Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Brain ache

I just spent the last few hours (almost four, actually) analyzing data I collected a month ago. It took me this long to figure out what I needed to do, write (and commission from the boyfriend) the appropriate scripts and plugins that didn't exist, and then run the programs. It's still mostly by hand, but what we charitably call 'semi-automated.' I made little graphs at the end, very satisfying.

My eyes are red, my wrist is sore, and my brain is fried.

The data support what I think is going on, but I feel like I'm about to do something a former advisor warned me about:

"Understanding biology is like using your forehead to break down a brick wall."


This has happened to me before- I have some inkling of what is going on, but I know it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prove it.

In some cases, I have abandoned projects- optimistically, 'put them aside for a while.'

I have to wonder how many discoveries and ideas have fallen by the wayside for precisely this reason.

Sadly, because of the way we do science- and by that I mean, counting the number of papers you have divided by the number of years you've been in science- there is little guarantee of reward for undertaking projects such as these. And by that I mean, for someone who is thinking about applying for faculty positions in the near future, working on something that could easily take several years to complete is probably not the wisest career move.

But I am torn, of course, because my advisor will be excited about this, she thinks I am right, and she is not easily intimidated. I have to admire people who don't shy away from a challenge.

Of course, she's not the one who has to actually do all the work. It makes me tired just thinking about it!

On the other hand, the news about funding is so depressing these days, it does make me wonder if it wouldn't be safer? wiser? to hang out as a postdoc until we have a new president, and hopefully a new NIH budget. It's ridiculous of course, and chances are good that I won't be able to stand staying an underling, but this might be a safe time to hang out, work on an insanely hard project, and wait to see if the proposal for new investigator funding actually pans out.

Oh who am I kidding, there is no way that's going to be ready in time to help me!

Sigh. So I am drafting a paper and a grant, and trying to get up the nerve to design- and start- the next series of experiments.

Mostly I want to take a nap.

It's sunny outside... I'm picturing myself on the beach with a book- NOT A COMPUTER- over my face.


At 4:59 AM, Blogger GrrlScientist said...

Ever since I read this comment, I've been thinking about you analyzing your data while I also analyze mine .. well, in between the chaos of teaching and other distractions .. and I've found it heartening that I am not the only one who is engaged in this lonely pursuit right now. Good luck to you!



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