I lie awake listening to the soothing waves lapping against my hull. This, I reflect, is the way to attend a scientific conference.

Restful. Harmonious. Cheap. This tiny boat docked in the marina is running my PI only $54 a night, less than a third of the nearby Sheraton. Plus, there’s a shower in the clubhouse. What more does a grad student need?

Of course, my lab-mates teased me for foregoing continental breakfasts, room service, and climate control in favor of a “room” too small to stand upright in. But what can I say? I paddle to the beat of a different drummer.

The conference is going well. I’ve given my talk. They even stuck a ribbon to my poster (very gratifying, though the monetary award is better). I’ve eaten the boxed lunches and drunk so much coffee I could thread a running sewing machine.

I wake early for last conference day. I’m not a morning person, but the rising sun beaming through the porthole forbids dozing. I duck through the low cabin door and stretch my limbs on the bow. Not a soul around; just me and the Pacific.

Dutifully, I check my e-mail. Spam. Ads. Seminar notices. Then, one from the journal. I’m awake now. “Congratulations,” it reads. “Your manuscript has been accepted for publication…” My first first-author paper. Waves of hope wash over me. I’m going to graduate. I’m not going to be a seven-year PhD student after all.

I set out for the convention center full of renewed energy as the day brightens. But not, of course, before stopping by the yachtsmen’s club for a shower.

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