Saturday, August 26, 2006

Warm fuzzy.

Thank you to the anonymous person who said they found this whole firsthand account so helpful, and read all the archives, even though they didn't really want to leave a comment.

Thanks for leaving one. That's the nicest thing anyone has given me in a long time: positive feedback.

I've been posting less because I've been trying hard to get my research life on track.

I've been on a treadmill lately, just kind of marking time and not really going anywhere.

I finally made a few samples this week and hope to analyze them next week. Unfortunately I just don't enjoy benchwork like I used to. It's almost too easy to be interesting. I'm not saying all my experiments work, but the day-to-day of making samples is just so tedious. At this point, there's not much new for me to do. It's just a lot of the same kinds of things, or variations on a theme.

I used to enjoy working with my hands more, and now I'm just interested in the result and not so much in the process. So I spend my time at the bench trying to marshall my patience and not rush through things (because then nothing works, and I end up having to do it all over again). I'm so ready to have a team of students!

Oh, the Tao of work. I should really try harder to be more Zen about it.

In the meantime, I'm trying to beef up my CV, even though the idea of doing more faculty applications this year is just plain nauseating.

Plain yogurt flavor nausea. You know what I'm talking about. It makes me want to gag, just thinking about it.

But I don't see how I'm going to avoid having next June/July be the same as this year's was, with all the panicking about what's going to happen because my funding is running out and I still don't have a job.

I'm tempted to write grants just because it would give me an excuse not to do any benchwork for a month, and might make me feel a little better about having covered all my bases. If I got one, it would be the ultimate safety net (and CV booster). I just don't know what's the best way to spend my time.

I had a funny experience last week, where I was helping a younger grad student friend with writing his first CV. He asked for a copy of mine to use as a template, so I said sure. But when he saw it, he was visibly upset.

"I don't have ANY of that stuff!" he wailed.

I told him having lots of stuff on your CV doesn't guarantee anyone a job anyway.

It was all I could do not to laugh at the black humor of the situation. It was especially ironic because helping grad students is by far one of my favorite unofficial parts of my current job- and one of the things I most look forward to about a faculty position.

It's just that lately I have no faith that I'm going to have one. I just don't see it actually happening.

Recently I was talking to a couple of search committee chairs who said they had seen my application last year. They had all kinds of the usual cliche comments stored up:

Your project is novel, but it's too risky
You don't have enough pubs

As if those two things were compatible. Everybody knows you don't get tons of papers from risky projects!
But when I told them I thought I'd wait another year or two before applying again, they said:

If you've been a postdoc for five years or more, something must be wrong.

I said, damn right something's been wrong. And gave them an earful of some of the crap I've been through and said "where do I put THAT on my CV?"

They just looked surprised, like they had no idea anyone in science had repeatedly dealt with multiple advisors' personal issues (divorce, mental illness, family deaths, suicides) interfering with their work to the point of preventing them from publishing to their full abilities.

Most people I meet, when they hear these stories, are amazed I'm still doing science at all. You'd think that would get me a little credit, just for sticking it out this long.

Here's hoping I enlightened them a little.

And thanks again, warm fuzzy person. At least something I'm doing is helping somebody somewhere.

And now back to the Tao meditation. Om.

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At 10:01 PM, Blogger LaKisha said...

Apply for jobs again--even though it makes you gag. I bet you've done lots of gag-inducing things in your time as a post-doc and grad student.

At 5:25 PM, Blogger Matthew said...

You always inspire me to get back into what I am working on. Keep on trucking. I'm a grad student in paleontology, I need all the inspiration I can get right now!

At 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the problem with the people who are already at the top is that a) they most likely didn't have to go through difficult life struggles during their PhD and/or post-doc, b) maybe they did experience some difficultly and it took them 8 years to finish their PhD/postdocs, instead of 4 years, and therefore, everyone must tough it out "like they did".

they refuse that they might have had a bit of luck along the way to get them where they are today. they will like to think it was all due to their "hard work". yes yes.. of course.


At 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I both enjoy and am enraged by your blog . . . I know exactly how you feel right now, because I am also starting, for the second year, a job search. Last year's search was so demoralizing, it's hard to get up the nerve to do another one; it sounds like you feel the same. Courage, sister, let's remember why we do science, and let go of the outcome.


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