Thursday, October 05, 2006

Benchwork Procrastinating

I did benchwork today. It was fun. More fun than writing papers or grants, just now.

I know I should get a student to do this menial stuff for me. I know I should work on fixing up my figures for the paper, the grant, the poster. But doing experiments is a legitimate excuse, right??

I keep saying I'll do it in the morning, but then I have a morning meeting on the day I wanted to do it. Afternoons and evenings are out, I can't think late in the day. I say I'll do it on the weekend, but then I tell myself a day off (!!) is really important or I won't make it through the next week of benchwork and meetings. Right??

Sigh. Time is dragging on, and I'm using the excuse that I still have a couple more experiments I could do, should do, and there's no point in fixing the figures for the paper if these new data have to get put in anyway, I'll just have to remake the figures again...

It's pathetic, I know.

A vacation would be good, to the person who suggested that, but for a bunch of reasons I've discussed in previous posts, it usually backfires on me.

No, I think it would help if I used my one and a half days off on the weekend to do more rejuvenating things, but I usually end up sitting around like a frog on a log, which doesn't actually make me feel any better. I'm usually too tired to come up with fun things to do.

France sounds good. I always wanted to end up in Europe, until I went there to work for a little while. Now I'm not so sure. And I have friends who are desperately competing for jobs there and not getting them. So, kudos to the person who wrote and said she got a faculty position there. They are hard to get.

To the person who said you don't have to work 9 to 5 in industry, and that industry does more to help people than academia does.... give me a break. Where do you think all those ideas for assays come from? You wouldn't know what to measure, or how to measure it, without us. You don't get to try anywhere near the level of crazy things we do. Trust me, we're way more on the cutting edge than you are. It sucks, too, because most of the technology to do what we need to do ends up being custom-made, and thus more expensive. By the time you get to use it, we've already moved on to the next big problem.

And, what's the incentive to have someone tell me what to do, if I still have to work just as much? I'd much rather work long hours on my own ideas. Money doesn't make up the difference.

Speaking of other people's work, lately I'm spending a lot of time in other people's journal clubs. Not by choice, mind you, but to keep up appearances, and all that good networking stuff.

So I'm annoyed because the papers aren't that useful to me. Do I volunteer to do one of my own? Because that will take a lot longer than just catching up on my reading, on my own.

Along those lines, I'm working on a relatively hot topic right now, so I'm torn about whether it would be beneficial or completely naive and stupid to try to start a meeting for a group of people working on similar things. Should I be open and optimistic? Does paranoia really get you anywhere?

See what I mean? I can't think late in the day. Still can't decide whether to get the new laptop, or wait longer. Can't decide whether to go back on the pill or not. Can't decide whether to go visit my parents or not worry about it until next spring.

One thing I can decide: as soon as this gel is finished, I'm outta here. Next question: do I watch tv, and if so, what do I watch on Thursday night? Do I exercise? Yes, probably should. Will feel oh so virtuous if I do.

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7 Comments:

At 10:53 PM, Blogger angrygrad said...

Grey's Anatomy makes for some fairly mind-numbing entertainment.

Also, I have recently discovered that I love reading fiction mysteries. Everything is so simple, the clues are present, all is nice and linear. In short, things in mystery novels, unlike lab-based science, WORK! Very therapeutic.

 
At 6:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First time poster...long time lurker. :)

I don't want this to sound snarky, but for someone who apparently has no experience in industry you seem to have some very strong ideas about what does and doesn't happen there.

I've worked for the "dark side" for a few years now and I can definitely say there are benefits over academia. This is not to say that I want to leave academia forever (I'm planning my way back in fact). But it's really a good idea to have actual experience (or a very good friend who is willing to tell you all about their experiences) in an area before ruling it out completely.

No, basic research does not tend to happen as often in industry (exception? you work for some behemoth company that can fund that sort of thing or you work for an R&D company -- they DO exist and ARE capable of truly impressive, novel work). No, your personal ideas and theories do not come before the company's goals. No, you do not publish in peer-reviewed journals nearly as often. But yes, certain amounts of creative flexibility are encouraged (especially at your level of experience) -- from the glimmer of an idea through to completion of the project you may get complete control if you've proven your stuff. Yes, you will get paid more. You may or may not be expected to work 60-80 hour weeks sometimes, but usually that means you'll get a fat bonus at the end of the year. You even may or may not be expected to write grant proposals (that again depends on the company's size, goals, and culture).

Short story is, you don't seem all that happy in your current situation, and your impressions of what industry is like gives me the sense that you think you'd be treated as if you only had a B.S., instead of a Ph.D. plus post-doc experience. I would do an honest investigation of what's actually out there before ruling this area out.

 
At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"To the person who said you don't have to work 9 to 5 in industry, and that industry does more to help people than academia does.... give me a break. Where do you think all those ideas for assays come from? You wouldn't know what to measure, or how to measure it, without us. You don't get to try anywhere near the level of crazy things we do. Trust me, we're way more on the cutting edge than you are. It sucks, too, because most of the technology to do what we need to do ends up being custom-made, and thus more expensive. By the time you get to use it, we've already moved on to the next big problem."


Your view of your work, and academic science, is hugely inflated. Do you really think that your findings in yeast are going to help people directly? Come on, I'm in academia, and most academics I know freely admit that what we do is important to build knowlege, and may help develop therapies SOMEDAY in the future. But you aren't helping people more than those in industry who are actually making therapies now that are going to treat disease. You are so outspoken about biases in your career, and yet your biases about academia vs. industry are so cliche, they seem to have been indoctrinated into you by the system that you claim to fight against and want to change.

 
At 1:05 PM, Blogger yes said...

I shouldn't reply, but I can't help it...


To the statement that you are ahead of industry. I have no idea where you get that from. We, in industry, have been on both sides. Why did we become stupid when we went to industry?

I don't know what you study, and I won't tell you what we study, but I can say that our issued patents (that have been prosecuted for 4 years minimum) are ahead of the literature in our area. In the little areas that we care about, we are years ahead of academia.

For the amount of money that is on the line, we try far stupider stuff than you do.

What we don't do well, is look at areas where we can't see money coming back in any time soon.

Acadmia is really good for totally new fields (RNAi is a good example) but quickly industry takes the lead becuase we have more people, more money, and more focus.

You really should talk to someone in industry, as you keep trotting out the standard old stereotypes. Those things WERE true in the 80's and early 90's. They have been solved.

 
At 9:57 PM, Blogger TW Andrews said...

You wouldn't know what to measure, or how to measure it, without us. You don't get to try anywhere near the level of crazy things we do. Trust me, we're way more on the cutting edge than you are.

In the first place, I'm not sure how you'd know this, given your manifest misconception of what industry research is like. And honestly, I don't know where it comes from. I don't think anyone disputes that some pretty cool science is done in academia, but for some reason, you seem awfuly touchy about the idea that good science might be done in industry as well.

And in any case, though the commenter was pretty snide about the importance of academia vs. industry, it's more about the quality of life than the quality of science. I know lots of people who have come from academia to industry. I none who have gone the other way.

I'm not saying that industry is superior, but it's just not the horrible place you imagine it to be.

 
At 4:18 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

To the person who mentioned yeast, that made me laugh. I don't work in yeast, for precisely that same reason. They're not a good model for therapeutics!

To the person who said 'we try far stupider stuff', that also made me laugh. I will give you points for that.

It's true, I don't have first-hand experience in industry, but I have lots of close friends who work in companies of various sizes. One- out of many- is lucky enough to get to do some self-directed research, but even she gets told which areas to work on. My impression is that, like academia, only the very few lucky elite get to have what I would consider intellectual independence. So banking on getting to do that in industry... there's no more guarantee of doing it full time in industry than in academia, so far as I can tell. More companies are telling people to spend some fraction of their time on their own projects. I think that's a good idea.

My friends who work at startups, however, are less happy. And as far as being treated like a PhD... they're in fields where women are still minorities, and it's not much better than what I have to put up with as a postdoc. Sure, they get paid more. But money doesn't fix everything.

 
At 2:18 PM, Anonymous TW Andrews said...

Sure, they get paid more. But money doesn't fix everything.f

No, it definitely doesn't. But surely money and more reasonable hours count for something.

 

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