Thursday, September 28, 2006

Really disturbing blog & comments

I've never read this blog before. But check out this post about a recent NY Times article (which I haven't read) about the National Academies report on women in science.

Then look at the comments people are leaving.

Here's hoping those people don't migrate over here just to give me a hard time. Yuck.



Wednesday, September 27, 2006

So little time.

So now, on top of all the crap I have to do here, the potential move is going to require a bit of time investment before I have enough information to make a decision. Not only do I have to research the place, the people, the facilities. And hunt for a job for the boyfriend. But they're already asking me to do things for them. This is good in some ways, since clearly they respect and want my opinion. But it makes me worry- will I be as exploited there as I am here, and for all the same reasons? Would I be walking out of the frying pan and into the fire?

For the moment this is just stewing in the back of my mind, because I really don't have time to do anything about it, and clearly I'm pretty stressed out or I wouldn't be blogging this much!

Hooray for free therapy.


Today was pretty awful. It started with a talk by someone who is sort of a competitor, in the sense that it's a fellow postdoc who works in the same area, and we're more or less at the same level re: years of experience.

So you can imagine how that would make for a nerve-wracking morning already, but it went differently than I expected: the experiments this group is doing make NO SENSE. What scares me most is, I'm not sure everyone knows that. And I'm really torn about whether to tell them where they're going wrong.

On the one hand, I might get points for making good suggestions that help them out.

On the other hand, they might not (probably won't) listen to me, so what's the point?

If they did listen, I'm 99% sure they wouldn't even acknowledge me for 'helpful discussions' when the paper came out.

And then there's the part where they're kind of a bunch of assholes, and the bad part of me just wants to watch them hang themselves. With or without being able to say 'I told you so,' either way, it would work in my favor.

And there's a part of me that's afraid- for me and for Science As A Whole- that they'll get away with publishing this crap in a high impact journal.

So that was an interesting meditation. Very motivational.

Um, really not.

But it did make me think a little more about this idea of wanting to work with people who are smart, yes, but nice, also. A Word A Day had a quote recently about this:

Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the
beginning of wisdom.
-Theodore Rubin, psychiatrist and writer (1923- )


Then I had a bunch of paperwork to do.


This is stuff that normally an administrator or lab manager would do, except that the ones here are either too stupid to handle it, or too lazy to do more than the bare minimum. Or maybe I just don't have the privilege of working with any of the good ones.

Then I had a meeting, which was fine, I guess, except that I was sitting there thinking about all the other stuff I need to do, and an hour ended up feeling like a really long time.

It was the second day in a row when I called my boyfriend and made him go out and get dinner with me (read: too tired and busy to go home and cook something healthy, will regret this by the weekend), and then came back to do benchwork in the evening, when the building is empty.

It's so empty that the janitor walked in on me the other day and apologized, since he said normally no one is here 'this late.'

It's not really that late.

And I really do like it, except for the part where

a) I don't get to see my boyfriend much at all
b) I have to get up early tomorrow and do it all again without having been away from here for even 12 hours.

Somebody really does need to figure out how to make at least a few days of the week 36 hours long. Then I would be fine.

But bad days can be less than 24 hours, on this schedule. Then if things suck, you can just go home and start over the next day. Didn't Anne of Green Gables always say something about how every new day is like a blank slate?


Q: If a postdoc works late and no one's there to see it, does it eventually pay off?

A: Here's hoping.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Risks and False Rewards

Lately I am faced with a strange choice:

a) an offer to relocate to a really undesirable location for what sounds like a major step forward in terms of being valued for my abilities and helped along my career path

b) stay where I am, which is much riskier, and where I am miserable almost every day, but which is more likely to be finite and has the potential to be much, much flashier and therefore might put me on a more upwardly mobile trajectory in my career path


While mulling this over, and wondering when to break the news to the people here that I'm seriously considering leaving, things have been pretty crappy, and in general, only getting crappier.

Things getting crappier here do not make me think "Gee, I definitely want to stay!"

And I really feel that, of the people I should talk to about how unappreciated I feel around here, none of them are particularly sympathetic to women struggling to make a go of it in academic science, even with all the odds against us. They're not blatantly sexist assholes, they're the more insidious kind: the ones who are threatened by women, but don't consciously realize that they display subtle little ways of favoring men...


I was talking to someone today about how I feel as though the non-PhDs around me are often treated with more respect, expected to work a lot less, paid more, and generally given better resources in terms of the authority to get their work done, than I am.

So I said, I feel like I'm being punished for having a PhD.

This person reminded me that many people believe there are more rewards for going the PhD/postdoc route.

Though she did acknowledge that it is noticeably riskier.


Then we were interrupted, or I would have told her that not only are the risks getting riskier, but the rewards are getting riskier.

But clearly no one realizes that this is part of why we're losing legions of smart people -especially women- at the postdoc level. Most women I know tend to look at an impossible, crappy situation and have an instinctive yet practical response that goes something like,

"There's no way I'd subject myself to that! Isn't that the definition of insanity?"

When you pay non-PhD lab staff more than graduate students or postdocs, you encourage them to stay longer and do menial work. Ok. How else will you get anyone to stick around and do menial work? So that makes sense for science as a whole.

But when you pay graduate students and postdocs less than non-PhD staff, AND give them zero job security, AND expect them to work constantly with no reasonable amount of hope of ever making it to the next level...

Isn't this what they call a zero-sum game?

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Friday, September 22, 2006

I love the internet!

Had a stupid computer problem tonight.

Looked it up on the web.

Tried 3 different links through Google.

Found what I needed.

Fixed the problem.

All by myself!

I am so proud.

And now I am getting data that I collected today.

I like data.

Hooray for technology that I can actually figure out!

Hooray for having the nerve to assume I could figure it out, and then go ahead and do it.


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Thursday, September 21, 2006

On-the-spot responses

One of the people in charge of our lab space came by this morning and did that thing where he asked me something I should have been prepared for... while I was in the middle of benchwork. So instead of coming back with a really strong answer, I kind of agreed to something I didn't really want to agree to so easily. I'm hoping that seeming easygoing in this particular case will help to alleviate the implied assumption that I'm an impossible bitch postdoc who thinks she deserves to be treated as a faculty member.

After all, as some commenters like to remind me, everyone hires the person they think will be 'easiest to work with.' Not the most qualified person.

On the other hand, if I'm already doing more than the job of a postdoc and at least part of the job of a faculty member, and being an impossible bitch got me what I wanted...

...while being a nice, accomodating little female postdoc sends the message that I'm 'easy to work with' but also gets me stepped on....

Oh, I can't win like this.

I'm learning that this is a skill that, while I may have had it once upon a time, I currently lack: sound bite answers.

We've all been there. You're interviewed for something, say you're seated next to a reporter for a local rag at a fundraising dinner for some fellowship you received because your PI knows somebody and didn't want to pay you off her grants.

The person asks you what you do, and you give a long, thoughtful answer starting from the basics and going through your specialty, as least so much as a layperson could be expected to understand. Let's say you're a postdoc studying the nucleus. Weeks or months later, the quote in the article says you're a grad student working on the biology of DNA. Close, but, career wise and scientifically speaking, not quite right.

Your words somehow get twisted around, probably because all the context was lost in the process of trying to condense an accurate answer, with qualifiers, into a short one that fits in the word limit of the allotted space. You know, what happens all the time when science is discussed by mainstream media.

But in this kind of situation with the hit-and-run question, you only get to blurt out 1 sentence and the rest of the explanation gets cut off because the guy literally disappears before you get to ask him to clarify why he's asking and oh yeah, everything else you wanted to ask him but haven't because he's never around...

How do you get the most out of these non-conversations?

What's the solution? Should I have people drill me with questions so I can rehearse sound bite answers?

Handcuff the guy to a chair and ask him everything I can think of before I answer?

One obvious answer might be to slow down and not feel pressured to answer right away. But I have an unfortunate tendency, I've realized over the years, to mirror the moods of people around me. So if it's obvious the other person is in a rush, I find it difficult to step back, breathe, and think carefully about what they just shoved in my face. Suddenly I'm in a rush, too. For no reason whatsoever, other than that's what they're projecting at me.

Oh, the power game. And now my timer is about to go off.

Beep. Time's up.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Product Placement- Shaving Sucks.

Ok, what happened to the lotions that help lower the frequency of necessary shaving? I noticed Jergens and Aveeno both suddenly stopped selling them. I'm annoyed because a) I HATE shaving, b) they actually WORK, unlike many products, and uh, c) does this mean they had to pull them because of unhealthy side-effects I'll only find out about later?

(I have to admit I had a sneaking suspicion that the idea of inhibiting hair growth might not be all that healthy, but I didn't care.)

In a desperate effort to cope with the return to daily shaving, I finally bought one of these new Intuition razors. The first time I used it was FANTASTIC. But I think it's not going to age well, as the lubricant part of it is shrinking rapidly, while I think the razor itself might actually still be plenty sharp after the lubricant is all gone. And the refills are EXPENSIVE.

ARGH. I hate stubble. And don't even talk to me about waxing, epilady, or any of these other ridiculous tortures. I do NOT believe in suffering for beauty.

Bad enough I have to wear an underwire every day.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

More responses to comments

ADude said...
How badly do you want to go into academia? Is science something you enjoy, or is it an all consuming passion (or close to it)? Is getting an academic position the only thing that will validate you?

I'm just asking because I have followed your blog off and on, and I'd think you would be happier in industry.

Not having been in industry, I can't say for sure.

But as I've said before, the #1 reason I want to be in academia is because I HATE having people tell me what I should be studying, scientifically. I have plenty of my own ideas. And I have no interest in working on other people's ideas. It's just never as fun as seeing the whole project go from the inception, the moment of realization, to the end. If not proof, then at least consistently supporting evidence... it's really satisfying. I like that feeling of finding out if I was right. It's not as much fun when you're testing someone else's hypothesis.

And I don't mind being wrong. That's okay in academia. I don't think it's appreciated so much in industry!?

So yeah, science is something I enjoy. When I get to do it my way, it is great fun. I love discovering new things.

It's not an all-consuming passion. It's hard to be constantly passionate about something as frustrating as science. I'm used to the 99% failure rate for experiments. It's worth it to me because I like the aspect of getting constant feedback from the universe. Try something, and at least you know, if you designed it the right way, what to do next. I'm used to taking joy from the little things that just keep the momentum going forward- the gel worked! I got colonies from my transformation! They're not all big discoveries, but you have to enjoy, as they say, the journey as much as the destination.

But I don't think it's healthy to be consumed by anything. It's good to fuel yourself off your passions... but don't let your candle burn at both ends.

Is getting an academic position going to validate me? NO WAY.

Will it give me a chance to see what I can do if I'm allowed to do things my way? HELL YEAH.

And wouldn't that be a hell of a lot of fun?!

Let's put it this way: since the day I started my first postdoc, I began my Wish List for things I would get and do when I have my own lab. Is that something the - let's call them Idunno postdocs- is that something that Idunno postdocs typically do?

Did I mention how I've had newly hired faculty ask me, on more than one occasion, what they should buy with their startup package? I mean, COME ON!!! Haven't you ever thought about this before now???

And isn't it something they should ask in the interview?? Why would you hire someone who didn't know how they would answer that question?

A friend was saying to me at dinner the other night that I'd - in his words- kick ass if I had a team of just 3 or 4 people and a little money and the freedom to do research the way I think it should be done.

Most people who know me are pretty convinced I'd be good at the job if given the chance.

Anonymous said...
Just curious ... what is your Publication Record like? Have you published in Big Journals? Are you working in a Hot Field? Worked for Famous People?

Uh, publications quite decent.

Big Journals, no. Not in the Top Three.

I have one paper that has been cited quite a few times, though. But I think my advisor likes to take credit for that one. We both know it was mostly my own, independent work, but I'm not sure if that's something that comes across in my letters of recommendation. I probably should make a point of asking that it be mentioned explicitly. You never know what people might forget to say!

Hot Field? Yes. Right now, yes. But wait five minutes, who knows what will be 'in' for next year's new crop of fresh meat faculty!

Famous People? Yes. Do I have letters from them? No. Why not, you ask? Well, life is funny. And most of the Famous People that I've worked with were ... extremely self-absorbed at best, royal f@#$-ing assholes at worst.

I have high (probably overly optimistic) hopes that the current Famous People with whom I work will be more helpful to me than the previous ones. They seem like they at least mean well, as higher-ups usually do at first, if given the benefit of the doubt. Though I'm sure that given enough time, they will disappoint me, at which point I will fail to hide my irritation, and this will piss them off, if I'm not careful. Hence my desire to get good letters and get out of there before I find out all their weaknesses and shortcomings.

Yes, I have problems with Authority.


I'm sitting here watching The Count of Monte Cristo on tv. It's one of my favorite movies.

I love how the turning point in the plot is when he finds a mentor.... in jail. I love how the mentor firmly believes he can teach him everything he knows, and he doesn't give him an IQ test beforehand. The message is that it's really a matter of believing that almost anyone can learn almost everything, if taught well.

Hooray for education!

And last but not least, I love the revenge plot. There's a lot to be said for the idea that living well is the best revenge. And this is such a great illustration of when revenge is warranted, and how to go about getting it.


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Dear Oprah

Dear Oprah,

A few weeks ago, I wanted to do a blog on how you started a leadership school for girls in South Africa. The story on CNN made me want to cry. You seemed so fulfilled, and it's exactly the sort of thing the world needs.

In the meantime I was busy with work, so it fell by the wayside, and I always intended to come back and do a blog about how these kinds of things make you such an amazing role model.

But. In the meantime, I was reminded of something else you've done that fails to impress me. This whole business about James Frey's book, A Million Little Pieces, is just absurd.

Here's the thing.

1. I think everybody with half an education knows that a memoir is usually an embellished version of the truth.
2. I had the pleasure- nay, the good luck- to read the book BEFORE all this crap about it being 'true' came out on your show.
3. When I read it, I thought it was pretty obvious that some parts of it were fictionalized, maybe even most of it, BUT I DIDN'T CARE.
4. I still don't.

I understand that you like to choose literature based on how it inspires you, and that stories based in reality are more inspiring. But I loved other books that you later recommended on your show, such as The Color Purple (loved you in the movie, btw), Their Eyes Were Watching God, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, and especially Beloved, by Toni Morrison (didn't like that movie nearly so much as the book). They didn't have to be non-fiction to be inspiring.

So, darling Oprah, I'm writing to ask you to please GET OVER IT. This business about refunding people's money who felt "defrauded" by the claim that it was non-fiction is completely over the top.

Please stop this nonsense right away, or I'll have to lose all respect for you. As it is, I have to question your judgement in starting all this fuss in the first place.



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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

long response to last couple of comments

Dear Holly, you story makes me want to cry. First I thought, where is this guy and how do I find the one on my campus? And then, oh god, prostate cancer, how sad that anyone still dies from that. It's usually slow-growing, so he's either a bit older or very unlucky if his prognosis isn't looking good-? Did it metastasize? Did they catch it too late? Didn't he have surgery?

Dear Anonymous, yes in general I am much more bitter and venomous on the blog than I am in Real Life (I like to picture myself with a forked tongue when you say that... ). Isn't that what blogging is for? ;-P

I do try to be diplomatic first and foremost. I do try to fight for justice while assuming that people are usually being mean because they're not enlightened, and not because they want to go out of their way to screw other people over. Most of them.

I'm starting to realize that MsPhD being diplomatic is still considered very outspoken for many in science. So in some ways, having this blog lets me vent MsPhD into the blogosphere, which can tolerate all the hot air, and hopefully behave myself a little better in the Real World.

But I also do think, after much observation and contemplation, that the acceptable bar is set differently for men vs. women in terms of how much shooting off at the mouth is allowable.

I think it's funny that people think I have a chip on my shoulder about being female, because I wasn't aware of how much I was the victim of sexist crap until pretty recently.

I always wanted to give people the benefit of the doubt. Sure, my thesis advisor treated me like one of his daughters, and not always in a good way. But he did have daughters, and I look young for my age, so it didn't cross my mind until later that perhaps I would have been treated as more of a colleague if I had been a guy (an older-looking guy). When I started to think about that, it really changed my perspective.

(It never occurred to me, until I went to grad school, just how much your appearance affects how people treat you.)

There was one collaborator who was a real jerk, but he was the only one. I told my advisor why I didn't want to work with him, and he ended up working with someone else. But he was the only one, and although my advisor didn't really understand, he realized I was really upset and didn't make a big deal out of it. And I thought maybe it was partly cultural in that case. And I was much less, shall we say, diplomatic in those days, so if anything I probably exacerbated the situation.

Faced with the same situation again, I would try to handle it very differently. I don't know if it would make any difference, though. I hope I've learned enough that I would find a way to enlighten the guy while being charming.

Ha. So there!

And then I worked with a couple of people who were, shall we say, the textbook version of how to get sued for sexual harrassment.

That was when I really clued in that these are not things guys typically have working against them.

So in the past few years, I've really opened my eyes to all the stuff that nobody wants to admit is part and parcel of scientific life, even in the 21st century.

Since I just learned it myself, I don't expect that everyone knows this. Most people don't want to know. Men can, until the women in their lives are experiencing it directly, enjoy the luxury of ignorance. It's like the father character in North Country. He doesn't care and doesn't care and doesn't care... until he sees how they're treating his daughter.

And I'd like to think that most younger men are not perpetuating it, that it's mostly a relic of the Old Guard. But I don't want to be a postdoc until they all die off. That could take a very long time. Thanks, modern medicine! Lengthen the survival of the assholes and let the nice guys die of prostate cancer. Great plan you got there.

And in the meantime, I'm competing- much as I wish I didn't have to think about it- with my male peers, who have had none of the disadvantages that I have, and some advantages that are out of reach for me, purely because of my gender. I think I'd rather lose a job to a female peer... except that I barely know any who aren't getting their jobs primarily because the University wanted the husband.

My male peers can go golfing with their male advisor alone, and nobody insinuates that they're sleeping together.
(I don't golf anyway, but you get my point.)

My male advisors look at their male postdocs and see: a version of themselves as they were at that age.

They look at me and see: ... boobs.

Thanks for the words of encouragement. I am trying to persist. I try to view myself as... a weed. They can mow me down as much as they want, but I'm going to keep sticking up leaves. Maybe nobody thinks I'm pretty or that I belong here, but I may win the fight just by being strong enough to outlive everyone else in a harsh environment.

Yes, I am the dandelion that survives the nuclear war. It will just be me, and the cockroaches, and the twinkies.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Up... and then down.

Yesterday was a Pretty Good Day (PGD). I don't have a lot of those. I set up an experiment, helped a student, went to an interesting seminar, emailed some people about reagents and they REPLIED RIGHT AWAY, and I read some papers. All around, it was a good balance of thinking and doing, alone-time and interaction-time, faith in ideas and faith that there are some people who actually are willing to share both ideas and tools, so we can actually get some work done.

Sigh. Why can't they all be PGD?

Today started out as a PGD and went downhill. I managed to do almost everything I needed to do before a meeting, managed a non-rushed lunch and actually found some people to eat with!

After lunch things got a little hairy. I had to do some running around looking for stuff I didn't have at the last minute (e.g. in the middle of the experiment)- poor planning on my part, mostly. Okay, fine. Disaster averted.

But I got interrupted by someone needing help, and didn't have the heart to just say NO when I should have... am still working on that skill.

Then at the end of the day, a couple of guys in our lab were sitting around talking. Every once in a while I would say something and notice that the one guy was rolling his eyes at the other one, like "When will she shut up?"

Maybe I'm just being hypersensitive. Maybe the guy had something in his contact lens, I don't know. But I could really do without that crap. hint: If you don't want to talk to me, don't have your conversation right next to my bench.

And I was struck by how typical it was: the guys are sitting around chatting, while the only female in sight is working her tail off.

Again with the math: we literally have to be 10 times better than our male peers to get the same job.

I was thinking about this today, how we get hit with bullshit stereotypes all the time. You know how they claim that women have fewer publications because we tend to collaborate more and have lots of middle-author papers? There was an article in Science recently (sometime in August, I think) about how women, on average, have fewer patents than their male peers. The explanation? Women collaborate LESS.

How can we both collaborate TOO MUCH and TOO LITTLE??

Oh, they always find a way to screw us over.

Anyway so at the end of the day, I heard from a PI friend that his wife, a postdoc, has some job offers. He was telling me this since they will probably move. Now, here is what my little brain thought when I heard that:

Now his position will be open, right?

Is she getting offers because he helped her shop her CV around to a bunch of schools (and they get him as part of the bargain)?

Who the hell is getting job offers? This woman better walk on water, or I'm going to be PISSED.

Lately I've been going to a lot of seminars by senior-ish postdocs, and it's quite clear to me that I'm among the top postdocs who have similar levels of experience. So I'm left with trying to logic my way out of a very illogical, very black box:

Assumption 1: My CV does not suck.
Assumption 2: I deserve a job.
Assumption 3: There are no jobs.

Observation 1: I'm not getting offers.
Observation 2: Other people are getting offers.

Conclusion 1: I must suck.
Conclusion 2: There are no jobs for people like me.

I'm either working in the wrong field, not supported by politics (which I knew), and/or it's just that nobody can picture having me as a colleague. I'm not likeable enough.

Goody. Not much I can do about any of that. Despite my efforts to meet people in positions of power, I think my un-likeability prevents them from, you know, bending over backwards to help. So it all comes back to the cult of personality.

I've read the body language books, the communication books, the management books, the managing-up books. I've mellowed considerably, believe it or not, since I started grad school, and I've made a serious effort to learn how to be more patient and give people the benefit of the doubt.

But there's only so much you can change about yourself.

So I'm a bit of an arrogant bitch.

Let's say I can't get a job in science that I would actually like, because people find me unbearably opinionated. Is there any kind of job where that isn't considered a liability?

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

My hero(ine)

Go read this post about inviting women speakers. See especially comments posted in response about how the best female candidates are on a separate list than the best candidates.


Who ARE you??

Out of the 79 people who answered the web poll so far, 13 said they love being a postdoc.

What ARE you people?? Fresh out of grad school or something??

I'd love to know how long you've been a postdoc and what's so great about it (and I think our other readers would, too).


Blogging Rocks

I gotta say, thanks to everybody who stops by just to say hi and that they like this blog.

The blogosphere is really the only place in my life where I can usually count on just as much positive as negative feedback- and sometimes even a majority of positive (!).


This week I actually managed to do an experiment from which I could draw a conclusion (out of the 6 total, only 1 told me anything useful). It's sad because when things are going well, I can do ~ 3 experiments a day, but lately I haven't been able to manage that many.

Among the distractions from doing my own experiments is both the best and worst part of my current position, though it's not officially in my job description at all:

Helping People.

Usually I try to pump people for information on what they're doing. You know, networking . So in that sense, it's not like I don't get anything out of it. But sometimes it feels that way.

The voices in my head say various things while I'm training someone/giving advice. Here's a sampling, in no particular order:

This is fun! I like helping people!

This is easy! I can totally do this. I can't wait to be a PI.

Too bad I'm not actually this person's PI.

Thank god I'm not actually this person's PI. I would never have hired them.

I wonder if they'll even acknowledge me in the paper.

I wonder if they'll stay in science.

I wonder if they should stay in science.

How on earth did this person get a PhD.

How is this person a PI and I'm not?

Wow, hard to believe this person is a PI and they still manage to find time to actually do experiments. Very impressive.

Maybe my time would be better spent on my own stuff.

I really wish the search committees could see this.

I wonder if the search committees realize this is what they should be looking for, instead of Cell/Science/Nature papers.

This person will probably get a Cell/Science/Nature paper, and not even acknowledge me.

Boy, I hope my suggestions turn out to be right.

Boy, I hope this person actually takes my advice.

I wonder if this person would write me a recommendation letter or tell anyone that I'm good and pass the word along through the grapevine?

This may be the biggest impact I have on science, through forwarding other people's science, more than my own projects.

This is my good deed for the day, I shouldn't expect anyone to say thank you.

They said thank you! At least they're polite.

Thank god we're done, next time this person asks for something I'm definitely going to say no.

So many people helped me along the way, and I never did anything for most of them. I'm just paying it forward, so I shouldn't mind doing this.

I wonder if the people who helped me thought I was ungrateful. I don't think I appreciated how much they did for me until now.

Sadly, lately I've noticed that only a tiny percentage of the people I've helped over the years have stayed in academic research. Of my friends from grad school, several went to industry, a few went to science writing, a few went to policy, several are still postdocs, and only a minority- mostly much older than me- are now faculty.

So it seems like the amount of energy I put into helping people doesn't really come back to me personally in any tangible - or efficient- way. In the past I've collaborated on papers that never got published. I've collaborated on papers and then been left off the author list (and not even acknowledged). So I'm not really expecting much to come out of helping anyone, but I still find it hard to leave them floundering.

So it's nice, like here, just to get the occasional "Hello!" from someone. Some evidence that people do notice.

Hello to you, too!

At least in the blogosphere.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Labor (Day) Weekend

Yes folks, I will be working tomorrow, the day after, and possibly some of Monday. I'd like to think of it in part as a statement against the whole UAW thing. What good is a union going to do for me? Not working this weekend would actually be worse, I think, than just getting these experiments done.

So yesterday was AWFUL, but I went out with a friend and vented for a few hours about how I really can't see what staying a postdoc any longer is going to do for me. Sure, I'll have more experience. So what? Do I really need more experience?

Yesterday was particular awful for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that I realized something really depressing this week.

I'm terrified that my PI thinks I'm going to stick around here for a lot longer than I want to. I thought I was safe, because I've been a postdoc for long enough that I can't be one much longer, thanks to length-of-postdoc limits.
But I was wrong.

Although some universities are now putting limits on how long a person can stay a postdoc, they've gone on to condone, even encourage, what used to be considered a really unusual thing: yet another intermediate step.

Yes, that's right, the Super Doc position- known as Assistant Something Scientist/Researcher, depending on where you go, is becoming more and more popular.

It used to be hard to get these positions, because these people get paid almost as much as starting faculty, and since they can't write their own R01 grants, usually someone else (usually a faculty member) has to pay them the big bucks off of his/her own grants.

On the one hand, it could be viewed as progress. It used to be quite common for a person to remain a postdoc for years and years. Some universities like to claim the average postdoc length is 1-3 years, but that's bullshit. Most people switch labs at least once. So even if they switched labs, the sum total of the average postdoctoral work (I'm talking mostly people who go on to faculty positions, here) was frequently in the range of 5-9 years.

Now it seems that, although the sum total of time is still insanely long, at least for the last few of those years, the person might actually get, you know, paid more.

After all, there's nowhere near enough faculty positions for all the people who want them. Where else are we going to put them?

Enter the mentality of "Well it worked before with the postdocs, and now they're getting all organized and starting unions and stuff, so let's see if we can't pull one over on them again."


What's sad is, I don't think anyone has even noticed yet that the pattern is repeating itself. So, you heard it here first, folks. Those with science PhDs are doomed to repeat history because we didn't learn it.


In other news... well there is no other news I can actually talk about here.

On a positive note, I did some benchwork today and it was GREAT. I feel less tired, less stressed, and less generally depressed than yesterday. I'm still royally pissed off about a whole pile of things, but I'm hoping I can come in tomorrow and get some actual DATA. The day before data is like the night before Christmas, only better, because if it worked, you know exactly what you got. No need to shake the box.

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