27 and a PhD

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What’s new

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.


October 2010
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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).

On my personality part, my results were a bit puzzling, mainly they say that I like/need a LOT of structure, organization and rules to feel comfortable in my work environment (which is exactly what I am NOT getting at my current job, but did get a TON of while in grad school). Most of the jobs suggested were towards the military side (which I’m not too keen because I am a tree-hugging, peace-loving kinda gal). I have to review my results carefully and check out a couple of sites regarding the types of jobs that are more suitable to my likes/needs. This has been the most useful and “best” news I’ve gotten in a while. It helps to narrow down what I like and to focus on more specific things, that hopefully will translate into a better strategy for job searching. I’ve been doing a lot of searching on Nature/Science jobs/careers, but most of the ones that catch my eye are for tenure-track jobs. How can I get one of those, or even consider applying when a) I’m not even done with my 1st postdoc, b) I do not … I REPEAT, I do NOT have a project to carry with me, and c) I’m not so sure that establishing my own, independent, externally funded, uber successful lab is something I’m dying to get. I’d love to teach, and do a bit of research, but I don’t want my career to be dictated by whether I can get/maintain an R01 with a non-existent project.

So, for the next couple of weeks I’ll be reviewing my job-searching strategy and possibly looking into areas I never thought possible.

The BF seems to be doing better, but I’m still putting as much stress on him regarding my current job situation as I possibly can. I hate doing it, but I don’t have anyone else to confide in and that understands me as much as he does. I could look into talking to a counsellor, but having 1 clinic for over 30K faculty/students/staff means a LOOOONG waiting line to get in, and since I do not have any other type of health insurance, other than the basic provincial one (OHIP), this isn’t looking too bright.

Instead, I took the test, because having a better, more defined way to look for a job, and having a better eye on my target, I hopefully will be able to find something I like, and/or figure a way to make the best out of my time in the lab.

Which is hard on its own because sometimes I feel like my boss doesn’t really give a rodent’s behind about how my project is, or in this case, isn’t going. I also have this labmate who has an unspoken, undeclared war on everyone that doesn’t get to the lab by 7am and spends all day glued to the bench. I’m glad this person is concerned about me. But to give unsolicited advice when you don’t really know me, or understand my project’s shortcomings will piss me off like you have no idea. The boss seems to ignore me most of the time, yet offers advice when asked. I know he can’t do the work for me, but for once it would be fantastic if instead of going around, and around we could order that sequence and start fresh, or ask one of the collaborating labs for a freshly transformed stock.

I have my ups and downs. Sometimes it seems like they are mostly downs. When Sunday afternoons roll in I get mopey and sad, and by 8pm I am dreading my room because I know that once I go to sleep it will only be a few hours before I get up and have to face my constant failures and shortcomings. Good things is that the boss is limiting my projects to what has been shown to work …. when it works, and has taken off the table projects that need an awful lot of mol bio which I know, and he knows, are not part of my skills. But even then, this project is getting stalled by other things, such as low expression and/or degradation of what are supposed to be super stable components. Hence why I say that everything I touch turns to shit.

I knew coming in that mol bio, and “advanced” biochemistry skills were not my forte. I tried my hardest to give it a shot, but it just isn’t happening. I am better at collecting data, and staring at a computer for hours on end running complex scripts and issuing commands all the time, and debugging things than I am at growing, purifying and dialysis.

The boss doesn’t seem to give up just yet, but I am tired beyond comprehension. I need something to change, and maybe it isn’t on his part, or his turf. So, while I try to move ahead with a bunch of un-cooperative proteins and peptides, my job search keeps refining, until (hopefully) I get out, as sane as I can, and with as much dignity as I can.

More to come in a few weeks.



  1. […] – Started to seriously look at other jobs, both within our geographical area and close to where we hope to be after hon’s defense. […]

  2. […] know of my struggles to feel competent, to look for a job, to stay or leave academic science, etc. An opportunity has presented itself… and in about […]

  3. […] I was knee-deep into the job search craze of 2011 I was all over the place looking for resources, from how to prepare for an interview, […]

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