27 and a PhD

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Monthly Archives: September 2010

Prada shoes, lab attire or why do I dress like a soccer mom

I do not dress like this ... always ... but I do

The BF and I have been going to bed SUPER late. But it’s not because of that … you and that filthy mind of yours. Well, we’ve had some really awesome conversations regarding us, our future and my job frustrations. I’ve mentioned before that I am overweight. That isn’t changing any time soon due to money, and some issues with my feet. The BF now understands  my frustrations better. My frustrations with the lab, the research and what goes on in this little pretty head of mine.

But this entry is not about that. Well, not exactly. Part of the reason I am depressed is that due to the overweight, and that fact that I work with acid (ie. I made a buffer every 2-3 days, and not just 1L, but tons of it) I dress like a slob.  I do not want to damage whatever amount of decent, “brand name” clothes I have by spilling HCl, or bacteria, or gel stain on me (which I’ve done, trust me, especially the stain). I am a responsible lab member, and I wear goggles and a filthy lab coat whenever I’m making buffers or dealing with cell cultures. Most of the time, at least.

With that said, I cannot begin to understand why is it that some of my fellow lab members, and department mates wear nice clothes, shoes or jewelery to their lab. I would not wear my 2-carat diamond and platinum ring. Nor would I wear a nice pair of Guess jeans, or a gorgeous 180$ Club Monaco blazer.

I cannot begin to wrap my head around why guys and girls at my school (and apparently other schools too) wear stuff that is fresh off the runway. Really. I mean, it’s good to take pride in your appearance. It helps to boost self-esteem, helps you look cute and overall looks better than tapered pants and pair of kicks from the Zach Morris’ era.

But, why is it that Abercrombie it not enough? Why is it that my labmates seem to manage to wear Guess Jeans, and a pair of 120$ flats, and a 70$ Banana Republic “basic” top to grow 12L of E. coli, or prepare 2x 6L of Tris HCl + glutathione pH 7.8? It baffles me. (more…)

A dream

As you know I’ve been feeling pretty darn low these days. I’ve felt worse than when I failed the qual … seriously. I’ve been beating myself over and over again for not being  a fantastic scientist, for not being thankful about the job I have now (I blame this partly on my catholic upbringing, this martyr mentality you know) and being close to my honey. Most of all I feel pathetic about  not pushing myself further, or removing myself from the lab sooner. The boss is out for the week due to a conference, and I don’t know what to do once he’s back. I don’t know if he’s pissed off by my inability to carry out some experiments he left me to do in his absence or whether he’ll take it in patiently and let it run its course.

I wrote an email to a dear friend from grad school who suggested I go back to my roots and apply for jobs directly related to my former disciple. That sounds tempting, sadly there aren’t jobs like that in my current geographical area. I’ve been scouting the web for hours on end (due partly to those 5 pesky columns I ran this week) trying to do a soul search at the same time I search for a job, in something that sounds remotely like what I used to do.

There are some of those jobs, but in the UK, Australia and maybe even one in Germany. I don’t want to go that far. At least not now. (more…)

Traveling nightmares, or why is United Airlines against me? – Part 5

Y’all, here’s the last installment of my United Airlines saga while coming back to Canada after my wonderful Spanish vacation. This concludes my rant on how much united airlines sucks … but it may not be the last. Because they suck. And I fall over and over again in their trap (for now I don’t have anything planned, but just in case).

For your entertainment:

I barely make it to my connecting flight to DTW with  a mere second to spare. At this time I’m 100% sure my bag didn’t make it. And I am in the same state of mind as on that Christmas morning 2 and 4 years ago. But I am also hungry. I decide to take UA’s offer of a complementary can of pop and that injects some much needed sugar into my bloodstream. When I make it to DTW it is after 10pm and I head down to baggage claim, crossing my fingers that my bag, by some miracle, has made it. But it didn’t. And now I have to head to the UA baggage claim office and file a form to try to get my bag delivered to Canada (which I’m not sure how that’s going to happen seeing as .. you know, there’s a border and stuff and UA, in my book, has a terrible communication record within their company and others). I meet this very serious blond woman, who files the paperwork and tells me that maybe my bag will make it tonight. This is the first glimpse of concrete hope I get on this hellish day. She scans the sticker that contains my bag’s info and sees that at least it made it to Chicago, but there’s no telling when or if it will come tonight. I lucked out in that there was one last flight getting to DTW via Chicago and my luggage made it.

I ended up spending well over 12 hours at different US airports due to UA’s lack of communication and care for its customers. I cannot believe that a trip that would normally take less than 8 hours turned into this tale of delays and excuses. I am still in shock at how stupid I was be to try and give UA a chance to make amends.

The height of my trip was when my luggage made it to DTW. I finally got to Canada the next morning, when I was supposed to head back to work (but of course couldn’t because I had not had an ounce of sleep). The whole experience, or shall I call it ordeal, has now left its print. And I’ve sworn I’ll never get on a UA flight, or plane, or even purchase a ticket with US Airways (which has a better track record) if it has me checking in at the UA desk. It ain’t happening.  I’ll try my best and fight tooth and nail against falling in that trap. I firmly believe that we all have this one company (in my case, airline), product or business that drives us nuts. For some it’s AA, for me it’s United Airlines. The only two people I found worth my time were the lady that checked me in my home airport and the serious lady at DTW. Other than that I could have had a better flying experience elsewhere. I’ve lived and learned, and I hope to never again fly with United Airlines. I’m also not recommending it to my family, friends and especially colleagues. For sure they would not make it to their scientific meetings and conferences.

Science or unemployment, where I ponder which scenario is the best

Continuing with my posts about things that drive me crazy about grad school, or make me question why the heck did I do a PhD, etc, today I’m writing about a conversation one of the grad students in the lab and I had a few weeks ago.

This girl is brilliant. She can think things through, come up with a very clever experiment, go for it from DNA to fully-functional protein and everything in between. This girl is super savvy and can get you out of a pickle in no-time. But at the same time, she’s has her doubts about academia and what to do after she finishes her PhD. She’s aiming for a defense in early December, is planning to start a family soon, has some money and has a good list of publications.

For simplicity’s sake I’ll call her Grad-friend. Grad-friend and I share a lot of the same views on almost all things science.  She’s naturally curious and constantly asks questions about my background (science-wise) and about how I see myself in a few months once this post-doc stint is over.

I was mentioning some of the recent articles about the overpopulation of PhDs and she is in complete agreement over the amount of grad students, work, and especially job prospects that aren’t out there (unless you’re a stats wiz or a computer geek, or a neuro-awesome-freak (don’t mean to disrespect any discipline here)).

Grad-friend started college barely knowing English a little over 10-years ago and excelled in math and science. Originally a stats major, she took a bunch of electives in natural sciences, eventually switching majors. One of her profs at her previous university (one of the top 100 World Universities in the World, and one of Canada’s most prominent institutions) asked her why she did it. She said she thought science was cool, and she was thirsty for knowledge and thrilled to help find a cure for cancer or something just as awesome. Though she liked math, statistics bored her to death.  She didn’t feel as passionate towards math, as she did for science. Her prof mentioned then that she would/could make an insane amount of money as a statistician and that she may regret the switch later rather than sooner. (more…)

A 29 and a PhD poll!

Quick update! I was just reading the poll, when I spotted the “to busy.” I know this is a no-no (esp. coming from a scientist), thus I’m working on fixing it. My apologies interwebz and readers 😦

That’s right dear readers. I’m asking whether or not, as a scientist you enjoy watching CSI. I want to write an entry about why or why not like it and I’d like to see where my readers stand. The poll will be open for a month. Enjoy!

Things nobody tells you before starting grad school

I may sound like a broken record. Always complaining about grad school this, job that. Maybe I’m in a funk. Who knows. But basically that last entry about the overproduction of PhDs has given me some food for blog. Especially now that I’m done with all this thesis business and doing a postdoc.

When I started grad school I saw it as a way to have time to think about what I really wanted to do with my future. I was 21, very insecure, thinking I’d marry off some rich guy and not worry about the future, and I’d forget all about school. Mmmm, the part about finding the rich husband was only partially true ;-). But I saw it as a time to explore options. After all, there was that pesky thing called qualifying exam, so if half way through the grad school adventures I found myself liking something else I’d jump the grad school ship and move on. Or so I thought. So much for devoting time for soul-search. I like to finish what I start, so leaving grad school half-way without finishing what got me there in the 1st place was not going to be that easy.

But with all the hustle of grad school I never really sat down to think “hey, the field might be saturated and this may be all the publishing you’ll get done, you’ll have to think of something else to devote your life to if you want to be a breadwinner someday.” I was also very clear in what I liked and didn’t and I truly felt like I’d found my niche. I was happy in my little lab corner, doing cool biology and not caring about a thing. Until that glorious day in 2009 when the defense happened. (more…)