27 and a PhD

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Making figures and scared like sh*t

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.

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So the good news is that … well, there are a couple of good things to tell.

  1. My first author paper got accepted .. whoa!
  2. I’m just a chapter away from finishing the bulk of the thesis (but then the touch ups, meetings with grad school people for formatting, etc, need to happen).
  3. My PI (principal investigator, boss, mentor, you name it, the big kahuna of the lab) liked the figures I spent 2 weeks working on, yeeepeee, just some minor corrections and additions need to be incorporated.
  4. I don’t have swine flu!

Let me explain each point.

  1. The paper – a requirement in this school (and as far as I know, all other PhD granting institutions) is that in order to defend your thesis work you *must* have a first author paper. This paper chronicles the experiments and results of some original piece of work you’ve done towards completing your thesis and you *must* appear as the first name in the list of authors. I’ve been blessed enough to collaborate in other papers and be named an author, but those publications had two problems (a)- I was not a first author and (b)- they were completely unrelated to my thesis, thus my thesis committee did not like the fact that though I’m a published author, I did not have a first author publication. This is very important as in order to defend I need to have that paper accepted or published. After many trials, drafts, doing and re-doing last week, while recovering from #4, my PI called me to tell me that the paper we’d submitted had been accepted. I was in disbelief as I have been in this lab for almost 5 years and I had seen the struggles of other people to publish. The trials and tribulations they’d experienced made me feel cautious and skeptical of the whole thing. And it was very humbling that after just 3 days of having received our revisions for the paper, tackling them and submitting it, last Monday at noon we had a positive! Truly a miracle.
  2. I’m working on my aim 2 chapter. My thesis work consists of 2 aims (and some side projects though those don’t get to be included in a formal chapter, they’ll appear as appendices) and I am writing the chapter dealing with my second aim which has been finito (in terms of experiments) for a while now, but since I was dealing with department seminars, illness, I had put off writing it. The truth is that I’m scared of finishing it because it means that a whole new set of hurdles will unfold. Setting up meetings, setting up or scheduling my defense, having my family over (which is not terribly stressful, but still, it adds up in the end). I’m scared of this. It also means that it’s final and that I won’t have any money until I pack up my things and start working ASAP in my new lab, gulp!
  3. This one is cool because my boss went on to a European vacation and she asked me to get the figures for that chapter ready. I was scared of showing her the figures, not because I doubt my figure-making talents, but because at this point I don’t feel like doing many revisions and I would love *not* to spend most of my day doing figures, typing angles in programs to display and orient my data, etc. In the end the product is beautiful, but it gets exhausting!
  4. I went on a mini-vacation or stay-cation last week since I got sick. I attribute it to the lack of rest due to all the stress and of course, since we share quarters with a hospital, germs are to be expected everywhere, everyday. I was scared as I thought that because of the symptoms I was presenting it was the H1N1 flu. I thought I was dying. But some well deserved rest, lots of soups and veggies and anti-viral and anti-mucus medicines helped me get rid of it. I was scared that things would be even more delayed thanks to the cold/whatever I had. But my mom said, “honey, you’ve worked your tail off, you need to stay home, forget about the lab, and the stuff that needs to be done and rest, drink plenty of fluids, rent some movies and the hell with the world.” This was very reassuring as my mom is a bit OCD about perfect attendance and not missing lab or classes. My poor daddy was scared because he hates it when I get sick and apparently my mom was a bit tragic in her account of how I was feeling (strange because it’s usually the other way around). But all I have now, almost 2 weeks later, is a bit of a cough and lots of energy for ending this thesis.

Now I must go back to work, but I just wanted to vent, let my feelings and fears out for the interwebz to see, in hopes that others might read and share their wisdom. Must go now, ta-ta!

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