November 25, 2012

Countdown to India + semester accomplishments

(In Uttarakhand, India, this September, hiking down to visit some farmers)

While I've been neglecting this blog for a while, I'll be back blogging soon about a major project in my life-- my 6-month journey to India for my research. I'm leaving January 5th, 2013, bound for New Delhi. I'll use this blog to update my friends, family, and internet-friends from afar about my personal journey as well as my research-related insights and experiences.

In related updates, this semester has been full of ups and downs with stress/anxiety and progress/excitement over my research. And although I'm a somewhat modest person, I'd like to take a moment to recognize that I've accomplished a lot-- in fact looking at the list, more than I would expect anyone else to accomplish and still maintain sanity (which might explain some things...).
  1. Successfully defended my research prospectus and passed without edits! This makes me an official PhD candidate and also a very happy person.
  2. Went on a 75-mile victory bike ride!
  3. Spent 2 weeks travelling in northern India, meeting international scientists and my host organization in Delhi.
  4. Co-coordinated 400-ish volunteers for the Tempe Tour de Fat and raised around $72,000 for local bike-related non-profits. Also led the largest team of beer-pourers.
  5. Co-directed GISER, a interdisciplinary graduate student organization at ASU.
  6. Ran a 5K to support Arijit and the Poop Strong crew.
  7. Learned to edit articles for the Embryo Project.
  8. Started to learn हिन्दी
  9. Took a weekend vacation in Austin to visit my former roommate.
  10. Hosted my mom and explored Tempe for a week.
  11. Spent time with my lovely friends in Tempe.
  12. Stayed on top of the research and logistics details necessary for a 6-month trip to India (of course, I'll find out soon enough whether I am truly prepared...).
So right now I'm finishing up my semester and prepping for India. Moving out is going to be a pain, but packing shouldn't be too difficult since I know the essentials from my 3-months in Bangladesh several years ago. In India I'll wear mostly Indian-style clothes, which are long shirts called a kameez and scarfs with mostly Western-style pants. I hope to look professional, although fashion won't be a priority for me in the next few months. My goal is to look professional and to be respectful towards the culture.

Research note: In an effort to alert my non-academic followers to parts they can skip, I'll mark my research-related updates like this. So for those interested (academic or not) in what my research actually is, I'll be doing a mostly historical study of wheat research in northern India. I'm taking the time period of 1965 to present and I'm tracing the major themes in wheat research during this period. The mechanics of this will involve spending time in several agricultural research libraries around Delhi and the adjacent state of Haryana and interviewing key administrators, scientists, extension offices, and farmers. I'll also likely be doing a survey of plant breeders. The specific topics I'm interested in are the connections between wheat breeding, the adaptation of wheat varieties to different climates and agroecological conditions in India, and farmers' adoption of such varieties. Obviously I hope to connect all of this to climate change, and I have more than a few hunches that I'm on the right track to look at the history of climate/plant breeding connections. In particular, I'm wondering whether breeding crops for wide geographic areas makes them more or less likely to be adopted, and what role farmers play in the process of plant breeding. I'm also interested in what drives scientists towards certain paradigms of plant breeding for "wide" versus "specific" locations/climates, and how these themes are playing out in discussions of climate change.