Do I really want a career in science? As in really, really want it? Really? Yes! Then why on Earth do I act like a jerk in front of pretty important PI’s?
May be just the way I perceive things … but, a few weeks ago a pretty important PI in the field of mass spec visited our school, our department. This person is super, super important in the field, and has had more papers in top-notch journals than I’ve ever seen in my life (not really, but he has more covers than Einstein … ok, joking!).
At the end of the seminar I went and introduced myself, as I knew some of the PI’s this mass-spec-guru has worked with. It is not super directly related to my former field, but we could have crossed paths before had I done my PhD 5 or so years before I did (which would have been impossible, given that I would have been 15-16 at the time and/or a genius) … but whatever. Point is, apparently such-important-PI-in-mass-spec knows my PhD PI. Such-important PI said that his lab knows about my previous boss’s work and that they’d crossed paths and ask me how my postdoc was going and why I switched fields … to which I answered in the stupidest way possible … I said that things weren’t working and that my contract was up in a few months … and that I really couldn’t explain why I had left my previous area of expertise since I had this protein that was not behaving (turns out a couple of days after, said protein decided to make my life easy once and for all) . I’m sure that mass-spec-guru felt how I seemed to be screaming with my whole being “I love your work, please give me a job and get me out of this bloody hell.” I’m sure that’s what registered in this PI’s mind because as soon as I said the words, his face changed and basically brushed me off wishing me good luck in all my future endeavours. I mean, could I have been more of a dork, an idiot full of crap? Seriously? I need to somehow master my ability to chit-chat with these high-profile profs and show interest without seeming too needy.!! Not only that, but if ex-boss and super-important-mass-spec-dude meet again, I’m going to look like a badly adjusted dork who makes previous boss look like an idiot in front of other gurus! I mean, sure, my ex-boss knows my quirks and knows what I mean even before I say it. But, I’m not a grad student in previous PI’s lab, I’m out and my way of doing science, of behaving and everything that I do eventually reflects on how I was trained and where I come from. And I do not want to be fired … so, I just seemed like an unadjusted melodramatic teenager. For heaven’s sake, I’m a postdoc, not a whiny 1st year grad student!
I’m tempted to write an email to visiting PI and/or my ex-PI and mention that I met mass-spec-guru and how I enjoyed the talk and I hope I didn’t scare him or something (not those exact words, but, you catch my draft). I don’t know. All I know is that I acted like a complete moron, and now I feel as if I need to apologize for acting that way and seeming way awkward … at least compared to how I am normally.
Have you done this before? Would you “patch” things up and contact each PI or just one? I mean, I’m not sure I want to work for mass-spec-expert/guru in the near future (I did love his work and how it was creating a bridge among disciplines) … but I’m not sure I’m good enough, you know? And if I did that, and say, get that position, I’m not sure I want to stay in academia. So, in theory I would be wasting 2+ years of my life just because I had to be in another super-awesome lab. Should I greet this person and say the things I wanted to say, but didn’t get to because of my stupidity? Or should I just brush it off like nothing happened and hope he won’t remember me or cross paths with my former PI? Oh! to be me and behave like an idiot in front of super high- profile people.