Friday, April 25, 2008

Introvert vs extrovert future

So, after spending a whole day of listening to “how to get a job” and trying to incorporate that in what I am doing at the moment, not to mention to pretend to be on top of things, I am beat. Not only listening to, what I would perceive is, good advice and hope I feel tired. I know I most probably should listen to it all and take it in as good advice but at a point I just feel like I’m trying to keep up with a marathon runner being a person who can run 5 miles all good but never can keep up with the speed and endurance of a marathon runner – even at the distance.
I hope I am wrong. I hope the little I have done so far, applying for jobs and sending out proposals is kind of enough. At the same time I know I haven’t done enough. Need to write more of those “hi, I would like to talk to you about what jobs there is out there and what kind of experience you need to get a good job fitting my capabilities”.

Good things about today? That I wrote a mind map kind of to myself, or a to-do-list, that I need to find time to get through. The funny, and no – it’s again not a real funny haha thing, would be that I don’t really feel that I have the time since I want to do the lab work (to finish stuff up) rather than focus on solely applying for new jobs. I know somewhere deep down, that I need to apply for jobs and call people and at the same time I need to have the energy to do my “regular job”. Time difference is not helping but that is me blaming something. I need to think about future rather than just “this at the moment” but maybe it will all be good if I talk to my PI and being really honest?

I think I am just tired. Not just because I work weekends and don’t really seem to get a whole day (and if it took you this long to realise that I might be whining – so sorry but I seem to let out steam) to apply and think about what I really want to do…. but also because this is affecting my mind and my mental status. Well, that sounds bad but it is not really what I mean. I mean that every once in a while it would be nice to have a break.(The break being in a place for a time feeling good and doing good work and feeling like this is what I want to do.) I know though, deep down when I think about it all, that this is just what we all call life. Life is not necessary nice, easy and pleasant and it deals you cards you don’t want but you just have to look at them and make the best game possible out of it. It’s just unfortunate that I feel like I’ve had my share. Like I would like a smooth ride?! Like I said, it is all about realising that life might not be what you wanted it to be at that specific time when you had it all planned out… it is realising you have to make do with what happens. Because that is what life does, it happens and you deal. It’s not comfortable and planned – it just is. Reapply and rewrite another application and hope for the best.

Watching Battlestar Galactica might be good or might be a little too cynical at times. I don’t know but at the time it feels good to know that I’m not living that bleak a life. But really, at the moment it is about all stuff like that. I choose not to think about what will happen in August. What will happen when I don’t have a job anymore and I am out of the security system back home. I knew when I accepted this post doc position on the other side of the Atlantic that I was out of my home country, out of the system and needed a job to get back in. And still I went. I just hope that the gambling of taking a job somewhere is going to turn out to be better than being unemployed back home. Although I know that basic and sad truth that it would have been better to stay at home and just “looked” for jobs and not left the country.

But still I hope. And still stuff like BSG and other series (yes, talking about Buffy and Angel) to get a little bit of distance to it all. It might be silly and nor really

If I’d known what I know today – my life considered- would I still have moved? I said today on to another post doc, funny enough I meant it, “it’s life and you just have to play with the cards you got dealt, and I will always be happy for this time and the people I have met and the experience I have gained”. It is true. I wouldn’t have traded this experience with being secure in the system since I did a post doc in the US and I did test my experience.

Time to go to bed, as I seem to write a lot. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Went to a talk yesterday and got stuck with the same question I have had several time after “changing fields” (not really but let’s say that it is more in the field of immunology and other mice related work where this issue comes up more frequently). The talk was sure enough based on preliminary data, and I am all for that if you state that, and somewhere in the middle of it the issue came up that all the data showed work based on n=4. How I realised that? Well, in the middle of interpreting a slide where the late days looked interested the speaker says “I am not sure I believe in this day since it is only based on one mouse since the other three in the group already had succumbed”.

This after I had heard “significant difference”… and I went into a loop of trying to remember my statistical training and how to get data significantly when comparing different groups of four with each other. I guess you can get significant difference, if one group is four and one is one… but if one is four and the other is three… I don’t know.

And somewhere there I remembered again the discussion I ended up having after another talk (biochemistry and structures) with one of my post doc colleagues, who is an immunologist, and the bashing of the entire field of structural biology and the interpretations of structures – especially when the protein in question doesn’t have a biological function yet. The statement from my colleagues was mainly that “it is not really something you can tell since you only look at this ‘structure’ rather than biological* assay” (*testing in cell culture or in vivo).

Personally, I like crystallography, and indeed the other talk yesterday I ended up thinking about was the one where they had investigated amino acid mutations and implications that made for virulence and pathogenesis but they did not even mention how the mutations changed the alpha helical structure, or the stability of the protein or something along those lines, i.e. biochemistry and chemical properties. It mainly makes me question how different we look at questions and interpret data beginning on where we stand – in which field as in immunology, structural biology or something like that. I am a little worried that the gap is larger than I previously thought.

Although, I guess I should remember my earlier training where I studied proteins and was trying to collaborate with both chemists and microbiologist as well as MDs (who in this case would study the biological implications in vivo). I guess the thing I wanted to say here was the following; significantly is a word I don’t like people using when it is clear that the statistical analysis is somewhat shaky, some fields come from so different angles that it is pivotal to stop for a second and reflect about what it means from other points of view and that not everything you are interested in, or think is obvious for that matter, is the same for other people who are trained in another discipline.

And I still linger with the thought that it would have been interesting, and so much easier to find a job, if I would have pursued that PhD in chemistry or maybe even made my training in a department called “biochemistry/chemistry/’something more clear’”.

Ah well, it’s the endless thoughts of “what ifs” and “how did they think there?”. Time to go to bed and not ponder n values and statistics too much, but I am happy that I managed to force myself not only through that [awful] statistics classes but also gain programming skills and bioinformatic training. Never have I seen such a need to pretend to have [actually have] skills as a chemist (or a civil engineer) or other “multitasking people who can be a good resource” and not ‘only a microbiologist who knows molecular biology’.

Definitely time for bed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


I have read a few posts about retracting papers and also read some of the retractions. I think I need to make a smaller retraction myself, or at least a little of a nuance to a feeling and statement I have previously made here. Never mind the fact that I still think it was valid when I made it but in light of a conversation and experience the last couple of weeks I feel a small need to correct my somewhat depressing statement about one of the Big People aka the HoD.

I mean, I had a conversation with said person and ended up with both a smile and a feeling that I was doing completely the right thing. And that said person agreed. Furthermore, it was said: “There is not need for you to be so hard on yourself. I think you have made good data and research during your time here”. Go figure. But it is not only the fact that I got praise that made me retract some of the statements of “being evil, harsh, rude and overly criticizing” but more since I though about my own demeanor.

(Being a former RPGer I should have remembered the whole nature/demeanor and that they [usually] do not am the same, but in all this I forgot this. I forgot that my outside might not show ‘somewhat scared and hesitant, wanting to know if it ok to only work 60 hs a week when the experiments didn’t pan out as planned and I’m so sorry for this not to work but I really, really tried you know and it feels bad to take up your time by telling you all this with no happy data in the end’ to be interpreted into “I don’t really care what you think of my research so why should I explain what I have been doing this last week when I was slouching and I don't want to tell you my ideas since I think you might steal them”.)

In short, I probably created some of the situation myself but I do think that I am getting better now and if nothing else we seem to have a good understanding at the moment. I am moving forward. And really, I think this is one major point and achievement I can grow from.

Regarding my mentor and PI though, it feels a little more like one step forward, one and a half backwards. But then again, I might be a little wrong there too… but in short it has to do with trust. I really can’t give him more benefit of the doubt but rather I am planning accordingly to the last statement and written agreement. This of course, is not the same as the things he said last time we spoke about it all; or similar to the time before that , or the time before that again. So, basically I would say that if you have given three different statements the three last times when you talk about planning the future don’t be surprised if the other person, the dependant, plans accordingly to the written agreement, which hasn’t been changed.

Of course, I am [somewhat] flexible if it turns that way. And I know that I need to have another talk about it all soon. I just need these results from the experiments I am doing this week and the following 14 days…. And I am so excited about the results! They might be the ones that make the publication altogether. Or at least make it interesting for more than “just bacteria people”.

Time to go home and mull over that abstract for the conference! It is due soon but I would really benefit from the results coming from the experiments the next 14 days in order to make it hot. Well, sometimes it just happens that way. Hopefully I can spin it in an interesting way still.