27 and a PhD

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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Because I enjoy Geeka’s blog

I have another blogger I love reading (stalk). I read her blog in a few hours and I could not stop. So, I copied something from her blog here. For you to enjoy. Because I love memes:


1. What is your favorite word? bitch

2. What is your least favorite word? republican/conservative/tea party

3. What turns you on? great hands, butt and hair … a sexy voice, an intelligent conversation and eyes that pierce the soul

4. What turns you off? bad smells, odours, bad grammar, cheating

5. What is your favorite curse word? fucker, fucktard, motherfucker …. ohhh too many to count

6. What sound or noise do you love? my nephew’s laughter, my honey’s voice in the morning

7. What sound or noise do you hate? loud noises … especially if I have a headache or I’m in a bad mood, farts, anything from foxnews

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? engineer or surgeon

9. What profession would you not like to try? pathologist, brain doctor or mortician

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? You did good my daughter, you did good

Closer to Friday … do you feel the same?

Ok, the post’s title may not make much sense at first, but please stay with me. This is important. I recently tweeted in reply to a fellow blogger’s acknowledgement that in the East Coast it is past noon, that I’m happy for this, and also, that it means we’re way closer to Friday than before.

If you know me, you know that I live for Friday’s. Come Friday afternoon, at 4:30pm and you will find me singing or tweeting about the weekend, or something along those lines. Fridays just make me friggin’ happy. As in I start altering the lyrics to “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” to things like “It’s the most wonderful time of the week, or the day, or the hour or any other time variation. Seriously.

Now, I’ve been paying attention to this for a while. I cannot remember if this started back in high school, college or grad school. Or whether this is just a reponse to how much my current area of research frustrates me. Whatever the cause, I’ve been paying extra attention to how I feel on Fridays. In a way I like it. I’m free, I can wake up the next two days at whatever time I want, I usually do not need to show to the lab, and there’s this sense of happiness that I cannot describe. Now, come Sunday … and … you can guess how I feel. Depending on my hormones, it can range from a complete state of bleh, to complaining all day long about how miserable I’m going to be on Monday, or how many meetings will keep me from doing experiments at the start of the week, etc, etc, etc.

Now, some of my tweeps love to express their love/like for Fridays too. Most of these tweeps are scientists or in some form of an career in academics.

My question is, do all of my tweeps, or readers feel the same? Even if your job is your dream job, do you find yourself enjoying Fridays more than any other day? Is this a reflection of how much I/you dislike working? Or do we all feel “trapped” in a way, even if we currently work at our dream job, and thinking about friday afternoon serves as a common escape? Do you believe in “dream jobs?” If you currently love where you work, or your type of work, do you find yourself extra happy when Friday afternoon rolls in, even while working in Dream Lab/Uni/Company?

I’m always obsessed about being and feeling “normal.” I’m asking these questions because I’d really like to get a general feel/sense for how others feel regarding the weekend, especially if they/you are in a place/situation/job that you define as your most desirable setting. Any thoughts?

Immediate plans

Whoa, I’m on a roll. 3 posts in the last 3-4 days. Awesome! With much encouragement from my tweeps, a few emails and comments I’ve decided to step up the job search. Like I said before, I’m not happy with the choice I made a year and a half ago, so I want/need to move on. I ache to find some stability. There are different factors that are pushing this move. To name a few:

A) I thought I wanted to go the academic route … because that was what I was encouraged to do, but honestly, I do not see myself, for now, busting my ass to get a TT job. I LOVE science, but I also love to train people, I really enjoy that aspect. But I do not feel adequate enough, or interested enough in applying and getting a TT position now. I needed to be very honest with myself, and TT is not what I want to be now. I fooled myself into thinking that doing a postdoc would help me figure out what I wanted to do in life. It has, but I also needed to so a LOT of soul searching, and I had been avoiding it for way too long (try, since I entered college over 10 years ago!). I wouldn’t mind teaching. I have great ideas on how to make science more interesting, and approachable and tangible for students. And with no project to take with me, and no inspiration to go the TT route, it is better for me to leave that to those people passionate enough and sure enough to do all the work needed to convince a university to hire them.

B) I need a lot, a LOT, of structure around me. This basically means that I need to work in a small environment, with fewer distractions, and a boss that pays attention and is directly involved in checking in and giving me feedback regularly. I definitely miss my old micromanaging boss (I never thought I’d say that, but there it is), mainly because I knew where I was standing and I knew if I was doing right or not. In my current environment I have yet to learn how to read the boss, and I don’t get much interaction, unless I look for it. I get it, I’m a postdoc and nobody is going to baby me. But I need to be sure of when and where I am standing, and above all, I miss the regular feedback, so I’m looking into a place where I get that, evaluations and direct interaction/supervision with the boss/manager. This is another point that this soul searching period has revealed.

C) I truly enjoy working with computers, and I have yet to get to that stage in my project. I’m going to try and nut-up and push forward mercilessly, but I don’t think I’ll be getting any time on a computer processing data soon. Because I am so comfortable around computers, I probably want to focus my job search on that and play-up on my abilities, and forget about doing bench work. Bench work, plain and simple is NOT for me, and not something that I need/want to do everyday. When I came for my interviews, one of the profs said he was very impressed by the intense focus of my PhD lab in computers, and it was very evident from how I presented and how much I had been able to accomplish by solely working on computers. Although am not a card-carrying computer-geek, I do know how to do my shit around those circuit-filled babies, so I will play up that part.

D) I’ve had this internal war between staying in academia and switching to industry. See, for me big corporations as a hassle. I do not hate them, but I am not very happy with many of the ways they find to screw up the workers (my mom was a production manager who got the boot, very cowardly, via some of her lazy co-workers). The impact on the environment, and above all, the way that some companies push forward, to get that “magical” compound out so that they beat the competitors to get it on the shelf, then a few months, or years later it is shown that such compound wasn’t really better than the existing ones, or that it killed X amount of people due to a “tiny” mistake, those things piss me off like you have no idea. But there are smaller biotech companies, especially around my area, who appear to align with what I believe. So those offer an option and I am looking into that. Industry may not be as scary, or unattainable as I made it seem in my mind.

E) Finally, the BF and I want to go back  and be close to where our families are (funny enough, our parents live in the same area), so I am starting to gather info on job possibilities there too … and sending applications their way. I’ve been intensely looking into some of the offers, and they do not seem to affect, or be in conflict with my values and ideals.

In conclusion, much like those 40 or 50 emails I sent out when I was moving to Canada, I am not shying away from sending 30 applications to different companies/places. I cannot settle for the only thing that appears, I need to be able to align what I like and can do with a place of work that offers that, and not just cross my fingers and go wherever the first desperate offer appears. I learned many other skills while in grad school, and even if I have to kiss goodbye the technique or system I studied during my PhD, if I can learn something new, and offer my expertise in something I know, that’s where I really want to be. Who knows what’s ahead. I’m applying or at least looking into several different areas, from computers, to publishing, to writing, to education. This time I am making an informed choice as to what, where and whom I am (hopefully) working for.  I’m in a much better mood … and I am NOT backing out of this.

For now, at least for this weekend

I shall not speak ill of my place of work, the people in it, my co-workers, boss or departmental neighbours. I am not trying to keep a positive attitude, but I am not speaking ill of anyone. All the frustrations from work marinate in my mind and heart every living, breathing second. It can’t be good for me. This too shall pass, and for now, for the next 48 hours I will not speak ill, or mention my work, labmates, boss …. or anyone from school for that matter.

I usually don’t have big plans for the weekend (other than the scheduled trip to a film festival, or going to the farmer’s market), but I do plan on prepping a batch of spring rolls, which are a)amazingly easy to make, and b) give me a happy purpose, since I love washing, cutting, organising and putting all the ingredients together to make a yummy dish, or appetizer. I do have one mission this weekend, to find a perfect sauce to go with them, but not something sweet. I want something slightly spicy, but not burning-hot. I want to be able to savour each flavour. Yum!

If you have any ideas, or any recipes to make a yummy, spicy, non-sweet spring roll sauce, please share 🙂

Thank you, and thanks for the kind words, DMs and tweets. It’s nice to see that I am not alone and that others have found a way to figure what to do, and how to change for the better.

And it keeps me awake

Things keep me awake at night. I am sure more than one scientist gets this. Or you’ve had a partner who does. After my defense I thought I’d be able to sleep better. Since I kept working right after my defense (as in, I was back in the lab less than 24 hrs after my defense) I was still carrying the stress from that. And since I only took 7-10 days (or so, I can never do the math right) between grad school and postdoc, I never really got to wind down, go back to ground state, then get back up on the science horse.

Ever since the second of third month of work at my current lab (postdoc lab) my stress levels have been through the roof. Not only did I had to read and learn a gazillion things in a matter of weeks days, and get my hands dirty and …. deal with a ton, I mean, a TON of gossip.

I hadn’t been in the lab for a full  month when I started hearing rumours afternoon after afternoon about who had a beef with whom (and after that it magnified to lengths you would not imagine). Who didn’t like the boss, who worked his/her tail off, yet never got the recognition they deserved, or their 1st or 5th paper published. Or how it seemed as if nobody except the lab’s tech got the boss to expedite things no matter how many time you asked the boss directly to do it. I thought this was normal since I know that when tons of people are put together in close quarters, drama is bound to happen.

What surprised me was how soon it started. How soon I was in all the “juicy” details about how X has a beef with Y, Y is against the whole lab because of a misunderstanding with B, B is the boss’s favourite … and, you catch the drift. Or how this person who was the labs fave for who knows how long is going to come back and take my job, or the other postdoc’s job because he/she knows how to get shit done and all I am is a mess (these are pure speculations from a person in the lab, who I think gets a sick pleasure of telling others what to do with their time, and speculate on how many people will leave/join the group).

For the record, I did inform the boss, in more than one ocassion about my shortcomings, and how I had tried doing some of the basic stuff  they did and it really never really worked. And how I had published papers in a lab that was basically a factory of structures, where other people (techs, or postdocs) made samples, studies them by non-structural methods, and left the structural goodies for us to figure out. I do not hate bench science, I just can’t deal well with it everyday, and the troubleshooting (cloning, transformation, which IMO should be done by the lab’s own tech).

In the midst of all this, several people defended their thesis, and moved on to good paying jobs south of the Canadian border. There was a good amount of shuffling around and now I share my quarters with 2 people, one of  them who I shall refer to from now on as the emotional-terrorist. This person, like I said, not only has time to do his/her experiments, but also has time to tell others what and when to do things, and criticize their work, and guesstimate how long will the boss take to figure out how inadequate we are before we are kicked out (most of the time is just reserved for me). This person phrases the “judgements” as advice, as in, “when such and such were here they got a paper out in less than a year, and they worked day and night and got so much accomplished, you ought to be able to do the same.” To which I reply, I am trying my hardest and best, but it isn’t always easy, especially when you have not touched or seen this equipment/techniques …. ever. This keeps me awake, and causes me to question, at my every waking moment if I’m meant to be a scientist. I also question whether I am being fair and balanced in criticizing the lab when this person is obviously the one that may make me feel as if the whole lab was hating me. It keeps me up at night.

I’m struggling with these feelings of inadequacy, of not belonging, of realizing that I may not be as passionate about science as I once thought I was. That keeps me awake.

The fact that my project is stalled. And that everytime I need to grow something, even after taking all the precautions, it fails, or when it does, my yield is so low it’s barely visible on a chromatogram. This keeps me awake.

The thought that the boss might hate me, and might be/is questioning why the hell did he listen to friend of friend of friend to bring me here … that keeps me awake.

Knowing that my parents are struggling, and because I cannot send them money because I am swamped with my own debts. That keeps me awake.

The thought of being a horrible GF, a terrible partner … it keeps me up. The not being grateful for who I have next to me, and how his sweet eyes meet mine and melt all the crappiness of my day, yet I return this favour by criticizing the lab, and the way it’s managed at every moment. The thought that he might/will leave me because of all this negativity. That fucking keeps me up.

The fact that I let this person in my lab talk shit about how I am not productive, and how the boss has fired others for less …. keeps me awake. You betcha.

The fact that I hate confrontation, and cannot begin to describe the rage it produces in me for not being able to stand up and say that if I had half of this person’s data I would not be blogging mid-afternoon and I’d be applying for several conferences …. that keeps me up. The fact that I hate to ask for help, yet I’ve followed almost every tip that has been given to me by the people who’ve worked on the fringes of my project. That keeps me awake.

Those things and more keep me up. It’s sad, and my body aches for it. All this stress, all these feelings of inadequacy. All of them cause me to feel low and worthless. And to think that I am not made for anything other than what I did before, and nothing else will succeed like what I did before. All this, and more, keeps me up.

The common factor in all this is me. And it makes me feel like a sucky person. Like an incompetent, an idiot, not worth of a job, and only worth of pity and pitiful looks from my co-workers. That …. all that … keeps me up and struggling. This is why I don’t know if quitting and trying my hand at something else will be the answer. And it keeps me awake, and in fear.

What’s new

So peeps, what’s new you may ask? With so much negativity in the last posts I really need/ed a pick-me-up or something. I’ve been trying to juggle 20 things at a time. I joined the gym to try to get some quality time with the BF  while taking care of our bodies. I’ve been trying to work on a better attitude, but that isn’t going great. I’ve tried to keep my options open and not let my current job situation put me down, but it’s hard when every single experiment I’ve done for the last month has not been working … like.at.all. I’ve been intensely looking at jobs, specifically that use my old trusty grad-school talents, and some newly discovered ones (more on that below). I’ve applied to 5 places so far, two of them have been offered to other people, one didn’t bother to reply, one (possible one, nothing final) I had to turn down due to time constraints and one where I got an interview. That last one was/is my hope for now, but I was told that although I was a good fit, it may not happen because of a merger and they may shelve the job until further notice.

Yes, the job market for is very, very bleak. And things aren’t looking too bright these days. I’ve had a lot of doubts, anything from my smarts, abilities, interests to why/what am I doing on God’s green Earth. Seriously, it’s been brutal.

Due to all these events, and my constant frustration, I decided to take the strong interest test and the personality one (you know, the one based on Jung). I got the results today. They are both encouraging and scary. Science is still one of my highest interests (I’m somewhat surprised, given how  much I’ve been hating it lately), along with computers (something that sort of surprised me, in a very pleasant way). My artsy side, which I cultivate through endlessly browsing Etsy and getting inspired scored low, as low as my interest in sports and business (that last one is true because if I was an accountant/business something or anything business/marketing related I’d probably get a brain hemorrhage).


This weekend

I barely had a wink of sleep. On Saturday the BF woke me up at 6am because he was not feeling right. After taking a walk (in freezing cold weather) he seemed to be doing better. Then, after lunch we had to go to the ER. He had a series of panic attacks, mainly due to grad school. After checking that everything was well we were sent off with a prescription for a tranquilizer, and an appointment to see a psychiatrist about these anxiety issues.

Since I get VERY protective of the people I love, I went into a mothering mode, and much like my own mom did when I was sick, I spent every second worrying that he’s wake up in the middle of the night with yet another panic attack. Luckily is hasn’t happened again, and he’s been taking the tranquilizer every night, and yesterday we finally had a more or less full night of sleep.

In addition to that I’ve had a series of dreams regarding what to do with this postdoc. On Friday I came to the realization that part of the reason I hate my current job is because I spend way too much time bored. Why you may ask. Well, because I am not good with the techniques I’m using, and I honestly don’t really care for them. I am as far away from doing structural biology as one could get, and it is/was wearing me down. On Thursday we had a long overdue talk. I didn’t mention my current plans of looking for a job elsewhere. And we did address the issue of me getting the heck out in less than 8 months. So, he finally realized that the project I was originally put in requires a grad student with 5 years-worth of time to do and that it would have been better all along to assign a quick project to get me going and  then see how I did. Needless to say he asked me to a)work more, b) give up on that pesky project with I’ve been working half-heartedly on for well over a year and c) we’ll get my hand dirty with structure determination by 2 methods, which are quick to do and generate a boat-load of data. Now, I should be excited about this, but somehow I’m not. It may be because my heart is far gone from this type of work, or because apparently, everything I touch in this lab turns into shit. Hence my hesitation.

But there’s a bigger issue, which I do not know how to solve. Last week I contacted a person I met through a friend back in grad school. Said contact just started his lab and is looking for a postdoc in my previous area of expertise, ie. the technique I loved and did well in grad school. I was inquiring about his need for a postdoc, and he replied, very graciously that my CV and the names of 3 referees would be greatly appreciated. Here’s where things go …. well, I don’t know, iffy. I know that in less than 8 months the BF will be out of school and looking for a job. The state of this new lab is far away from our target area … by almost an entire continent (kidding, but I’m just illustrating my point). I don’t know whether is it worth abandoning everything, if I know I’ll be in need of a job in a different geographical area sooner rather than later. Do I just suck it up and hope I don’t get fired even if things continue to go downhill here? After having lunch with the BF today he seemed So excited about me learning this new struct. bio technique. And if I do learn it well, it will make my resume stellar. But what if I again, fail in this? Do I hope for the best, dust off the failures and try to ace this? I don’t know. I guess, part of me wants to keep on going. And I know that this current situation has an expiration date. Do I venture into the unknown, go deeper in debt to try to get back to my roots?

So, I promised this contact that I’d have my CV and referees ready early this week. I don’t know what to write back. I’d hate to turn down a possible good opportunity, but at the same time, I don’t want to go through all the trouble knowing that in a few months I’ll be off. I do not want to burn bridges. I guess that having all these unknowns means I have to dig deep and really ask myself what do I see or how do I see myself in 3, 5 or 10 years down the road. At this point I am ready to forget all about academia, and try something new. This is solely based on my current postdoc situation. I do not want to do 2,3 or 4 postdocs and then still not have a clue about what I want for my future.

So, these are the things that are currently the subject of countless hours of thought and search, and questions, and lack of sleep.

On a good note, I am going back to the gym today. So hopefully all these things will not affect my tiny drive to take care of my physical health and start losing weight. At this point in my life all I ask is for one small victory, just one.