Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I'm alive!

(and nothing if not persistent...)

I knew it had been a long time since I had posted anything here, but a year?!?  Where does the time go???

Let’s recap real quick, in case anyone was wondering…I defended!  (Woohoo!) All our family is currently healthy!  (Also woohoo!)  I’m interviewing for postdocs! (Ambivalent woohoo!)  And I have another paper in submission and FailProject which will. Not. Die.

Hunting for postdocs has been a less than pleasant experience.  Crazy Man has been essentially useless, with the exception of writing very complimentary letters of recommendation.  It’s sort of driving me nuts, but I’ve also just sort of accepted it.  It’s frustrating, but the situation could be much worse.  So I commiserate when I can, and I’m just sort of getting on with it.

The very first place I interviewed (lo, these many months ago), was incredible.  I loved the place, the lab, the PI, everything was awesome!  The PI knew it was my first interview, and I was trying to schedule others, but when I emailed her/him to say I wanted to join the lab, s/he told me s/he had hired someone else.  In spite of the fact that s/he had previously told me they weren’t really looking at anyone else.

Bachelor #2 I was pretty excited about, but funding was dicey so s/he didn’t want to hire anyone just yet.  So then I was sort of back to square one.  Ugh.  Somewhere along the way I girded my loins and emailed a ton of people and finally managed to start scheduling some interviews.

The first of these was a giant fail.  I knew about an hour into the first day (before I even gave my talk!) that this one wasn’t going to work.  The atmosphere in the lab was bad, the PI was a jerk, the institutional resources were terrible.  I stuck it out (even after I almost choked to death on some sushi), although it was really hard to show up for the second half of the interview.  But as far as I can tell, there’s really no graceful way to end an interview early.  Despite how badly I just wanted to say, “I’m just not that into you.”

And now I’m sort of in that position again.  I applied for this particular lab because I had met the PI at a meeting a few years ago, he seemed pretty awesome and he was very impressed with me.  The science is interesting-ish to me, maybe a 6 out of 10.  But there would be space and money to blaze my own trails, and there are new things I can learn.  However…I kind of hate the location.  And it would likely be a nightmarish commute.  Once more, I’m just not that into you.  But I can’t just not show up for my actual interview.  At least I have some others scheduled, ones that I am REALLY excited about.

I decided earlier that I’m going to write a book about the stages of interviewing.  Like the stages of grieving.  Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to always get to a point I’m calling the DO NOT WANT phase.  Which is exacerbated if I don’t like the place or the PI or whatever.  I’ve got real bad DNW right now.  I’ll eventually make it to acceptance.  And who knows, maybe somebody will give me some brilliant ideas for FailProject.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Oh, undergrads...

Dear Special Snowflake,
I really wish you would stop pacing outside my office and talking on your phone. I appreciate that you're trying to make plans for the summer and figure out your tuition and financial aid and whatnot.

Newsflash: I don't want to hear about it!

Go stand in the stairwell. Reception is better there anyway. Go stand in the corridor connecting to the next building. Where you won't be standing outside an open office door. There's even a window!

Thanks for your time and attention!

Person in the office trying to make figures

P.S. I hope you end up with less in student loans than I have.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Can I get a break?!?

Would anybody believe that the level of crazy in my life has only increased? Lets go with bullets…

• After 6 rounds of chemo and a disturbing amount of radiation, my mom is officially in remission! (Of course, that doesn’t stop me from occasionally looking at statistics and freaking out, but that’s another story for another time.)
• The week after we found out my mom was in remission, TM and I went on a fantastic vacation.
• Since we got back from vacation, my grandfather has had open heart surgery and TM’s grandmother has now been in the hospital for going on 2 weeks.
• I was supposed to have a committee meeting in January. I didn’t.
• I’m getting really angry about some of the people that are defending in other sub-programs in my umbrella program. Also another story for another time.
• FailProject, which I mentioned in my last post, has given me some really awesome data. I have an incredible phenotype and absolutely no frickin’ clue what the mechanism could possibly be. I'm fascinated, but it’s starting to make me a little nuts.
• In other projects, one is wrapping up nicely, if a bit slowly, one is promising and the other I’m scrapping. So there.
• We just got word that a couple of friends in Japan are doing well!
• I’m really hoping things will settle down now and I’ll be able to crank out a couple of papers and defend. And I’ve at least made it to the point where the thought of interviewing for postdocs doesn’t make me have a panic attack.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Is this thing on?

Helloooooooo? Is anyone still out there? The past couple of months have been crazy, at best. This particular bout of crazy began with a nice little punch of science fail. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but I had to completely change my strategy on a project that I thought was about to seriously take off. Still haven’t made it to taking off just yet, but I have gotten some interesting preliminary data.

That same week, Little Bear, my grandmother and my father in law all told me that I needed to convince my mom to go to the doctor for this lingering and horrible cold that she had. We finally talked her into it, and two days later she was diagnosed with lung cancer. A week later we started her first found of chemo. All told, it was caught really early, she’s tolerated chemo extremely well (although the side effects of radiation were a bit rough), and we’ll know on Monday whether or not she’s in remission.

Because of her chemo regimen, I was taking off at least 3 weekdays plus a whole weekend from lab to travel back and forth every third week. I must say that although it hasn’t been easy, it’s given me some motivation and I’ve been having a bit of an easier time getting things done. Did I mention that the week of the fourth round of chemo I gave my yearly talk for my program and had a committee meeting?

My committee meeting went well. They were pleased with my progress and excited about my preliminary data from FailProject. We’re going to meet again in January. I kind of threw Crazy Man under the bus for not being around and not talking to me practically at all before my talk. I want to feel bad about it, but on the other hand, he could have handled it better. But he seems to be really making an effort now, so I appreciate that. In other news, the Golden Child defended and is outta here, a new postdoc has started and I once again have my very own rotation student, who is seriously phenomenal.

Whew! How’s that for a quick and dirty update?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I used to be a person

At least, I am fairly certain that is the case. Once upon a time, I had hobbies and interests and went out and did things. Now, I do science. But I’ve recently begun to realize that I can be a normal-ish person too. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, even if I would rather be doing a little more supervising and a little less getting my hands dirty. But I’m coming to terms with the fact that for me to be happy and healthy, I need to do other things.

I’m knitting again, which is good. It occupies my mind enough that I can think about things without being overwhelmed by thinking about too many things at the same time. I’m reading interesting books, not just trashy novels. Reading some non-fiction has gotten to thinking more about things, things that are deeper and wider than just my little corner of the universe, and it feels really, really good to stretch a bit.

I’ve also been baking again. I’m not really sure why that makes me feel so good, but it does, even when I’m not eating chocolate ganache straight out of the mixer bowl with a spoon. Maybe it’s because it feels like doing science, but the results are so much tastier.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What's going on?

I feel like things have been all over the place around here. Lots of little ups and downs, but nothing major. Let’s go with bullets:
• My old computer was dying a slow death. That made me sad. I bought a new computer, and that makes me very happy. I forgot that things electronic can function quickly. I had gotten used to very slow, very hot and very loud fans.
• Little Bear is doing an internship at a newspaper. She’s had a couple of front page stories already! I’m so proud.
• One of our feral cats has decided that she’s a seriously fierce hunter. It’s too hot for her to be leaving carcasses in my yard. Hmph.
• The first of my classmates defended last month. All but one of us have a first author paper. I am not that one. I’ve been pretty frustrated scientifically lately, but I’m trying to pull out of it by sheer force of will. If I keep doing well designed experiments I have to make some progress at some point, right?
• Crazy Man and I discussed one of the things he says that is blatantly sexist. The thing is, he doesn’t see what the problem is. We will be discussing this further at some point.
• I signed up to judge posters for some undergrad program. I also had a very uncomfortable, but very necessary discussion with Crazy Man about the Golden Child. I’m not sure I got my point across, but I felt like a grown up just for bringing it up. So I’m doing pretty well on the professionalism front lately.
• I learned to use a very expensive new piece of equipment. I haven’t actually used it for an experiment yet, but I’m very excited to.
• I am so tired of breeding and genotyping mice. Hopefully this will improve soon as I’m starting to actually have homozygous breeders for one gene or the other.
• I’m going to be learning crazy engineering technique from Golden Child in our collaborator’s lab. I’m not sure yet how great of an idea this is.
• I’m having some issues with things other FGS is saying and doing, and I don’t know how to deal with them.
• I’m knitting baby blankets like a crazy person. Mary Poppins (because she’s practically perfect in every way…seriously), one of my committee members is pregnant. I’m probably1/3 done with her blanket. One of my aunts (we’ll call her Aunt #3) is also pregnant. She’s 42! I haven’t started on her blanket yet. And I have a lot of mixed emotions about that whole situation. But I’ll save those for later.
• Speaking of aunts, Aunt #2 is moving to my current town to start law school in the fall. She’s almost 50 and I’m so proud of her!
• Speaking of babies, I have had severe baby fever of late. Severe. Even after spending a weekend with my cousin’s 2 and 4 year olds who are incredibly badly behaved. If I could, I would adopt those two boys. Somebody needs to be taking better care of them. Now if only I could channel that baby fever into motivation to get some lab work done…

What's going on in your world?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mentors for the taking

In my head, my last post started out lamenting the lack of female role models I have around me. As I’ve thought about that particular complaint, I’ve thought of two good female mentors that would love to chat with me if I just reached out to them. I’ve also been thinking a lot about and discussing my frustrations with various people, I’ve realized several things about both myself and my current situation.

Rather than actually having a committee meeting, I’ve been planning to do as Observant Academic suggested on my last post and meet individually with a committee member or two. This is difficult for me on several levels. The biggest barrier for me to overcome with regards to this is my anxiety. At least all the way back to high school I’ve experienced some anxiety, particularly relating to social situations. Starting when I began graduate school through my first three years or so, this social anxiety intensified to the point where sometimes even just the thought of meeting someone new could bring on a panic attack. Over the last two years this has been improving to the point where now I’m only a bit uncomfortable in those situations that would have previously been impossible for me to endure. The thing I still struggle with the most in this regard is initiating interactions with other people, particularly people I don’t see on a daily basis. Clearly this makes setting up meetings with committee members a bit of a struggle for me, but I’ve almost got myself talked into doing it. And frankly, just the thought that I’m able to do that now makes me feel empowered.

The second obstacle to me meeting with my committee members is my concerns about their relationships to Crazy Man. Each of my committee members has a unique (and good) relationship with Crazy Man. The reasons I want to meet with my committee members are about me and my work and my career, and are unrelated to Crazy Man (as much as that is possible). The Crazy and I have a pretty good relationship, and we mostly get along even when we don’t see eye to eye and despite the fact that we’re both very passive-aggressive. I know for the most part this is probably an unfounded concern, but I don’t want my committee members to judge Crazy Man (or me) or give him a hard time for not being able to provide all the mentoring I feel like I need.

The third thing that’s stressing me out about this is that I find my committee intimidating for a whole host of varied and crazy reasons. They scare me. This has improved over time, and I think that’s partly related to my anxiety and partly related to my maturation as a scientist.

Despite all this, I know I need to ask for the support that I want and need. It’s hard for me to ask for help, but I think it’s critically important to my development, so I’m going to do it. My committee members are good people, they know my science, they know my field and they know various related fields. They know information and people that I don’t know (yet). They all have students in their labs and really place a lot of importance on training students. I’d be stupid not to tap into that resource. Now I’ve just got to be brave enough to put myself out there just a teeny bit.

*Candid Engineer had a post this week about mentoring, and there are some excellent comments that have really spurred me on. Also, the WSJ blog The Juggle had a post on mentoring I found interesting.