Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Back in DC... and back to school

I've been back in DC for a little over a week now, and I definitely hit the ground running as far as school, work, and wedding planning. I've had a bit of jet lag, but it makes me want to wake up earlier in the morning, which I usually hate to do - so the main side effect is that it's easier to get to work in the morning... not bad.

So I thought I'd do a series of update posts on what's going on in school, work, and wedding planning. (This one is about school.)

For school, I have three main activities: a Dynamic Modeling Course, preparing my Prospectus (the paper that defends the idea for my dissertation), and reading a long list of International Security and Economic Policy (ISEP) books and articles for my (last!) comprehensive exam.

The Dynamic Modeling course is going well, too. I have lectures Thursdays fro 1:30-4pm, and during each class the professor basically walks us through the process of building one or more models - he uses the Stella modeling program on his computer, projected onto the board. That way, we get a sense of the capabilities of the modeling software. Then we have a weekly homework that is basically to build another model on our own that uses the same functionality - it usually takes me an hour or less to do that. It's generally pretty interesting stuff, though I think it's less relevant to my dissertation than I was originally hoping. This week we have a midterm, so instead of going in to class, the professor is going to email us requirements for a specific model to build, and building it will be the test. The other major item for the class is the final project - which is a model you build related to whatever topic you're interested in to help you answer a specific question - something like modeling likely future emissions levels under various conditions - things like that.

Writing the prospectus has been going pretty well - I wrote a short outline/ draft that I sent to my two advisors for feedback. I'm hoping they can let me know if I'm on the right track, and then I can elaborate on what I already have. I think I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do for my dissertation - basically, I'm looking into why there hasn't been more international cooperation in monitoring climate change via satellite, despite numerous international efforts. There are a lot of variables that have been deemed essential, but are not being collected, and there are others that many different countries are all collecting. I'm particularly excited, because I found a database that should allow me to have some analytical aspect to my research - actually running a few regressions to say statistically what matters. I also met with some experts at the Climate Change and Satellite Center at Maryland. They mostly do technical research, but the director of the program is involved in the national and international political efforts to some extent. They gave me a lot of good information, but the main thing I was happy about was the fact that they liked the premise of my thesis, and thought it was a reasonable question to look into.

After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton Classic Editions)The last thing is reading all of those books and papers for my final comprehensive exam. This is a tough one, because it's just so time consuming, and there's no way around it. I'm basically up to date on the books I need to read, though I'm a little behind in journals. I'm hoping to write summaries of the things I've read and put them on the blog (like I did with past comps). I figure if I don't write a summary, I don't remember it that well a few months from now, and then what was the point of spending all those hours reading? So hopefully you'll start seeing summaries soon. (Right now I'm reading 'After Hegemony' by Robert Keohane.)

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