27 and a PhD

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A dream

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.


September 2010
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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.

And yesterday night, while I slept, I had a dream. I had this dream that my mom, and some other family members (which I cannot clearly remember who they were) were helping me look for an apartment in the eastern US. All of a sudden I’m transported back to my PhD lab, where I was visiting my former PI and all the new students that have joined the group. She was asking how things were going in my postdoc and I don’t know why, but I opened up and said that it was beyond frustrating. But my frustration was solely attached to the last column I ran this week, not the endless hours of frustration I’ve had due to the lack of data over the last few months. I explained to her my last experiment and then and there she asked me to show something I’d done before in the lab, a program or command, to a new student (something unusual, given that she’s never emailed or contacted me to ask such a things). As I finished we started talking again and she said “apply for the job, I’ll help you.”She just blurted it out.

This seemed a bit unusual, seeing as she would never say those words. I’m not saying she can’t say them, just that it is or would be unusual for her to say that. Previous boss was always professional, and never wanted to mix personal and work business … ever. When her father died, we didn’t even know until almost a year after. It’s not that she doesn’t care, it’s just that it isn’t that sort of relationship. I know of students and postdocs are friends with their bosses. They hang out, are in the same fantasy football league and knitting club. And though I’d like to think  that former PI and I have a good relationship, it isn’t the kind of relationship where she’d blurt out that kind of advice just because. She’d be more reflective and probably more on the side of “try harder” than “give up and move on.”

I’m torn, given that the position I’m interested in is open until the end of the month. And since one of my boss’s kid is starting school in a different province, there’s been talk he’ll extend his conference trip until the end of the month to be with his kid. Which for me it means not getting feedback on the current situation, and not being clear on whether he hates me (or my incompetence) or not. And above all, I’d hate to ask letters of reference … because I know I’ll feel like a failure. Like, if I got an interview for this job, it would mean that there’s a remote chance of moving … and that I am just not good enough to take a project (the postdoc project) from the ground and make it work. I’d hate to answer questions from my faculty at the previous school. But I also feel trapped.

In conclusion, I don’t know what to do. I guess it would be easier to just go ahead and apply and have them see and judge my CV. Give a heads up to the potential referees and cross my fingers they won’t get too curious. I always, always, listened to my previous PI’s comments, questions and feedback. I’m just wondering if it was truly her voice who told me to get out, or my gut telling me to move on.

Now, given the current job market we’re in … I’m also not sure why I seem to be so positive that I’ll be getting this job.

Well …. I hope I can find an answer before the end of the month.


  1. leigh says:

    if you don’t apply, the option is not even on the table. i hesitated before i started on the second postdoc search as well, and all i can say is that if you don’t step foot on the path, you’ll never even give yourself the chance to see what that path has to offer. good luck 🙂

    • Dr. 29 says:

      Thank you!!! As the day passed by I did a bit of soul searching and I reached a similar conclusion. It may put me in an uncomfortable position to ask for letters of recommendation, but, if I don’t apply and put a package together I’ll never know. Thanks for your comment :-). I’ll post about any and all news regarding the new job search.

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