, scientist in a cut-throat culture, or basically any person who takes on a challenging career. The big take-home message: Failure is not only inevitable, but it’s necessary. 

A shot during one of my sailing trips out in the Boston Harbor. Sailing has taught me a lot about navigating around and beyond mistakes.

I know this is a common message in a lot of popular graduation speeches (e.g. J.K. Rowling and Oprah Winfrey) but it’s important. We can’t celebrate success if we don’t embrace failure. You can argue that failure is an integral part of the human experience, and is just as important as success in any career and/or life journey. I’m talking about this now because I just received a “no” when I was really hoping for a “yes.” I am definitely bummed, but it’s nice to remind myself of how those icky “no’s” can be useful. Really, it’s all about perspective.

So, when we get a dreaded “no,” what are some guidelines we can use to find the hidden benefits? For simplicity, I’ll focus on career-defined failure, but I think a lot of the tenants in these guidelines can serve for any facet of life. Here are my thoughts on dealing with failure:

1.)   Don’t let the “no” define you. Perhaps you didn’t get the result that you wanted, even after so much effort, but that doesn’t mean that either you or your work is subpar. This is just one “no” out of a series of “no’s” and “yeses” that you’ll receive in your life. Just one “no” is not enough to decide the value of your effort, so don’t let it affect how hard you try in the future.
2.)   Statistics are always in your favor. No matter how much you fail, every time you try gets you one step closer to a success. It’s like playing the lotto, except your chances are better. Do a quick exercise: in one category of trying (e.g. applying to graduate school), how many tries ended up in success? Twenty-five percent? Ten percent? Five percent? If the answer is yes, then congratulations! Your odds are a lot higher than the lotto! And all it takes is four, or ten, or twenty times to get what you want! I love playing the lotto, but I love the chances of success even more, so don’t let one number in your statistics bring you down.
3.)   Embrace the negativity. Understandably, if you’ve worked really hard on something, you’re absolutely going to feel bad about a “no” after so much effort. Not everyone agrees with me on this, but I personally think that it’s great to embrace that upset because those feelings of disappointment are valid. That being said, it’s important to be gracious to yourself and move on after acknowledging those feelings. For me, moving on could mean crying it out, going for a walk, or grabbing a drink with friends or family.
4.)   Talk about it. Don’t be ashamed of any failure you receive in your career. Be open to discussing the difficult moments because it will help you process and connect with peers and mentors.

I hope this was a helpful read! Feel free to share strategies in the comment section below!