27 and a PhD

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What is wrong with me?

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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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.

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3 Comments

  1. Mary says:

    I hate when I do something stupid and awkward. Afterward, when I’m around that person, I usually pretend it didn’t happen. When I’m NOT around that person I wallow in my kicking-myself-agony. Like you feel, I feel really awful and wish I had done something different! However, I don’t know if you can apologize for something as subtle as that, with someone you don’t know well. If you’re worried about seeming needy you should probably give him some space. Sorry. 😦 Give it time and he’ll definitely forget all about it! By the way, I think it’s great you were honest. Awkward, but honest. The way to build relationships, even in science with PIs, is to be your honest self.

    • Dr. 29 says:

      Thanks for your kind comment Mary! After a couple of days I started to slowly feel less awkward about it all. I guess if a person is completly horrified by something I’ve said, even in a subtle way … then I may be the one who’s better off without them. I decided against writing to him and to my previous PI. I doubt it will ever come into a conversation between former PI and I … but you never know. Yet, since PhD PI knows how a I am, a quick “you know, I was having a rough day and my protein was a bitch” may help. Who knows. Thanks for visiting and for your kind words. It’s always reassuring to see that someone else has had one of those “oh shoot” moments when it would be better for the ground to open and swallow you full before saying another word.

  2. […] to the details on how this position came about. As far back as October and November of last year I was very pissed off and tired of the situation in my postdoc lab. I had the relentless comments […]

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