27 and a PhD

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The difference a year makes

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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I started this entry on May 14. I decided on the title because while talking to honey the other night, I mentioned how different Sunday afternoons felt, compared to when I was a postdoc. I decided to look back at what I’d written exactly a year ago, and found this. My state of mind was all messed up, and I had given up on finding a job. I was just relieved that my postdoc was ending and I’d be out of the lab soon.

The difference a year makes. On my last day as a postdoc, I had a lot of work to do. Since my worker’s visa expired on that day, I didn’t want to break the law and do anything to jeopardize the end of my stay in Canada (or spend one more day in the lab). I was running from side to side, trying to finish everything up to show the boss, grab my things and leave. The Saturday before I’d gone to pick things up and tidy up my space, I didn’t want to do that in front of my labbies. I wanted to hand over my notebooks and go.

Then I got a call from NYC. A somewhat excited future boss was checking on how things were going, and he couldn’t hold back the happiness when I told him that the search was crap, and I’d been offered postdoc positions, but not the coveted staff scientist position I wanted so, I had no job. He asked then and there if I was interested in moving to the city, and I said yes. I needed a job. I wanted a job in my former field of training. It made me happy to have someone show some interest in my skills.

The next few days were a blur, and all I could remember was the going back and forth of emails, trying to make the offer more appealing. Then I moved. I left the suburban life behind me, a teary boyfriend, two broken hearts.

I don’t remember much of my first few months in the city. My mind was still in shock. Some family problems didn’t let me enjoy much my first official, grown up, job offer. I didn’t want to leave honey, my life, my surroundings, even though I was moving to the most amazing city in the world.

I still made an effort to socialize. I attended a few SONYCs, I met awesome tweeps, I started working hard. I wanted to prove to the boss and my coworkers that they’d made the right choice. I developed calluses, and courage to confront the boss when he’s being an asshole. I developed great friendships, lived in two boroughs, went back to Canada, got my stuff back. I worked until 10pm sometimes, and others I Ieft early. I didn’t see my family for Christmas, yet got wonderful, friendly cards from tweeps, gift cards from friends and my in-laws, and many special visits from my honey, my soul mate.

While talking to honey yesterday, I realized that this last year has been a whirlwind of emotions and tests. I’ve been squeezed emotion-wise and money-wise to the end. But I’ve managed to meet some of the most amazing scientists ever. I haven’t shied away from introducing myself to some big wigs. I realize now that I don’t know nearly as much UNIX and Linux as I thought, but that with great teachers I can learn. I’ve learned to answer emails about possible collaborations graciously and engage people in conversation, I’ve gone to a lot of local workshops, and found ways to surprise my boss (especially if it involves saving money). A lot of my tweeps have been great sources of information and I can’t thank you enough. My partner has been extremely supportive, and because of his fantastic parents, I’ve been able to see him, and join in the celebration of his PhD.

Sunday afternoons are not as bad as they used to. While walking in Midtown yesterday, I realized that I don’t dread Mondays as much as I used to. I don’t get as depressed either. The only thing I complain about is that I know I’ll be too sleepy in the morning. My (somewhat still new) job is mentally stimulating, and forces me to think outside the box, to be resourceful, to lean on my coworkers and for them to lean on me. I have a boss that (though pissy at times) likes to engage in conversations about science and the lab and keeping things moving. I feel like he’s interested in my success, because it means that my lab is successful. I have direction, more than I did a year ago. And that makes a difference.

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10 Comments

  1. scientistmother says:

    Congrats!! You do deserve it

  2. Anthea says:

    Congratulations and you do deserve it. You remind us that life after a PhD can improve and not be awful.

  3. That’s so wonderful! Isn’t is amazing what the right change can do for your mental health? Even though I imagine you’ve had some rough spots, I’m glad to hear things are overall much better.

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Thanks Cherish! Indeed, even during the bad days, it does feel different when I think about work. Even in those days I’m thankful that things have changed for the best. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  4. Dr. Dad, PhD says:

    You’re living proof that, as I’ve been reciting to myself, “it will work out in the end.” Congratulations and thank you for sharing – you give me hope :p

    • Dr. 27 says:

      It does get better Dr. Dad. I’m glad this entry gives you some hope. It was my little moment of “it gets better.” Indeed it does, it’s just that sometimes in the midst of our bad times, it doesn’t seem like it will ever get better. With patience and effort, it can happen. Best to you and thanks for stopping by 🙂

  5. legalhistorygirl says:

    So things do get better after all the hard work of the PhD – thank goodness! You sound like you worked incredibly hard though! Many congrats!

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Indeed, they do get better. I thought I’d never see the day, but what a change and for the better. Thank you so much for dropping by!

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