27 and a PhD

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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Twelve months of 29 and a PhD

Last year, one of my fave bloggers wrote about a year in recap and since I love to talk about myself incessantly I copied the meme, made changes accordingly and posted it here. Now that another year is coming to an end I decided to do it again and adapt it to the crazy and sometimes wonderful things that have happened since Jan 1st 2010. Here’s a very short recap on some of the things that happened to 29 and a PhD during the last 11.something years:

  1. January – came back from a vacay with my vision settled on making progress on my project and taking on another one. My project was kind of stagnant after the first few months of my postdoc, and I was learning a whole lot of techniques and protein biochemistry hadn’t had to do before. I finally got some of the proteins that I needed and started doing those darn assays (which didn’t work). Also,  I blogged about my defense in as much detail as I could.
  2. Februaryblogged a whole lot about grad school, my grad school experience and … well, grad school. Experiment-wise, not much progress.
  3. March – Had a problem with one of the purification columns  but eventually it was fixed. Figured out that 150 mM salt was needed for my favourite tagged protein to bind to another column (I learned about how important it is to read the data sheet for each and every column).
  4. April Paid taxes, in BOTH the US and Canada. Wrote a little “guide” about it … though not sure if it applies to everyone, but what they heck.
  5. MayGRADUATION!!!!! Went back to my lovely school, met with former PI and current rotation students. Saw old friends, grads and PIs alike. Stimulated PhD-citys’ economy by going to Target a grand total of 4 times in ~3 days. I know, crazy. But Target is yet to open its doors in the Great White North. Had some awesome food which I’ve missed everyday since I moved away. More importantly, my lovely baby nephew was born. A healthy, little blue-eyed prince with chubby cheeks and blonde  hair ….. awwwww. I learned that the BF and I would be visiting Spain for a few days for a little summer getaway (and graduation gift, yeepee!).
  6. JuneGot back on my PMDD medicine, blogged a bit more frequently and got some good bits of data, not enough to put into a new paper, but enough to show that this part of the project is far too time-consuming and needs a shit-load of tweaking … which I won’t do. Also, started new project, yeepee!! I think it was during this month that I joined twitter to try to connect with other science peeps. These connections would prove a great source of support later on.
  7. July – turned 29 and went to Spain. I still owe you the entry. I hope to post it before the year’s end with some pics and all. It was AWESOME! Oh, and we were there for the final, so we got to party on the streets the Spanish way. Priceless.
  8. August – Started recovering from the post-vacation funk and talked about how United Airlines is THE suckiest airline ever! Wrote about the overproduction of PhDs. Also, this marked the beginning of my second year as a postdoc.
  9. September – Went to the 35th Toronto International Film Festival. IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!!!!111111eleven11111!!!!!  Did a bit of shopping, a bit of dining and had a great time in this lovely city (the big TO is like NY, but cleaner and without the insane amount of people). Started to seriously question if I really want to stay in academia, and whether I could overcome my frustrations with how things are going in the lab, research-wise and mentoring-wise. Also, completed my series on “Nightmares while traveling with United Airlines.”
  10. OctoberStarted to seriously look at other jobs, both within our geographical area and close to where we hope to be after hon’s defense. Learned that the BF may need to push things back because of some unscheduled changes to his thesis. Joined the gym, which I promptly left 3 weeks down the road.
  11. NovemberWrote about a student in my department, and his going MIA without his PhD and the measures taken by his PI to try to get him back on track. Wrote about whether faculty should put all their materials in a class/databank to make things easier for their undergrads. Hon and I bought tickets to go home. Figured out what happened with one of my constructs and why it was being anal … huzzah! But, that cannot take away the feeling of scientific inadequacy. Made a new friend in the department who offers a hand and a shoulder to use if I need to cry or talk about current lab frustrations. Said friend gives me some good career advice.
  12. December – Not even done with lab work but every day I need to do manual lab work I see it as a punishment for sucking at doing the bench. I HATE bench work, HATE it with passion. But, 3 days before Xmas I’ll be home hugging my little nephew. I can imagine his delicious baby smell and I can see myself playing with him on the floor, buying 10000 ridiculously lovely things for him and taking as many pictures as I can, savouring every moment. Next time I see him he’ll be 1, and he won’t remember me, of course. This is one of the main reasons I want a new job, one where I’m closer to my family and things are more flexible so I can see him more often and I don’t miss the rest of his childhood. The sacrifices we do for science. Also, blogged about another student and his quest to finish the PhD …. maybe.

 

Choosing your battles and getting your PhD ASAP

We’re told from day one that we will learn a TON of skills while in grad school. These bits of knowledge come in the form of things that happen to us, or others, advice that’s passed down from one grad student generation to another, or via the PI, among others. We learn about when to talk to our boss about vacation, or ask for money to go to yet another conference this year, or what’s the best way to get that secretary or admin person to show you some mercy when you’re submitting documents for whatever even though you know she/he hates students, especially you. We also learn about where to get lunch for free almost every day of the week, and who to choose for your thesis committee (or not).

But one of the main skills we learn (or develop) is which battles we choose to fight, and which are just worth abandoning. In particular this was very helpful when I had to submit one of my papers and also when it was time to leave (though my boss was extremely supportive of me getting out ASAP, so it wasn’t like I was fighting a lost cause, it was more of getting the stupid committee together for a few hours … the bane of every grad student’s existence).

Through the years I’ve met people, at different stages of their graduate careers, who know when it’s worth doing something, and when it’s best to just leave. And I’ve tried to learn from what they’ve experienced. See, I ‘ve  never a quitter. When my 4th grade math teacher hated my guts, I could have switched teachers but did’nt. When the choir director wanted me to sign as an alto, when I’m clearly a mezzo, I kept doing the alto part, or when the boss wanted me to try a program I knew people before me had tried for months on end without a positive result, and I thought I had the magic touch, I kept at it. Luckily I gave up on this quickly (by some miracle of nature or something) and thankfully that was one of the first battles I decided not to keep fighting. This entry isn’t that much about me. It’s about how people I know have chosen to quit, or stop fighting (while in grad school) to either get their degree, whatever it is, and one who hasn’t. (more…)