Thursday, February 02, 2006

Searching for inspiration

Was reading this cool post and trying to remember why I like science.

I also thought this looked interesting. And potentially fulfills an important role right now. I especially liked the post on Awards for World-Changing Ideas, although I really can't relate to author Maggie Wittlin's chagrin at not having come up with these inventions herself. I gave up on being an amazing inventor as a child, when we had to invent things for school projects. I hated doing that stuff: I didn't know how to make any of the things I wanted to invent, and the things I could make were lame. I guess that's why I'm not an engineer. But I thought the little factoid that the guy who invented Wikipedia hasn't made any money was depressing. A little dose of harsh reality: many good things go unrewarded in the world.

I also liked the idea that darkness could cure my metabolism. Although in general, I find myself wondering why the people in my building with windows ever keep the shades down. I'm a sun-worshiper, just not of the beach-going sort.

Nothing good to report: got another rejection letter today (albeit a relatively nice one), and my experiments are at a standstill for the time being, since once again, nothing is working. But I am seriously considering confronting my advisor about giving up on this thing I've been trying to do and working on something else I think might be more productive. I'm concerned she's going to be reluctant to give up on this project, though, and she'll just give me another pep talk and get me all excited about it again before I realize what's happening.

I keep thinking about how Meredith commented that if science weren't hard, everybody would do it. I guess the thing that's been bugging me is, this is exactly where I got screwed: everybody is doing it. If there weren't 300 people applying for every faculty position, I would have a job already.

5 things meme from Botanicalgirl

1. Seeking Solace
2. StatGirl
3. ScienceWoman
4. BotanicalGirl
5. Youngfemalescientist

actually I'll refrain from tagging anyone, but feel free to post yours in the comments here if you want...

What were you doing ten years ago?
Working my ass off in college. That would have been junior year, the hardest year. Physical Chemistry was pretty tough, but I made a good friend in that class. I was probably not very happy that year... I didn't really like where I went to school very much. The school itself was ok, but I didn't have a great social life, aside from the guy I was dating, and I was too young to go out and do anything really interesting (read: bars, clubs).

What were you doing one year ago?
Well, you can read my archive and see, but I was in a pretty awful place, trying to get my paper published. At least in that sense, I've made a smidgeon of progress.

Five snacks
Ooh, this is making me hungry.
1. wheat thins
2. clementines
3. apples
4. cookies, all kinds (bad!)
5. see above.

Five songs...
Like BotanicalGirl, I sing, so this is sort of pointless. I know the lyrics to more than 500 songs. I stopped counting a long time ago.

Five things I'd do if I were a millionaire
Since a million dollars doesn't actually go very far, I'd prefer bazillionaire if I'm going to have money at all.
1. buy a house, with lots of space between me and any neighbors
2. fund my own research
3. buy a real piano
4. pay for my dad to retire
5. start my own research foundation and give out fellowships for young scientists to work on their own ideas

Five bad habits
1. Complaining
2. Putting off taking care of myself (doctors, haircuts, taking my car in)
3. Blaming the system for my problems
4. Getting stressed out about things I have no control over
5. Second-guessing myself

Five favorite toys (in no particular order)
1. the microscope
2. iPod
3. blogger
4. books
5. my car


At 5:11 PM, Blogger Abel PharmBoy said...

howdy, friend. sorry i've been awol due to grant-writing but i've been reading your musings about the love-hate relationship many of us have about this business.

i know how badly you want a p.i. position but did you know that the NIH payline in some institutes is as low as 13 percentile? i'm now reviewing a box of ten grants for NIH and am so dismayed that only one or two on my pile will get funded.

i'm at least excited about the new K99/R00 mechanism and maybe that could buy you time until another more NIH-friendly administration takes over the white house.

totally great for you to focus on why you got excited about science in the first place. i just got shitcanned on a breast cancer grant i wrote with pharmgirl and was miserable and wondering how i'm going to survive in this business. she reminded me to focus on why i went into science and the need for me to persevere so i can do the research i want. it doesn't dull the pain of getting trashed but i'm hardpressed to find another profession for which i'd have more passion.

it reminded me of advice i gave to a friend who was a postdoc in our dept, got a faculty position there (rare), and then just got tenure this past year: if you really love this, you need to stay in the business long enough to get lucky.

i also agree with other commenters on previous posts: you seem to have a gift for guiding others and should really consider a part-teaching/part-research position at a killer small college with strong science programs - you'd qualify for NIH R15 awards. you say that you have no teaching experience ut is there a way for you to volunteer to give some lectures to medical/pharmacy/nursing students? that's how i got my start teaching as a grad student and i ended up getting teaching evals that tied for #1 among my own professors who taught the same class. sent my teaching reviews in to a second-tier but strong research univ and got a faculty position there.

i sense that you are smart enough and driven enough to make your own luck. e-mail me if you want to talk about specific colleges that i think you should consider.

At 7:48 PM, Blogger Meredtih said...

Very good point about the 300 applicants for each faculty job... why am I doing this again??? :)

At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When there are over 300 applicants applying for 1 position, the law of supply and demand can result in irrational behavior. Achievements and experiences do count, but many intangibles now have greater emphasis for distinguishing one candidate from another. Oftentimes in these situations, the best candidates as determined by the hiring committee can appear irrational as the secondary or tertiary factors come into play.

Timing is everything. This oversupply/underdemand scenario also has occurred in the past. This condition discouraged some people from going to graduate school or looking for academic jobs. And then several years later, the opposite condition would occur with many open faculty positions and not enough qualified candidates. And so the pendulum swings to the other side. It all depends on your timing. We play the hands that we are dealt with.

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

dear pharmboy,

thank for the words of encouragement as always. If I manage to get some teaching experience for the CV, I'll ask you where to apply.

Right now I can't apply for the K99/R00 because my other K-grant creates a conflict, but if that one doesn't get funded, I can resubmit it in the new mechanism.

Yes, lucky. I considered myself lucky to get a really astounding, groundbreaking result in the lab, but i wasn't lucky enough to get a Cell/Science/Nature paper for it. I'm not a lucky person, never have been. Don't actually expect to get lucky w/respect to jobs. For me, I think I could be passionate about other things, but I have just as little chance of gettings jobs doing those things as I do of getting one in science. I agree that you have to make your own luck... but somewhere there has to be a balance of effort put in: results coming out.


I know, I hope we're in the minority that gets one!


I'm trying to keep in mind that it's irrational and arbitrary and not to take it too personally, but part of me will always be the idealistic teenager that wants things to be fair, logical and... god forbid, scientific.


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