It’s that time of the year…

Photo from

Photo from

That’s right, its flu season. In addition to bundling up to brave freezing cold temperatures, occasional snow showers, and thick patches of ice on your way to class and work, now you’ve got to worry about the dreaded flu. Not to fret, the IU Health Center wants students to be proactive and prepare for the flu season (which, by the way can last until April!) by getting a flu shot.

Flu season or not, the IU Health Center is a great resource for graduate students, especially Student Academic Appointees utilizing the mandatory health insurance plan. There are registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, doctors, psychologists, nutritionists, phlebotomists, and even massage therapists on staff to provide a range of services to students. There is also a pharmacy right inside. Also, remember that more than likely at any institution you attend for graduate studies, the student fees you pay are helping to fund health centers.

…stay safe and stay smart! A strong and healthy immune system is the only way those chapters will get written, presentations get finished, and papers get graded.

Freezing your Assets: How to Save Money in a Polar Vortex

Photo by

Photo by

Any Midwesterner will tell you, the Midwest doesn’t have “mild” temperature very often. Winter is no exception. When it’s cold outside, all one really wants to do is crank up the heater to a toasty 85 degrees, eat chocolate, and sit down to a fun movie, courtesy of Netflix. Unfortunately, doing so will has a direct correlation to the electric bill. I’m going to provide a few tips here for saving money when Jack Frost decides to swoop in and steal away your happiness warmth.
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Tips for Bundling Up

Bundling up means layering! Photo courtesy of

January is not only the start of a new semester, but it also the start of the winter season. Bloomington isn’t famous for huge amounts of snow, but we do get at least 1-2 inches once in a while. Bloomington does experience low temperatures (around 20-30 degrees) as well as ice and wind. So bundling up is still necessary.  Here are a few tips I learned while living in the Midwest to make my walk around the Bloomington campus more enjoyable: Continue reading

Winter Break: To leave or not to leave

This year I chose to not do any international or cross-country travel. Instead I took short trips with my family to Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, and Chicago.

Our first day trip was to experience Christmas at the Indianapolis Zoo. Where we enjoyed the holiday lights event, partook in kids activities and caught a glimpse of some of the animals.

Next was our visit to the Fort.  Fort Wayne is the second largest city in the state after Indianapolis, and has many attractions. The activities range from shows at the historic Embassy Theatre to an outdoor stroll through downtown and Headwaters Park. While visiting family there we went ice skating at the Headwaters outdoor rink, and later got some hot chocolate at DeBrand–a local chocolate shop.

From there we headed three hours west to the windy city. While in Chicago we visited the LEGOLAND Discovery Center and did some last minute holiday shopping at the Woodfield Mall.  The next morning we had brunch at Restaurante Aguascalientes at La Villita ( Little Village).   La Villita is densely packed with Mexican businesses and what I consider the closest thing to being in Mexico as I can get in the Midwest. 😉

While we didn’t go very far, the quality time spent visiting friends and family at these locations definitely took me out of the everyday routine. 

Next on the list…outdoor winter activities in the area.

Winter Break

So… for the first time in a long time. I actually enjoyed a white Christmas in my home state of Texas. We had a full two inches of snow! For my friends from the midwest and northern states. A white Christmas is nothing to write home about, but for this Texan (whose normal Christmas attire is traditionally shorts and a t-shirt) two inches of snow is extraordinary. So what follows are a couple photo’s from my snow day. Enjoy!

PS – FTOD do your part to fight against climate change, because while snow in Texas is cool. It’s indicative of climate change. Let’s take care of our planet. Peace & Love – J.T.

Amor y Pasión

I used to be a Valentines Day fanatic, giving in to the pressures of consumerism and purchasing high cost candy, teddy bears, and flowers for the loved ones. I’ve sort of grown out of this, but still, during the month of February I can’t help but to spend moments thinking about all the things that I love. A lot of them are typical things, like my family, my partner, and my puppy (thats her in the picture), but I am also a little bit of a nerd and I love to play trumpet (see my next blog), and I have LOTS of love for the work that I do, particularly sitting down in front of excel sheets and playing with numbers, managing the small group of undergraduate students that help me conduct my research, presenting (mostly null) results in front of fellow graduate students and faculty, and sitting around and thinking critically about scientific problems. I also love that I love what I do.. because I have done work that I don’t particularly like and I know how it feels to get up in the morning and have to drag myself to my job. So, really, (I can’t believe I am saying this) I actually love being a gra… wait.. maybe I shouldn’t say it. Or maybe I will.. ok, here it goes…I actually love being a graduate student (disclaimer: the degree of truth to the last statement will vary depending on the time of the semester, and how many deadlines I have to meet).

Bad Weather, a Good Break!

Here in Bloomington, Indiana, we are experiencing ice storms, which cause our roads to be slippery and dangerous, and businesses all over town to slow down or close. I.U. canceled classes today, so I’m home, listening to freezing rain and enjoying the beautifully frozen sights–from a distance.

Since I am too afraid to drive to the library in this weather, I have decided to shut in, grade papers, and work on my dissertation. As my sons’ schools are also closed, I will spend some time with them playing board games, reading, and watching movies.

Although this is not the way I intended to spend my day, I am happy for the break from monotony.

(Photo by Mack Hagood)

2010: Year in Review

Last time, I blogged about my 2011 New Year resolutions, in that spirit I decided to go back and review my first 18 months as a PhD student in Bioinformatics at Indiana University-Bloomington (IU). Among the many components of being a PhD student (e.g. courses, research, teaching, and community involvement) I will attempt to “impartially” review my performance across each component during that time.

My goals for my first year were: 1) take as many required courses as possible, 2) pick an advisor, and 3) develop a strong application for external funding. Looking back I must admit that fortunately these goals turn out to be met in their entirety. First, in my courses, I learned a great deal and performed at a high level in all of my classes. Additionally, I was able to cross out 8 course requirements, which put me in great shape to finish all course requirements by Spring 2011. However, on the downside, I think I spent too much time on classes which is something that I need to balance out as I become fully involve in my research projects. Second, I did two research rotations, picked my advisor and started working on several research projects. Finally, the fellowship application I worked on with the assistance of many people got me an external fellowship, thus, securing funding for the next three years!!

In terms of teaching, I was not required to work as an Academic Instructor (aka Teaching Assistant), however, I took a pedagogy and professionalism course, where I learned many valuable lessons of how to approach teaching in an efficient manner. The two most significant techniques I leaned in this course and that will shape my courses design in the years to come were: 1) the backward design technique and 2) classroom assessment techniques. Regrettably, my community involvement during my first was non-existent which I considered to be unacceptable. Since then I have been more involved in the community by enrolling as a Emissary for Graduate Diversity for IU’s Graduate School Office, as well as participating in many events across campus.

Finally, my first year and a half at IU has been quite successful and enriching. Furthermore, I have enhanced my professional skill-set, while identifying areas where I need to improve as I keep maturing and moving forward as an Informatics PhD student.

New year resolutions

It is a new year and we (grad students) make resolutions too! This is my last semester of taking classes, so I am really excited about that. Anyway, here is my list of academic and personal goals for 2011: 1) move to my new office space, 2) engage on a 10k running plan, 3) work no less than 14 hours a day, 4) get more involve with undergraduates organizations, 5) publish at least 2 papers. Some of these goals are more ambitious than others; however, I consider them to be quite simple. It has only been a month since New Year’s celebration and I have already made significant advances on each goal. The key thing is, as Brian said in his post, to celebrate every step because those little victories are the ones that give you the strength to keep moving forward and closer to your ultimate goal.

Winter Break at "sunny" Puerto Rico

This past semester was quite intense and tiresome, so I was really looking forward to getting some time-off to go home for a much needed vacation. I am from Puerto Rico, so going home during the Winter break enables me to escape Bloomington’s cold weather and jump into Caribbean’s sunny and hot winter weather! (or so I thought). My plan was to visit my family and friends, as well as the beaches in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, the entire time I was home, the sun never showed up! Additionally, I spent most of the time working, even though, I did manage to spend some time with my family and friends, sleep 10 hours a day, and eat all those delicious home-cooked meals that I have missed so much.

Anyway, the highlight of my stay at home was being able to celebrate my birthday with my loved ones. Overall, my winter break, although short, was great and a wonderful way to recharge for 2011!!