27 and a PhD

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Immediate plans

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.

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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.

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