Monday, February 16, 2009

The First Interview

So, remember that faculty position I talked about lo those few weeks ago? Just when I was starting to despair that it was all coming to naught, I got an email that I was on the short list and if I was still interested they wanted to set up a phone interview.

After I settled down from my happy dance, I promptly replied "Yes yes yes!" And a few hours ago I locked myself in Prince Charming's home office, prayed that the two princesses wouldn't come screaming looking for me, and nervously answered my phone when it rang 10 minutes early.


Despite the fact that I could barely hear them, I have to say the interview went pretty well. At least, I thought so at first. After the initial self congratulatory high, the self-doubt came crashing down on me, and I spent the whole dinner obsessively replaying the entire conversation to Prince Charming. He was clueless; as a salesman, he handles interviews completely differently, and doesn't understand the structure of the academic job search. He was quite frustrated that I didn't ask for details about every other person they were interviewing, to get a better sense of my competition; I explained that I would rather spend the time selling myself. It's like the negative ad campaign; does it really reflect well on you when you win by dissing on your competitors? He still doesn't get it.


Anyway, now that I've gotten some more info about the position I am actually more interested in it then ever; so I hope I get called in. I am already sweating the potential teaching seminar… assuming they have one. And regretting giving away my last Xanax. How many times can you call your PCP and say "I'm anxious about an upcoming flight, can you get me something for that" before they get suspicious?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The weekly lab meeting.



As I have mentioned, my class schedule this semester allows me a better lab schedule. I am hoping to be a lot more productive, and I am quite happy about that, as is my PI (way to state the obvious!) The flip side is that I am also once again available to attend our weekly lab meetings. And that just plain stinks.

I've been in a number of labs, and everyone has their own way of running these meetings. In my current lab, lab meetings are particularly painful. We have one person present their research, we have one person present a journal club, and then we are supposed to be done with it. But every single week our PI says "Well, we have a few extra minutes, so lets just go around the table and update everyone on what they are doing."

Now, he meets with us regularly, he has an open door policy, and he generally know what is going on. So it isn't that he needs to know. He is really just trying to keep us involved in each others work. Since we don't have a lot of time, we will each just say "Well, I ran this gel and saw abc, and I am setting up that experiment." Then our PI will pipe in with specific details to be aware of for that particular experiment. This means that, as supportive as we are of each other, these conversations are basically non-inclusive of anyone else around the table, so we all sit bored waiting for our turn and fidgeting to get out of the room. The worst part is that our PI thinks these are somehow educational and informative and that he is therefore fulfilling his responsibilities to mentor and guide us.

It is quite painful. We all dread lab meetings. And no matter how hard we try, we can't get our PI to stop it. This format actually represents an improvement over the way things were run when I first started. We have tried to tell him how miserable these weekly meetings are, and he has tried to make adjustments, but until he understands that they are not constructive and that we are not bad colleagues if we don't enjoy these 'around the table' summaries, lab meeting will never get better.

I am thinking that perhaps, given my very restricted schedule, lab meetings will be optional. In fact, I haven't put my name back on the rotation yet, and I am not necessarily anxious to do so. That 2 hours can make a difference between me getting an experiment done this week, or having to put it off until next. Does that make me a bad person?



Friday, January 23, 2009

I've got to get me some of that.

Did you see this article from CNN? It lists 20 jobs where people work less then 40 hours a week and get paid more then average.

Biological scientists are right there at #2. Supposedly we work an average of 38.5 hours per week, and make an average of $65,329 per year.

Say what? The people I know who work less then 40 hours per week are definitely in the minority. But what really gets me is that salary. Where can I get that?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Years Resolution.

Yes, I am still here. It has been a crazy few weeks. I really enjoyed my break from teaching, the nice holiday we get at work, and the school vacation. Really, I did have fun being home with my girls for almost two solid weeks, what with the snow days and vacation days and all.

Pre-break I thought, "Ahh, I'll have so much free time. I'll go to the gym regularly. I'll do laundry more often. My house will be clean, my family well fed, it will be domestic bliss."

Yeah, right.

Now the new semester has started. Yippee. Actually my class schedule is a little better this term- it gives me more time in lab. This is a good thing because my one single new years resolution is to get the hell out of my post doc and into a new job.

So I began by updating my cv- making it prettier; and also writing a resume. Resumes suck, by the way. A cv is so easy to write; writing a description of your research is easy; and really all you have to do is list all your publications and then you are done. But a resume is much more devious and complex. The first week back at work I actually sent out that resume for an administrative position, which I really didn't think I was qualified for (um, business experience: none), and I wasn't sure I wanted (stress! Suits!) but I figured I'd never get hired if I didn't try. OK, so I tried and I still didn't get hired... but I will eventually, right?

This week I sent out an application for a faculty position at a smaller school- with primary teaching responsibilities. Yeah, I'd have very little time, space, or money for research... but the position is the sort of job I used to imagine I'd have before I knew better, and if it was just a little bit closer then the one hour commute to my house I'd be very very excited about it. Still, one hour isn't impossible, so we shall see...

Ultimately, I need to get out of my post doc. I am so done. Unfortunately, my research isn't. My papers aren't. So I still drag my feet in every day. I'm giving myself a deadline of June. Next school year, if I'm not hired full time, I'll work as an adjunct wherever I can part time and... go to the gym. Do laundry. Feed my family. Enjoy domestic bliss.

Hmm, where have I heard that before?

Monday, December 22, 2008

I am the problem with the peer review process.

A short time back as I was robotically deleting all the junk mail from my inbox, my finger paused at an interesting looking message. It was addressed to my work account, and the subject was simply "Dr. Grumpy PhD" (you know how much I love when people call me that!), and it came from International Journal of...

Huh. What's this? I opened the email and found that I was being asked to review a manuscript. Me! Asked to review a manuscript! And not by my PI who didn't have time to do his own reviews himself!

I looked at the title; I immediately recognized that I had been asked based on my most recent paper. Flattered (someone must have actually read my paper!), I replied yes! Of course I can have it done by Dec. 25th! And then, like all good scientists who get asked to do this sort of thing routinely, I forgot about it. Until last night.

First thing when I got to work this morning, which was actually after noon due to snow delays and the need to go to the car wash to get rid of the snow packing my undercarriage and then that one last stop to buy the last Christmas present of 2008 (whoohoo, I'm done!)(breathe...) I scrolled through my inbox until I found the email, opened the document, and started reading.

A little later I sat back in my chair and though "Holy shit, what the hell am I doing?" It turns out that this paper is far more genetic then molecular; and my paper was published a year ago and I have since moved on to bigger and better things (I hope), so I had to dust out the cobwebs and get the wheels turning and, you know, think about this stuff again. Agh. The thing is, something about this paper is really bothering me, I feel that something is just not right, but I can't figure out what. If I could just remember what it is I am forgetting... I could ask my PI and some other MDs I know and they would give me the background info I need in a heartbeat; but it is two days before the holiday break and my lab is deserted, I haven't seen my boss in a week, and everyone is trying to finish all their own work so they can go home and have that eggnog.

Sigh. I got myself into this. I can do it. I just have to put my own eggnog back into the fridge for the night. Meantime, anyone with good advice or links to old posts about how to compose a good review... please please please hit the comment button below and clue me in.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What's in your title?

We had our first holiday party this weekend; the Big One, by which I mean 80 or so extended family members all gathered at a VFW hall, tables piled high with gifts, Santa Claus visiting with a sack of presents for all the kids (18 and under), a plethora of pot luck food items, and lots of chatter, laughter, and fun.

We've had these parties ever since I can remember; as a kid I loved dressing up in my best Christmas dress, running around with all my cousins, and opening the first round of Christmas gifts. Also, since eating was unsupervised, I filled up on junk food and soda, and the best ham and cheese sandwiches that I have never been able to duplicate. And I've never tried to figure out who brought them to ask the secret recipe, either.

Now I am there with my own girls, watching them with a weird sort of deja vu. Of course my cousins and I have all grown and had kids; we talk about families and careers now, and lately a curious thing has been happening: my younger cousins have begun to ask me for advice. I have transitioned out of the "younger" generation.It is a strange transition... to go from that of "child" to that of "wise adult."

The problem is that most of my family don't quite understand what it is that I really do. Today I was asked about the nursing curriculum; I was asked about some of the other (medical) doctors in my department; I was asked for advice about some good educational videos for biochemistry class. And then the worst thing of all happened... someone said "You're a doctor! You can tell me why my... (long painful description about some unpleasant sounding medical issues)".

First of all, it is often the same uncle who asks me for medical advice. He also inevitably jokes "You are the big doctor, you can look after your favorite uncle in his old age." I laugh, haha, funny, and then have one of those Ally McBeal moments where I visualize myself throttling him as he slowly drowns in a downpour of his own pills.

Don't you hate those moments when you have to explain "I am not an M.D."? I feel like Ross, on Friends, who constantly had to defend himself "But I am a real doctor!" I remember once when my graduate advisor told me "A PhD is actually harder to get then an MD". At the time, I thought he was wise. Now, I realize he was probably having an "But I am a real doctor!" moment, too- because I often fight off the urge to explain "A PhD is a higher degree then an MD". If that isn't bad enough... forget about making them understand how little money I actually do make. My poor Prince Charming. Last month he made as much as I make in a year. And yet, my whole family thinks that it is I who support us. Putting aside our feminist ideologies, just imagine for a minute how irritatingly emasculating it is for him. To his credit, he just shrugs his shoulders and goes to get another beer. He knows the truth.

I do relish my teaching, as that is one of the only times when people are appropriately required to call me "Dr." Outside of that, it is fuzzy: I never correct people when they call me "Mrs." I just sigh and write in "Mr. & Dr." as a response to the invitations addressed to Mr & Mrs... and laugh that the only people who get it right are my in laws (I do love them!) and my colleagues. But oh, I wish I could just get over it and correct people when they say "Hi Mrs. Grumpy!" but I'm just not there yet.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Living life is a science, too.

I was reading one of the posts nominated as a best of for 2008, about how some of the most visited science blogs are those that are about more frivolous topics. And you know what? The title of the post, which grabbed my attention, was about science and Britney Spears. So yeah, I'm guilty of being drawn to the frivolous. So I was reading the post, and I only got so far as this:
"...It was one of those throw-away posts, with a silly title, a one-liner, a picture and a link. Something that takes no thought and about two minutes to post. Something almost all of us post sometimes, just to fill the page. For fun. Not a post that requires hours of research and writing."

Then I got depressed and stopped reading. Because all of my posts are like that. Nothing I post about in my current- and previous (here unnamed) blogs- ever requires actual research. I guess I'm just not that smart or interesting.

But wait, I think, why should I be depressed about this? The point of my blog isn't to educate about science; I do enough of that in my 'real' job; the purpose of this blog is to educate about the life of a struggling scientist/ mother/ wife. In that respect, the research I do is 24/7. If I had the time, I'd be smart. I'd be current, I'd be educational. Instead I use that time to... you know, sleep; or feed my children; rescue the dog from the pound (again); fold some laundry; or actually have a conversation with my husband.

So if you are looking for science, this is the wrong blog. If you are looking for life, stay here and witness mine.