Getting pushed out of my comfort zone, and what I see at the other end of this dark tunnel is light… I could almost here a whisper of someone saying “she’s crowning!!!”  No, I’m not talking about my birth, and no I’m not talking about giving birth.  The only way to describe one of my  “a-ha” moments about ecological mathematical modeling utilizing statistical programs was to use the metaphor of birth.  I’d been in a place of comfort for so long about some of my research, yet knew there was something much more beyond the “cozy sack” of data that I had.  Then one day I was introduced into disease mathematical modeling- it was absolutely stimulating to me as oxytocin, or the “hormone of love and labor contraction.”  As I started to become more familiar with modeling and figuring out the awesome models I could possibly create with my alligator-parasite data, it was like their was an increase of oxytocin ultimately leading to an increase of excitement (like contractions…).

I decided to take a ecological mathematical modeling class to help guide me through the process of creating a model with my
alligator-parasite data.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy- it included math which had become a sworn enemy for years, and learning the language of computer statistical programs.  The first couple of weeks were tough- my oxytocin/adrenaline levels decreased due to frustration, obviously making the experience long, tough and lingering.  However, while the rest of the US was glued to their TVs watching Superbowl, I was glued to my computer trying to figure out some mathematical problem sets.  Finally, an epiphany came- I began understanding the language of math and how to use software to graph the concepts of ecological modeling, how ecosystems work!  My adrenaline shot up and I saw the light!!!!!!!  However, I am still no expert or extremely comfortable with the whole process, thus why I told some fellow grad students, “It’s as if I’m just crowning from the birth canal of mathematical modeling!”  (And now you all know one of my nerd moments).  Maybe by the end of the quarter I will have a feeling from endorphins, but right now I’m just happy to finally peak my head into the world among math modelers!

I think I can speak for most (if not all) grad students that our graduate career is full of these moments and feelings:  stupidity, excitement, frustration, euphoria, confidence!  It’s definitely an emotional roller coaster, but damn it feels good when we finally nail something!  Waiting for the day someone comes up to me and says, “Marisa, you can now call yourself a proficient mathematical modeler, what are you going to do now?”  A possible response, “I’m going to Disneyland…then sipping a damn good whiskey!”