27 and a PhD

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Leaving

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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It is with a heavy heart that I leave my first post-academic job in search of something new. Many feelings are in my head and my heart now. Did I make the right decision? Will my family survive yet another move? How will honey fare in new job city? Will I be able to deal (or avoid) all the knucklehead republicans I will find in this city? Will I deliver they way people envision I will?

I feel small, inadequate … like it’s Imposter Syndrome x100. The responsibility of a whole lab rests on my shoulders (no, I’m not becoming a PI). I have to make sure my instruments run, I have to train people, analyze data, help calm nerves of both students and postdocs … this, 4 years after I was last a grad student, and 2 after I left my postdoc to work in New York.

My heart feels heavy because I’m leaving NYC, the city of dreams. I’ve met so many wonderful people, I adore my co-workers, they’re seriously the best scientists I’ve worked with in some time. They’re patient and funny and I feel like I’m letting them down by taking another position.

In these last couple of days the most common words coming out of people’s mouths are: are you excited? how does it feel to be a manager? how does it feel to leave NYC?

While I am relieved that I don’t have to worry about alternate side parking again, or that I can kiss goodbye to overcrowded buses and trains, everything else about the city, from the good food to the great science, from the noises that make NYC well, NYC, to the ease of finding everything, at all times of the day, and everything you get to do here … all of it I will miss. I guess besides the worry about being able to produce and delivery, I am most afraid of adapting to a city I haven’t seen in a couple of years. I’m afraid I won’t mesh and that I’ll be bitchin’ about how great things were in NYC (even if I occasionally disagreed with my boss).

I’m afraid of change and I am afraid of me. Of being so scared out of my wits that I won’t move, won’t decide and will let a whole lab and a whole lot of users crash down and fall. I am not excited … I am terrified. The possibility of change and more money cannot shake the terror I have of looking like a complete idiot, and of making the profs that vouched for me, afraid and sad that they chose me and that they offered the job to me, instead of someone more experienced. My smile and excitement about science cannot, or are not, enough to keep a lab running. And I am once again afraid of not being competent enough.

When will the imposter leave my life for good??

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10 Comments

  1. moncochon says:

    hi buddy, there are so many reset btns in life. u just need to hit it.
    when u think +ve, good things will come to you.

  2. Liz says:

    nice post. Periods of life change are difficult- even if the change is all positive. Some people thrive on change. I am not one of those people. I think it has helped that I recognize that I don’t react well to change and so I am not surprised when I’m not super happy for the first ~3 months in a new position. I now just wait it out and once I am settled I can really evaluated how I feel about the position.

  3. BananaFurby says:

    You’ll be fine! These people know you and they want you for a reason 🙂

  4. shanta says:

    I love your blog for how frank and open you are about science related subjects…..i originally trained as an engineer and switched to biology because of my interest in solving health and disease related problems….i am learning and still struggle with simple things biologists just know….i passed math with flying colors…won olympiads and all that and wonder – will this translate to this field? My grad school intended to be a bridge but my mentor did nothing so i lag behind and work hard to catch up as a post doc…..i just cant seem to formulate new ideas and exciting things to do…..as an outsider i have a different view on what a biologist thinks is important but i have left engineering so long ago….will i get back? With an H1 visa will i ever find a job doing what i love to do i.e teach? I dont know….for now, i know a 1000 people would kill to be in my post doc position…..my mentor is super well known and well funded….gives me all the stuff i need and is very very very nice…..inspite of all the blocks its going pretty well….i am used to being left alone and i have salvaged a dead project where my immediate superiors said -trash this thing down the hill…..but i do want to see the day when i am confident and sure of what i do….i am sick of a 100 names for the same protein and turning one gene off and looking at a mouse to see what it does…someday i hope to do application oriented research like i always wanted to…..

    I think u have gained some great experience and have solid foundations…i am sure u will find something that will fit your skills and experience…good luck with everything and congrats on getting married!

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Thank you so much for your input Shanta! I think good things will come your way too. I remember feeling so stressed about what I was doing as a postdoc and turns out I can sometimes explain the technique better than I can the one that I’m an “expert” in. It does get tough, I know. Biologists tend to (sometimes) take for granted what people in other disciplines feel is hard (especially all those pathways and proteins). Hang in there, it does become second nature at some point. I promise!

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