Thursday, January 24, 2008

Benchwork and being benched.

Been doing a lot of benchwork lately, which means I don't feel like doing much else.

I have relatively short breaks while things are incubating, 30 minutes here, 10 minutes there. So during these breaks I'm doing something I haven't really done since grad school, when I used to do a lot of benchwork and often found myself exhausted, late at night, just trying to stay awake to do the last step and go home. My main activities during these times were playing little games and reading junk on the internet.

And I mean junk: I'm reading my junk mail and clicking on the links for clothing sales, etc. I mean, how pathetic! I normally would never do this during the day.

It's especially funny since I'm usually pretty good about working at work, but I just can't do it right now. I. Just. Can't.

Meanwhile, most of my co-workers are diligently working at their computers. One is applying for a greencard; one is writing a paper; one is writing a computer program; one is putting together a talk for a job interview.

(We won't mention the tech who plays solitaire on his iPod. All. Day. Long.

We also won't mention the Not So Super Doc who sells things from his eBay website. All. Day. Long. )

But I'm too tired to read, write, or otherwise construct much of anything intellectual on days like this. I am just a pipetting machine. And then I am a couch potato.


One thing I did read was kind of disturbing, included as advice to candidates looking for faculty positions (which I reiterate again, I am not):

The best, meaning most useful, letters, by the way, are the ones who say things like "This candidate is very much like CCC and DDD were at this stage in their careers." Real comparisons like that are much more helpful than "The candidate is bright, creative, and a good communicator."

from this blog.

The author seems to miss the point that this automatically discriminates against women and minorities. There aren't enough obvious choices to compare us to, and most people wouldn't think to compare us to successful white men.

Another point missed in this kind of advice is that it assumes the people writing you letters have known some famous CCC or DDD at some point. So if your letters are from younger folks who move in less ritzy circles, they can't honestly say 'this candidate reminds me of so-and-so' because they didn't actually ever meet so-and-so!

Does anyone ever bother to check up on that?


In other news, I was amused to be invited to join a networking group and find that I had more connections than I thought I did (and more than most other people in the group).

I'm not exactly sure, but I think that's probably why I was invited. But lately I get these invitations to be a representative of 'my group' and I'm not sure which one they mean. My university? My gender? Postdocs? One of my professional societies? Because the invitations usually don't say, and they seem to expect me to self-identify.

Bored benchworkers everywhere, unite! I represent you!



At 5:57 AM, Anonymous CC said...

Another point missed in this kind of advice is that it assumes the people writing you letters have known some famous CCC or DDD at some point.

I don't think the idea is that they compare you to Marie Curie or Louis Pasteur (which a committee is unlikely to take too seriously anyway). It's more like "I trained / worked with CCC, who is flourishing as a faculty member at [institution comparable to where you're applying] and X reminds me of her at the same stage, in her [laudable qualities]."


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