Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's a small world

Maybe a year or so ago, TM and I went to a dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. The chef did a special dinner that he cooked himself for a small group of people in what amounted to his secret underground lair. It was a really interesting group of people. I was sitting next to a VP from a major financial institution (who was a total alcoholic, but she was darn entertaining). There was a couple that were both patent attorneys that had previously worked at a biotech that TM and I are both familiar with. There was another couple that were both podiatrists, and a few others.

Tonight, I was sprawled out in the living room floor painting my toenails, and I informed TM that I just could not comprehend why anyone would want to be a podiatrist. Basically any other specialty I can understand, but the interest in podiatry I just don’t get.

A few hours later, TM scampered off to meet his brother at the airport. While waiting at baggage claim, he texted me to tell me he had run into the podiatrists. Apparently they have lots of luggage. And that, boys and girls, is my random story for the day.

And I still don't understand why anybody would want to be a podiatrist (no offense intended)!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

RBO Newsflash

• Your child is not “gifted” because he can “wave bye bye” at 6 months old.

• If you’re dating someone who is a parent of relatively well-adjusted adult children and you haven’t met them, you might want to try that. Or at least ask why your fiancĂ©’s adult child has absolutely nothing to do with them. There might be a reason and it might save you a lot of heartache. I’m just sayin’…

• If you’re 50+ and engaged to be married to spouse number 4, planning the wedding and informing at least one of your children before telling either of your parents that you’re even planning to get married just makes you look ridiculous.

• Having an extremely religious ceremony for wedding number 3 is a little bizarre. Getting married to spouse number 4 in the same church with the same preacher is just laughable. I wonder if he’ll use the same sermon.

• Having an online system to make an appointment with student health services is great. Unless the system sucks. Like, say, if you can’t narrow the available appointments by provider, even though they explicitly encourage you to see the same provider.

• Having really weird, disturbing dreams for a solid week sucks. A lot.

• Some things should be very carefully edited. Examples: a newspaper’s website, a published novel. Fortunately, I have an in with the newspaper’s publisher. I signed the email I sent him today “Woman ‘will edit for cash’ Scientist”. As for the novel, I was reading this weekend, and I actually stopped and wrote a review for the book because the number of errors was downright distracting. Which is just sad, since I was reading really fast because I was bored with the plot.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On mentoring

In general, I think Crazy Man is a pretty good mentor. In general, he has a pretty good idea of how each of us operates. He usually knows when to push us and when to give us a pep talk or just say nothing at all. He also does an excellent job of helping us understand how to write and review both grants and papers, which I really appreciate (even though I think I’m the only one). He’s a little off his rocker sometimes, but aren’t we all?

I’ve been thinking about mentoring a lot the past few weeks, particularly with respect to the Ducklings. I realized that I’m not just training them. I’m not just teaching them the nuts and bolts of our systems and how to physically do the experiments our lab does. I’m also teaching them all kinds of intangible things that I don’t even realize.

This realization has pushed me to think more about being a mentor than a mentee. Both the Ducklings are struggling a bit right now, with both lab and non-lab issues. They’re both stressed because they’re dealing with their classes and their upcoming student seminar talks and qualifying exams. It’s a stressful time in their careers. And I don’t feel like either of them is coping particularly well.

Duckling 1 and I had a talk last week because she had basically convinced herself that she was completely incompetent and therefore couldn’t show any of her own data for her talk. Of course she’s not incompetent, and I hope I managed to convince her of that. Over the course of our conversation, it became clear that she felt like her recent lack of data production has been letting me down. ME! I was flabbergasted. I tried to reassure her that I haven’t even been close to upset with her, and that I appreciate the issues she’s been having aren’t her fault.

Needless to say, that was really an eye-opening conversation for me. My Ducklings look up to me. They see me as a role model. I’ll be honest. That freaks me out just a little. They also worry about my expectations of them, which had never occurred to me.

I talked for a long time with TM about some of the issues that this conversation raised, and I think I’m going to talk to Crazy Man some about it too. I think our situation gives both the Ducklings and me an opportunity to learn a lot. I have a lot to learn about mentoring and encouraging and the Ducklings are learning who they are and who they are becoming. Although it’s much more in my safety zone to just bury my head in the sand, I think it’s time for me to start putting myself out there a little bit. Project Feed the Ducklings begins now!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And we wonder why Crazy Man is crazy

I was the first one here this morning at 9:30. And at 5:45, I'm the only one still here. I'm also typically the only one that comes in on the weekends. Yet, the rest of the lab wonders why Crazy Man gets upset about work ethic. He always says the students here don't work nearly as hard as the students at our peer institutions. I'm beginning to think he may be right.

Thinking about seriously starting the post doc search

I’ve been thinking a lot about post docs lately. It’s beginning to be time for me to start seriously looking. I’ve been keeping a running list of people I may be interested in working with for quite a while now. People have come and gone from the list as I’ve met and liked/disliked them, as my interests have evolved, as I’ve decided there are some places I’m not willing to live, etc. I still feel like I’m really floundering though.

My graduate work (and my PhD) are in a fairly specialized sub-field. There are several different branches of my sub-field, but I’ve dabbled in the majority of them due to my project ADD. My primary interest, however, is signal transduction in my favorite cell type. Obviously, signaling occurs in all cell types and systems, so if I choose to go that direction, I have lots of options for post doc mentors.

However, I’m finding that my identity as a scientist is very much wrapped up in my sub-field. I could readily apply the vast majority of my skill set to basically any cell type in a number of organisms. In theory, I’m not opposed to going outside my sub-field for my post doc. In reality, seriously considering that makes me feel very uncomfortable.

I really do want to branch out for my post doc, though I’m coming to terms with the fact that I probably don’t want to leave my –ology. The problem with that is that work on my cell type and/or the type of disease models I use most often make up the biggest part of my sub-field, especially the bigger name people (several of which are at my university). I’m really struggling to find people outside of that that I think would be good fit for me.

I’ve identified a few new skills I’d like to acquire. I’ve identified one or two locations where I refuse to live. (Geography isn’t really an issue, as people working on –ology tend to be centered in about 5 locations in the US.) I’m open to a number of cell types and disease models. I may be open to moving outside of –ology. I’m still grappling with that question and all of the identity issues it seems to raise for me.

Now I suppose it’s time to start talking to people and figure out who should really be on my list.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I have been doing really well lately. I’ve had basically no depression and only very, very limited anxiety (and that even with situations that are normally MAJOR triggers). But today I’m down. I didn’t sleep well and my progesterone levels just tanked, so I’m just not doing so hot today. I almost cried when I realized I left my yogurt at home, even though that was an excellent excuse to go buy the scone I’ve been craving. Tomorrow will be better. I insist on it. I’ve also been mentally writing lots of (hopefully) interesting posts in my head, so hopefully I’ll have some real content back here soon. Now back to the wallowing that was already in progress…