27 and a PhD

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Leaving

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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Resolutions 2013

Seeing as I did pretty good (IMO) with last year’s resolutions here’s a list, in no particular order, of this year’s resolutions:

  1. Get new tires for the car that (thankfully) I didn’t sell and will need at new job city.
  2. In addition, get the title of my car from new job city as soon as I can (ie. within 30 days of moving) and not delay it like I did in NYC (still waiting on the stupid title, oh how I dislike NYC’s bureaucracy).
  3. Pay off credit card #3 (the one with the lowest balance, which is still pretty high, IMO) while saving money for the wedding (and perhaps the honeymoon, though for now we’re not counting on having a honeymoon immediately after the wedding).
  4. Marry Mr 30 and a PhD in City Hall before we embark on our new adventure in new job city.
  5. Leave everything I need to in order at my current place of employment so my labbies feel a bit relieved that I didn’t leave them hanging.
  6. Take advantage of the free public transportation initiative that new job institution offers; hopefully I’ll save some money by not filling up my tank as often, keeping the environment cleaner, and of course, avoiding cursing others as if I still lived in NYC.
  7. Attend a conference, workshop or some such networking thingie outside of new job city.
  8. Get my tubes checked. Once and for all. I hate having painful periods. Grrrrrr
  9. Lose 20 pounds, no more, no less, so I can fit in my wedding dress.
  10. Cook at home as often as possible. I’d lost some weight in my previous apartment and with me previous roommate, who was never there. At the new place I have more roommates, and they’re almost always there. I hate not having a kitchen for myself.
  11. Appear in a paper coming out of the new lab.
  12. Prove that my new lab is essential for the institution and hopefully score a tech, even if it’s just part time. I know I’m going to be a busy bee.
  13. Start saving for a DSLR or a Macbook Pro (I know, with the wedding and the kicking a debt in the groin it seems almost impossible, but even if it’s just 300$, I want that money put away for just that purpose).

What are your resolutions?

Changes, so many changes

When I moved to NYC almost two years ago, I knew that my position wouldn’t be a forever-type thing. I wanted, I needed to have some security, to get out of the training loop. I wanted to have benefits, to have a job that involved doing science, training, sample prep, and of course, learning new skills to add to my repertoire.

I knew the position would only be a temporary fix to my situation at the time (frustrated with academia, hated my postdoc, etc). I also knew, or at least expected, that the separation from honey would be a temporary one, especially while he finished his PhD. He’d be looking for work, hopefully in NYC or nearby, and we’d reunite after a while.

Hon was struggling for a few months to try to find work. He lived with his parents in the meantime, as my salary could not sustain the two of us. We went back to the long distance thing, with him doing most of the traveling to NYC. We’ve had a fantastic time in this city. This city is amazing. I’ve met some super fantastic folks, I’ve made contacts that I never even dreamed would be possible. I’ve met some of my favourite scientists, connected with emerging ones, in general, I’ve had a grand ole time.

I hadn’t been looking for work, or at least actively, since joining my current lab. Since I did such a short postdoc (in my opinion), only 1.9 years, I was afraid of doing a bunch of short stints at a couple of places, and creating the impression that I couldn’t hold on to something for a while, and improve my publication profile, network, present, etc.

Back in October I was contacted by a somewhat new hire at one of my previous places of training. I know this PI because they started in this place just as I was finishing. This PI’s postdoc lab is rather famous in my field, and has been very prolific in method-development. In addition, this lab has had a shit ton of trainees, some of which I’ve gotten to work with or meet since moving to NYC.

People at this previous place of training have been searching high and low for someone to be a manager of a lab in one of my disciplines of training. There have been some major changes (faculty-wise) and some of the people in power know of me and my work.

A couple of weeks ago I flew in for an interview, not sure of what to expect. I hadn’t seen these people since I left for my current job and I wasn’t sure how I’d fit in (if at all). Granted, I was trained at some point of my career there and people know the calibre of work I did. I was sure that all I’d get would be a free trip to say hello and goodbye and that’d be the end of it. I was oh-so wrong.

A few days ago I got semi-official confirmation that the position has been opened … for me. In essence I was asked to name everything I needed In order to leave NYC and join them. Yup. I’m still trying to pick my jaw off the floor.

I’m switching jobs once again. I’m going back and (hopefully) getting a do-over of some of the things I didn’t get to do, or did wrong. Hon will be relocating also, which means I get to have my cake and eat it too! Yeah, pinch me. I’m still trying to understand how the heck did this happen.

This new job has the potential for incredible amounts of growth. I’d be heading a lab I worked in, not as a PI, but as a bona fide manager. I’d be training people, creating protocols, collecting data, interacting with PI’s, postdocs and students of all levels. There would be no middle man like there is now. I’d basically become the female version of my current immediate supervisor, a person I adore beyond measure.

Yeah. I’m still freaking out. I can’t begin to wrap my head around the whole thing. I’ll be leaving NYC. That saddens me terribly. But what I earn now is not enough to live with hon, let alone cover the debt I have. I’d be getting access to the same level of benefits I currently have, along with more responsibility. I’d have access to a kick ass library, to decent sports teams, good food, and a whole new wave of talent.

I’m both excited and terrified. I’m excited about the possibility of working once again with people I know, but in a new aspect of my career. This is not a soft money position and I’m thrilled that the school/department/faculty kept me in mind when the whole change in faculty/department structure happened.

I also have some worries. I’d be the only woman in the lab, in a conservative environment where most of the faculty are white bearded dudes. And while I’ve been trained well in the science and in some admin stuff, I have no idea how to confront white bearded dudes, should they get out of line. I’m half their age at best … this shit is crazy.

I’ve certainly changed a bit from my old days there, so I don’t know how my “new” personality will mesh. I’m worried about that too. I’m worried about how I’ll be able to head the lab and move things along to show that the lab is self-sustaining and that we can bring more staff to help me. I’m worried about the pace of things, and about meeting the expectations. I don’t want to let anyone down. And of course, my imposter syndrome is acting up.

I’m happy about the change though (well, except the part about leaving NYC), about living with honey and being able to afford a place where we’re each others’ only roommate, of continuing our own little family, mamma, dadda and kitty. I’m happy to be able to drive places once again. I won’t miss living with total strangers (thankfully all of them have been sane!), the noises of the street, the crazy, stinky people during rush hour. NYC has been a tremendous adventure, but it’s my time to go.

We’ll see how things happen. But rest assured, I’ll keep writing about life in school, and life as a staff scientist, now loaded with moar responsibiliteez. Omai. I hope the new job, and the new me will still shed some light on the post-academic life. I hope y’all hang in there while I figure out my new roles, as a wife and lab manager.

Oh!? Did I mention that honey proposed and that we’ll be getting married in NYC before the move? Yeah …. totally. But that’s for another post, hehehe

Much love from my family to yours and a very merry 2013.

I’m thankful – 2012 edition

Last year I wrote this. Since lately my inspiration has been dwindling, I decided to revisit the things I was thankful for last year and add a new one or two for this one. Enjoy!

For so many things (in no particular order):

  1. I’m celebrating 5 months at work. For celebrating almost a year and a half here. I’ve learned so much, met so many incredible people and having the resources I do.
  2. For having a job in the field I was trained, and love. And for finally having benefits (hooray retirement, dental and vision!). Still true and very, very thankful.
  3. And learning my way with certain instruments and equipment at work. Last year I was terribly scared of some instrumentation. Thankfully, said instrumentation doesn’t scare me anymore. I know how to troubleshoot some common problems and I enjoy using said instruments. Yay!
  4. And I’m starting to feel somewhat useful. Still true, though sometimes I still struggle.
  5. For having hon with me, in the city,  more times than I imagined possible after the move. We haven’t seen each other as much as last year, but still, we’re going strong. And I am beyond happy about that 😀
  6. And his ability to find entertainment on the cheap (babe, you need to make your own website, entertainment on the cheap for poor grad students and staff scientists). Still true (we even managed to squeeze a trip to DC!).
  7. And his love and support, and kindness and sweet messages throughout the day … even when I’m dead tired, it’s a nice things to find little smileys or sweet notes on my phone. Very true and always welcomed.
  8. For my family and their continued support. For their health and love. Amen to this!
  9. For great co-workers who make me smile. I love them dearly and appreciate their help and patience.
  10. For the lack of gossip and criticism from co-workers. Still true and it’s such a relief.
  11. For getting more independent on some of the equipment, and hopefully getting the courage to ask the boss for a raise when the time comes. Didn’t have to ask for a raise, I earned that mother%ucker. Also, I now know how to work with most of the equipment I should master. Pheww.
  12. For being able to pay my bills, and have food on my table, even if I can’t afford to go home for Xmas. This whole money ordeal with the family has shown me that sometimes, tough decisions have to be made in order to get out of debt and (hopefully) stay out of debt. Doing better money-wise, but still in debt. The good thing is that I still get to have warm food on my table and that is awesome.
  13. For the yummy, cheap deli near work and for the good Chinese place down the street. I moved so I’m far away from them now. The good thing is that I finally found some decent Thai delivery place. Ahhhhh
  14. For having a roof over my head and public transportation. A new roof albeit, but still.
  15. And an insane amount of luck finding parking. True, and now better than before.
  16. For having fantastic Twitter and IRL friends. True, true, true and especially for the ones I’ve met in the flesh.
  17. For having two legs that work and carry my tired body at the end of the day. Amen
  18. For the many awesome people I’ve met while in this city, especially some really cool scientists … one of which I’ve admired for almost a decade. Still true!
  19. For being able to speak my mind at work, to my boss’s face and not feeling bad about it (and hoping that it won’t get me fired). For his honesty and not needing a crystal ball to read his mind. True, though at times he can be a jerk, but still, I need to crystal ball with this one.
  20. For having a crazy kitty that drives me insane … but it’s a most welcomed company when I get home from work. Now with even more kittehs at home.
  21. For networking opportunities and for being able to attend a few cheap (or free) local meetings this year. Still true and for being able to attend a small conference and meeting some cool people.
  22. For leaving my postdoc at the right time, and for everything I learned there. Still true, there isn’t a day that goes by that I forget to thank heavens for not being a postdoc anymore. Best decision ever.
  23. For having Canada be my second home and native land. I miss you and the nicest people on Earth (except the crazies driving around postdoc city, sheesh) …. and Thai Express. Still miss you Canada.
  24. For having 2 outlets to blog and share my stories, and especially, for all the warm and supportive comments, emails and tweets. For having an extra outlet come out of the blue this year and a few other opportunities.
  25. For looking out my window and seeing The City … I sometimes pinch myself because I can’t believe I get to live hereNot true anymore, but I’m still thankful for living in the City and having many cool things at my fingertips. 

I should be home for the holidays

Compared to last year, money-wise I’m doing a tad better. Not great, but better. I’m paying a little less in rent (though I live in a place that not even Sandy could get to … thankfully). A few months back I paid off one of my credit cards, and now I’m continuing, though it’s hard. There are many temptations here in NYC and I’d like to rewards myself with nice things every now and then, but the future is much more important, something I try to remind myself as often as possible.

Honey had been paying close attention to the prices of tickets to go home and finally, after a bit of convincing he twisted my arm a bit to travel with the airline I *hate* the most in the world to (hopefully) get me home. I hate this airline (which starts with U and ends with nited) because they’re always screwing this up, but, they had the best price and it’s a direct flight. So I bit the bullet and said yes and now I’m going home in December, in time for the holidays. Last year I was bitching and moaning about staying in NYC and not seeing my family thanks to my father. But this year I still had some vacation days left and the hell with it, I’m going home. The director (dictator) of where I work won’t have my days, hell to the no. I’m taking each and every vacation day I have left and making the most of it. I do need to find a place to leave my kitty cat and square out some other details. But I am going home even if I have to fly myself to hell and back. I’m so relieved and happy. Christmastime is my favourite time of the year. People that haven’t seen me in forever shower me with love and alcohol. Hon and I go on dates. I get to play with my nephew and my mom and I spend some quality time together. I can’t wait to get home.

Most of my resolutions for 2012 have come true in one way or the other. I still have a few left to mark off. I promise to update this as we get closer to the end of 2012. I’ve also decided that 2013 is the year that will bring honey and I together once and for all. I don’t know how but mark my words, Mr 30 and a PhD and Miss 27 (plus 4) and a PhD will be together by this time next year. This is happening.

Science-wise, I have my busy days and my not-so-busy days too. Mostly I’m prepping instruments for people, doing some PM here and there and writing lots of documentation on how to use the different tools available in the lab. I also got a call from one of my previous PI’s. They’re in the market for some equipment and wanted my opinion on it. Maybe in the future they’ll collaborate with my lab. Maybe. It did feel nice to talk to them and talk, on a different level, about lab stuff and my opinion on it. It’s odd, but I felt useful, like the expert they said I’d become.

Also, I finally got an iPhone. Yes, I got the newest one. No, I can’t compare with the old ones, though I giggle when I see the smaller screen of the old ones (I know, I’m a snob .. but hey, it’s the nicest thing I’ve bought for myself this year). I’ve downloaded a couple of apps (including angry birds and the one for the PDB … it is fawesome! yes, fawsome … you know, f-ing awesome).

What’s new with you?

I guess I was wrong

Due to money constraints, I thought I would not be able to attend a conference or a workshop this year. Earlier in the year I went to a workshop a few hours away which was super informative and a great place to network. That resulted in visits from a couple of applications/engineering people who helped a lot with one of our renegade instruments. That beast had been tamed somewhat.

Then my boss and supervisor had a budget meeting and turns out there’s money left to go somewhere, not too far, but still. So, by the end of this month I’ll be flying away from NYC to attend a little conference in my field. I have nothing to present, which is both good and bad. I’m going into new turf and will be talking to peeps who do this thing I do in the lab but which I’m still new at (and apparently the only one right now to do it in my division), so I’m looking forward to getting pointers from more senior people in the field. This was a totally unexpected and very welcomed surprise. I hope to make new contacts and maybe get in contact with a couple of corporate people too. I guess I gave up too soon on the traveling to a conference (however small).

Hon was here for 2 weeks. It was bliss. We went down to DC to celebrate 7 years of being together and we loved it. I apologize for not getting in contact with of you lovely DC tweeps, but we had a little over 30 hours to do some tourism in the area and felt it would have been too short on you to make it memorable. I hope we can go back for a little longer some other time. Hon is still looking for work. I’m also keeping my eyes open for any opportunities that arise at home. I miss my hon, and I want to be near him once and for all.

The air is getting chillier. I’m not looking forward to a bad winter, though I suspect this will be. Bummer.

I’m liking the new place and my roommates. The apartment is homier and I get to interact with the roommates more than I did with my previous one. I’m finally getting used to the new place and settling into a routine. Things seem more normal.

Science-wise, there are lots of projects going on and I’m trying to keep my head straight. Been doing lots of data collection, lots of samples and learning lots too. It’s incredible how much I’ve learned in a year as a staff scientist compared to being a postdoc stuck in a rut. Don’t get me wrong, doing the postdoc taught me many things, but mostly about me and my limits. In this lab I’m learning tons technique- and science-wise.

What’s new with you?

Resolutions 2012 – 5 months in

Here’s how things are going five months into 2012. The changes are crossed and have a comment. Enjoy!

Even though I complain all the time about hating to do resolutions, I still manage to make a list. I like lists, I enjoy making them and I enjoy crossing stuff off even more. So, without further ado, here’s what I hope to accomplish have accomplished in 2012 (in no particular order):

  1. Get bangs. I love bangs, but after a while I get tired. I found a haircut that I love and back in October, I found a stylist that I like, so I hope to get into the spirit of spring with a new haircut and bangs to match. Finally I’m sporting bangs, a little long, but that’s better than ending up with Audrey Hepburn’s bangs on hair that’s thicker than thick.
  2. Sell my car.
  3. But first I need to *finally* get the papers in order. It still has an ON title.  *** I did get my driver’s license and I got the papers for transferring the title … one step at a time.
  4. Ask for a raise, because I deserve it, and I want it. After having the results of my year end review, I ended up with a few more pennies in my pocket. Not too shabby :-)
  5. Visit the family and stay a few days without worrying about money. Possibly attend my nephew’s birthday. I did, and I did attend my nephew’s birthday. I love that little bundle of awesome 🙂
  6. Attend hon’s defense and graduation. We can call honey Mr 30 and a PhD.YAY!
  7. Make a dent on credit card debt #3, the smallest one (thought it’s still pretty significant).
  8. Attend a national meeting of my discipline or at least sub-field. I have no money to attend, and work won’t cover it unless I pay in advance, so not this year.
  9. Appear on a publication, even if it’s just in the acknowledgments.
  10. Write an entry once a week.
  11. Make dinner at home, at least 1 week of every month (it costs me as much to dine out as to buy groceries and cook, so I opt to (mostly) eat out and work late).Woo! Achieved. I’m cooking most days in, not 7 days a week, but most days a week, every week. Not too shabby here either. I’ll take eating in most days, rather than cooking for 7 days just one week a month.
  12. Tell annoying family member to fuck off if he keeps harassing me.
  13. Try a few new places to eat, especially around my neighbourhood (not that I don’t love you y’all, but you know, I need variety).
  14. Walk more, eat less, drink more water. Not eating less, but I’m opting to walk more whenever I can (and soon I should be getting my orthotics! finally done, yay!!!) and I’m drinking water most days at work.
  15. Find a good, local brewery and try a new beer every month (suggestions are more than appreciated, also #drunksci).