27 and a PhD

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I’m back

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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Somewhat. I was finally able to sleep until almost noon on Caturday. After a month of waking up, every weekend to read, read, ask questions, prepare presentations and worry, ad nauseam, about interviews, I can finally sit back an breathe, and not worry that I’ll be gone for half a week and that again I’ll have to switch my time for this or that experiment. I’m not complaining about having interviews, it’s just that the schedule of said interviews has made me crazy for the last few weeks.

I had a wonderful time at the two places where I had physical interviews. I also had fun at one of the phone interviews I had, and the second one was a bit … boring, but pleasant.

On to the point. As regular readers and tweeps know, I’ve been looking for a staff position in my former field of study. The many frustrations of my current position (postdoc) and some of the comments from one of my coworkers, along with the fact that I just don’t enjoy this much snow have been instrumental in the job search. I also have the two body problem. It’s no secret that hon prefers Canada to the US. I have to say that if it wasn’t for the fact that I just don’t enjoy my job, I’d probably prefer Canada over the US. Canada has been very welcoming, and I like the way science if done here. Also, this much snow makes me stabby. So, some of the jobs I applied to in my former field, or a close approximation to it, were in Canada. It seems as though Ontario, where I currently live, doesn’t have many of these positions. I would have loved a job in Toronto, or even Ottawa. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Here’s a summary, with some details, of where I’ve interviewed and what’s happening with that.

The only solid offer I have is from a very, very important place in another province. The problem is that it is far away from major cities and it’s very close to the arctic, meaning, I wouldn’t get rid of snow … which is quite frustrating. The job also opens competitions for the position I’ve been offered, so there’s no guarantee I’d be able to keep the job after the 1st year. There is room to grow, so there’s a chance to move up the ladder too. People publish (usually in technical journals) and attend conferences regularly. And they’re going into more biological problems, which is why they want to bring me in. It would take me a day (at the very least) to get to see my family, since there are no direct flights from there to where my family lives … which is quite frustrating. But I’d have killer health insurance, access to major research institutions, and would serve a variety of clients, and I could probably develop my own methods, since none of the peeps in said lab know biology. Which could also be problematic, since they don’t do the exact approach I became an expert in and I don’t know whether the PI would be open to challenges posed by me if something is far away from what he and his lab know and do. There’s a lot to consider. I’d totally say yes without a doubt … if it wasn’t near Santa Claus’s house.

Position #2, to which no offer has been made, is back in the US. Of all the PIs I talked to, this PI was the best (or at least it seemed to me that way). Said PI reminded me of my grad school PI, but even more fun …. which I never thought would happen. This PI has a huge lab, divided into 3 major projects. I was interviewing for a staff/manager position. But, I have zilch managerial experience. They’ve interviewed 2 other people in addition to me, and I’m the only girl they’ve interviewed. But, I overheard someone saying that one of the other applicants has a lot of managerial experience, which places him way ahead of me. My only advantage, I think, is that the problems I studied during my PhD are very similar to the main project they’re trying to develop locally (they have a collaborator in another state). During my job talk the PI kept asking me really great questions about stuff they were trying to answer in the lab, which I kept answering like it was nobody’s business, and the PI kept pointing this out to the committee, how I was an expert in all these things they’re looking to answer. But, like I said, somebody else has experience in the techniques AND managerial experience too. I think I also identified someone who could be a potential source of discomfort (I’m amazed at how people seem to show their true colours when you’re not interviewing as a trainee anymore) … which may be hard to work around. The answer regarding who gets the position is happening soon. I’m not so positive …. but chances are that if the PI liked me as much as I think they did I may get an offer for an associate something, something, which will be more like a postdoc, but with better pay and benefits. PI said that their lab was very adamant about making sure that people in such positions were paid fair and square and that they know postdocs get paid and treated like shit (their words), so they’d be changing the position to non-postdoc research something to accomodate me, if I wanted … but then again, I didn’t get a formal offer. We’ll see. Also, this would be the closest I could ever be to my family out of all the 4 ones I’ve interviewed.

Position #3 is in the midwest. This was the phone interview that was kinda boring. It’s more of a technical position, and it is for a lab that is mostly into material sciences but is hoping to beef up the biological side. This one pays the least, but it’s in a really good place. I’m not so sure what to think of this one.

And position #4 is where I’ve always wanted to live for a really long time. I love this city, and it’s also a close ride to where my family lives. The people who work in the particular division I applied to are few and seem to get along well. They’re understaffed, so there’s a definite need for hands and experts. The PI is the one I called fancy-pants PI in my tweets. This is the person I couldn’t read for the life of me. I didn’t know if he hated me or if it was just the way he was. I met him and he was very pleasant. These people have dumped some serious money on equipment. I met with a few PIs who work in different areas, different problems and different instrumentation. All of it very kick ass. Data that is generated here normally goes to Glamor-Magazine-type journos, though it doesn’t always means that I would be the first author. The job would align pretty closely to what I know how to do and consider myself well-read in. People usually don’t get too attached to their projects, since some are very transitory. People tend to stay for many years, and they seem happy …. meaning, that this position would provide me with the stability I’m yearning for. Even when I met the PI face to face I couldn’t tell whether he liked me or whether he’s just shy … or Sheldon-like. In some ways he reminds me of my postdoc PI … and I’m not sure if that’s what I need right now. But, I was told he’s very involved in the projects. He runs other labs, including an academic one. People attend conferences and publish regularly and attend courses to improve and learn methods. But … I don’t know what to expect. Since I couldn’t really “read” the PI I don’t know whether he liked me, and whether he thinks I’m a good fit. I seemed to get along with the group, and in some ways it felt like some of us were old friends. I think that’s good. But, then again, it could all be a facade and a fake. I think I also identified a potential source of trouble … a lot of trouble, which I’m not sure the PI could ever remedy, since this person may be higher up than he is. People here were very candid, which I found reassuring because I’d hate to have it all painted in the warmest, nicest light, only to find out it is all shit. And I know two former members of this facility, both of which seem to praise their former place of work.

In conclusion, I’m just holding on, praying, asking all the questions I can to find out what’s life at all these places. I would truly hate not making a good decision, for me, my career, hon and the family. There are many, many factors to consider.,

For now it looks like I have hope. I told the current boss how things have been going and he’s been giving me advice and ideas of what to consider and ask …. it feels like I finally found the caring mentor I was yearning for. Maybe I was wrong all along, and it should have been me pursuing his advance, rather than waiting to see if he was interested in me. Who knows. I’m (hopefully) heading towards the end of this run and maybe the wisdom and hindsight of the years will help me see things under a different light and appreciate all the lessons I’ve been given while doing this postdoc. For now I have hope. Hope that even though time has passed I can, maybe, make a comeback to my former field of study and feel productive once again.

I’ll keep you posted. But now, I have to return to my experiments. Cheers!

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12 Comments

  1. Keeping my fingers crossed that everything works out for you!

  2. katiesci says:

    Good luck!

  3. DF says:

    Good for you! I would just add that the environment around where you are planning to work and the proximity to family will go a long ways toward your overall happiness. When considering competing offers, thinking positively, you should keep this in mind, especially if the gig is long term.

    • Dr. 29 says:

      Thanks! I know what you mean. Right now it sucks that I’m even farther away than before from the family. It also sucks that there aren’t direct flights. There are a lot of things to consider, so I’m working hard to keep rational me on all the time so I can (hopefully) make the best and wisest decision for me, and the family. Thanks for visiting. Hope your search is going well too πŸ™‚

  4. Pharm Sci Grad says:

    It will sort itself out, you’ve done the hard part already at least!! πŸ™‚ Just trust that you know what’s best for you, because you do. Very exciting developments!

    Sending good thoughts your way….

  5. […] with this job application cycle things have changed. As I mentioned on my earlier entry, I applied to a total of 5 jobs within my area of expertise and got a call from most of them. I also applied to 60 or so other jobs […]

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