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‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’  -Thomas Edison

I think most of us have a small, seemingly impossible dream or desire that could turn into an amazing opportunity.  It could be an opportunity to make money, but more likely, it is an opportunity for happiness and fulfillment.  Thomas Edison recognized that no amazing thing happens without a large amount of hard work and dedication.  Human beings are lazy, and we like to complain.  Perhaps it would be a valuable lesson if we could get over our fear of having less and working more – it may even lead to a more fulfilling life.

I have been experiencing this personally this summer.  Right after graduation, I found myself enjoying the life of no work, all play.  Part of this had to do with a sudden feeling that if I had a Master’s degree, I should not have to stoop to get a lowly summer job, especially not in a restaurant or café – ewww.  As you know from my previous post, I decided to busk instead of get a job.  Initially, I was terrified of the act of busking – it was something new that I had never done before.  How would I know my efforts would be appreciated?


On paying your dues

Here’s a mistake I know grad students make.  I know because I made this mistake, and if I can do it, others can too.

Some assume (I did) that being in grad school is about paying your dues.   That once you graduate, you’ve done what was expected of you.  Therefore you are entitled to what’s next (job, career, recognition).  This was a theory I accepted uncritically and now I am paying for it.  Paying doubly as it turns out. (more…)

Summer Job

I don’t want a summer job.

All year, I was supported by my Teaching Assistantship, my scholarship, grants, and bursaries, and my *ahem* parents.  I am in the mood to make music, to be a poor artist, to declare my passion and refuse to do anything else.

What to do, what to do?

I have no idea how much money I can make in one week just by busking in the metro, but this is the current plan.  If I absolutely must, I will look for a part-time job, but how fantastic will it be to make money doing what I am actually certified to do by McGill University?



In grad school, you are supposed to Specialize.  When I went into this whole thing, I thought I wanted to specialize in Mozart and Strauss.  These composers’ musics are perfectly suited to my voice – so that is what I pursued.  However, in hindsight, I think my specialization was INSANITY.

From day 1, in typical Rebecca Woodmass fashion, I took on far too many projects.  However, because of my organizational skills finely honed over time, I managed to convince myself and everyone around me that I, in fact, did not take on too many projects.  I did them well – but imagine how amazing my performances would have been if I hadn’t taken on too much?


TA and RA work and dependency in grad school

This type of work is good where it can be had. I worked 12 TA positions during my 40 months at McGill. I was also a fully funded PhD student for three years.


Yes To Montreal 1!

Today I said yes to Montreal by wandering around Parc Ex and Mount Royal psychogeographically.

I hit the bricks, pounded the pavement for about two hours, came home and had a lunch of two grilled cheese sandwiches and a cup of coffee, then headed straight back out to chase down a job lead from the internet.

Saying yes by getting out into the city, by committing to a life here beyond McGill.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said (paraphrasing) if you want to marry for money, go where the money is, then marry for love.

Montreal is where the love is, which is why I came here and now I’m looking for the money!  Ass-backwards, but that’s the plan.
Gwilym Lucas Eades, PhD Site

Gradlife: Being a Teaching Assistant (TA) at McGill

Georges Choundohas helping two students

Being a TA forms an integrated part of my life as a grad student and has been one among my best and most cherished memories at Macdonald Campus. Though some considered doing the same course repeatedly over semesters boring, every semester felt like a completely new and enriching experience for me for a number of reasons:
1. New minds to shape with group of students exhibiting different pre-cognitive perceptions
2. It is stimulating to observe how new students familiarize themselves with laboratory settings and enhance their skills as the labs grow progressively more challenging.
3. Most of the times, this experience is rewarding with students saying or giving Thank You cards at the end stating how happy they’ve been to experience the Biochemistry Labs.

The twins

Interestingly, this semester, a new lab was designed and incorporated in the biochemistry lab manual – DNA Extraction. Simple in the process, part of the lab involved crushing strawberries and using kitchen chemicals such as liquid soap, water and sea salt as extraction buffer to coax DNA from its confinements.

Though sceptical at first that DNA can be extracted from strawberries with simple kitchen chemicals, at the end of the lab, the students were beaming as the thin, thread-like DNA aggregated in the ethanol layer. Excited comments resounded in the usually quiet lab:

“Oh My God, there’s DNA…?”

“I guess it’s the soap which has maybe weakened the phospholipid bilayer of the cell membrane…what could be the role of salt?”

“I can’t believe this is DNA…”

“It’s so gel-like …”

For me, it has been equally exciting to observe students standing at the realms of their own “discovery” with eyes glittering in awe, and brains actively trying to locate the how and why of biochemical processes.

As far as I can remember, while I walked down the lab answering questions, instructing good laboratory techniques and verifying results, boring has never been my sentiments. Though it is with great sadness I’m saying adieu to my cherished biochemistry labs and warm animal science department, these labs will always hold a special place in my heart as because of my TA experiences, I discovered my passion to shape young minds in science and I am looking forward to carry research in making science education more accessible for all students…

I hope being a TA has transformed your life too.

Neerusha Gokool Baurhoo


80 nos so far.  How many more will it take before I get a yes?

I have been searching for a job for a year, since April 2010 when I first turned in my dissertation.

It took eight months more before I got to defend that disseration (successfully!).

My plan had been to get started early on the job search and then move on to some kind of job without interruption.



So – that was that.  My master’s degree.  Was I dreaming?

I have been recently hit with the common post-grad-school realization that I can do ANYTHING I WANT!  I have no familial obligations, no contracts, no school, no… ah wait.  The financial obligations are massive and heavy coming out of this endeavor.   This new stage of life is exciting, terrifying, and very different than anything I have ever experienced.  It is time to find balance – a balance of risk-taking (after all, we are still young!) and responsibility (after all, we are going on our thirties!).  It is time to find a way to work, play, make money and spend it all at once.


Everything but…

Photo by Gordon Adler

I have been feeling very keenly lately the urgent need for variety in life.  All year, as my posts have reflected, I have been intensely focussed on one current, ongoing goal, which has really taken all of my energy.  The broader questions I have been asking myself lately have been:

  • What is really going to make me happy and healthy?
  • What is happiness, anyway?
  • Are there things in my life that I need to get rid of?  Are there things I need more of?

One resource that has helped me alot has been Eckhart Tolle‘s book, ‘The Power of Now’. (more…)

Comment j’ai obtenu un poste de professeure : étape 2 de 2

J’ai obtenu, tout récemment, un emploi à temps plein à titre de professeure à l’université. C’est un rêve qui s’est réalisé!

Comme je le mentionnais dans ma chronique précédente, j’ai eu envie de partager avec vous deux étapes qui m’ont menée jusqu’à cet emploi : (1) la rédaction d’une lettre de motivation – voir ma chronique précédente – et (2) l’entrevue (avec exposé oral). La présente chronique s’attarde à la deuxième de ces étapes.

2(a) L’entrevue

J’ai passé beaucoup de temps à me préparer pour l’entrevue afin d’avoir le moins de surprise possible. Je me suis d’abord familiarisée avec la philosophie et les divers programmes de l’université en question. J’ai regardé tout le cursus de cours offerts en prenant soin d’identifier les cours que je pourrais enseigner. J’ai pris connaissance des différentes activités de recherche effectuées par les professeurs en me demandant avec qui des collaborations seraient envisageables.

J’ai préparé une liste d’environ trente questions hypothétiques pour lesquelles j’ai prévu mes réponses avec soin. Ensuite, j’ai simulé une entrevue avec une amie pour me pratiquer à répondre aux questions sans trop d’hésitation.

En arrivant à l’entrevue, je connaissais mon curriculum vitae sur le bout de mes doigts. J’avais préparé un classeur avec mon CV, mes publications et les sections rédigées de ma thèse.

Une fois l’entrevue commencée, je suis simplement restée moi-même et je me suis efforcée de vivre le moment comme un échange enrichissant peu importe l’issue!

2(b) L’exposé oral

Avant l’entrevue, je devais faire un exposé oral d’une vingtaine de minutes devant le comité de sélection des candidats sur un de mes sujets d’intérêt. J’ai choisi de présenter le contenu d’un article que j’avais récemment publié et qui était donc frais dans ma mémoire. Le sujet me paraissait accrocheur autant qu’accessible. J’avais pratiqué à quelques reprises ma présentation pour m’assurer de respecter les limites de temps et de bien structurer mes idées.

Je me suis fait poser plusieurs questions après l’exposé. J’étais contente d’avoir choisi un sujet que je maîtrisais pour être en mesure de bien y répondre.

J’ai trouvé le processus d’entrevue extrêmement intéressant, très convivial et aucunement confrontationnel. Ce fut l’une des rares occasions de discuter aussi amplement et avec des professeurs d’expérience, de mon parcours académique et professionnel, de mes ambitions, de mes idées de recherches futures, de mes aptitudes d’enseignement et de mes champs d’expertise.

Si je retiens une chose de ce processus d’embauche, c’est qu’en restant moi-même et en étant solidement préparée, j’ai diminué de beaucoup mon niveau de stress et j’ai pu laisser cours à mon enthousiasme pour le poste et apprécier pleinement ce moment d’échange. Bien sûr, après l’entrevue c’est l’attente….et ça c’est stressant! Mais l’important c’est que j’avais donné mon maximum.

Comment j’ai obtenu un poste de professeure : étape 1 de 2

J’ai obtenu, tout récemment, un emploi à temps plein à titre de professeure à l’université. Au moment d’écrire ces lignes, j’ai peine à y croire, mais c’est bel et bien la réalité!

Pour ceux qui caressent ce même rêve, j’ai envie de partager avec vous deux étapes qui m’ont menée jusqu’à cet emploi : (1) la rédaction d’une lettre de motivation et (2) l’entrevue. La présente chronique s’attarde à la première de ces étapes.

1. La rédaction d’une lettre de motivation

Pour soumettre ma candidature, je devais envoyer une lettre de motivation et mon curriculum vitae. La rédaction de la lettre d’une page et quelques lignes m’a pris en tout environ huit bonnes heures de travail. Je parle d’heures 100% productives. Au cours de ce processus, j’ai demandé à plusieurs personnes de me donner leurs commentaires sur ma lettre. (more…)

Snowboarding V: Fernie

The struggle is over.  I floated down the mountain powder on my snowboard front edge to back edge to front edge.  It was working.  I finally got the hang of snowboarding.

All that work in January and February learning the techniques paid off in one single spectucular day in Fernie.

I’m here for a conference on Spatial Knowledge and Information (SKI), which runs from 3 to 10 pm.  This way we can ski in the morning before an evening of presentations and ‘networking.’

The networking is going well too.  I’ve never felt more outgoing or confident.  It still feels strange to be an ‘independent researcher’ and consultant.  It will take some time to get into these roles.  There was a lot of security and safety in being a student.

But I’m glad those days are over.  I took a risk signing up for a PhD, but I finished.  I took a risk taking on snowboarding as a hobby, but it too has paid off.  More risks, more payoffs, but also more uncertainty are in store.  It is the price of freedom.  It is worth it.

Follow my progress here:

Gwilym Lucas Eades, Phd Web Site

Image Source:

Opportunity vs. Money

As I draw closer to graduation, I find myself turning down opportunities.

I use all kinds of excuses – I (almost) have a Master’s degree and deserve to earn more; It’s not worth my time for that price; or the killer: What If Something Better Comes Along.  However, all too often, something better does not come along, and I am stuck with nothing to do.  This is not like a McGill Graduate: we are taught to grab opportunity by both horns and run with it.  I need to do more of this.

Recently, I applied to alot of things that do not pay well (summer programs and the like), but that I am likely to be successful in.  So, here comes a bunch of new auditions, new people to sing for, but also a newfound confidence that I will likely succeed!  Perhaps I am overconfident, but I don’t think so.  These opportunities are reasonable options, and look like the next step for me in my career.  They can also lead to more opportunities, which ‘doing nothing’ doesn’t generally do.

Although succeeding at something small is not quite the same at succeeding at something massive and unlikely, it is still a success.  I would be happy with one of those!


East Side GalleryAfter my angst-ey previous post, I bet you are wondering, dear reader, how things went in Berlin!

Things went fabulously – everything that could have gone wrong went right, and everything that could have gone right went wrong. I did not get the contract with the Staatsoper, but after a little youtube research, I found out that they were looking for a voice that had a little more heft to it than mine. I also missed 2/3rds of the flights that I purchased, blowing my audition budget completely out of the water, but rebooking meant I got to spend the night in London with an old friend before heading back to Montreal. I met the curator of the Tacheles (possible concert connection there), and some amazing girls who are possible roommates for my imminent move to Berlin. I made phone calls in German and re-booked my flights in German.

Most of all, however, I finally felt at peace about my future. Instead of shooting straight to the top like some of my very talented friends are going to do, I think my tactic for success is going to be alot different. I am going to make the slow climb. My new tactic is this:

  • Be myself, no matter what.
  • Do things other than singing and embrace diversity in my life.
  • Make every day beautiful.
  • Accept the unknown future as an adventure instead of something to be feared.

I can have a career if I just stick to it, get to know more and more people and show them my good work ethic. However, I cannot have a career in Europe if I am not in Europe – therefore, even though I did not get a contract over there, I decided my next step is to make the move. Learn German, teach English and yoga, and sing sing sing for as many people as possible.

I’m ready!

Going to Work (One Grad’s Greatest Day 9)

One of my greatest achievements in life happens every day.  I get up and go to work.  The alarm goes off at 5:20 a.m.  I turn on the light right away so I don’t fall back asleep, and I listen to the BBC roudup and review, then we go straight in to local news on CBC.  But I usually get up right away, get the water going for coffee, eat a bowl of cereal, then get back in bed right away again to enjoy my coffee beside the radio.  After the 6 o’clock national news, it’s time to get going.  Just before I spring up to meet the day, I often flip through a magazine or a book, a last little indulgence before another big day at the warehouse.


Identities Old and New (or, why I could be a postdoctoral researcher)

Nebulous netherworld.  These two words sum up what it feels like to be a grad student.

Nebulously bounded, with vague beginnings and what sometimes feels like no end.

Maybe I’m just mad because today I didn’t get a job.  Not the dream job but a job at a teaching intensive university in the midwest with good interdepartmental projects, friendly and sincere faculty and good facilities. (more…)

Internship at Hydro Quebec

I began an internship this week at Hydro Quebec Distribution.  I’m excited.  I’m a little nervous.  I have no idea how I am going to fit this in my schedule, atop my current part-time internship at CEATI (though my hours there have been increasingly intermittent), my three courses, and my lab work.

Somehow, this will magically work, I think.  “Magically” meaning “at the cost of great deals of sanity and mental stability.”

I’m excited, though.  Working for one of the world’s largest hydroelectric power providers and one of the world’s top research authorities in power systems will certainly look good on the resume’.  Even if the company is operated entirely in French.

Boy, I’m going to have my work cut out for me.  Ladies, let the music play.

Seoul City

5:20 a.m. 13 October 2010, Seoul National University

It is very quiet.  I am in a room at Hoam Faculty House on campus.  The taxi ride last night from Incheon Airport took over an hour, but after 17 hours on the plane not including layovers in Chicago, L.A., and Tokyo, it didn’t feel like long at all.

We glided in over some massive lighted bridges and a causeway.  After a while the scenery became more mountainous and the road more twisty, winding in and around hills and massive apartment complexes.

It reminded me of the late nineties when I and a friend first came to South Korea to teach English.  We flew into Pusan that time and I was green.  It is amazing how much has stayed with me since then:  the elegant and easy-to-use alphabet you can learn to read in a day; the tangy bite of kimchi and its rocket-fuel repercussions on my energy levels; all the greetings and niceties that bracket everyday conversation and interactions; even the ‘arirang’ song that a TV station is named after.  If I didn’t fully realize it thirteen years ago, I certainly do now: South Korea will always be something of a home to me. (more…)

Grad Students of McGill, You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains

At the end of my third year as a doctoral student my funding ran out.  I have lived in a beautiful apartment in Villeray for 40 continuous months.  I didn’t want to lose my spacious digs.  Hardwood floors, an extra bedroom that I use as a ‘home office,’ newly renovated everything (including Ikea kitchen): this is the best place I’ve ever lived in.  It’s also the most rent I’ve ever had to pay by myself, but I’ve done it with the help of a few TA jobs on the side.  My funding package was modest, nothing special or elite, just some good hard headed budgeting and a lot of hard work and I was OK.


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