27 and a PhD

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It shouldn’t bother me, but it does

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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Yesterday I mentioned on Twitter that I got a comment on the blog, on my most popular entry, about my writing/English. It shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. I kept going back to it and what it meant. Was I, not a good enough communicator? I decided that I was, that I am at least a decent communicator, since that story is still my most popular. I still get comments on it, and even emails about passing the qual, failing it, and what to do next.

It is no secret that I’m not a native speaker. I grew up in a house dominated by the beautiful sounds of Spanish. I am not ashamed of my roots, nor my accent, let alone my writing. My blog does not pretend to be a full-on, super critical place to talk science. I do not blog about science, or the scientific process because I don’t feel like it. Plenty of people are already doing a fantastic job on that end, check my blogroll and/or my Twitter timeline and see how many RTs of fantastic people talking about science I share.

My blog was/is intended as an outlet to vent the frustrations of my everyday life as a scientist. First as a student near the end of her PhD, then as a frustrated postdoc, then leaving academia and getting a job as a staff scientist at a core lab. Not all I do is strictly academic, but I still do research. I just don’t talk about the specifics. That’s my choice. Life as a scientist is not all peaches and cream (feel free to check my posts from October 2010 to June 2011, what I call the epic job search of 2011) which is the main reason I blog.

I don’t need to be applauded or treated in a condescending way because English happens to be my second language. While it feels nice to be complemented on it, I’m not fishing for complements. I just want to be treated like any regular old human being, no exceptions, no special treatment. I decided long ago to write my blog in English to practice my writing, to keep those wheels moving. Sometimes it comes out pretty, sometimes it doesn’t. I write like I talk; what you get on this blog is what you get in real life, except, with much more profanity (I can swear in at least 4 languages). If my writing or my speech sound “funny” and you suggest I go back to school and take classes to improve it, then you’re ignoring that I am much more than my speech, my writing. I’m a scientist, a woman, I’m bilingual and damn proud of that. My pronunciation and syntax are still not perfect, and guess what? They never will. And that’s OK. What is not OK is to phrase a comment in a condescending manner, by adding the “but” in the middle of it. A “but” does not make it better, it makes it sound like there’s this sense of superiority in it, and that I’m less because I can’t speak or write like a native. I had great school and college teachers, and I’ve been complemented on numerous occasions on my grammar. I’m a product of public education in a dysfunctional system, and I am extremely proud of that and of all the teachers and professors who got me here.

I get it, it’s better to point out the failures in my way of telling my story, than to comment on the content of the entry, which is that I’m trying to give hope to students out there, to trainees of all sorts that it does get better, that failing an exam is not the end of the world, and that they too can have a story with a happy ending.

So, Dr. Peters, if my entries are long and scattered, if I end sentences in prepositions, or use apostrophes, commas and other types of punctuation wrong, that’s my choice and that’s my style. I’m frankly tired of people trying to feel superior by pointing that because I’m a latina, a woman and I happen to be fluent in more than one language, I’m still less. It’s tough being bilingual, or trying to pass like one. In my case it amplifies my feelings of being an imposter. But I’ll be damned if I let a “well meaning” comment stop me from blogging. In my view there are two choices, you either suck it up and keep reading, or you delete my blog from your bookmarks. It’s up to you. Till then, me and my funky sounding English will keep the ball rolling. In my opinion, there are many out there who can overlook my shortcomings with a second language and gather something useful from what I have to say.

Kind regards,

27 and PhD for over 3 years

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20 Comments

  1. wakedukechem says:

    I read Dr. Peters’ comment and in my opinion, he needs to take his own advice. The first four words are wrong. Noniffense? and the word is “whatsoever”. Don’t get me started on the rest…

    I had no idea you weren’t a native English speaker… and I am a contract editor for non-native English speakers’ papers so that they can publish in English-speaking journals.

    I think that your writings are entertaining, enlightening and comforting. I relate to a large majority of what you say and have never expected someone’s blog to be grammatically correct. It’s a blog after all. I’d more likely expect stream-of-consciousness writing instead of carefully constructed sentences/paragraphs!

    Don’t let a fool’s misplaced comment throw you! He’s a mere troll. (Still, I completely understand why it shouldn’t bother you but still did. Some days it takes much less to throw me for a loop despite perfectly reasonable explanations for the perceived negativity/irrationality/criticism.)

  2. missmse says:

    I always felt that your style was very authentically conversational. Most of us, when speaking casually, end sentences in prepositions. We use incomplete sentences. Extra commas can help emphasize where you, as a speaker, would pause and place emphasis.

    English is a convoluted, messy, inconsistent language. It’s a language rarely mastered by its own native speakers. Also, pot/kettle/black? Holy run-on sentence Batman!

  3. Alethea says:

    I actually think his comment is a response to Uma on June 28th, and he just didn’t hit reply properly. It doesn’t make the comment any more constructive, particularly since we don’t know where Uma goes to school, for all we know she’s fluent in the language of her academic program.

    • Dr. 27 says:

      It’s quite possible. Thanks for your insight. For a while I’d been thinking of writing about the topic, so even if the comment was directed at another person, I’m still somewhat relieved of writing about language, my origins, etc. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Kelly says:

    I enjoy poking trolls, which I’ve done as a reply to the original comment. 🙂

    • Dr. 27 says:

      I saw that. Thanks. Even if like another commenter suggested, this person was trolling because of another person’s comment, that’s just not good. Nor do I want my blog to be the type of space where trolls are tolerated. Thank you 🙂

  5. katiedid says:

    Your writing is fine. When I started reading your blog I had no idea that English wasn’t your first language. My clue came when I saw your Spanich tweets. 😉

    Keep up the good writing!

  6. […] lack of criticism came into focus yesterday during a conversation with @27andaphd, who had just responded to, ironically, a poorly written suggestion that she “take a simple course on the English […]

  7. Chen Guttman says:

    When things are personal, we take it to heart. It’s part of the process. And your blog sure is personal journey, and a good one! Unlike many other bloggers, you put the dirty laundry out for everyone to see and appreciate. Most are sympathetic, some aren’t.
    It reminds me of an offensive comment I just received by (of course) an anonymous blogger. It was a provocative comment, and I realized this fact immediately, yet it still made me angry. Five minutes passed and I laughed hard at that ridiculous comment.
    Keep blogging, whatever ppl tell ya – don’t forget, you need guts to publish on the net, and be a coward for writing insults!
    Chen

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Thanks. I really appreciate honesty, which is one of the main reasons behind my blog. I write about stuff I didn’t know or hadn’t considered before entering grad school and even after. And I would have appreciated an honest opinion or thought about things at that time. It’s not that I don’t want people to go to grad school, but I believe it has to be an informed decision, hence my being candid. Thanks for visiting!

  8. Café Moka says:

    I didn’t even know your first language was not English! Your English writing is perfectly fine! My first language is French and you are way better than me!

  9. Daimia says:

    Good for you. I, too, didn’t know that your first language wasn’t English.

  10. happy _scientist says:

    Don’t get discouraged! I love your honest & well-thought writing style! More importantly, I enjoy reading your blog because I can relate myself (female scientist in her 30s, literally moved across the sea a few times between Asia, North America, and Europe, & constantly struggled throughout her Ph.D.) to so many things you’ve mentioned here, and I even get my mood uplifted a little after reading because I know I’m not alone. That’s what is important in online/off-line communication and NOT the grammatical correctness or a sophisticated articulation. (They cannot be completely ignored but I still think they are less important.) I just passed the Ph.D. defense a few weeks ago and I partially owe it to the brave writers like you!

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