Academic Diary 2022

Monday, May 9, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

I took photos of different things I saw at the SPAA offices. Here is my collection for the 2021-2022 Academic Year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

I have a lot on my mind to write about. Many wonderful things happened this semester. For example, I presented my first paper ever paper at the UAA 2022 Conference in Washington DC last week, which was my first conference experience ever. It was such a fantastic experience. But today I am going to write about something else.


I had to prepare a class presentation for one of my classes this week. However, I couldn't manage to do it as I spent last week in DC. I was freaking out. So, I emailed the instructor and asked her to let me not present in class and reduce my grade. Her reaction to my email was all a life lesson that I will never forget. She was so kind to me and asked me to me give her a call. On the phone, she told me that my presence was so valuable to the class and everyone in class respected me very much, so she wanted to help me meet the requirements of the class. She had already emailed the AD of their department to confer with her about the situation and in that email, she had. written so many good things about me. She gave me time to prepare my presentation for the next session and asked to present my conference paper in class as it was relevant to our topic. When she wanted to call me in class to give the presentation, she respected me so much and told the students that the class was so lucky to have me that semester to present to them a paper that was presented at a national venue. This level of support and respect for a student that has underperformed in class is so inspirational. A person must have such a great soul to be able to be like this. I am going to stay up tonight to prepare a phenomenal presentation for tomorrow's class to respect back her trust in me. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to know such inspirational people. I will forever remember her in my heart.


Another thing that I would like to write about today is the method I adopted today at my class presentation. We usually start talking about week's papers and open the floor for discussions. What usually happens is an awkward silence. What I did today was that I came up with some statements that people could easily react to. For example, I ended my talk with saying that "We should always take an optimistic approach to qualitative research." The point is that reacting to such statement is so easy that people feel comfortable to start talking. And when words are out, the discussion starts. I imagine the bolder the statement, the easier the reaction would be. Consequently, the discussion begins at a faster pace.

Monday, March 28, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

This might sound childish but it felt good; so I share. At a job interview for a distinguished professor where most of the faculty members and PhD students in the department were present, I was the only student who asked a question from the presenter and I was admired for that by many people. I like how supportive people are, not just in terms of making professional progress but emotionally.

Saturday, March 19, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

I am writing a paper to present my first paper ever at the UAA Conference in DC in a month. I am so excited about it. At the same time, I have a lot of other tasks as well.

Monday, March 7, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

When we had the envelope stuffing party with Rachel and Sarah, we only got to do 20% of the job. So, I took the rest home so Gonlaz and I could have the job done. It took us 14.5 hours to stuff about 450 envelopes. Here's the result.

Friday, February 25, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

Today, Rachel, Sarah and I gathered in the conference room at Wesco to prepare 600 hard copies of the survey and 600 postcards to be mailed to local governments. We called it the "mailing party." The party went on from 2:00 to 6:30 pm but we were far from finishing the envelope stuffing. However, it was such a nice time together. We talked, we laughed, and it was a wonderful gathering. I think there should be more such gatherings that people are just themselves and connect together. This is something lacking from the lonely life of academics, I believe.


If you're wondering why we needed to do mailings, we did not get an acceptable response rate from our online survey, so, we are trying to see if mailing them out would help.


In the left picture, I am happy to have completed labeling and stamping the postcards. My eyes were supposed to be open, however, I liked to share my happy smile.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

A wise man (Steven) once (today) said, be boring and tedious in writing your methods section and explain every little detail of what you do in the process of your research.


I consulted about the projects I am doing for my classes with Rachel and it was super helpful. I was lost among the myriad of items on my to-do list and my perfectionist self wanted to do big things without knowing how to do them and without respecting the time constraint that I have in a semester. It is always wise to borrow wisdom from wise people. I name it the "W" rule of Mohsen!

Saturday, February 19, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

I read a funny tweet by Noelle, about procrastination, a few days ago. Now, I am living her tweet by reading a book about restructuring the electric system in the US instead of one about inequalities in public management that is assigned for my next class in a couple of days! :))

Friday, February 18, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

One of the many things that I love about my mentor is that she gives credit! Whenever we are in a meeting and she wants to explain a task we did together (and most of the times she has done the major part), she always talks about it as if I have been the main person in charge of the task. It is a very important personality trait that one should develop in supervisory positions. If one day I became a mentor, I will remember what a positive effect this had on me. I will give credit!

Saturday, February 12, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

I just opened a file to start drafting an outline for a paper. Surprisingly, I found that I had already developed an outline a few days ago and I did not remember doing so at all. I don't know I should be happy about this or I should be sad!

Wednesday, February 9, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

Like all the previous 22 semesters (yes, I have been in school this long!), this semester is not going to be an easy one. I think the most challenging task in school is how to handle multiple tasks on your to-do list. For instance, I am taking three courses this semester all of which are reading intensive. Besides, I need to write papers for all of them as the final deliverable. Aside from my classes, I am writing a paper for the research project that I am working on with my advisor. We are going to present the paper at a conference in D.C. in April. For this paper, I need to learn R. Moreover, I work with an undergraduate student through the Sierra Club grant that I got. I think about my dissertation and educate myself with relevant materials. There is a multitude of webinars and conferences that I am interested in participating in. I need to go to the gym to keep my body functioning. Most importantly, I am a husband at home. There are not even half of the items on my to-do list to to-think-about list. A day is only 24 hours yet. I am not writing to complain about my situation. In fact, I super enjoy what I'm doing as is. My intention for writing these words is to inform anyone who might need a hint on how PhD life might look like. It is not to intimidate prospective PhD students but to let them make an informed decision.

My tag at 2022 Career & Internship Expo, KU

Finally, I would like to reiterate some advice that I was told a number of times but is challenging to me to follow: Learn how to say no to tempting opportunities if they would distract you from the important things on your agenda.


Oh, oh, I just remembered to write about the career fair that I attended today. It was my first time going to such a place. It was held in the Kansas Union building. I decided to stop by to see how it was. So, before leaving for my Environmental Law class, I printed five resumes and headed that way. I checked in and they gave me a tag to write my name on it. I started to walk through the tables that were set for different companies and organizations. I Knew many of them. Most people had dressed formally. I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt though. Surprisingly, I was not feeling bad about my attire. I kind of felt confident. Everyone had a smile on their face (at least I assume they did behind their masks)! Most of the people greeted me. I was kind of in a hurry to go through all the booths and get back to Wesco to prepare for class. However, I enjoyed the greetings that I got while walking through the tables. The first table that caught my attention was for the City of Olathe. The next one was for the City of Topeka, Next one was a quasi-governmental housing organization. And the last one was an energy-efficiency firm. The interesting thing to me was how comfortable and confident I was when talking to the representatives of those entities. It may have been because I trusted in my diverse background in architecture, urban planning, energy efficiency, public administration, sustainability, and climate action planning and the attractiveness of such a background for local governments. Besides, the 1,000 job applications that I submitted after graduation from UIUC had prepared me for such a situation. Anyhow, it was a pretty pleasing situation witnessing how those organizations expressed their interest in my experience and asked for my resume. Since my resume was a condensed form of my CV, I told everyone that if they wanted to know more about me they could go to my personal website. You should have been there and seen the smile on their faces when they knew I had a website. I recommend developing one for yourself you don't already have one! I went back to Wesco with one remaining resume in hand. Immediately, I figured I forgot to visit the Kansas Department of Health and Environment booth. So, I headed back to the Union building and delivered the fifth resume. It was a very exciting experience for me. I could see how differently people were treating me compared to seniors who were graduating and seriously seeking jobs! It might be another reason that I enjoyed being there. I wasn't seriously seeking a job. I was just curious what a career fair looked like and I was hoping to get lucky and find a summer internship related to my research interests.

Friday, February 4, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

What I'm struggling with these days is how to manage my huge to-do list. I am taking three work-intensive courses this semester all of which require a paper as their final deliverable. In our research group, we are in the phase of writing an article to present at the UAA Conference in DC in a couple of months. Besides, I have started working with an undergraduate student under the Sierra Club grant that I got. Moreover, there are things to do at home as a husband. Everything's just too much to handle. It is not out of control yet but the commitment to all these things sounds intimidating.


Anyhow, if you are interested in reading about what we are doing with the Sierra Club grant, I keep a journal for that project which you can read at this link: Mohsen's Journal for the Energy Justice Project.

Thursday, January 20, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

It is the second day of the classes in the Spring semester for me. I had the first class on Tuesday with Steven. Today's classes are going to be with Shannon and Alan Anderson. There's a lot to do and a lot to learn. However, a lethal mistake I made in the last few days of the winter break was to start a very interesting series. Fingers crossed I can overcome the temptation to watch episode after episode and focus on my academic progress.

Friday, January 14, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

Today's lesson is that do not advertise a position in the winter break and expect people to apply for it because you are going to provide them with a stipend. People love their breaks more than they do your project and money.

Sunday, January 2, 2022 – Lawrence, KS

One of my ongoing activities is the grant that I have been trying to get from the Sierra Club to work with undergraduate students. In fact, it all started at the beginning of the Fall semester when I was wondering what opportunities would be available for PhD students to have joint activities with undergraduate students. In my mind, it was beneficial for both undergrads and PhD students. PhD students could gain mentorship and teaching experience and undergrads would gain exposure to research endeavors. I started by asking around in our school whether such programs already existed. I was advised to contact some some people out of our school as they had more experience in that area. I met with them online or communicated via email and they provided me with helpful information. At some point, I decided to look for funds to support the students that I wanted to work with. So, I started sending emails to local firms and organizations who had any kinds of connection to energy projects. I never heard from private firms but it turned out that the Sierra Club was interested in my proposal. At first, the project was very vague to me as well. Ty Gorman and I had some video calls together. We both explained what we had in mind and what our expectations were. Gradually, we both (mostly I) gained a clearer vision of what the project would look like. I asked for $1,000 but they kindly offered me $5,000. It was then that I realized what I had in mind was much more important than I even imagined. Also, I realized how much Sierra Club was determined in addressing energy and environmental justice issues. Our communications went on for a few months. I had to come up with a detailed plan for the project and Ty was working on financial aspects. To be honest, the financial aspect of the project was super complicated. We examined multiple ways to be able to run the money. At this point, I am not still clear how the financial side would work but I am optimistic that we will find a way. I contacted the undergraduate director in our school today so she can spread the news about the position. I am excited about this project. I feel like it's going to turn out a wonderful experience. At the same time, the time commitment and the responsibility of working with a student sounds intimidating. I want to go through this experience and I am positive it is a good one.