Today is Big Machine Science Day: Aka, waiting for my cells to do something interesting under the microscope.
It's going to be a slow day. I knew this, and I almost brought Harry Potter with me, but then felt guilty. What was I thinking??
Someone wrote in and asked if I would settle, as they put it, for an adjunct position if I can't get a faculty position. I guess the answer is no. I would rather go to industry and work regular hours and get paid decently, or go to policy and feel like I'm making a difference on that level. Or go to journalism school. Or teach high school in California, where I'm told they will let anyone be a teacher.
Lately, I'd rather work in a coffee shop.
See, unlike most scientists, I have other interests. I don't feel like science is the only thing I could ever be good at. In fact I don't think I'm any better at science than I am at anything else, I just chose to focus on doing research for the last few years. So I have some stuff on my CV and whatever, it's kind of fun and fulfills my need to make a contribution to society. Keeps me busy and I'm usually not bored (this week has been unusually dull...). Not being bored is way up there on my list of priorities.
But I don't like science enough to be an underpaid, overeducated slave for the rest of my life, sorry. All the cool stuff just doesn't make up for all the bureaucratic, hypocritical, egomaniacal.... bullshit.
At some point I would like to have the kind of job where I occasionally get a tiny shred of credit or respect. Or at least feel like it's not an enormous gamble. Lately I just feel like working for something I'm not sure will ever pay off. That goes for both the macro- will I get a faculty position?- and the micro- the day to day, okay I just spent a week on this experiment and will it work or was it a total waste of time and effort?
Granted, I don't need a huge salary to be happy, or I wouldn't have gone this route in the first place. I'd like to be able to buy a house someday, but it doesn't have to be a mansion in the most expensive city. And in the last few years I've decided I do want some job security, which doesn't mean I have to or want to stay in the same place for 25 years, but I would like to know that I have options... and I definitely have plenty of those. Just maybe not in the right locations. So in that sense, having a PhD does give some measure of job security, since it's something you can take with you wherever you go.
Sometimes I do wonder what it would be like to just quit, walk away. I think it would be a big waste. I've already suffered a lot, I have to say, and it would all have been pointless if I gave up now.
Honestly, some days I'm only doing it for all these other female scientists who were smarter than me, who quit just because they weren't strong enough to keep going. It really does wear you down. I keep thinking that even if I'm not that good at research, at least I'm persistent and I have a good work ethic. And I can put up with a lot of crap if I know it's finite and going to be worthwhile.
Ha ha ha, it's those last two things that really get you in the end...
I don't know... this week I'm feeling pretty unenthused about my experiments. It would be nice to get some feedback once in a while. It's not like I'm getting showered with interesting emails now that my paper is on the web. People probably just think I'm nuts, or that it's complete crap. I'd definitely prefer if it's the former.
I'm trying to work on this grant, by myself, and it would be nice if there were anyone on the planet who thought about this same stuff and would talk about it with me. That's the bad thing about being independent and working on something that's entirely your own crazy idea- it gets lonely.
And then you feel like, well if nobody's noticing I'm doing this stuff, aren't I the proverbial tree in the forest? I'm not helping cancer patients, I'm just doing this esoteric stuff... and so what? Is that my big contribution?
Makes me want to go work in a soup kitchen.
But I'm probably just in data withdrawal. It has been so long since I've had something new work that actually gave me some insight into what I'm studying. I found a couple of papers yesterday that are interesting and relevant, but there are still too many black boxes. And doing the experiments to fill them in takes a really long time. Sometimes I just wish I could make time go faster.
I'm hoping that tomorrow I'll have stuff to analyze, because I haven't planned my next experiment yet. I guess I'm hoping the stuff I'm doing now will be really inspiring. I don't know where else to get the motivation. At least with science you can always get your feedback from the data, if not from your colleagues. If I can't get my own personal cheerleading section, I could at least use some verification of my hypotheses right about now.