Sunday, January 27, 2008

Not very.

Ran across the lab website of an old acquaintance today, someone I knew from school.

This was one of those people - you know the type - that everyone thought was a Genius (or at least, some did). The Very Knowledgeable Type.

Well I kind of had to laugh because this person is now a professor at an up-and-coming school. By that I mean, it's not an R1. It's maybe a 2nd or 3rd tier school, trying to put more money into research but not quite there yet. Maybe a great place to be, who am I to judge?

But I guess I'm a little surprised, and disappointed in a way. It's always that question- are we all fooling ourselves, thinking we're Good Enough, or even if we're not we can work hard until we get where we want to be?


In other news, I was thinking again today about how I have this one paper that I never sent back. When I got the reviews back, I wasn't ready to deal with them right away.

I was thinking about how I've always been impatient, and how this is both good and bad for research. It makes me look for answers and work a lot, maybe more than others, but it also makes the waiting parts really hard.

I think it was when I was working in a lab during college that someone told me this phrase, "hurry up and wait" and I immediately seized on it as a way to describe my life, my research, the whole vibe.

I'm in a wait period right now, which I hate. More than anything else about this job, I hate the waiting.

There are a lot of opportunities to wait. When you put something in to incubate overnight. When you send off a paper, a grant, an application for a job. When your advisor never gets back to you. The usual stuff.

I always liked the part after you send off the paper, the grant, the application. Because if you did your job right, there's nothing more you can do. But wait. It's almost like a vacation. From guilt, anyway.

I don't like the part where I'm waiting for an experiment, for something to be ordered or arrive after ordering in the mail, for equipment to be fixed, for people to get back to me.

But when you get the reviews back, you have to make a choice. Argue (as I've mentioned before, something I view as work and not fun), or go elsewhere.

In this case, initially I wasn't ready to argue. I think telling my advisor that was a mistake. I think my advisor determined from that one statement that I'm not cut out for academia.

A few days later, I was ready to argue, and my advisor told me we should go elsewhere. I think this was also a mistake. But now it's too late. We never published the paper, and lately I'm feeling like we never will.


Meanwhile, when I had samples ready a few months ago, the equipment I needed was broken. Now that the equipment is available (because the other people who normally use it are all applying for faculty positions, because their papers came out in Top Journals), I don't have any samples.

It never ends, does it?


So anyway I was looking at this guy's profile, and I thought, How Boring. And I realized I was less confused by him having a job at Up and Coming University (rather than Big Famous University) than I was by him having a job at all.

Sometimes I wonder why we pay anyone to do this stuff. I'd like to think my stuff is more interesting, but of course even if it's wildly different from his, it's not more interesting in any way that's understandable or useful to the general public. Not really.

It's no wonder they don't want to pay me to do this stuff.

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At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, you're bound to get job offers now. doesn't it seem like when you doubt yourself, things turn out ok?

second, it isn't fair to judge the Genius type who ended up taking that job. maybe he has great hours, maybe he loves what he does, maybe it's b/c his wife had to move to that region of the country. who knows? at what point do you stop comparing other people with your idea of success?

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon 8:28,

you said doesn't it seem like when you doubt yourself, things turn out ok?

are you being sarcastic?

I guess you also missed this line:Maybe a great place to be, who am I to judge?

I don't think you ever stop comparing other people with your idea of success. Maybe when you feel that you are successful, you can finally stop looking for patterns to tell you whether you're on the right track?

At 7:30 PM, Anonymous JR said...

You stop comparing yourself to everyone when you become content.

At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interestingly, that sounds like about the type of faculty positions I envision myself in. Not an r1, but 2nd or 3rd tier, where research is growing some, enough to be encouraged, but where teaching and a relationship with the students is a bigger focus.

Just my two cents on that.

I'm way good at the waiting. Not as good at getting stuff done NOW.

At 12:34 AM, Anonymous Drugmonkey said...

Let me get this straight. All this time you are complaining about dismal job prospects this is because you refuse to consider anything other than "R1" jobs? Do I have that correctly?

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How very sad.

As a faculty member at Up and Coming U (or perhaps Down and Going?), I am often mildly amused by the slightly sheepish comments from my friends and Big Famous U, about how they thought I would get a "better job' or that I really am doing fine for being at "a place like that" or how it must be hard with "all that teaching". They really don't get my life, or that I am very happy, liked by my co-workers, loved by my students, and when I am not writing a grant, spend much of the weekend and most evenings with my daughter. I'm reasonably well funded (for a "place like that"), and I publish slowly, but I'm very proud of the work my lab does and the students I have trained.

I know who I am, and I am pretty much getting what I want out of life. Which is why it is mildly amusing to think that successful PIs at better places take so much interest in my life, feeling either pity or schadenfreude.

Those sentiments coming from someone without a job, though, actually make me kind of sad. I just wonder, YFS, whether you will ever be happy. Jobs are really hard to get, even the ones that you think you are too good for. At some point you might have to face the reality on the ground.

And get that paper in. A second tier paper is better than no paper, kind of like a second tier job is better than no job.


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