27 and a PhD

Home » Grad school » To quit or not to quit … that is the question

To quit or not to quit … that is the question

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.


March 2010
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Sorry for the hiatus. It’s been SO crazy lately. I almost walked into my boss’s office last week as I was having one of those weeks where not only the PMDD was acting up, but also my protein and equipment were driving me crazy ( I was very close to calling it quits).  But this entry is not about me. I’m staying with my job (and crossing my fingers that it will get renewed pronto) but some peeps around me (or the blogosphere) might be venturing into the unknown, and quitting or forgetting about getting their contracts renewed. .

I can’t go into too many details as things are yet to come full circle, but a few months ago I met this lovely postdoc who turns out is just going to be around for a few months while her hubs is looking for a permanent position anywhere they’ll have him (and her). New postdoc is very nice, friendly, from a similar geographical (grad school) area and …. she’s in trouble. Not because of something she did, but because of the group she joined. New postdoc friend appears to be very happy and responsible, BUT her boss is being less than firendly. Mean boss is driving new postdoc friend crazy. So after much talk back and forth and some talks with new and old department chairs she might be leaving her job soon. I feel for her, for very many reasons. As a female, educated in the US, prolific author and new to the department many aspects unite us (except that my boss is “da bomb” and hers is … well, less than nice). Not only is mean boss nasty (and bad mouths the entire lab against the other) but also mean boss is very stingy, to the point where people go into other labs to beg (BEG) for reagents and pippetors (peeps, it is bad).

And this whole situation has got me thinking. About when to call it quits, when you get fired or when you’re simply done and need to move to a different pasture. I can’t say that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been (as a new postdoc in a completely unrelated field as that of my thesis I find this changing and adapting a little bit more than challenging), but I’m trying to learn and process and do things faster and keep myself moving and being productive (others might not see it that way, or so I’ve heard).

I’ve been in this position for almost a year (well, a little less, but who’s keeping the score?). And I’ve heard some of the best and worst advice about staying or quitting in the last few weeks (yes, problems with mean friend’s boss have stretched out for almost a month!). It’s gotten me thinking about what to do and how to refer to this period of time in which you’re transitioning and how to explain it (or not) to future emplyers. Postdoc friend has been at her current position for a little over 2.5 months. Technically she doesn’t need to justify or refer to this time, she might simply say it was something on the side (but I don’t know what’s worse, lying about a previous job or saying you quit because you’re previous boss was/is a nagging bitch). Anyways, the point is that I think my friend has endured enough. If I were her I’d be gone by now. It appears as if she’s tried every single trick and tip to negotiate a better attitude from her boss and she’s yet to see any changes (for the best).

I wish her well, and I certainly hope that she moves on to a bigger and better future, but it’s truly gut-wrenching when you see young, talented, driven people treated the way she is without the department taking a stronger stand and (possibly) getting some counseling so that mean boss can fix her was. Just so you know, if new postdoc friend goes, she’s going to be the 4th or 5th postodoc to leave said group, and overall the 6th or 7th person to get the hell out.



  1. leigh says:

    a lab with that kind of turnover/dropout rate doesn’t sound like a good place to advance your career anyway. while there is the nice part about increased freedom in the short term as a postdoc, there is also more responsibility to yourself to get into an environment where you can achieve.

  2. 28 and a PhD says:

    Thanks for stopping by Dr. Leigh. Yes, I agree. Another postdoc in my lab and I (along with a grad student) have been telling her that for her mental and physical health she needs to get out, especially since she doesn’t need this PI’s recommendation. She’s been acting kinda slowly and is waiting to “be fired” so her pay extends for a little while after she leaves. It’s a shame cause this girl is very, very smart, very capable, but her talents can’t be fully used in that kind of environment.

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