27 and a PhD

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20 months in

I had my performance review recently. My second one since I started this job. I look at these things in terms of pass/fail. Looks like I passed, but I do have a lot more to learn and improve. THAT is a huge difference, compared to jobs I’ve had in the past. In the nearly 3 years I was at my previous job, I only got evaluated once, and it was a disaster. I fell into a deep depression. There were other factors that, when combined with the evaluation, made a perfect storm which lead to my eventual diagnosis of depression and anxiety. I look back and it feel as if this was in a different life, even a different person.

I got two thumbs up for doing an honest self-evaluation (I understand why stuff like this is done, but seriously, you don’t want to come off as a total braggart, but you don’t want to do a slob job and fail to recognize the good you did in the past year). The boss said so more than once. And that served to start the conversation (as they call it here).

I have to say that my first year was full of learning, of getting into a whole new mindset. I was walking around very cautiously … it took me nearly two months to let loose and start to believe that I hadn’t messed up by switching places. I wasn’t being treated poorly, I was, however very afraid that anything I did would cause me to lose the job. I was so scarred by the job I was leaving, and the imposter syndrome in me was at an all time high. Once the first year review happened, and I got so much great/constructive feedback I felt pumped to do more. But I fell into a rut … nah, I fell into a comfort zone and took it easy. Even with that, I managed to get some really good things done, and people noticed. I got lots of +++ for my way of treating and interacting with people, they like and appreciate my energy and drive. But, equipment-wise, I let some things slide. At times it felt like I didn’t have the energy to do all that was required of me, and instead of propelling me to do more, I just got so overwhelmed and got stuck in self-doubt.

The boss noticed that and offered some (actually) good feedback and shared some strategies, since he’s been where I’ve been. That is one key difference between my old job and my current one. I’m not being evaluated by someone completely removed from equipment and users. My boss was a lab manager before and though a lot less now, he’s run equipment and fixed stuff like me, so he knows (and remembers!) some of the constraints and pitfalls. Phew.

I was able to lean onto some of my co-workers, who rallied around me when I was sick … when I had the miscarriage in the spring, when I needed extra hands, or to be taught how to fix X or Y machine.

I’m still amazed that I have the job that I have, that I’m surrounded by genuinely smart, capable and HELPFUL people. I don’t know how I fell into all this, but 20 months in, even after some heartbreaks, and headaches, and lots of challenges, I feel like I am where I should be, where I belong. And I still find it surprising because I look around me, and see world-class researchers and ideas, and I have to pinch myself and remember that I’m up, alive and functioning, and that I get to bounce off ideas with these people, that I get to teach their students and trainees, that we have a close relationship with some industry leaders and that this translates into having unparalleled access to world-class equipment, and minds, and resources.

And I’m humbled, because even as small as a cog that I am in this enterprise, I finally feel valued and cherished. I don’t have to raise my voice above the noise to get heard, I don’t have to pound my fists against my desk and get sad and frustrated and feel miserable because I sold myself short and ended up in a place I hate. I don’t. I thought I felt lucky when I went back to my “old” scientific family at my previous job (minus some key players, especially in the administration), but I wasn’t. I did have a job, it kept me clothed and fed, and helped me gain my mental strength back (eventually) … but I am now where I was meant to be, when I am meant to be. And that is incredible, and humbling, and it makes me really, really want to fight for my future and the future of my center. It drives me to continue to dispense advice and tips to each and every one of my trainees. They see how hard I want to fight for their science, for their resources, for their eventual presentations and papers, and that in turn fuels me to do more.

Even though I let some things slide this past year, and I fell into this comfort zone, since the evaluation I have this insane drive, to do, to achieve, to complete. My husband has noticed this and he praises my efforts. He sees when unfair things happen (because they do happen; my job isn’t a fairy tale, it has its challenges and frustrations), and calmly offers perspective and/or cheering when needed. But just the caliber of people I’m around, how their whole attitude is so very different from anything I’ve seen in the past (except in NYC because OMG there were some nice faculty members full of ideas, and money and energy to fuel my drive). And that gives me the strength to move my lab forward, to purchase equipment and fix what’s broken, to make my users happy and always ask for feedback. My students have gotten used to hearing me say: what can I do to make your life and your science more comfortable? It can be something as simple as more padding on a chair they spend the whole night on while collecting or visualizing data. Or it could be a machine, a new centrifuge, a different set of tubes or a faster way to move data. Making THEM happy makes ME happy. And that is my reward (besides any extra $$ that comes around after I get a small recognition for getting things done).

These have been some of the most intense and exciting 20 months of my life. And I hope I get to continue to do this for a very long time.

Money, money, money

You know what’s weird (but good)? I’m not shy about money. You can see how much I’ve written about money or salary related things here, here, here and here.  Not having to worry about money the way I was back in 2011 is yet one of the many parks I have at this job.

See, when I moved back to the US 5 years ago, I was making about $20k more than as a postdoc, but I truly didn’t feel that change because a) I moved ot NYC, and while the cost of almost everything was cheaper than in Canada … rent was a bitch (truly the only downside I saw of living in NYC) and b) I’d just learned that a loan I’d cosigned was not being paid and I took that duty on my shoulders so as to not fuck up some more my already battered credit score (I can’t give too many details, but suffice it to say, this involved more than 2 people and there was shouting and family issues involved). Eventually I had to move jobs as my first post-academia job didn’t pay enough, and we all know how that turned out.

I was making lots of money (compared to say …. when I started grad school … or even as a postdoc), but I wasn’t happy. I felt as if my wings were clipped, my dreams crushed and my soul stomped on. Luckily I got out and I’m doing much better.

Right before the end of my time in #toxiclab, I decided to get really, reeeeeally serious about debt. I mean, I was paying stuff off, but just the minimum, so it would take me until 2078 (an exaggeration) to pay it all off. I was spending money on covering household stuff because my husband was underemployed, I hadn’t taken a decent vacation in a while, and whatever money was left over was being spent on clothes and house decor BS … mostly because I was trying to fill the void that the job I hated had created.

Sometime in 2015 things started clicking and I decided to add more change to what I was paying on my cards and other debts. At first it sucked, but as I saw the balance getting smaller and smaller, I started to feel like I was really on my way to being debt free. Back in August I updated my resolutions for 2016 and you can read up some more on how I felt about paying off one of my debts.

I’d been plugging numbers for quite some time, and seeing one of those debts just whoosh out of existence gave me this high … a high I’ve been on for a few months now. That has served as inspiration to keep it going. I’m nowhere near done, but I can see a light, though small and faint, I can see it.

I’m trying for a final push this year to see if instead of two debts, I end up with 3 at 0 balance. While paying all those children of Satan I’ve managed to go on a really cool vacation with my hubs paid in cash. The first vacation I’ve come home from without a single penny charged to a card before or after. I finished paying a small loan I’d co-signed years ago and while I celebrated paying it off too, it didn’t feel nearly as good because I took responsibility for a debt I didn’t see a cent of (crazy, I know).

I went to a conference and used my savings to pay for it. Once I was reimbursed, a good chunk of that went into paying another card. That’s the one I’m trying to eliminate before December 31st. I don’t think it’ll happen, but I’m damn sure trying my best.

If all continues as it’s been, I should be debt free by December of next year. I don’t want to celebrate just yet, but I have set it as a goal and I’ll try my best to keep it going. I sometimes run my numbers on a sheet of paper (I’m old school, baby) and I can’t believe my eyes when I see how much money I’d end up seeing, and saving when all is said and done.

See, I never envisioned getting into debt, and when I did and was deep down, I felt so ashamed. And I kept piling it on and on thinking (foolishly) that somehow I’d get out and deal with it some other time. I guess it was my naivete or simply stupidity. But the truth is that pure effort, consistency and discipline have been the things to keep me going. It is sure easy to close my eyes, forget about it all and just open credit card accounts or loans left and right. But having tasted the goodness of paying stuff off and seeing how much money is left in my account, knowing that if I decide to buy a couch, or fix a small issue on my car I can do it and not fear that I won’t have enough money to eat or get to work …. I mean, it’s simply amazing.

I’ll continue posting as I get closer to my goal of being debt-free in 2017.

Been meaning to write for a while

But between the hectic schedule and instruments breaking down, and my energy levels at an all time low, I’ve been putting it off. Then I remembered how good it feels to let things out and feel like I’m coming up to the surface to get some air.

Earlier this year my husband and I came to the realization that moving for this job was a BIG mistake. Neither one of us is happy or feels like we’ve had some of our dreams come true. On the contrary, between health issues that send hubs to the hospital more than once, and my inability to submit and find a way to click with my boss, the heartaches and headaches have been enough. Earlier last week I realized that the only reason I took this job was because it paid more. Nothing else. My benefits at my previous job were comparable and the company ponied up the money for my retirement up front, instead of waiting 6 months or whatever (like my current job does) and deduct it from my paycheck. I know, this is silly. There are a host of other things that I’m not at liberty to discuss that make the job even less appealing, but that’s one that really pisses me off.

And sure, I butted heads with my previous boss on occasion, but he didn’t meddle in lab affairs, or wanted to control my every move, something that I’m constantly fighting against at my current job. The pay isn’t worth the heartache. The city is boring beyond compare, and the stress it has put in my marriage is simply not worth it. I’m a (semi) godless liberal … and this is most definitely not my turf.

Because of those things and more, I’ve decided to start looking for a job. I haven’t warned the boss and I don’t plan to until I have to … ie. until someone asks for recommendations specifically from them. I know it’s a huge gamble, and I’m banking on some of the senior people that I’ve worked on here to help offset my current bosses low opinion of me, the rebellious bitch.

Some of the things I’m thankful for having learned at my current job are that money will not ever buy me happiness. It certainly hasn’t alleviated my feelings of inadequacy, hasn’t funded long vacations home to decompress, let alone freed some time to spend with my husband away from work. I have learned that I’m not willing to submit to an asshole no matter how much money they throw at me (oh, I’m, starting to sound like a high paid escort). And that I was trained well and know my shit, even when the asshole boss is fixated on proving me wrong (time and time again I’ve proven them wrong, yet they continue to give me the evil eye). I’ve learned that I like the fixing part of the instrument more than I thought possible, but I would have to go back and earn a BE in mechE or EE to even attempt to apply to their company. I’ve learned that I love training students and that I can train them faster than I thought possible. I’ve updated web pages and lab protocols to help run things smoothly. I have created databases and started ways to document things that weren’t in place before I got here.

But even with all those little goals met, it’s still not enough. I’ve been asked (forced) to mold into something I’m not, into something that I thought I’d left behind. There’s a reason I didn’t pursue the academic dream, and I’ve been forced to stare at those demons in the face and reiterate that I’m not going to compromise. Academia is not for me. Never was, never will.

I’ve experienced some of the growing pains I’d faced before … when I was a postdoc. And while it hasn’t been nearly as devastating (possibly because I’d faced those demons), it has hurt, it has been painful anyway.

Sometimes I beat my chest and ask the universe, why, why didn’t I stay where I was. The comfort of what was known was reassuring. The demons I battled there were known and I could handle them. I gave myself the freedom to dream and think that I could still make it in academia, well, in the fringes. But I was wrong. There are things I knew I didn’t like and still came back … mostly because I wanted to feel needed. I wanted to know what it was like to go back to a place I’d been and dazzle everyone with my mad skillz. And that pride came to bite me in the ass. And in a way it is OK, because it means I have a couple more notches on my belt. I can lick my wounds and try to fight back. That I have a clearer picture of what I want and know my limits.

Growing pains, being an adult, being a facilities coordinator (my official title), they have all sucked pieces of me. But today I’m making the decision to stand up, to use the knowledge and skills learned and perfected over the last 1.5 years and fight back. I vow to not settle again, to not be dazzled by supposed past glories and by other people’s judgement. I vow to listen to my inner voice, the same one that warned me loud and clear that my boss was trouble; the same voice I ignored in favor of more money and prestige. Take it from me, apparent more money and prestige aren’t always what they are said to be. You need to be true to yourself and embrace your quirks and respect yourself enough to say enough, to walk back, to try to not burn bridges but still be willing to move away, for your family and your sanity.

I’m done.

The postdoc experience. The staff scientist experience

Ah, it’s that time of the year again. When new grad students, bright eyed and bushy tailed, start their classes and rotations. They’re so cute. They have so much energy and are so excited about science. I love them. I really do.

Earlier this week I had the chance to spend some QT with a new grad student in my boss’s lab. This student is bright and while at first they seemed a bit intense, turns out they have a soft-ish side and seem quite trainable. I’m really happy for said student and hope they chooses wisely.

While having a convo with the new student, I was asked about my educational background and how I felt about my current job. I’m bound by some sort of corporate thingie that prevents me from eviscerating my boss, so I was kind and smiled and told them about my former department, what I did for my PhD, the topic of my thesis and then delved into my postdoc and what my role is here and now. I paused for a moment and mentioned to them that now was the ideal time to consider why and what they wanted to do a PhD. I mentioned that during rotations, they should start forming an idea of what they want to become an expert in. That their ideas may or may not change as time passes, and discover that maybe they truly aren’t into cancer bio as much as they thought and that this is OK. We eventually talked about my postdoc and for the first time in a long time I didn’t say that I hated my postdoc. But I did say why I thought I’d failed miserably at it and the conditions that lead to me choosing the particular lab I went in and what I liked and didn’t. The convo then moved to how I’d become a staff scientist and what were the pros and cons. I explained that most staff scientists I know are not on contract and how that translates to job security (ie. none). How we still depend on profs getting grants and how when we head the instrumentation part of the lab, whatever happens is our fault, always out fault, even if we haven’t touched the stupid dry nitrogen tank in 2 months!!! I also told them about my interests and how after grad school I didn’t get “married” to a topic, but welcomed anything that fell in my hands because I couldn’t get attached to a project the way I did in grad school, especially if I’d be handling large volumes of samples for others. I knew that I had a job, ie. to prepare samples, to make sure the ideal conditions were achieved prior to data collection and that data was properly collected, recorded, processed and archived. I told them about how, in the grand scheme of things, I do a lot of work, a lot of the slow-type work, collect the raw data, but how this excites me because I get to see the data before the PI or even the grad student or postdoc sees it. I get to pass on the knowledge and train people to collect data. And I get to see how excited they are when they see they can do it on their own. I told the student about how some PIs still want to squeeze you and your time as if you were a grad student, how they would love to see you here at 7am and have you leave at 10pm like everyone in their lab. I relayed how when one is bright eyed and bushy tailed one may want to go to the very top and choose a PI based solely on their publications in C/N/S, while ignoring crazy working conditions and/or inhumane treatment. And how some people are OK with that, while others have different expectations and they have to know what they’re getting into and whether that’s OK in their book. You will be in a lab for a few years and you have to ask the tough questions, check out physical cues and trust your instincts, especially if they’re telling you to run for the hills. Papers ARE the currency in academia, but you have to remain level headed and feel good, and some labs are not very good at that, even if they only publish in C/N/S.

This whole conversation made me think about how lucky I’ve been. I haven’t had gaps in my education or work history, I’ve managed to get out of bad labs/experiences before (I’m not having good luck this time around, but I’m growing a thicker skin for some things, so I guess that is one of my lessons to learn in this job) and how I was pretty sure from the very start, that PI-dom wasn’t for me. I couldn’t see myself writing non-stop, begging granting agencies for funds for my own ideas, mostly because I felt that I had no original thoughts that were worth funding. And how I was OK with that and I much I enjoyed, and still do, providing a supportive, training role to students and postdocs. How happy I am to see the data before it gets to the PI, how I help people troubleshoot. I how I get stay current in my game, while still saving money for retirement, something I couldn’t do as a grad student or postdoc. There are many advantages to being part of the scientific staff and I wish these kinds of positions were available and found more often. I feel accomplished (when my boss is not acting like an ass) and happy in what I do. I’m proud of my job and how I help my lab. I feel important and (somewhat) valued. Things I didn’t feel while I was a postdoc.

Then later, I got to spend some time with a very bright older grad student. This person is friendly, intelligent and has some pretty big ideas. They’re now shopping for a postdoc. This student wants to go the TT route and was looking for my opinion about certain PIs and cities, but also asked me to train them in some protein stuff I know how to do and they don’t, but we have to do it quietly, without raising suspicion because neither their PI nor mine can find out we’re training them, even thought their defense proposal has been accepted and they’ve been told to start writing. It brakes my heart that we both have to resort to “extreme” hiding measures to make sure this student is prepared for the postdoc, with skills they can’t acquire in their lab but are expected to know for their postdoc. This made me feel shitty because I would like to think that if I was a PI, I’d be thrilled I got to expand someone’s training, even if they weren’t in my lab (but I had a longstanding collaboration with their lab). I guess that’s yet another reason I’m not a PI. I would be a semi-softie and I know I’d have to make hard decisions that PIs have to make in order to keep the money coming and have it spent well. Decisions that while necessary, wouldn’t necessarily help me feel like I was helping the most amount of people. I have a soft spot in my heart for grad students and postdocs. Even though it’s been over 5 years since I finished my thesis and started my one and only postdoc, I still identify with many of their struggles and I want to be as supportive as I can.

I’m happy I get to train students and have an active role in their formation, even though they’re not “my” students. I do refer to them as such, because there are times that we spend long, long hours and see each other more than their PI or labmates.

Let’s see what happens in the coming months.

Mirena-versary (oh yeah, I went there)

In a couple of weeks I’ll celebrate my Mirena-versary (yes, it’s been almost a year since I got my Mirena in … time flies). Today, the always wonderful Katie tweeted an early FF to moi because … well, I’m always talking about personal business regarding my ladybits (not graphic stuff, but weighing in on Mirena and other forms of birth control). And her tweet reminded me also that I haven’t updated my blog regarding how things have been going with Mirena since way back in Sept of 2013. So, here’s a short and sweet post on how has my year been since I had Mirena inserted.

Around this time last year I’d been mulling over trying Mirena. I’d turned 32 the month before and was working hard in my lab when a convo with one of our trainees about birth control sparked my interest in trying progesterone-only BC. Mirena is a T shaped form of BC that is inserted in your uterus and through a variety of mechanisms, which include: thickening of the cervical mucus (making it harder for the little swimmers to get close to the egg), possible suppression of ovulation, and thinning of the lining of the uterus, prevents unplanned pregnancies. Mirena does this by slowly but surely releasing a synthetic version of progesterone locally and can stay put for about 5 years. There are other types of T-shaped BC rods, including Paraguard (ie., the copper one), and Skyla, which is similar to Mirena, but lasts for 3 years instead of 5. (And no, I wasn’t paid to say any of the above, just pointing out some of the details which may be relevant to us biologists).

At the time I went to the women’s clinic at work, I had no idea that Skyla even existed. Had I known that, I would have opted for it, not only because it is slightly smaller than Mirena, but because instead of 5 years, I could have had it in for 3 and have it taken out by the time hon and I may consider having a spawn of our own (no, I do not refer to my nephew as spawn, he’s the most adorable little boy ever … I like to have a fun outlook on a possible 27 and a PhD baby). The deductible would have been the same ($30), but it would have been a lower cost to my insurance and should I decide to take the Mirena out before the 5 years I’d feel like I’d wasted $$, even if my deductible was the same.

Anyway, after the initial shock of having my OB measure the inside of my ladybits and poke me a bit, the Mirena went in and after a bit of bleeding I got a break, and then spent about a month spotting. I did feel the discomfort of the instruments even though I was given a local anesthetic because I can’t take most painkillers. And I felt discomfort the first night and had a bit of a headache but it slowly went away.

Sometimes I think I feel/know when I’m ovulating because I feel as if something was breaking (more of a popping) inside of me, in my abdominal area. One OB I saw as a student said that some women report this and that it may be possible to feel the follicle releasing the egg. Usually after this “popping” I get some discomfort and two weeks later the red gates open and I’m miserable.

With Mirena, I was spotting for a month, then things normalized a bit and I was able to sort of predict when my period would start. During my next two periods I would spot, but the periods were definitely less heavy than … well, ever, and I didn’t have to take painkillers as much as I’d doing. I did hang around a bit with my heating pad as I was afraid that at any point I’d have my period and cramps show up … but thankfully that never happened. My mood didn’t deteriorate, my breasts didn’t feel any different, in general, it was how I remember my 2nd or 3rd period happen before I started getting the cramps from hell.

My OB showed me how to feel the threads that are supposed to hang out of the cervix. And honey did report at some point feeling something poking a bit, but nothing major and certainly it didn’t impair his …. performance.

Before our wedding, I did go back to the OB to have my threads checked because I couldn’t feel them. Turns out the threads sometimes curl up and are difficult to feel. I then (as always) shared my experience with the lady scientists on Twitter and a few of them said that they don’t even check them anymore … so I guess it depends on your OB. The threads can be a bit stubborn, but you don’t feel them, I promise.

I had my last period sometime in February and since then, I’ve been period free. Yes, you read it right. PERIOD. FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. This is truly a state of bliss.

I remember when I was grad student and I first saw the ad for (I think) Seasonique and it mentioned that you could have your period 4 times a year. I was appalled and I thought, hell, I ain’t doing that! But as I got older it dawned on me that all the suffering, the missed work days, the cramps, the breast tenderness and pain, they all could have been gone years ago! I wasn’t sexually active at that time and felt silly suppressing my period. Ignorance was not bliss.

I think Mirena works well for me and if asked, I’d tell all ladies to forget about the pills and go with an IUD. For me it’s proven safe, effective, non disruptive and I don’t have to worry about forgetting to take a pill or making a quick stop at the pharmacy for a condom.

But above all, beyond preventing an unplanned pregnancy, what makes me a believer is that I haven’t had cramps in almost a year. And, for me, that’s unheard of. I’ve had to miss work because I’ve had a cold or a medical procedure, but not because of my period. I honestly wish I’d made this decision 10 years ago.

For me, an IUD has been a life saver and money saver. I haven’t had to purchase pads in a LONG time, and the other day when I had a headache, I couldn’t even remember where I’d put my acetaminophen!

*** If you want to follow the conversation on IUDs, other forms of BC and ladybits, click here. And last but not least, you can read about IUDs and how they are most definitely NOT an abortifacient as the scientists of the Supreme Court and Hobby Lobby want you to believe. Oh wait … Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court don’t have scientists … they are NOT scientists.

Dear Science Career Blogs … no. Just … NO

Today the always awesome Dr Becca and DrugMonkey (and a bunch of other awesome tweeps) noticed this little gem from our frenemies at Science Careers: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2014_07_21/caredit.a1400184

The gist of it is that one little study at one university apparently found that if you think positive thoughts, not only can you handle stress better, you can magically fix the world, end hunger, solve the conflict between Israel and Palestine and end global warming!!!! Insert sarcasm here.

Look, I’m all for having a wonderful outlook and all. I know that a positive attitude can help in overcoming difficult situations.

What bothers me tremendously is that the way things are phrased in the little gem above, it makes it sound like postdocs have the answer to solve ALL their issues and that it’s in their hands to fix everything with just a tiny attitude adjustment.

This couldn’t be further from truth.

I’m not the only disgruntled doc here. But since it’s already past my bed time and I’m battling the beginning stages of a cold (and I’m lazy beyond belief), I’ll do Science Careers a big fat favour and point out to some of my most downward ass posts from 3 years ago.

See here, here and here. Apologies for the shameless self promotion, but like I said, my nostrils and sinuses are filled with yuck and I’m too lazy to link to others.

You see, Science Careers, thinking happy thoughts it’s all fine and dandy, until you find yourself in a horrible situation, with an abusive PI, or a bully labmate (like I did, the labmate, not the PI, thankfully, though I did see one of the PIs in my former PD department beat the shit out of a postdoc, emotionally speaking). Or you or your significant other are let go of the lab because the funding dried up and none of the 1500 grant applications you wrote and the endless nights of running FPLC columns, or counting fishies or measuring how high bunny rabbits jump, added up to 0 because the lab can’t keep running without money. Happy thoughts can totally help you console your sick child, help deal with your cancer or that of a loved one, or help you deal with death, divorce or marriage. You just have to find your happy place, cross your legs and think of how come you’re still in a dead end postdoc, in year 4 with 0 publications and you’re dealing with a sexist collaborator, or department head, or an ultra competitive postdoc and just breathe in and let it all go.

Truly, SC, truly. That is a bunch of bull.

Thinking happy thoughts didn’t save my dying friend, or helped me pay my bills, or drove my husband to the ER during a panic attack. Happy thoughts didn’t help shit when I was being bullied by the star student of the lab. Happy thoughts didn’t keep me fed and clothed, let alone warm during cold Canadian winters.

You know what kept me alive? A supportive husband (then boyfriend), friends from home that kept in touch, Skyping with my mom while witnessing my baby nephew grow in front of a camera. Whatever kind of career counseling I could get, be by the school or by a support network built on Twitter.

Those things kept me from jumping off of my apartment’s balcony on the 11th floor.

Not happy thoughts.

So, I hope you can pat yourself on the back for telling postdocs (current and prospective) that all they have to do is man/woman up and think positive thoughts. That that is all it takes to deal with stress. And that those happy thoughts will magically bring food to the table, a dental plan, retirement accounts and savings. They totally will (insert major side eyes here by me and a bunch of my tweeps).


It’s been forever since I last wrote something.

Ever since the incident with my boss, I’ve been keeping busy and making sure that everything I do is well documented, so as to avoid getting k3rned by them.

But something that a friend posted today reignited all those feelings of frustration. See here:

The lovely fianinros wrote what I couldn’t very well articulate back in April. See, I’d been given the impression that I was doing things right, keeping the boat afloat and then when I got feedback from my department, my boss had all these complaints about me and my work. I felt like I’d been stabbed in the back and I felt like I was out of breath for a week. It’s was terrible. Then, during a meeting last week, the darned PI took credit for something I’d remarked a month before! I mean, seriously. It wasn’t a big deal (the type of info they informally took credit for), but I felt like I’d been stepped on, yet again. See, this is one of the things we get when we’re staff scientists or research associates, sometimes we have to put our head down and keep going despite having the air taken out of our lungs by the actions of our superiors.

Someone asked on Twitter why we weren’t looking for another job.

It’s a multi-pronged situation, you see. I haven’t been here long enough to make a mark. I’ve already been in a situation where publications didn’t come out of my efforts (ie, the postdoc from hell). Despite what some may thing, publications, even if you’re the 17th author, are still currency for staff scientists. Not only that, but because I’ve moved on to bigger and “better” things, there are certain milestones I would like to accomplish that I hope will give me more leverage to negotiate a better offer in the future. I’m going to a conference in the fall and I’m hoping that by that time there will be papers out (or at least submitted) that I can use to attract some attention and put out feelers and see if I happen to land somewhere else. So for now my strategy is to keep my head down, be the obedient, submissive sweetheart I can be and slowly plan my exit. In addition, there aren’t that many jobs out there as there were when I got this one, and this one came because a former committee member of mine saw the opening, contacted other faculty and said “hey, let’s see if she’s willing to relocate.” Said former member of my committee knew the types of experiments I was able to perform, but was/is far too removed from the field to truly get a deep understanding of the technical challenges involved in it. I feel a bit bad about leaving this person hanging … but they don’t know all the drama involved in being a staff sci.

It has been frustrating to hit myself against the walls of people who think they are too big, or too perfect, to do anything wrong. And sadly, I’ve developed a taste for proving them wrong but being a bit … confrontational about showing them where they messed up.

We had a PM done in one instrument recently and while talking with the service person about the challenges of being at the helm (for only some things) of a lab, he casually mentioned that I should totes apply for a job in his company. But his company doesn’t have any openings and the two geographical areas where the company has plants are too far from anywhere I’d like to be.

But, I keep, we keep, moving forward despite facing challenges and even sexism at times, because we love the research. Isn’t that what all PIs have to do when dealing with admin BS, or institutional stupidity?

I am committed to my job, mostly because of future prospects. But it is disheartening to encounter attitudes that extinguish your fire for a field one loves. Yes, people are difficult to deal with .. but honestly, it shouldn’t be this complicated.