Does Switching to Geothermal Heating Make Sense?

So wondering if it would make sense to switch to geothermal heating & cooling…

Tl;dr = probably yes.

To answer this question, I grabbed and cleaned some data from Mass Energy and Environmental Affairs.  Here are the seasonal distributions of oil prices in the Boston area over the past 15 years:

oil-prices
Figure 1. Boston-area seasonal oil prices over the past 15 years. Prices are sampled weekly over the heating season, red lines are medians.

I modeled a few cases based off our oil usage in 1660 sqft and Boston-area oil prices over the past 15 years <insert piles of details & assumptions>.  MassSaves offers 0% 7 year loans and MassCEC offers a rebate.  Including these incentives, here is a snapshot of what the numbers would mean for us over a range of oil prices based on figure 1:

geothermal-vs-oil
Figure 2. Costs of switching to geothermal versus oil heating and AC.

I considered 3 cases given this model, (1) average oil price, (2) highest oil price, and (3) lowest oil price:

  1. If we switch to geothermal, against the 15-yr average oil price of $2.60/gallon we would pay $68 more per month in the first 7 years, and then break even on those extra payments 2.5 years thereafter. After the first 7 years we would only pay $58 monthly and after 9.5 years we would be saving at $194 per month compared to if we had stayed on oil.

  2. Against the maximum oil price of $4.18/gallon (which occurred between 2011-2014), we would save $65 per month in the first 7 years, and break even 1.4 years early. After 7 years we would be saving $327 per month compared to if we had stayed on oil.

  3. On the other end of the spectrum, if oil prices drop to $1.10 per gallon again (prices we haven’t seen since 2001), we would burn an extra $195 per month in the first 7 years and we could see granddoggies to the babies we don’t have yet before we break even in 27.3 years.

Since oil prices are trending upwards and unlikely to return to the lows we saw 15 years ago (considering political climate, falling prices of renewable energy, technology advances relating to energy, etc etc), it looks like switching to geothermal makes The Sense.  The only caveat is that this is so long as we can take on up to $200 per month cashflow out for the next 7 years.

References:

http://www.mass.gov/eea/energy-utilities-clean-tech/home-auto-fuel-price-info/heating-oil-price-surveys.html

http://www.masssave.com/en/residential/heating-and-cooling/offers/heat-loan-program

http://www.masscec.com/get-clean-energy/residential/ground-source-heat-pumps

Data Science is Science, Too

Two years ago today I was a Ph.D. Candidate.  I was thinking about defending and I was writing. I hoped to postdoc, or even seek nomination for a Fellows junior PI program.

Today, I hold a coursework masters degree, and I am a Data Scientist at a tech startup on Forbes 25 Next Billion Dollar Startups List.

It’s been a strange past two years.

I think someday I will be able to talk about it.  But the how of it essentially follows the story of this article: How A Dispute Led to a Grad Student’s Forced Mental Exam.

Only in my story I did not pursue any of my legal rights; I pivoted elsewhere, and elsewhere, until I landed here.  It hasn’t been easy and I still might not make it.  But today, here isn’t so bad.

On leaving academia. Hello Career?

So I just spent the past [too many] years of my life in academia at the big institutions up and down the Charles River.  And then I just did a job search and landed a job: an enormously non-trivial task summed up in one short mini sentence.

So what can I say?

Lol STEM shortage, lol higher education, lol advanced degrees, lol biomedical research.

The Problem:

There is a large gap in distribution between topics with open positions in academia and industries with open positions outside.  Consider that in life sciences (and likely others, although I am less familiar with others) the percentage of graduate students that do go on to tenure track faculty positions sits at < 10%.  That is agnostic of other factors such as how prestigious is your institution and PI or if you happen to get into the next big thing.  By and large you are > 90% likely to have a career outside of academia.

Within academia, life sciences trainees and non-life sciences trainees alike are funneled into biomedical research projects (figure 1).  Likely because biomedical research garners the most federal funding dollars plus lay public warm fuzzy feelings.  And then > 90% of those trainees finish and have to look for careers… Doing what?

Figure 1. AAAS federal funding distribution for sciences.

Apply for biopharma jobs aka “go to industry” lol.  Where hiring managers immediately pop academics’ CVs straight into the electronic trash.

They do?  But why?

Because no experience.  Because you think you’re so smart because Fancy Lineage – Prestigious Institution – All The Awards – Famous PI.

Perhaps it wasn’t this hard 10 years ago (I don’t know, but see historical trend and NIH bump in 2000), but it certainly is now.  Hundreds of life sciences trainees are applying for every open job posting :(.

So how to have a Career?

All is not lost though!  There is life!  Here are my thoughts based on my recent experience:

Get out of the bubble with the right attitude

First, the biggest barrier to entry is your attitude.

Unless you were doing something directly hot and translatable like clinical work in immune-oncology or CRISPR starting 5 years ago, you’re going to have to be adaptable and learn new things.  Your thesis topic is likely of no interest to anywhere in industry.  In fact, your thesis topic doesn’t really matter.

Your biggest marketable asset is that you are smart enough to learn and can do a project(s).  The main value of your PhD (or MS or postdoc) is technical experience that says you can do a project(s) and are smart enough to learn.

Focus on the Process, ask for help & listen

Second, ask for help with how to find a career and listen to all that advice.  Read books and career websites.  Keep asking for advice.  Advice from people out there that is, with or without PhDs.  Talk to strangers through the alumni network.  It feels awkward to ask strangers for help, but really people have all been there and are happy to give advice even if they can’t or won’t give you a job.

Take the generic advice to heart because you aren’t any better in the world than the highschool dropout looking for a job.  You’re both unemployed with little to no credible work experience (sorry, but academia doesn’t count as real work experience to most people).

And I don’t mean go to the Nature Career Expo and talk to other academics about “alternative careers”.  The point of all the talking is not exactly to find a job, but to learn how the culture out there works.  It’s crucial to learn to speak to what is considered successful out there.  Learn the language people use.  People out there will also help you understand and correctly word your transferable skills.  They can help you figure out which direction or industry you might be able to get into that is poised to do well in the future.  That direction may not be the most obvious to you and it may not have anything to do with life sciences!

Analyze and improve your process

Analyze each conversation to figure out how you can get a more favorable response in the next conversation.  The first one will be hard and likely won’t be great.  Keep revising your resume.  Improvement is a continual process.  No matter how smart, accomplished, and well-respected you were inside – you will get rejections.

Look widely and keep at it

Consider outside of biopharma.  And not just in consulting, but high-tech, medical devices, any tech, finance, law, etc.  Keep asking for help, do informational interviews, do alumni networking, learn the job titles that are appropriate for you and the career tracks within each of those industry segments, and keep at it.

Even when you feel like people are just giving you hollow cheer-leading, go ahead and take it.

All those people you know who went from your Big Name Institution to Industry Big Name Place or Big 5 Consulting and made it look easy?  Well it wasn’t easy.  They’re not telling you the half of how much they ran around, how many applications, how many people they talked to, how many follow-ups went unanswered, how many resume revisions, how many career articles read, how much practice interviewing… It’s not easy.  Everybody is just pretending (me too IRL).

Goodbye embryos, hello Future

Not sure if anyone will read this.  Maybe my future self?  But completely happy to help anyone else going through this process so feel free to ping me!

 

So what did I learn?

Self discovery.  I am what I am.  I have to be happy.  Money makes science go round.  Sit down and shut up.  The establishment is the establishment.  Take care of yourself first or you get screwed.  I love my husband.  Given my choice of husband it’s impossible to have a competitive career.  Sigh.

Be yourself.

Well there’s that

Life is strange.  How do we ever know what is and what isn’t.  What is the right thing to do?  How do we know what we choose is right or not right?  Is it right because it adheres to a set of rules?  Sigh.  What is right and what is wrong.

Reflection for the new year

I am an introvert.  I am a nerd.  I am also very smart.  I am beautiful.  I am talented in many things, and I’m generally lazy.  But obsessive compulsive.

Smart and beautiful, you would think I could have the world.

The expectation that I was going to grow up and be a doctor or do something amazing.  Everything I tried I should instantly be the best – ballet, music, math, science.

But what if I wasn’t?  What if I was?  How can I be a ballerina if I’m supposed to be a doctor?  I should quit rather than fail.  Not try to start than fail.

What if I like math and science, but don’t want to treat patients?  What if I don’t actually know what I like versus what I’m told to like?

 

 

Free Panda Cloud antivirus without ads, this is it!

Gah the ads and nag screens were driving me nuts from the free antivirus.  I was using Panda Cloud AV for years, and only in the past months there was some update and it got out of hand.

I tried switching to Avira, and a pile of other things.  I even contacted support!  I ended up back with Panda hating life, because the crap I know seemed better than the crap I didn’t know.

Well, today I have finally fixed the ads and it was so simple I don’t know how I missed this before.  Really.  It all came down to a setting with an obfuscated label.

Thanks to this PC Mag article and comment thread — really I was looking for an alternative antivirus without ads, and I just kept getting pointed back to Panda Cloud.  So I read the comments.  So happy and feeling so dumb but still so happy :).

What to do: Settings –> turn off Panda News.

panda av

Dyeing yarn! And knitting update

Long time no update on knitting projects.

I made some Westward hats, great pattern!  I plan to (and started) line hats with polar fleece so they will be soft and warm, but I hate sewing so it is very slow progress.

I have tried my hand at dyeing yarns in the past couple months and it is super fun!  It was my friend’s idea.  I’ve done it now 3 times.  It’s turned into a very scientific sort of thing with pipettes and graduated cylinders, stock solutions, and textbooks.  I don’t think I can buy dyed yarn ever again.

First time:

Second time:

Third time: