Hi everyone – I’m not gonna do a full-out post today because I’m exhausted and brain-overloaded, but I wanted to pop in and tell everyone that today I’m feeling a lot more optimistic. I’ve been having a really fun time learning a text formatting software LaTeX, which is like a super nerdy version of Word that’s a lot less intuitive, but a lot better at handling formatting and equations (once you figure out the right markup to type!). I haven’t used it since undergrad, but people suggested it’s a lot easier to write your thesis in. Oh – did I mention I’m writing my thesis?! 

You might have noticed I’ve been posting from home recently and that’s part of why. Between the thesis writing which I recently started and continued editing of a paper draft, there’s been a lot of computer work. I focus way better without distractions like the alarm of the -80°C freezer and the allure of the proteins within it just waiting to be played with! But, as I talked about yesterday, I also feel super guilty when I’m not physically in the lab even though I’d be less productive there (just a self-imposed guilt, fear of people thinking I’m not working hard, and constant feeling of needing to prove myself!)

Anyways, I will probably post something longer in the future about what a thesis entails and stuff. But not today. After yesterday’s roller coaster and today’s exhausting (but super productive) writing and still anxiously waiting for some news on a couple of fronts (including whether my PI (lab boss) will actually let me use LaTeX for writing my thesis (eek!)) I don’t have the time or energy to go into it much. 

And sorry for kinda just throwing the whole “LaTeX” thing out there without more explanation. According TeXFAQ.org, “LaTeX is a TeX macro package, originally written by Leslie Lamport, that provides a document processing system. LaTeX allows markup to describe the structure of a document, so that the user need not think about presentation. By using document classes and add-on packages, the same document can be produced in a variety of different layouts.

Lamport says that LaTeX “represents a balance between functionality and ease of use”. This shows itself as a continual conflict that leads to the need for such things as FAQs: LaTeX can meet most user requirements, but finding out how is often tricky.” https://www.texfaq.org/FAQ-latex.html 

So true! 

You basically write plain text in “markup” (this is like the language people use when they code – lots of slashes and {} and [] and \usepackage stuff). And then it compiles it into a PDF hopefully formatted the way you want. It can do all sorts of cool stuff like make tables of contents and lists of figures. And it’s really good for really long things like theses and books because you can have sections and subsections and you can have different chapters as different files that you call from the code in the main file. It’s also a lot better than Word at dealing with formatting figures. But it’s also really weird to learn. Thank goodness for Google, StackExchange, YouTube, and helpful Twitter people!

I think the most common way people know it is as something you use in math because it’s good at writing formatted equations and hyperlinking to them within the text and stuff. This math usefulness was why I used it in undergrad a few times. And it’s what my PI thought it was just for. So I’ve been spending the day making a partly-dummy draft to show her it’s useful! What she’s most worried about is being able to edit and comment. I’m using an online software called Overleaf which has options to do that but it’s not as familiar and easy as in Word. So I’m trying to figure out whether, if she doesn’t want to use Overleaf directly, I can send her PDF versions you can edit (apparently you can even open and edit the files in Word – but it doesn’t work in reverse so I think I will then have to manually enter the changes she wants back into Overleaf). Anyways, I hope I’m not wasting my time, but even if I “am” I’m not really because it’s good to know how to do! And I’m actually having a lot of fun doing it because it’s been a while since I got to learn something completely different from what I’m used to! 

(also – sorry I can’t share details about my research yet, but in broad terms I study the regulation of proteins involved in RNAi, which you can learn more about here: http://bit.ly/microRNARNAi )

Sorry for this random weird word dump of a post, which started out just as a post to show people that grad school isn’t all downer days and that even when there are rough patches, things get better and you can still feel that excitement! 

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