Sunday, September 25, 2011

5 Years in the Life (AKA my thesis's acknowledgements section)

I have posted below, my complete, unedited acknowledgements section which I plan to submit with my thesis.  I really would like to send a heartfelt thank you to these people as well as any others I've forgotten or didn't include for one reason or another (though that seems hard to believe).  If you have any corrections, additions, comments, discussions, or anything else of this nature (I would be extremely against taking anything out, unless someone has a very good reason) I would love to hear about them in the comments section below, or on any number of other public fora.  If you would rather make a private comment for whatever reason, I believe there are several appropriate avenues for doing so.  I really do want everyone to hear the things on the pages below, so do feel free to tell people I have mentioned about this (as I have something like 35 friends on Facebook) and many more people who are mentioned here are not among those 35.  The facebook/twitter/google+ post and this blog are public domain, and so I hope those of you reading this feel inclined to share it.  Thanks! Enjoy! 

            The first sentence of an acknowledgments section is almost always the hardest to write. That being said, hopefully this won’t take up too much of your time. I am, of course, referring only to this section; in the chapters following it you may find yourself lost and confused, but do not fret.  After 5 years of magical, er, I mean scientific training, you too could find yourself on the precipice of completing a master’s degree in Chemistry, looking over the edge into the gaping maw of ‘real life’. Since I never got a chance to free-write about my undergraduate studies, and since the cast of that freak-show has many of the same characters as its post-baccalaureate reincarnation, I plan to combine some thanks.
I can only hope that the next five years of my life will be anywhere near as fun as the past five. First and foremost, I would like to thank the University of Ottawa. Just over half a decade ago, you were just a fancy pamphlet which had found itself atop a pile of brochures compiled in a hasty trip to a high school out-of-province university fair. Less than a year after that fair, I was on the marble staircase outside Tabaret Hall, wondering to myself why it was called that.  Also, I was looking for my dad, because I was alone for the first time in a new province a four hour flight from anyone I knew, and I was pretty scared.  The university, as well as the city of Ottawa, much to my delight, turned out to be a beautiful, engaging, wonderful place to spend the span of two University degrees (and perhaps more, but I’ll get to that later).  While many friends I had in Calgary were cast asunder by my new life, this city held many surprises. 
The first of these was my first non-familial roommate and definitely most exotic friend, Carl. You have motivated me to do so much better for myself than I ever thought I could. Between your late-night TV lullabies, your beautiful and powerful subwoofer and your ridiculous Weetabix addiction, I could fill a long-running TV series worth of plotlines with our enterprises and adventures.  Also, I’m fairly certain that I would’ve failed BCH 2333 if you hadn’t made me memorize that entire textbook (and I certainly wasn’t going to buy that massive, $200 tome; I hope it’s keeping a large section of a bookshelf of yours somewhere free from dust), but that being said I’m certain there are some labs you wouldn’t have done nearly as well on if it weren’t for my mad scientist skillz.  And of course I have you to thank for being at least 100x better at basketball than when I first picked up a ball as a pasty tall kid who could shoot as well from half court as from the foul line (not well) growing up.
In first and second year I lived in residence, and met so many awesome people who graced my life with theirs that I’m almost positive I’m going to forget someone crucial.  Kathleen, without you I would just be a tub of goo now, thanks for making me enjoy running again.  Also, you still haven’t gotten back to me about that beer, rembember? Amaan knows what I’m talking about.  Speaking of the world’s least well known Aziz Ansari impersonator/suave brown guy (for those of you not getting that reference); you helped make those early chem. classes and labs bearable.  I looked to you for inspiration when I was made Residence Advisor (haha RA, get it?), just kidding you are clearly the superior supervisory being.  Also, I guess I should congratulate/thank you for taking care of Erin with me, though the government did pay us handsomely for that task.  Oh Erin, House and NCIS wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun without you, and though both those shows live on (I’m sure in no small part thanks to us) they are not quite the same when I watch them alone.  If I see you even half as many times as you promise to come to Ottawa in the coming years, I will consider that a success.  Also, I never did thank you for all that help in dealing with your crazy roommate, but it did mean that you got to see me more, so it’s not a total loss.  Josie, we have had some rough times, but they weren’t all bad.  Remember when you tried to murder my dad with a golf ball?  That was satisfying, wasn’t it?  And you bought me a basketball and some bus tickets for Valentine’s Day, that’s incredibly romantic.  You clearly know what you’re doing in that department.  I hope teaching brings you what you’re looking for, and that your essay writing skills will eventually improve beyond my sleepy, middle of the night levels.
Madison Wayland (nee Darnell), I never knew you. I really miss your lesbian haircut and early morning/late night visits, and I was very sad to see you leave Ottawa.  Though you may never read this, I think I miss time with you more than anybody else I don’t see any more.  I still get the Majestic and the Illusionist confused because we watched those back-to-back, what a dumb idea that was.  We had some good times making those rez boards, and I completely ignored what you taught me in completing the “Seems Newbee Runz” board as an RA.  Thanks for mixing me my first drink ever (though as an aspiring mixologist you should know better than to give a rookie drinker 6 shots of spiced rum in less than an hour, my bathroom floor was never so comfortable as that night).  I hope to one day see you again.
 Jane, I think of all the people who have left my life for the time-being, but who I certainly expect to see again at some point, you would be my favorite.  We have had so many good times, between classes and singing and cooking and middle of the day Skype chats, you are one of the coolest people I know.  I never did say this, though I probably should have much earlier for the record.  I did not make it with everybody else to see Thoroughly Modern Millie, though I think you already know that.  I think you know that it wasn’t at all because I didn’t want to see it, although I don’t actually remember what was going on that day instead.  I hope that this platform is adequate for giving you my sincerest apologies, and for asking your forgiveness in this matter.  Though I did see a play with you, I still haven’t seen you perform on stage, which is highly troubling.  I consider you my oldest friend in Ottawa, simply because you were one of the first people I met here, but also because you are awesome and more than worthy of the title.  Come back soon!
Krista, I know you will make something of yourself, look me up when you get back from Down Under.  Marc, we had some good times (thanks again for a great Flames game), but honestly where are you now?  We all want to know.  Kalie, I knew you as Erin’s roommate and not a whole lot more, but you rock.  And women’s rugby is clearly the best sport ever.  Kate, you were a super awesome RA and I’m still very sad I don’t get to walk down to the front desk and see your smiling face, though congratulations on your new family and I wish nothing but the best for you in the years to come.  Damien, though we don’t know each other as well as I might like, I still consider you my token black friend and could listen to you sing all day. Becca, similarly, we really haven’t spent much time in each other’s company, but the time we have spent has been wonderful, you are one of the nicest, sweetest people I know, and I’m certain you will spend many years saving lives and taking care of people with a huge smile and a helping hand.  Eric, you continue to dazzle me with your amazing abilities with a tennis racket, or bass guitar.  Even though that piece of paper says you’re an engineer, I will never think of you that way.  Matt, calm down, I’ll get to you later.
While everyone I’ve mentioned so far has been an influence on me and I feel has contributed at least in small part to my completing this degree, no group of people has meant as much to me in the achievement of this qualification as who I consider to be the founding members of the undergraduate chemistry club.  The idea that we couldn’t start a sanctioned club based on drinking every once in a while was a bureaucratic lynchpin to the only chance I ever had to participate in a university club. 
Carolyn, though we met in 1st year psychology and you thought I was a jerk (which I probably was a little bit), I’m eternally grateful to you for all the help you’ve given me the last few years. Whether it was helping study for our myriad classes together, or hanging out drinking, or being the only sane people in a big room full of Frisbee players, you have always been fun to be around. Your awkwardness will continue to fascinate me and make me laugh.  You have been around to talk to when I’ve been down on life, work and school, and have been ready and eager to celebrate and mourn the good times and the bad.  For all of this, and so much more, I thank you.
Nick, you have an awesome beard.  The number of pictures taken of us where it looks like we’re making out, or about to make out, would astound even people who know us well.  I very much appreciate having you around to bounce ideas off of, and our discussions about chemistry, women, algorithms, and scientific/technological advancements will always be some of my fondest memories of University.  While your devotion to the Maple Leafs confuses me to no end, I still love you for it.  When we get our condo with a beer fridge in every room and a Subway franchise in the kitchen, I will be a happy man.  A manny, manny man. 
Lizzie, you will always be the one that got away.  I can tell you absolutely anything, and with that freedom comes no apparent responsibility.  I’m very sorry that I sometimes choose to abuse your nature by creating fictitious scenarios to get you to pay attention to me, I can’t help it.  Though we didn’t meet as early as we could have in University, I’m very glad some classes here are only reasonable offered in English, so that we got to spend the better part of MSSM, and most of the time from then until now getting to know each other.  You are awesome to spend time with, and though we find ourselves on opposite sides of an opinion more often than not, your level-headedness has helped me out in more ways than I’m sure I’m aware of. 
Chantal, I’m really sorry I gave you the impression that I was a douche when we were almost neighbours all those years ago, I hope you can forgive me for that.  I really enjoyed the time last year when we were both incredibly crippled and yet you still took care of me when I was what I’m going to call ‘super-crippled’ and hopped up on oxy, I hope I wasn’t too much trouble.  Someday I really do hope we can go for a run, medicine will catch up!
Julie, I really enjoyed softball this summer, thanks for convincing me to do that.  I’m glad you were there through my return to sports, and I hope that in the months and years to come that we can continue to become better friends, and that we can stop having arguments where we’re both trying to make the same point.
Switching tacks a little bit, I would like to talk for a little while about the importance of family in my life and as influences in completing this degree.  Mom and dad, it goes without saying that you have had the biggest impact on my life up to this point.  Socially, emotionally, mentally, genetically, you have always shown me what is right and guided me towards who I am today.  You deserve the most thanks of all in what I have accomplished so far.  When I was contemplating abandoning my schooling for a green pasture in the distance, you convinced me to keep with it.  While I haven’t seen what effect this will have on my future yet, I am keen to be proven wrong in my potentially misguided desire to jump ship.  You have been supportive of my every endeavour, and have never allowed me to cede to any limitations I might have encountered in my life.  You have always cultivated a home environment where I was able to achieve whatever my goals were, and so I have been able to grow in ways I perhaps never imagined were possible.  From learning to speak and read practically simultaneously, to learning simple calculus in junior high, to playing soccer with people 4-5 years older than me and learning to hold my own, you have always allowed me to succeed.  Between doing my own laundry, cooking meals, cleaning up after myself, you allowed me to learn the skills necessary to make it on my own.  Even though I can’t explain my research to you with any confidence that you’ve understood, I hope I have made you proud.
Michael, what can I say to you today?  I know that we don’t always agree on everything (airplane on a conveyor belt comes to mind), but I have always thoroughly enjoyed spending time with you, no matter where we end up. Our scientific discussions are always interesting (though not, I’m sure, to people around us) and learning to play hockey, tennis, and football (I’m sure I’m forgetting others) was a delight.  I wish you all the best in life with Maria, and you remain the only people to have visited me in Ontario.  I am honoured that you chose me as your best man.  For that and many other things I am forever grateful, and I look forward to see you again soon!
            Steph, you have grown up SO fast.  It always stuns me that you’ve managed to always be 2 years younger than me, even though it’s a temporal fact.  Though we don’t always get along, we will always be friends, and the fighting has really gone down quite a bit since we hit puberty.  We also stopped looking as alike as we did, which is probably a good thing.  Some days I really do wish you lived here, or that I was a little bit closer to home so that I could see you more, but I know that you’ll do great on your own! Isn’t higher education awesome!? I love you.
            Next, I would like to move on to the members of the indomitable Bryce Nation, beginning with the original graduate alumnus, Joey Weiss.  Thanks for your thesis as a formatting guide for mine, and especially thanks for making me feel less awkward at conferences by sitting with me and not feeling obliged to go and mingle all the time.  Fred, your constant fascination with NMR continues to be an inspiration to those who feel like they have lost their way, and I’m sure someday you will find a metal song I can endure for longer than you’re around to make me listen.  Kevin, I love listening to your stories, and it has been great getting to know you the last year.  We need to plan many more Bryce Lab trips/outings, even when I’m gone.  Jaz, it has also been really great becoming your friend since your return from Paris, and I appreciate your filling Liz’s vacancy as my awesome female friend in the lab.  I always know if I’m bored that you’re there to distract me (in case Dave is reading this, in which case get back to work!) and I appreciate that.  I know it’s intimidating considering being in the office with Kev and Fred once Becky and Cory leave, but they’re good guys, I’m sure it won’t be so bad!  Whose poster got 2nd place at CSC 2011? I rest my case.  Jess, while your time in the lab was short-lived, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for our many days spent loudly singing in the lab, and I know I’m a better performer now because of that.  I wish you all the best in your academic as well as musical endeavours.  Becky and Cory, of all of the grad students, in all of the labs, in all of Marion and D’Iorio, you two stand alone.  While I didn’t spend very much time with either of you, probably mostly due to my insistence on keeping my awesome desk in the lab, I am extremely appreciative of all the help you’ve given me over the years.  There was never a problem of mine that one of you couldn’t solve (except NQR) and my experiments would not have been nearly as successful without such great NMR role models in the lab. 
            Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Dave Bryce, the supervisor to rule all supervisors.  If not for the opportunity you gave me at the end of 3rd year to work for the summer in your lab, I would certainly be a very different person today.  All of your guidance and assistance with my projects and schooling were essential to my success as both an undergraduate and graduate student.  When I was considering leaving grad school, you convinced me that should stick with it and finish what I started, and it’s for that reason that I’m writing these words today.  Your insistence on celebrating achievements and milestones is a huge part of what makes you great, and if I am ever given the opportunity to advise or counsel those a few rungs behind me on any ladder, I will be sure to pay your debt forward in kind.  Since joining your group, I have really come to appreciate a good, strong beer and I have also learned that being thorough in every aspect of life will pay off in the end.  I cannot thank you enough for all of your kindness and advice, try as I might to put that gratitude into words.  I challenge anyone to find a better, more caring supervisor than Dave. 
            There were also a few other people worth mentioning who have helped with some of the actual hard work which has gone into this thesis.  Ilia Korobkov deserves my thanks for performing x-ray crystallography on the two compounds mentioned in this thesis, as well as putting up with my rather hectic schedule whenever my turn in the queue was up. Tara Kell should be recognized at least briefly for providing me with powder x-ray training, even though I never used it after the training.  Glenn Facey was always very helpful with any problems in the NMR department, and for his tireless hours keeping up all the NMR instruments at the University. Cheryl McDowall, as Glenn’s assistant, kept the nitrogen tanks full at all times, and we always seemed to run into one another during these weekly fills.  I’d like to thank Eric Ye and Victor Terskikh at the Ultrahigh-Field NMR Facility for Solids (which by the way is not a catchy name) for all of their assistance while I was at the facility using the 900.  I’d like to especially thank Eric for helping me by running a few chlorine-35 MAS spectra when I had a very busy day and couldn’t make it to the NRC campus, and then for making sure to get them back to me safely with excellent data. 
            I would also very quickly like to thank all the students I TAed last year.  Your shining faces provided me with some much needed motivation and your excitement about science and learning (and having fun in that environment) has renewed my faith in first years, I don’t know how I got so lucky to have so many great students.  If any of you ever want to grab a beer (you’re all legal by now, right?) let me know!  I never thought that TAing first years could be so fun and rewarding.
Finally, I would like to thank a few people who have come into my life more recently than many of those mentioned so far, but who still deserve mention for their help with my state of mind as well as for listening to my gripes and stories about my research.  Cait (OMal’z), you have provided me with so many great things since we met, and have always been quick to boost my spirits with your sassiness, and then keep me grounded by turning the sass against me.  I appreciate it, and I’m glad I can attribute ‘Science Rob’ to you.  I really hope that we can continue to become better friends, and we simply must go on a bike ride together soon.  I mean how have we not?  Sydney, I may not fully understand you, but I appreciate your kindness and friendship more than you know.  Knowing that you are downstairs and always willing to talk is very reassuring, and I look forward to much more Workaholics in the future with you.  We need to hang out more than we have been of late.  Jacquie, you have finally moved back into the neighbourhood and out of Sketchville.  Of course at the exact same time as that happens I would crawl into a thesis-y hermit hole for a month, but I look forward to spending lots more time with you once this magical adventure is over. Harry Potter Marathon anytime you want, I downloaded them all (I mean bought, I bought them all).  Now that you live nearby again there is no good excuse for not hanging out.  Valery, I cannot in good conscience write this without at least mentioning your influence on my master’s experience.  Thanks for spending time with me while I was getting accustomed to graduate life, and for keeping me grounded while I was trying to figure out how to mark 40 labs a week while taking a class and TAing 6 hours a week.  Though we haven’t talked in a while now, I haven’t forgotten about you.  I sincerely do hope that you’re doing well and hope that someday we’ll see each other again, you’re pretty awesome. 
Julia, I think you have been the most supportive of anyone during this degree.  It wasn’t always easy, especially coming up to the end of it, when I’m basically spending every waking minute thinking about the next part of my thesis which needs doing.  It can’t be easy, especially being so busy yourself.  You always seem to know what I’m going to need or want to feel better, even though it’s kind of cheating that the answer is Mike & Ike’s almost every time.  Thanks for putting up with all my crazy the last couple of months; I’m sure it wasn’t easy.  Bippity boppity!
Finally, I think it’s probably important that I acknowledge Matthew Staroste, my very good friend and faithful roommate.  Through all my time spent working on this project and thesis, working and writing, you have always been around to talk to, for a beer, for breakfast, as an open ear to any issue.  You’re my wingman, my confidante, my fellow furniture aficionado.  I joke around a lot about you, but know that in all seriousness I have so much respect for the things you do and who you are.  You may be scrawny and clothes from the regular Gap and Gap Kids may not fit you quite right, but you do a lot of other things right.  You’ve seen me at my best, and you’ve definitely seen me at my worst (man they need to make Pabst more expensive…oh wait), but through it all you’ve shown me that roommates can be friends.  We may not always be happy with one another (and I promise to leave the house more in October than I did in September), but living with you is an awesome experience. I have to call you my oldest friend overall, nursery buddies for life!  And finally, Summer of George!! We really lived it up this time.  That is what summer is supposed to be. 
Finally, I’d like to thank Marianas Trench.  Yes, they are a band, but in the last 2 years or so they have given me so much to think about, to sing along with, and to enjoy.  I hope to meet you some day, so I can teach you all a little something about solid-state NMR.
Okay, so that wasn’t short.  It was actually much longer than I expected.  I hope there is something in this little novel for everyone, and if I have forgotten to include you here, it doesn’t mean that you did not impact my life, I just had a 5000 word limit.