Tag Archives: grad school

“Just Imagine The Audience Naked”

I don’t advise doing this, yet it is a common option for those with a fear of speech delivery.

Public speaking has never been something I considered to be a “strong suit” of mine.  There were things I did well growing up, and speaking in front of an audience certainly wasn’t one of them.  In high school, I hated answering questions in class.  I hated delivering speeches.  I didn’t like being singled out in front of the class.  Basically, I feared anything that would put me up in front of a group of my peers, or adults, and I avoided it like the plague.

With that in mind, I wanted to write up a blurb about my lectures last week and wanted to talk about them from the public speaking angle, so I checked into when it was that I last even mentioned “public speaking” on the blog.  Low and behold, I find that it was in a post dated January 8, 2006.  At the time, I was lamenting the fact that I had to deliver a presentation for the biomedical sciences program at SLU, in an event called a Colloquium.  As a graduate student at SLU, in the CORE biomedical sciences program, during your second semester in the program, you needed to pick an academic paper, research it, and present it in front of the rest of the people in the program, including four separate departments.  Usually, this group would involve other students and professors, typically never going above 50 people, but frequently only featuring 20+ people in attendance.  The scary part, of course, is that you were presenting this information in front of professors and they could ask you questions.

Tough questions.  Questions you knew you couldn’t answer, even though they thought you could, or should.

Unfortunately, looking back on that particular presentation, it wasn’t very pretty.  I had chosen a pretty boring paper and I didn’t present it well.  However, as a second-year in the program, you have to do another Colloquium presentation, in front of the same group, but by then you have a bit more knowledge and experience under your belt.  My second one was far better.

Over the intervening years (five of them…eeeeesh…), I  had quite a few opportunities to brush up on my public speaking skills.  I had to present papers in front of our department at SLU – a smaller group (up to 20), yet still including students and professors, still entirely capable of tearing you apart with their questions, making you look like an idiot.  Usually, I would over-prepare for these presentations, running through the talk over and over and over again for at least a week prior to its delivery.  And normally, the talks would go just fine.  Still nervous, though.

Looking back on a life of speaking opportunities, I can come up with a few instances when I wasn’t nervous.  One was Boy Scouts.  Another was teaching the undergrads at SLU in a non-major biology course we, the graduate students, ran.  And, most recently, to graduate students here at Iowa and Pharm.D. students last week.

The common thread that I find in these examples is somewhat cliche, but nonetheless important: confidence.  What I found was that, over the years, I was getting better at choosing when it was appropriate for me to speak in front of a group, and usually, it was appropriate when I felt like I knew more about the subject than the other people in the room did.  In the case of teaching undergrads at SLU, I was telling them about depressants and other neurological drugs.  This wasn’t a problem for me, as I knew deep down that there was no one in that room that knew more about the subject.  I would be able to answer any question they threw at me, and if I didn’t know the answer, I could fashion something workable and then get back to them with more details later. Even delivering my dissertation defense to complete the Ph.D., I was talking about the work I had done for 4+ years at SLU, and since I was the one that did the work, I was the most knowledgeable person in the room to talk about it.  The professors could ask me any question they wanted: I was in full control.

Which brings us to last week, when I spoke in front of, perhaps, the largest group I’ve ever had to: ~110 students.  These were pharmacy students here at the University of Iowa and I was talking to them about biotechnology.  Now, I am not well-versed in biotechnology, but it is material I’ve been taught before…years before…  Therefore, I was and still am no expert in the subject.  However, I still knew, deep down, that I knew more about it than they did, and I was imparting that knowledge to them in the most understandable way I could.  As usual, I still practiced the talks for over a week in advance, re-tooled various slides to ensure that they made sense.  I delivered the lectures, answered questions, and all the while, I didn’t get nervous.

So it may have taken 25+ years, but I think figured out public speaking.  It really doesn’t scare me anymore, at least not to the extent that it used to.  I still have to be somewhat choosy about the times where I want to put myself up in front of a group like that to talk about a subject, but at the very least, I think I have a system that I can work with.

Somewhat important if I plan on being a college-level teacher someday…

…when I grow up…  :-)

Turning It Up To ’11

There were various blog and Facebook posts bouncing around over the past few weeks discussing the year that was 2010 and the potential for 2011. I decided to spend those first few days not really posting much, mostly out of laziness, but also out of reflection.

2010 is going to go down as a seminal year for me, personally, as well as our family as a whole.  It was a year when I defended my dissertation, culminating in the completion of a Ph.D. and, therefore, the end of my tenure as a student (23 years in the making…).  It was a year marked by leaving the bustling city of St. Louis for the more laid-back trappings of rural Iowa, coinciding with both Brooke and I leaving our previous jobs (if you count being a graduate student as a “job”…) and starting new positions in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, respectively.  There was also a 10 year high school reunion in there.

The move to Iowa brought quite a few other changes.  We now live in a house, not an apartment.  I now have to (get to?) mow a lawn.  Brooke gets the garden she’s always wanted.  I have a longer commute, plus a bus ride, in getting to work.  We had to find a new church and have become more involved that we planned to (but this is how it always goes…).  We had to come to terms with the fact that it’s pretty hard to go out to eat once a week when you can’t just walk to Joanie’s for happy hour after work.  And we live on a gravel road now.  Oh, and it’s a lot colder in Iowa – nice in the summer, crazy in the winter.

Brooke and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary in 2010.  In many ways, we interact just like we did back when we were first married, if not as we did before.  Of course, the obvious big change in that area is the fact that we added a new member to the family, Meg, who was with us (outside of her mother, at least…) for nearly 10 months in 2010.  It’s been a wild ride learning to be a parent (still learning…), but we’re both getting better at it and slowly figuring out how to handle the problems that go with it.

So, when I say that 2010 was a “seminal year,” it’s because of all these things.  Lots of big change that will influence the course of our collective life that we’ll be able to look back on with fondness in a few short years.

What’s in store for 2011, you ask?  Who knows.  Seems hard to top the year that was 2010 when you look at that list.  I’d be just fine scaling the big things down for a bit so we can coast and enjoy the changes we just went through for a bit longer.  I don’t really see much coming over the horizon except for settling down a bit further, and that’s just fine with me.  A few things off the top of my head would be that I’ll find out if my grant gets funded, which will determine how long we’re staying in Iowa; we’ll try a family vacation with a 1+ year old; Brooke will almost triple the size of her garden and get some chickens; and I will brew close to 60 gallons of beer.

Sounds like a good start.  :-)



Yesterday was a long time coming. 13 years of primary and secondary education, 5 years of undergraduate education, and 5 years of graduate education…and now I’m done: Ph.D. achieved.

Different graduate programs carry out their various processes in different ways, but the way ours works is that you complete a Preliminary Dissertation (e.g. “comps”) after 2 years in the program, then you carry out your research, write up a Dissertation, and then defend it. In the Pharmacological and Physiological Science Department at SLU, you have a “Private Defense” between you and your Committee, the individuals that have been evaluating you since the Prelim to determine when you’re ready to be done. The meeting was scheduled for 11:00 am and, while it started a little late, it only ended up lasting an hour. After completion of the Private Defense, we moved on to the “Public Defense.” This one was a separate presentation of, essentially, the “story” my Dissertation told. Anyone is allowed to attend this presentation and ask any questions they want, although typically, there aren’t that many questions asked. I had a few and answered them accordingly. After all this, the ballots allowing my graduation were signed by the Committee and I was then granted the Doctor of Philosophy.

After the Defense(s), we had a lovely reception in the main conference room of the department. Food was eaten, beers drunken(?), presents given, and memories remembered. All in all, it was a great experience. I’m certainly sorry to leave SLU, and I’ll miss all the friends I’ve made over the last 5 years. However, it’s time to move on to the next stage of life.

Now that I’m out of school, after 22 years, one could argue that I’m finally ready to join the “real world.”

And I get to join the real world as Andrew J. Linsenbardt, Ph.D. :-)

Still Truckin’


We’ve been doing pretty well these last few weeks, although things have gotten noticeably more hectic. As you can see in the picture above, we’re slowly packing stuff away, getting rid of furniture, and preparing for the move on April 30th (thanks, Baumanns, for all the help on Sunday!). We’re thinking a 14 ft truck will give us plenty of space, but don’t have all the boxes packed, it’s kinda hard to tell. We’ve got a pretty good start, though, and I’m carrying a few packed boxes downstairs every night.

Meg is doing well, and for the most part, she’s letting us get stuff done. She’s been sleeping 5-6 hours straight every night for the last few weeks, but these last few nights, she’s gone 7 to 7.5 hours without waking up. We’re told that’s pretty good for a 5-week-old! This means, however, that she tends to be a bit more active during the day, on average, which makes it difficult to do much packing or dissertating. Meg is getting baptized on Sunday, so we picked out music for the service…which also happens to be our last Sunday at Webster Hills. I think we picked some pretty good tunes for this one – should go out with a bang!

Speaking of “dissertating,” I handed out the “final” copies of the dissertation to my committee yesterday. In less than a week, I’ll be defending it and, hopefully, a Ph.D. :-) Way too much stuff to do over the next week! I’m not doing all that much studying yet, but I’ll be doing some reading over the next few days to help prepare.

Either way, we’re flying the the seat of our collective pants. Craziness!

The Stage is Set

As discussed a few months ago, we’re moving to Iowa City, IA for a postdoctoral fellowship I scored in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Iowa. Up until last week, we weren’t entirely sure what the exact plans were, so far as where we’d be living or when we’d be leaving.

Well. Now we know. :-)

I talked with my new boss, Dr. Doorn, last Wednesday and worked out various details of my employment in his lab. We had a lengthy conversation about all kinds of details, of course, and settled upon my start date being May 3rd. We opted to shoot for the beginning of May rather than June for a few reasons, one of which being that Brooke already told her current boss that they should have her replacement ready for the beginning of May, but also because the health insurance benefits in Iowa would save us some cash pretty immediately. My position will technically start May 3rd, but I won’t really go into work until May 10th, giving me some “adjustment time.” We’ll be back down on May 13th for my graduation, of course!

Therefore, we’ll be moving out of our apartment in Soulard on April 30th and moving in to our new place in Iowa on May 1st.

We went to Hannibal this past Sunday for Brooke’s Mom’s choir performance (very nice, Diana!), so Brooke stayed in Hannibal with Meg while I went ahead up to Iowa City to look for places to live. Brooke did an excellent job checking out practically every house on Craig’s List, so I visited a few of them and used the Flip Video to send some clips back to Brooke for her approval. I looked at a few properties, and investigated a variety of options, but eventually we settled on a farm house in Swisher, IA, about halfway between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. It’s got 3 bedrooms, one bathroom, a cellar-like basement, a huge attic (i.e. plenty of storage space), a 3 vehicle carport, and appliances (but no fridge…we’ll have to get that…and no dishwasher…so I may have to hire one…). We are expecting the lease to arrive here in St. Louis sometime this week so we can sign off on it.

So yeah, we’ve got one month for me to graduate; for us to pack…everything; and for us to say “see you later” to quite a few friends down here in St. Louis.

Somehow, I expect this April is going to fly by!