The end of May…

Hi everyone!

Even though it says May in the title, June has already started when I’m writing this. Contrary to my usual topic-based blog posts, today’s post is more of a life/academic update that is all over the place, much like my personal life right now haha! But before we dive into anything, let’s just take a moment to celebrate the end of stay-at-home order in Ontario (or at least, it is supposed to be ending on the 2nd June, the last I checked). 😀

Compared to the first four months of the year, May was probably the busiest month for me. It was also a month of many firsts, personally.

TA Duty and the TATP

This term I finally have TA duty. I’m TA-ing for an introductory undergraduate course about the origin and geology of our solar system, taught by Dr. Roberta Flemming. So far there hasn’t been much for me to do (though I have been taking advantage of my OWL site access to read the course materials to learn something new), but now that the students have submitted their first drafts of an essay assignment for the course, I’ll get quite busy for the next two weeks. To be honest, I’m quite excited and scared at the same time. Back home, I never had an opportunity to experience or polish my ‘teaching’ skills, but as eventually becoming an educator in the future is something I want for myself (career-wise), this feels like a big, firm step in the right direction.

To ensure I can do my work as a TA efficiently, I also participated in a Teaching Assistant Training Program (TATP) offered by Western’s Center for Teaching and Learning. It is a two-week online training program with mixed synchronous and asynchronous components to it and it was more than worth it! I am a bit overwhelmed by the things I learned during this program. For the synchronous part, we had to prepare two 10-minutes ‘lessons’ and present them in front of a small group of other participants. The goal was to get comfortable with the ‘teaching’ aspect of TA duties and also learn to give useful feedbacks… feedbacks that are constructive, actionable, objective and specific. With my tendency to get super-anxious when I’m about to present something, I was naturally nervous about this part and honestly didn’t expect much. Boy was I wrong! These two lessons became my most favourite parts of this training program. The feedback I received for both the lessons was very helpful and quite surprising! I noticed that I tend to judge myself much harsher than other people do, which now I realize is counter-productive. I also realized that I liked the opportunity to educate people outside of the discipline about planetary science, and could see myself getting more involved with outreach activities over time. One of the comments that shocked me but also made me really happy in my final feedback was my instructor telling me that my grasp over TA duties/abilities was good enough that I could have applied for an advanced version of this training program instead! I mean, wow!

Preparing a Poster for the Canadian Lunar Workshop

On the research side, I will be presenting a poster for the first time at the Canadian Lunar Workshop in the middle of June. We are presenting some preliminary observations about a radar-dark halo crater Aristoteles using the Chang’E-2’s Microwave Radiometer (MRM), Diviner and multiwavelength, Mini-RF and earth-based radar datasets. Some revelations I made while making this poster, (1) Science people never find that one perfect template that works for them, and most of the time end up making their own (2) It is a real challenge to fit everything you want to present in such a small space, there’s never enough space and (3) Even if technically it’s ‘one slide’ , making a poster is much harder than making a whole (oral) presentation. I will talk about this in more details in a separate blog in the future.

International Graduate Students’ Issues Committee (IGSIC)

As I mentioned in the beginning, May has been a month for many firsts for me. This one, I’m extra happy about! I recently joined the International Graduate Students’ Issues Committee, one of the 14 committees that falls under the Society of Graduate Student (SOGS) at Western. Not only am I finally acting on my desire to be more involved with the university as a graduate student, this is also me challenging myself out of my introvert’s comfort zone. IGSIC’s work mostly involves advocating for the international students’ interests at Western and help them with various issues they are having by providing proper resources. I thought this was a perfect fit, with me being an international student as well.

This is also a shameless promotion of the IGSIC, that I felt was my duty as a new, active member haha! Even though the committee has been inactive for the past year, and we have a long list of things we’d like to do to enrich international graduate students’ experience at Western, things are finally starting to look up with a much focused direction, goals and many new, hardworking members.

ChairVarun Ravikumar |  vraviku@uwo.ca

COVID Vaccine

Yes, FINALLY! 😀 I finally managed to get my first dose of the vaccine in the later half of May. Just like almost everyone else in Ontario, I was also getting tired of the wait. And you could see the desperation I was feeling to get vaccinated because in normal circumstances, I’m quite scared of needles, but for the Covid vaccine, I jumped at the first chance I got haha! After hearing other people’s experiences with high fever, body-ache and overall fatigue, I kind of prepared myself for the worst, going as far as to prepare meals in advance. However, the whole ordeal turned out to be a bit anti-climatic because I only developed a slight fever on the second day and had a big headache the next! Thankfully, the sore arm didn’t give me too much of trouble. Even though, there’s one more dose I need to take, I sure feel safer now in going out in the public places.

Pretty Flowers!

To end this blog on a fun note, I thought I’d share some of the pictures I took of these really beautiful flowers I saw on my daily walks (which is such a welcomed change from my life back at home!). I got inspired by Leah and her last blog post and tried my hand at some experimental photography as well haha. Here are some of the shots that I think turned out quite nice. To be honest, I enjoyed the post-capture editing process much more than the photography itself, always have (a potential future blog may be?). But it was still a lot of fun trying to play with angles and perspectives to see which ones bring out the beauty of these flowers the most.

Until next time! 🙂

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