27 and a PhD

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Why do I write?

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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Around this time, 3 years ago, I was finishing up my PhD. I was working on my last 2 thesis chapters, my committee had agreed to let me go after serving my sentence doing what I’d proposed. I was interviewing for my postdoc in Canada, life was good. Two or so months later I started this blog. I didn’t know where it’d end up, or if it would even survive past my defense. I wanted to have a place to write my feelings, and bitch and moan about being a grad student (and later a dissatisfied postdoc), but I didn’t know if I’d have the stamina, time or interest to keep it up. After all, I’d started 2-3 blogs before, only to delete them later.

I can’t remember exactly how it started. I don’t know if I’d googled something and then found one blog that lead me to another, and another, and another, or if I’d simply just landed on WordPress and decided to open up a new shop. Hon had introduced me to WordPress some time before, and like I said, I had 2 other blogs, which quickly faded.

I wanted a place to post my feelings, put the words that were trapped in my mind, and hopefully find other souls, like me, who said “hey, I know exactly how you feel.” But I was also selfish (I still am) and wanted to be famous. I wanted to have a blog read by thousands of people, that would come and drool over my every word, picture and musing, and that I wouldn’t need to “work.” Sure, like that’s going to happen.

At times, I felt like quitting. Much like I’d done with Facebook (still hate it), I was comparing myself to other fellow bloggers. When they posted stats or when I saw streams of comments and links I felt sad, a bit depressed. It wasn’t happening on mine, and I thought that was THE measure of success.

In all that, a small little audience, and my interest on Twitter, collided. I started tweeting with a bunch of neuroscientists/pharm extraordinaires (I still do, ohai Dr. Becca and Dr Leigh and all you of neuro-amazing-researchers). I wasn’t sure if I wanted to divulge that I was a structural biologist, or that I was a disgruntled postdoc, but it slowly happened. Then I linked the blog and Twitter, and slowly but surely people started coming, and reading, and commenting, and RTing, etc, etc, etc.

I can’t say I’m an established blogger, God only knows that I’m very inconsistent and lazy, and that unless there’s a terribly extreme force pushing me, I won’t get out of bed and go to work, let alone blog.

But then, last week, something amazing happened. I was reading a mommy blog (an LDS mommy blog if you’re curious, even though I’m a liberal, disgruntled-Catholic) when something caught my attention. The writer was talking about some mental block while working her first book and quoted something that went like this: “write the type of book you would like to read.” All of a sudden it clicked (it being the reason).

Over the last few months my readership has increased a tiny little bit, more people comment, tweet, and especially send emails. I’ve had tweets, comments and messages asking the reason I write. Some of the reasons behind the blog are in the ‘about’ section. But the truth is that, after going through grad school with a good mentor, doing a postdoc with a relatively good mentor (except that I was most unhappy with the science and his way of mentoring) and going through a hellish job search (see posts from the first 5 months of 2011 for reference), I wrote and write the way I do because the things I talk about are things I’m curious about. They were and are things I’m interested. I love hearing and telling stories, but more importantly, the motivations behind those stories, behind change and the experiences that have made you and me be who we are today.

I write because some of the things I experienced were totally foreign to me, and even with a good PhD mentor, there were things I had to face alone and that were very unique to me (and to grad students and postdocs). I’m always looking for mentors, people I can look up to and aspire to be, people that are willing to take me under their wing and show me the ropes. Sure, I’m equipped to learn things on my own, but I will almost always prefer having someone there with me the first few times until I do things all on my own (and don’t break that pretty little 2.5 million dollar instrument).

The experiences I have under my belt, my triumphs and failures, and how candid I am, are for y’all to see. I try to be candid, much like the way I’ll tell you that tattoos hurt, or that even if I did some of my piercings, it still hurts like the mother. I try to be honest, to be open, because maybe if I’d had some of the information I (sometimes painfully) learned before, during and after grad school, I would have made different choices or at least more informed ones. I write the way I write because (besides being a narcissist), it’s the way I like people to tell me stories, to share insight, to let me know who and how they are. Because I hope that the way I write gives you a laugh occasionally, but also a bit of hope that things do get better and that there’s a way out. And that science is awesome, but it also has many fails, and that it’s not rosy all the time, but that you can indeed find a niche and flourish.

Those are the reasons for why I write, and for how I am (if you know me in the flesh). I write the kind of blog I like to read (except a bit of a more positive vibe, and less whining would be nice every now and then, no? And did I mentioned I was a narcissist?).

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2 Comments

  1. genrepair says:

    Fuck neuro, DNA repair is where its at. Glad you started writing.

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