27 and a PhD

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Delicate issue

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.


March 2011
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Dear All:

Thanks again for your continued support. Words cannot describe how your collective wisdom has helped me while this whole process of finding, applying and finally interviewing for jobs has unfolded.

As always, I have questions, and would like to know what are your thoughts regarding a delicate matter. It concerns contacting my interviewers and asking whether or not they’re still interested in me. I don’t know what’s the etiquette here and would love some perspective. Leave a comment, tweet, DM me or shoot me an email, I’d love to know your opinion. So here we go.

When I got accepted to college I had only applied to two schools, both within the same state university system and I was pretty sure I’d get into one of them, and my department/major of choice as I had the grades and the scores to get in. I got accepted into my top choice, which automatically made me unavailable to the second school within the system (some complicated something, which tells the system that I’ve been accepted and took the offer from school #1). When I applied to my first summer internship, I only applied to one school, which luckily said yes. When I applied for my second internship I applied to 3 systems, 2 schools separately and then an umbrella application which covered applications for 5 other schools. When I was accepted at the separate schools I notified my final one by email and I called them second one. I never heard from the umbrella one. And finally, for grad school, I got letters of rejection from 5-6 of the 7-8 schools I applied, and I called the recruiting officer of the one I declined to notify. All the schools and programs had a date set by which to send acceptance letters and such, and all were very similar, so I felt no pressure to tell a school to hold their breath until I got an offer from another school. I’ve never had to deal with negotiation, and pulling strings and complicated things to tell a school or PI to hold their horses until I’ve considered all offers. I’ve never really had many offers/options to consider.

But, 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 in more general areas, most outside of my expertise, from computer admin, to editor of this or that, to administrative assistant (for real, I was that desperate to get out of my postdoc), to a whole other number of places which I forget. Needless to say, out of those 60 or so non-PhD or postdoc-related are job apps I got a call for one place soon after applying, but it was just a screening call and never materialized. On this more recent cycle I got calls from 2 schools in the States (one in the South, one in the Midwest), a centre in the Northeast, a patent-something something at my current school, and a job in the arctic, near Rainbow Lake, AB (it exists, for realz peeps; no, I’m not going to RL, but it’s darn close to it). Soooooo. Rainbow Lake place has made a very tempting offer. I normally wouldn’t even consider the other two places … but I am. It may be my ego or my 6th sense at play, or both, I don’t know. Or maybe that’s just how I’m wired. Partly because I’m a coward that in some way wants to go back to the familiarity of the US and partly because … well, Rainbow Lake is in the arctic I have my doubts about accepting this offer, or saying yes without factoring in the other two places … if there’s anything to factor. There’s a shit-load of snow at Rainbow Lake and y’all know how much snow et moi don’t get along. Although it’s in the Taiga, it’s supposed to be drier than it is here, and they have both good and bad winters. I’ve been searching everything and anything about this place, and honestly, it looks amazing, and I can picture hon and I living there. I think I’d like it there. It’s not as glam as the location in the Northeast and of course it would take me forever to get to see my family, especially during the holidays. The locations where I interviewed in person (the South and Northeast locations, S and NE respectively) were very nice, and good, solid science is done there … but I did notice a couple of things which worried me a bit, including one of the PIs.

Like I said, I normally wouldn’t hesitate in saying yes to Rainbow Lake, but it’s so far away that I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around the idea of driving or taking a plane (or multiple planes) there. It would be similar if I moved to the South again … so that’s one of the less than glam parts of the issue.

But the real issue is that Rainbow Lake wanted an answer last Friday. I had interviewed with them the week I left for S, and I thought I’d done terrible … but aparently it was just my glass half empty mentality. I was able to squeeze in a few more days, hoping that I’d hear something from S or NE locations. I know that NE PI said that they’d take their sweet little time to let me know, and S said I’d have a definite answer by last Friday … still no email or call from them. So, my question dear reader/follower is … do I check in with NE and S PIs and tell them or ask them what’s the deal? If so, how should I go about it? Though I loved each of the 3 strong contenders (RL, NE and S) I’m considering, I only have a solid offer from RL. Is this even an issue? I’d honestly hate to wait forever, lose my chance with the RL group and miss out just because I decided to wait. On the other hand, I don’t want to be rude to S or NE PI … but I don’t know how to approach the subject, if it needs to be approached at all. I don’t know what’s the etiquette and I’d hate making a fool out of myself. I guess my main question is, if I decide to contact each PI and say, hey RL super awesome group of X has an offer … a) how do I let them know that and b) how do I ask if I still have a real chance with them without sounding like an idiot? South PI had mentioned in passing that they had another good candidate, so there was a chance I wouldn’t get a call as first choice, but I’m a bit bummed that they didn’t even contacted me to say, hey, we’re giving candidate #1 the chance, but you’re candidate # 2, or there really isn’t a chance you’ll get the offer. I suck at being assertive, and I’d hate to make a fool out of myself, but again, I’d like to have a really clear picture of what are my options, if I have more than one, and make a decision with as much information as I can. I honestly don’t know if the southern position, location-wise, would be my top choice.  Instrumentation-wise, the NE position would be even better, and I wouldn’t have to prepare any samples, at all (which is a plus in Rainbow Lake also and has me day dreaming about not having to do yet another purification!!!) … but, the PI and one of the higher-ups could become sore spots and NE …

So dear reader, I ask: should I get in contact with the other PIs and ask point-blank, but delicately, what are my chances, or if I even have a chance of getting an offer from them? Should I interpret their silence as them not being really interested in me as choice #1, and I’m more of choice #2, 3 or 4? If it’s OK to ask them, what would be the professional way to go about it? As you can see, I am a complete mess when it comes to this. I can totally kick ass with presentations, writing letters, CV … basically everything pre and during an interview … but when it comes to after-interview manners and situations, I become a moron and my PhD goes down the drain.

I appreciate any and all input and suggestions. I promise to update on my choice of words and final choice in the coming weeks, as things unfold. Thank you, thank you, thank you 🙂


  1. katiesci says:

    I have not yet had to deal with this issue but I have read my fair share of info on negotiation. The advice has always seemed to be: be honest, be assertive, and do what’s best for you. In other words, call those bitchez that have’t called you back yet, politely inquire about the position and see if it’s been filled or is close to being decided upon.

    If they offer you a position but with a crappies package, that’s when the real negotiating begins!

    Good luck!

  2. leigh says:

    if you haven’t already, send a follow-up to your interview. “dear PI, thank you so much for inviting me to come interview with your Fancy-Science Group. i really enjoyed my visit, and feel that between your teh-awesome facilities and leadership and my current badassery skillz, we could work up some totally amazing shit together. i would love to pursue the position further if that is an option.”

    or something. you know. make it work for the interview. that’s how i went about it. it’s a nice way to restart the conversation, and saying thank you and leading off with a lot of positivity is always a plus. sometimes you get “oh, well thanks, but we chose Person X” and sometimes it’s “zomg, i totally feel the same way!” if this current offering place can’t give you a few extra days to line up your affairs (read: get your shit and your life together for a possible major long-distance relocation event) then that doesn’t reflect very well on them to begin with. they should know this.

    best of luck!!!


    • Dr. 29 says:

      Thanks Dr. Leigh! I did send my thank yous and all that right after each interview, like Dr. Becca suggested (I think), I didn’t wait too long. I think I’ll just be honest and say, you know I’ve got something concrete and I really liked your position and what’s the deal … I wanted to get a feel for what other people have done, if they’ve interviewed at multiple places. In my case, now that I’ve done a few interviews I feel like I should have applied to less or say yes to a lesser amount of peeps, but there was no way of knowing this going in. The peeps at awesome lab in the taiga have given me a couple of weeks already, which is why I’m getting a bit antsy as I was told, on numerous ocassions by place in the South that the committee would have a final decision by last week. I’m guessing the offer was made to someone else, and now that person is in a similar position to how I am now, with S place … we’ll see.

      Thanks for your words and perspective. It gives me a good starting place to kinda collect my thoughts and go about approaching PIs.

      Best to you too 🙂

  3. Carolina (@braziliancakes) says:

    I agree with people above. Definitely call them to check base.
    I was just a little confused though, which is your first choice? If its RL, just accept their offer and call the other two letting them know (be sure to let them down gently).
    If its one of the other schools, I would contact them and make sure they know how excited you are to work there, and wanted to know what the status was.
    I don’t have much experience in this other than undergrad and grad school where I contacted my number one choices to let them know they were my number one choices.

    • Dr. 29 says:

      Great advice Carolina! Thanks for commenting. I had your ideas in mind when I crafted the emails. Now let’s see what they say. Will keep y’all posted.

  4. Jade says:

    I would recommend contacting them also. It shows that you are interested and eager to get started. It will make a good impression.

  5. Nadia H says:

    Glad to read that your interviews went well and yes, do pursue and ask what happened, what are your chances etc. They’re not going to think bad about you for wanting some answers because in the current climate, people can’t afford to just wait for an opportunity to sail past…you have to get out there and grab it (which you did, now its time to shake its tail again!). I got in my PhD program by getting up and out, asking what happened to my application and got in. Otherwise I might have been looked over because of an administrative requirement needing more papers in my file. So I recommend…go for it and best of luck!

    • Dr. 29 says:

      Oh wow, that was a close call for you. Good to see that you’re pursuing your studies and degree now. Very diligent of you to contact them and ask about the application status. Best of luck and thanks for commenting.

  6. […] job city that I was worth the invitation. After a few weeks of non-stop interviews, and considering the possibility of moving to Rainbow Lake, Alberta, I went for my interview at new job city. I’ll spare most of the details, but basically I had […]

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