Tag Archives: Doctor of Philosophy

A Life Well Lived

Photo from Flickr

Today I listened to friends, students, staff, and faculty describe a person I met about 19 years ago. She was an incredible, remarkable woman; full of life, compassion, and empathy. She was genuine. Truly genuine. And she was seemingly filled to the brim with all of the qualities that make a person an amazing mentor, educator, role model, and inspiration.

I knew Linda Allen as the embodiment of all that makes a teacher great. I will always be awed by her ability to connect with students. To not just help them, but to get to know them. To know their families, their friends.

Whenever I saw her on campus, she would often ask in her very maternal way about my brother – who, for a time, studied at the University of Guelph. She met him only a few times while we ran around getting papers signed and documents filled out so that he could enrol, and yet she remembered him. She remembered what he was doing then, and wanted to know where he was now, what he was doing, how he was doing.

And this is what was amazing about her. She wasn’t bestowing some special treatment on me and my brother. She did this with everyone. She knew or wanted to know about everyone. And she remembered. Even the tiniest of details.

Sadly, the world lost someone special on Sunday. Suddenly, unexpectedly, and far too soon.

Fortunately her memory will not be forgotten. She has touched so many lives, so many countless lives, that I think it impossible for that to happen. Her spirit, her passion, her smile, will live on in the minds and hearts of the people who knew her.

I was fortunate to know Linda as an undergraduate student. I knew Linda through my Masters degree, and then throughout my PhD. And I knew Linda as I happily accepted my current position in the School of Computer Science. She smiled the day that my paperwork was finally signed. And it was a proud and loving smile. Through it all she remained a constant and positive always smiling force on campus.

Thank you Linda for being one of the many examples of a life well lived.

I’m going to miss you.

Tip Of The Day: Wednesday Is Not Friday

Or in my case, Wednesday. Sigh.

For whatever reason I woke up today thinking it was Friday. You’ll understand when I say that I was rather sad when I learned that it was, in fact, only Wednesday.

My sadness grew when I glanced at my calendar. One look and I knew that I had to head to campus. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like heading to campus, because I do; my office is awesome, I love my job, and there’s always someone around who might want to grab a coffee should I need one. The problem is that I went to bed with very little in the way of a voice. On waking I learned that my voice was back, albeit raspy in a sexy I drank a bottle of bourbon and smoked eleventy billion cigars kind of way. I really would have preferred staying home, wrapping myself in a warm blanket, and reading several articles related to some of my research.

Boo. Just boo.

Fortunately, despite my raspy sexy voice, I felt fine1. Also fortunate, once I got up and going I lost the it’s only Wednesday attitude. While my schedule for the day was full, it was full of presentations by students.

First up – a PhD qualifying exam in the Department of Biomedical Sciences of the Ontario Veterinary College. The presentation portion – the only portion I attended – was fantastic, even though the student was very sick. Normally I don’t make a habit of going to a QE unless I’m on the student’s committee, but in this case I made an exception as I’m helping her with her study design and subsequent statistical analysis. Her goal, if I have a general understanding of the biology, is to better identify the viability of eggs by measuring certain chemicals associated with egg production and release in humans and cows2.

My second meeting involved a presentation by several of the grad students in the School of Computer Science. I just so happen to be on the committee of one of the students presenting. In this case, I was rather stoked because I had not yet had a chance to see her research. Turns out she’s working with a Partially Observable Markov Decision Process to improve how a computer system might respond to a particular user’s state. In a nutshell, she’s working on building a system that will learn how good you are at something in order to help you improve. Cool, and perhaps a little Skynet-like, except without the machines becoming both sentient and kill-bots at the same moment.

Last, but definitely not least, I had a meeting with a PhD candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology. He is studying the dynamics of an Individual Based Model from the point of view of variables which most alter the system. To put this another way, imagine creating a population of fish where each individual has a unique set of characteristics governing how quickly it grows, when it is mature enough to reproduce, how successful it is at reproducing, how fast and big it grows, and how successful it is at avoiding predators. Some of these characteristics may be fixed for an individual, but others – such as how fast and big it grows – will depend on resources or environmental conditions. One of his goals is to figure out which environmental conditions might drastically alter the population. It’s very cool work. The best part is that I was asked to join his committee because I apparently know some stuff about things. The decision was a very easy hells ya. 

So there you have it folks – three great meetings, three different departments. This is probably one of the reasons I love my job so much: while my training is in mathematics and statistics, I get to play with so many other types of scientists – each with their own unique studies and data sources.

Hmmm, I almost sound like some sort of academic escort.

1 Maybe a little tired as I apparently only slept for 4.5 hours last night.

2 It’s actually way more technical and advanced and wickedly cool than that. Several billion acronyms for hormones and proteins were used quite frequently.

Better Than Grass Stained Knees

Words of wisdom. Today my day ended with something better than grass stained knees.

Wow, today was packed!

My morning started bright and early so that I could prep for a meeting with several colleagues to discuss and plan for the upcoming fall semester1. This was followed by a meeting with my undergraduate research assistant Stephen to review a needs assessment report that he has drafted2. And because I love meetings3, I followed my meeting with Stephen with – you guessed it – another meeting. This time with a Masters student who was looking for some statistical advice.

Before I knew it lunch had arrived. Normally lunch means I get to stuff my gullet with foodstuffs, but today it meant another meeting of sorts. This time the meeting-slash-man-date was with my friend Danny Williamson (also known as @dcwllms on The Twitter). We had two goals; eat lunch, and discuss our game plan for yet another meeting that was occurring immediately following lunch. The meeting to follow lunch was related to a project that Danny and I been trying to get off the ground for several months. And I have to say that it was my favourite meeting of the day. We both left it absolutely pumped and ready to take on the world4.

Convocation in War Memorial hall

By the time I finally returned to my office to get some work done, I realized just how tired I was from all of the meetings. I opted to do a little reading until my next big adventure for the day.

That particular adventure was the College of Physical and Engineering Science‘s summer convocation. Today marked the first day that I attended a convocation where I was not getting a degree, although I was dressed up as if I were5. The difference this time – I was standing as faculty watching as hundreds of students were given their degrees in the various disciplines of science and engineering.

To say that this was the icing on the cake-that-was-today would be an understatement. It felt surreal, and amazing, and awesome, and inspiring, and so much more. It reminded me of the day I was hooded after the successful defence of my PhD dissertation – how proud I was of my accomplishment, but also how grateful I felt to all those who supported me throughout it. I can only assume that the students that were granted their degrees today were feeling the same sense of overwhelming awesome – as if their hearts might burst from all the happiness. It really was an amazing reminder of the journey that took me from where I was to where I am now. And that was pretty spectacular.

A terrible picture of the convocation address by Honourary Degree recipient Dr. Dohoo.

Of course, every iced caked needs cherries or sprinkles or some other most excellent garnish. For me, that was getting to see one of my former students – Vivek – graduate. He was (and still is) an excellent student, and I’m so proud of him. After the ceremony, I was honoured to be able to meet his family and spend some time chatting with them. To see how obviously proud they were of him was fantastic. His mom and his sister were absolutely beaming.

Afterwards I returned to my office to pack up and head home for the day. As I walked back, I realized there was a bounce in my step that wasn’t there earlier. While I could blame the bounce on the weather (which was absolutely perfect), I know that wouldn’t be accurate. Truthfully, the bounce in my step was due to the realization that I really do have an effect on the lives of the students I teach. At once this was overwhelming, and rewarding, and scary, and amazing, and everything.

As I opened my office door I smiled. I have the best job ever.

1 Among other things.

I’m very happy with what he’s done so far, so am very much looking forward to the final product.


I’m not going to get into the details of that particular project at the moment because we’re both still processing everything that happened today, but I will give you a hint: it’s going to be awesome! W00t!

Which means I was in the bright blue University of Guelph doctoral robes, and I had my hood on as well. For those not in the know, the hood is not actually a hood – it’s the sash-thingy that is hung around your neck. Truth be told, I’m not even sure if the sash-thingy is called a hood or not – but the act of putting it around a graduate’s neck is called hooding so I figured calling it a hood makes some sort of sense.  

Stupid Head

This is pretty much how I felt as the day progressed. Granted, I don’t think I looked this gross . No one mentioned anything to me, and you’d figure this would be something someone would mention.

Since I’m a wild and crazy man, you might imagine that I’ve got crazy epic awesome plans for tonight, especially considering that it is Friday – the day to cut loose and party down1.

Truth be told I just woke up from a nap about an hour ago. But not just any nap, a most epic nap that was absolutely required, absolutely unavoidable, and just what the doctor ordered2.

You see dear readers, I don’t know if it was due to a lack of sleep, a build up of stress, too bright monitors, not bright enough monitors, the weather, dehydration – or any combination of these things – but I had one nasty-ass headache today. I woke up feeling off, and that feeling didn’t leave me all day. Instead it grew from a tiny inconvenient but tolerable headache into a raging screaming douche-bag of a headache with overtaxed peepers, achy everything, and a pounding that just wouldn’t stop.

As such, sleep was not an option.

Of course today was probably the worst time for a headache3 because I couldn’t avoid the office, nor could I leave early. To start, I had to get up a bit earlier this morning4 in order to re-read a set of documents for a PhD Qualifying Exam today5 (these documents being the same reason why I went to bed late). The exam was 3+ hours long and not something that I could call in sick to.

Nerdfest 2012 starts in 2 days. W00t!

Beyond that, I had to edit, finalize, approve, and print posters for the upcoming nerd-conference; also known as the Annual Meeting of the Statistical Society of Canada. It starts on Sunday and I have 3 students (2 undergrad-almost-graduate students, and 1 graduate student) presenting some of their work. I’ll also be speaking at the conference, which meant I had my presentation to work on as well.

When I finally got home this eve, I was exhausted, and ever so cranky.

Fortunately, Elliot was at the door the minute I stepped in and we immediately curled up on the couch. I scratched behind his ears as he purred contentedly and before I knew it I had drifted off to sleep. When I woke, he was still there curled up in a ball purring. My headache, while not entirely gone, was significantly less douche-y.

Moral of the story? Cats cure headaches. Or perhaps that’s just Elliot. Whatever the moral, my Friday night is about to get even more epic because I’m going to head upstairs and crawl into bed.

I lead such a rock star life.

1 Or whatever it is the cool kids are calling whatever it is they do these days.

2 Where I get to play the role of doctor. Ha! I love this role.

3 Is there a good time for a headache?

4 Let’s just say that 4:30am is an ungodly hour, and whomever invented it should be punched square in their stupid stupid face.

5 A PhD Qualifying Exam is an oral exam6 that tests the base knowledge of a student who has enrolled in the PhD program. Should the student pass this exam, they are classified as PhD Candidate, and thought by those who performed the examination to be capable of completing the PhD program. It is, without any sense of overstating, a very stressful exam for the student.

6 Te he7.

7 Yes, I have the maturity level of a 12-year-old. Also, mom, I’m sure I have no idea what this means.

How Quickly They Grow Up

If not for the fact that I put almost everything into my calendar, I’d forget even the simplest of things. Like eating, wearing pants, and breathing.

Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch – I wouldn’t forget to wear pants, I’d just opt not to. Regardless, I’m betting that if breathing weren’t an autonomic response, I’d need a reminder to inhale.

I digress.

My point – and I do have one – is that I almost forgot that today is my Ph.D.-versary. My 2nd such -versary to be precise. 

Wow. My wee baby is 2 years old. It is absolutely amazing to me to think that 2 years ago today I was standing in front of a room of learned individuals defending the work that I’d spent so many years deriving, programming, evaluating, analyzing, and writing. And I can’t forget the sweating. There was a lot of sweat.

It’s also amazing to me to think about all of the things that have happened since that fateful day. For one, I’m now on the other side of the table. I’m the guy that grills the students who have spent so much of their time and effort developing something new and exciting. I’m the guy that causes the sweat on the other side of the table. I’m the guy that I dreaded when I was in that situation.

As I did last year on this particular date, I’ve decided to look back and see what I’ve accomplished in the year. Why? Because today is a day that I have set aside to celebrate awesomeness. It’s a day where I have opted to evaluate my successes and failures so that I don’t stagnate, bore myself to tears, or become an old curmudgeonly cranky-pants mcgee who does nothing but chase children off his front lawn while waxing poetic about what things were like in my day. And it’s also a day to figure out what I want to do next, because there should always be something next.

Without further ado – my list-o-things:


  • My brother was hit by a car driven by a distracted driver. He almost died, but didn’t. Because he’s awesome.
  • I had surgery to fix my stupid stomach.
  • I turned 36.
  • My dad turned 70.
  • Elliot and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary.
  • Several friends finished their Ph.D.s (Congrats Dr. Levere and Dr. Gregorio!).
  • Several friends went back to school (Dr. Beth, Kevin, and Rebecca) – because they are huge nerds.


  • 13 trips in one year – including Hawaii, Calgary, Ottawa, New York, Montreal, Chicago, Wolfville, Halifax, and Victoria.
  • Ice climbing and bobsledding in Calgary (February, 2012).
  • Visiting Rick (again) in Calgary (April, 2012).


  • Taught Advanced Methods for Population Modelling, Calculus II, Experimental Design, User Interface Design, and Discrete Optimization.
  • Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Statistical Society of Canada in Wolfville (June, 2011), the GeoMed 2011 Conference in Victoria (October, 2011), and the Joint BioMS Series Colloquium in Guelph (February, 2011).
  • Continued Ecological Risk Analyst for the Saugeen Ojibway First Nations (Fall, 2011).
  • Taught a 3 day course for the Public Health Agency of Canada on SAS (February, 2012).
  • Finished 7 papers, submitted 3, published 1, with the rest awaiting final edits from co-authors.
  • Submitted 1 first author talk, 1 co-authored talk, and 3 co-authored posters to the Annual Meeting of the Statistical Society of Canada.
  • Submitted 1 co-authored poster to the First Symposium on Telomeres and Genome Integrity.
  • Chaired/chairing three committees (one within the School of Computer Science, one for the Province of Ontario, one for the Saugeen Ojibway First Nations). Member of 4 other committees.
  • Took on several graduate students (as a committee member).
  • Hired 3 undergraduate students.
  • Judged an awesome science fair.
  • Finished a lot of grant applications (and working on more).
  • Examined 2 M.Sc. students, and was an examiner for 2 Ph.D. qualifying exams.
  • Finished my first year as an Assistant Professor in the School of Computer Science at the University of Guelph.

Not-So-Bucket-List List Accomplishments

  • Published 3 articles in 1 year (item #3).
  • Saw a ballet with Steph (item #30).
  • Saw Tori Amos in concert (item #35).
  • Saved $500 in change (item #39).
  • Learned to make dairy free banana bread (item #54)/
  • Tried 30 new wines (item #58).
  • Bought a $100 bottle of port (item #59).
  • Bought a new camera (item #60).
  • Bought a new road bike (item #62).
  • Ran 30k Around The Bay (item #75).
  • Biked 60k (item #80).
  • Climbed the CN Tower (item #82).
  • Ran 5k in under 22 minutes (item #103).
  • Ran a marathon (item #105).
  • Traveled to BC (item #127).
  • Traveled to Chicago (item #129).
  • Traveled to visit Arlene (item #130).
  • Traveled to Montreal (item #133).
  • Traveled to Nova Scotia (item #136).
  • Traveled to Vancouver (item #144).
  • Traveled with Rick again (item #170).
  • Went snowshoeing (item #186).
  • Traveled with Rick again, again (item #187).
  • Traveled once per month for 12 months (item #195).
  • Had a brandy tasting night (item #196).
  • Ran 5k in under 21 minutes (item #221).
  • Biked 10k in under 20 minutes (item #223).
  • Biked 20k in under 40 minutes (item #224).
  • Published with Rick (item #232).
  • Went caving (item #236).
  • Went ice-climbing (item #237).
  • Signed up for RunKeeper Elite and broadcast a race (item #250).
  • Went bobsledding (item #255).

No Friend To Suck-Baggery

I'm all supernova-y today

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I was a giant bag of smashed hammers. Today, not so much. Let me be clear – it’s not that today I was a huge ball of energy, but in comparison to yesterday I was a freaking supernova.

My day started at 5am because that’s when all the cool kids start working. And if that isn’t when all the cool kids start working, please don’t tell me. It’s probably best if I live in this fictional world that I’ve created. Regardless, I was up at 5 to prep my notes for today’s class. And by prep I mean throw together the Prezi presentation. I already knew what I was going to talk about – I just had to put it into some form of aesthetically pleasing presentation.

Then it was off to school to teach. After that, the rest of the day was all mine. And while it wasn’t my most productive day by far, it was still a great day. I managed to finally cross off an analysis from my list that I’ve been trying to cross off for some time. Beyond that, I read and commented on a Ph.D. proposal which will be defended on Monday. And in case I hadn’t mentioned it before, this proposal defence will represent the first ever Ph.D. qualifying exam where I’m not the one being grilled, but instead am playing the role of examiner. Of course, after the analysis and a thorough review of the proposal I was suffering from a mad case of the stupids. My brain had decided it had enough, so I opted to putter in the office until about 6pm. This worked in my favour because I took the time to organize files, clean up a few things, update my CV, and then make sure everything was set up and ready for my day tomorrow – which looks to be full and hopefully even more productive.

Once home it was time to jump on the treadmill. I wasn’t sure how the run was going to go given that I had opted to take yesterday as a rest day. While I knew I felt much better than yesterday, I knew that I was still tired. But, since my runs won’t run themselves, and since training is no friend to suck-baggery, and since I commented yesterday that I was going to return to embracing my exhaustion today, I jumped on the treadmill and just started running. The machine was set at 7 miles (11.27 km) per hour to start – as a warm up. I wasn’t sure how fast I was going to go today, but after several minutes something clicked. Within no time I had pumped up the pace to 8.1 miles (13.04 km) per hour. And there it stayed until my last mile – which clearly demanded more speed. So it was up to 9 miles (14.48 km) per hour. If only I could maintain that pace for the marathon!

The end result – and I have to check my data to verify this – I think I managed a new personal best 10 km. Specifically, I ran 10.06km in 48 minutes and 55 seconds. Not too shabby.

I guess resting yesterday was a good idea after all.

Fridays With Elliot

Well it’s Friday. Again. It seems that the weeks are just flying by. I put the blame squarely on the two courses that I’m teaching. But this isn’t a bad thing. Not even slightly. In fact, I think time is flying because I’m having so much fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m also exhausted. But it’s the good kind of exhaustion. The kind where you know you’ve just finished something really rewarding and now deserve the sleep of kings. Or perhaps some chocolate (thanks – don’t mind if I do).

Sadly, my reward is going to be short-lived. I have a lot of big projects coming up in the next few weeks. Several papers to edit. Several papers to finalize and submit for review and hopefully publication. Several papers to begin writing. A couple of grants to write. Assignments to mark. Assignments to create. Midterms to grade. Scholarship applications to review. An Undergraduate Research Assistant to hire (which means undergraduates to interview). A presentation to prepare. Meetings to attend. Too many meetings to attend. And then develop and teach three 8 hour days of statistical training for the Public Health Agency.

Beyond this, I’m stoked to write that I’ll be an examining member on my very first and second official Ph.D. qualifying exams. This means I have two separate proposals to review and evaluate, not to mention two separate students to question and hopefully form some opinion as to whether or not they are adequately prepared for the rigours of Ph.D. candidacy. I’m nervous and excited about this process. Probably not as nervous as the students, but I’m still pretty nervous.

Clearly these are going to be a challenging few weeks, but I know I’ll get through them. Of course I’ll get through them. To manage the stress that I’m sure might pop up from juggling all of this, I’m going to be trying to stick to my marathon training schedule as much as I can (translation – I’m going to be upping my mileage whoring). And I also have yoga to remind me to breathe. And as always there is Elliot, who is at this very moment pawing at my belly and reminding me that I should probably get off the computer and go to bed.

Such a smart kitty.

Happy 10000 To Me!

Yesterday was a rather monumental day for me. Okay, maybe not as monumental as finishing my PhD, starting my position as Ass. Prof., or finishing my first marathon, but still awesome in its own way.

And why was yesterday monumental? Well, it just so happens that yesterday was the day I posted my 10000th tweet. Crazy.

I remember when I first signed up for Twitter; it was way back in the old-time-y days of January 24, 2008. At the time, I signed up simply to be able to communicate in another way with several friends that lived across the country. Little did I know that Twitter was going to become a fixture in my life. I also hadn’t imagined that I’d use it in the way that I do. I mean, most of the time it’s just for keeping up to date with what is going on in the world, or my community. I also use it to organize social activities. But, it also comes in handy as a research tool. The amount of information out there is staggering. And Twitter is a great way to source it.

So what does one tweet about when they have 10000+ tweets? I wondered the same thing. And amazingly there is an application that will summarize all that I’ve said in a nice little word cloud. So for your viewing pleasure, and brought to you by the awesome people at tweetcloud.icodeforlove.com, I present to you a word cloud of the 50 most popular words that I’ve tweeted between August 2008 (as far back as the program would allow) and today. You are welcome :)

Get your own word cloud at http://tweetcloud.icodeforlove.com/

I love that awesome, w00t, thanks, chocolate and love are the dominant words. I also love that Guelph, coffee, scotch, beer, bacon, and elliot made the list as well. Clearly I’m consistent if nothing else.

Anyway, given that I pay attention to numbers, I made a point of watching my tweet count as it got closer and closer to the 10000 tweet mark. Once I got close, I had to start thinking about what my 10000th tweet would be. I mean, should I search for some profound wisdom buried deep within me to share in the Twitterverse? Should I simply leave it a joke, or a non-interesting tweet; as if 10000 tweets really meant nothing? And then it dawned on me. I had the perfect tweet in mind for number 10000.

What did I post? you ask. Exactly the following:

Here’s to another 10000!

Just Keep Swimming

Wishing I were more like the Brain, but feeling very much like Pinky. NARF!

For the past several days – weeks maybe – perhaps months – I don’t remember really – point is, for a while I’ve been working on grant applications. It’s sadly a necessary evil for my job.

It’s also a large slice of catch-22. You see, one needs funding to pay for graduate students to help produce publications related to one’s research program (as publication quantity is the current currency of good research). But one can’t get funding unless they have publications. So if one doesn’t have students, one can’t produce as many publications, and the money can’t be garnered from said granting agency.

Awesome system, no?

Anyway, as I mentioned, I’m in the process of writing up several grant applications to get my research program off the ground. Several things about this bother me.

  • First and foremost, I don’t like the idea of just hammering out useless publications. I’m more about quality than quantity any day. I mean, as much as I love chocolate, I’d rather have a small square of fine dark chocolate over the waxed version that one can pick up at the Kwik-E-Mart in bulk. Mmm, chocolate.
  • Second, I’m not sure that the amount of effort that goes into writing a grant is worth it. The probability of being funded is rather low. I mean, with the amount of time I’ve put into writing the grants, I probably could have been producing several quality papers.
  • Third, if I am funded, the amount of money that I might be awarded is tiny (in relative terms). For example, if I believe that my research program requires 1 Post Doctoral Fellowship (approx. $45000 per year, for 2 years), 2 PhDs (approx. $20000 per year, for 3 years each), and 10 Masters students (approx. $17000 per year, for 1 year each), I’d have to ask for $380000, or approximately $76000 per year given a 5 year program duration. These numbers aren’t unusual for a research program (in terms of people), and it doesn’t include equipment, travel, conferences, etc. Sadly, since I’m a Statistician, the granting agency typically only funds about $15000 per year. While $15000 per year is nothing to laugh at (considering I made about that much per year during the end of my PhD), it still leaves a shortfall of $61000. Awesome!

As I said though, it’s a necessary evil. And so I sit and try to write an application that contains a vision of my research program which the reviewers will feel is worthy of funding.

Let me restate that. I try to write.

Can we say easily distracted? I mean, everything seems immensely more entertaining than this grant application. YouTube? Sure thing. Facebook? You know it. Twitter? I’m all over that shit. Yoga? Don’t mind if I do. Take photos of Elliot when I’ve already got about a zillion photos? Damn skippy. Write a blog entry? Clearly. It’s the thing to do.

Truly, what is abundantly clear is that this grant won’t write itself. I need to stop with the distractions and buckle down. So with that dear readers, I shall leave you with these very wise words from Dory of Finding Nemo fame.

I’ve got some swimming to do.

The Silence Of The Ducks

As I mentioned previously, I celebrated my 1st Ph.D.-versary on April 8.  To celebrate, I ventured over to Gerarda & Alan’s along with Steph, who had travelled into Guelph for the occasion.  It was, in essence, a gathering of The Doctors.   You probably imagine that with this much nerdery in one room, the conversation would focus on all things statistics.  But that was not the case.  While I am sure that we did talk about statistics it didn’t dominate the conversation.  I mean, we love statistics, but we also have other interests :)

The best part of the eve was that we were celebrating not just my Ph.D.-versary, and not just my shiny new Ass Prof job, but also Steph’s shiny new job, and Gerarda’s shiny new grant.  It was as if the planets aligned just right so that all of these things would happen around the same time.  Epic!  Clearly a little bubbly was in order.

We picked up dinner from the Diana Downtown, which if you know me you will know is one of my favourite places to eat in Guelph.  That is where Steph and I held our Ph.D. prom last June, which I should probably write about at some point.  Regardless, the food is always fantastic.  I ordered, as usual, the Medallions of Lamb.  Once my stupid stomach is fixed, I’m going to be going back to my other favourite dish: Lamb Vindaloo.  So hot and spicy, but oh so good in my belly.

Not the best photo, but the mash of mallard near the bottom right corner is actually 4 ducks.

Our dinner was interrupted at some point by some ruckus in the backyard.  Specifically, two male ducks had invaded the pond that had been home to a pair presumably for raising a family.  The two male ducks that invaded apparently saw the female and decided they wanted in on that action.  It was insane.  There were ducks all over the place.  The male of the pair was doing his best to fight off the other two, and eventually managed to do so.  But not before they both jumped on the female.  The scariest part of the situation was that the males kept forcing the female under the water.  We were worried that she might not survive the attack.  Thankfully, both the male and female of the original pair managed to survive to fight another day.  The invading males were driven off; leaving the pair to clean themselves off, and shake off the invasion that had just occurred.  It really was something to see.  I’m not sure if this is normal duck behaviour, but it looked pretty ferocious.

Dinner was followed with a movie (127 hours – see it if you haven’t), and of course, several drinks.  Needless to say, it was a late night filled with lots of laughter, good food, and clearly good friends.  A most excellent way to celebrate my 1st Ph.D.-versary.

Trust Me, I’m A Doctor

So today I celebrate the 1st Ph.D.-versary of my dissertation.  That’s right folks, today marks the day when I brought my Ph.D. home from the university, after a very lengthy gestation period.  I can’t believe my little Ph.D. is officially 1-year-old.  For those of you that might not be aware or perhaps have forgotten, my Ph.D. dissertation goes by the name

Multivariate Spatial Poisson Mixtures With Applications In Disease Source Classification,1

but I just call her Ms. P. Mix for short.   One year old already – how time flies.

The most expensive piece of paper I own. Amazingly, it looks the same today as it did the first day I brought it home.

In all seriousness, my Ph.D. never would have been a reality if not for the help and support of so many people.  I do have to mention one person in particular; a certain Dr. Stephanie Dixon, to whom I dedicated my work.

For Steph; my sounding board, my confidant, my support, and the best friend I could ever have asked for.  I have no idea what I did to deserve someone like you next to me during this process, but I’m eternally grateful to the Fates for bringing us together.  You are my academic soul mate, my awkward cousin.  You have made me a better person, and I can never ever thank you enough for all that you have done for me.2

I wrote the dedication ages ago, well before my Ph.D. was even finished.  Amazingly, the words mean more to me now than they did to me then.

But, you might be thinking, what have I done since then?  And that is a very valid question.  I wondered that myself.  And being the list-making kind of guy that I am, I sat down and started to make a list.  I’ve categorized the list (as I’m a categorized-list-making kind of guy too), mainly for my own entertainment and reflection.  I present it to you now (in chronological order), for your reading pleasure.


  • My niece was hospitalized with flesh-eating disease (she’s fine now :) )
  • Steph and I had a Ph.D. Prom
  • I turned 35
  • I got some more tattoos (12 greek letters remain)
  • My first nephew (Ethan) was born
  • Celebrated Lobster-fest
  • I adopted Elliot


  • Winnipeg (May, 2010)
  • New York (May, 2010)
  • Europe [Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria] (June/July, 2010)
  • Calgary (September, 2010)
  • Ottawa (November, 2010)
  • Ottawa (January, 2011)
  • Hawaii [Big Island, Oahu] (January, 2011)
  • New York (February, 2011)
  • Ottawa (March, 2011)


Not-So-Bucket-List List Accomplishments

  • Finished my Ph.D. (item #2)
  • Taught my first Statistics course (item #7)
  • Taught Differential Equations (item #6)
  • Travelled to Manitoba (item #132)
  • Travelled to New York with Steph, and Gerarda, again (item #135, and #147)
  • Bought a new fitted suit (item #63)
  • Determined my net worth (item #36)
  • Went to Hillside (item #65)
  • Had a Ph.D. Prom (item #67)
  • Travelled with Matt (item #146)
  • Saw a live sex show (item #72)
  • Biked 30K, 40K and 50K (items #77, #78, and #79)
  • Travelled to Prague and Vienna (item #126)
  • Celebrated my 35th birthday in another country (item #119)
  • Travelled to Alberta to visit Rick, Karen, and Adam (item #122, and #128)
  • Walked the Athabasca Glacier (item #13)
  • Climbed Mount Yamnuska (item #11)
  • Ran 10k in 50 minutes (item #101)
  • Ran 12k in 60 minutes (item #102)
  • Ran another 10K (item #107)
  • Ran another 1/2 marathon (item #106)
  • Did a 30 day hot yoga challenge (item #98)
  • Went on 3 dates in as many months (item #120)
  • Went to visit Matt, Mark, and Jhona (item #137)
  • Had a scotch tasting night (item #44)
  • Had a wine tasting night (item #46)
  • Saw Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert (item #31)
  • Started a full time faculty position (item #1)
  • Set up a budget (item #40)
  • (Re-)Started a blog (item #121)
  • Travelled with Rick (item #148)
  • Hiked a lava field again (item #22)
  • Went on a helicopter ride (item #21)
  • Climbed an active volcano (item #23)
  • Went snorkelling (item #18)
  • Went skydiving (item #19)
  • Invited to speak at a conference (item #9)
  • Paid off over $15000 in debt (item #22)
  • Saw my first Ballet (item #23)
  • Managed to do 4 sets of 8 chin ups (item #38)
  • Saw Sarah McLachlan in concert again (item #39)

So how am I going to celebrate my 1-year-old Ph.D., and all that I have accomplished since then?  I’m going to go home, have a beer, think about all the amazing things that have happened in my life over the past year, and contemplate where I want to go next.  Oh, and I’m also going to go for dinner with 2 very awesome friends.  And not just any friends.  I’m going to dinner with the 2 people who understand the trials and tribulations of my Ph.D. in Statistics best – my fellow Doctors of Statistics; Dr. Stephanie Dixon, and Dr. Gerarda Darlington.  I’m so freaking lucky, it’s ridiculous.

Happy Ph.D.-versary to me!

1 Sounds riveting, doesn’t it? I can say without a hint of a lie, that each of the 272 pages are better than the last. If ever there was a page-turner, this was it. Okay, in all seriousness, I’m probably the only one that reads it3 without falling asleep after the first sentence.

2 P.S. No, it didn’t.

3 I probably could have just ended the sentence here, and it would have been just as true :)