Tuesday, November 29, 2011

responding to email after midnight...

... I wonder what they will say tomorrow (today rather) since I've answered emails regarding tomorrow now (almost 00.30 where I'm at)? ;)

Interesting. If nothing else, it goes to show that I might be a slightly later person getting into work in the morning (not at 7 am as some of my coworkers) but then again, I seldom leave before 5.30-6pm... (read often after 6.30 pm) and read email at home when I'm trying to wake up at 7 am... wonders of email, right?

What's your work place policy?

(As for me, I've been realising that sometimes my response email is sent at "a strange time" to what others seem to think is "appropriate time" although I usually don't think about when I read my work email and respond. Well, I guess a few times it's been deliberate since I've been stuck working late and therefore to prove (yeas, I know the silly assumption here) that i've actually - GASP - been working outside of the thought of 7am -6pm hours....)

Monday, November 28, 2011

I'm missing

I really miss those times when I could vent science questions with my friends and co-workers (ok, post-docs and grad students and other scientific community ppl). It seems like those days have passed... or at leat deminished a lot. People are either too busy or not interested... not to mention the confidentiality problem for me to say something specific to "no one special" or here....

But I remember the times with coffee or a beer (or two), sitting and talking, moving from subject to subject - passing fast through some thoughts, lingering on others... and getting ideas... and more often than not, re-enforcements that "no, you're not lazy, it's just not that fast to investigate that questions" or "resolving that validation will take time".

Today is one of those days, it would've been so nice to step out of the office and go for a scientific beer and a good science venting. Alas, my circle is smaller, many have family and lives before holidays, responsibilities outside of work etc so I think the venting will have to be me in the gym..... and my head trying to see the answers of way too many questions to be answered in only a few days. Good thing I have time after work out to write summaries and suggestions, sleep on it and move from there tomorrow. Maybe an earlier phone call to across the Atlantic will do the trick? If nothing else, head tends to clear up after work out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

must do now!

Funny, it's always like that. I need to leave early for once and of course there are a lot of "could you take a look at this" and "could you find that".... and I stayed late last night to fix all stuff...

Ah well, I am not in the mood to whine - but I think it is very typical.

Very soon, a 4 day weekend! I can't begin to express how happy I am about it. Looking forward to a lot of relaxing, some books, long walks in nature and just enjoying life in general. I'm thankful for the people around me who I call friends and family. And especially this month, when not one but three of my friends (or extended friends) have lost a parent...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

thoughts on mentoring younger ones...

I mentioned some of this before. First I got asked in the spring to be a mentor "from the industry perspective to undergraduates and graduates" (and as it turned out to be even post-docs), secondly I got invited to give a career talk at a high school in the rural south... I won't say I wasn't flattered, I was, even if it was a rural high school "who had never had a female PhD in Biology to talk for the seniors", which was one of the main reasons they wanted to bring me in. I am still flattered that people think I can give advice, answer questions and be a (some sort of anyway) role model... And I like it, don't get me wrong, since I often have easier times connecting with younger people than for me to network with older peers (sadly, since I would most likely benefit myself from being better at that aspect).

I went to the high school and had a great time. Good questions about "what did you take as an under-graduate student", "what made you go for a PhD", "what kind of career options do you have right now" and other questions along those lines. And of course, in my opinion one of the more funny questions "have you actually worked with HeLa cells?" and when answering "yes" getting a gasp and awe from the audience. Yes, that hasn't really been one of the more common responses... (they had read a book about immortal cell lines, not the book I thought about "Henrietta Lacks" but another one.) We did avoid talking about the ethical issues about that specific cell-line, and focused a bit more on the "bang for your buck" - or what one would call it talking about getting a degree and paying off your student loans in the long run... "Why choosing the major like you did and not?!"

I did admit, more than once I'm afraid, that when I chose my undergraduate subject and my masters, I didn't really consider my student loan vs my future salary. I went more with what I liked at the moment and thought I wanted to learn about, trying to fit it all together. I did mention my "on the side studies" in philosophy, political science and some other "not fitting with science major" subject since to me those have been very valuable in my decision of choosing not to pursue those subject. Albeit, I didn't do that on my "main" student loan but rather on my extra curriculum (taking about 125% classes for a few years - I was/am a sort of over-achiever). And when it comes to my PhD and my projected future salary vs student loan; I didn't think about that too much either. I went with "at the time it was a subject I loved, I thought I was doing good at, and I wanted to work with it (microbes) in my future. I wanted a PhD to show that I could tie several years of research together in a thesis and finish it". Yeah, I might not have been the poster girl for "thinking ahead what kind of job I wanted" and choosing my PhD.... especially not in these times. (Granted, when I started my PhD I thought I'd be on the TT right now, alas that changed somewhere in the beginning of my post-doc years.)

That was something I mentioned at both talks though, maybe more at the conference in spring since that was a lot of master students thinking about going for a PhD "since they wanted to work in industry" - and I said "I don't think that is necessarily a straight line between industry work and success and a PhD". And most especially not now, in the midst of hard times getting a job after a PhD. I'd be the first to admit though, not qualms about it, that my opinion might be very coloured from the fact that about half of my graduate friends don't have a permanent job even after 5 years after our graduation. And that not half of the ones without a permanent job (or whatever to call it) is within Academia with grants and fellowship etc. No, about half of my former graduate colleagues are in limbo. In between "maternity fill-ins" (something that happens back home - equivalent of 10-12 months of temporary work) or temporary positions at consulting business... and the other half are divided between 2 years fellowships (maybe prolonged due to publications or similarities) or a permanent governmental/industry positions.

All in all, it leaves me with a bit of hesitancy saying much about the future. Granted though, the high school students seemed almost to have a better grasp of the fickleness of getting a job in the future than the master students or the post-docs. That in itself might have been what made me the most curious. The amount of times I heard from people who had spent the last 4 years pursuing a graduate degree (being a masters or a PhD) telling me how much industry wanted the PhD and that was their only way in there... Not to mention the whole "but I've worked so hard and have good grades and surely someone would hire me because of that". And the high school students asking right out "which is the way to go to get a job after college?" with less of an asking about the degree required but overall help to choose majors to go on with "succeeding".

How to say something about "it's not all about what you do and know, but rather who you know and coincidence and hard work networking, that will get you where you want to be"? Yeah, I might sound bitter saying that, but truth to be told - I don't really think the whole "working hard will pay off since you are clearly good at what you do" will be enough anymore (if it every was?)

It was though, a very valuable time for me since as always, it is eyeopening for me to see me with the eyes of other people. And that the things I've encountered and lived through, even if I consider myself to be quite on the younger side of life, have shaped me more than I would like to admit and like. Not to mention that those experiences can help other people, if nothing else; I still firmly believe in the statement that you should choose whichever subject as an undergraduate that you find attractive and think you'd like to work with in the future. Not necessarily have a full grown plan (as I had at a time) since you never know what you might meet in the future, or what kind of opportunities open us, but go for what you feel passionate about while trying to keep some other venues open (like having an other subject as second - chemistry/poli sci/etc) in case you realise a few years down the line that you aren't as passionate about the main subject as you thought....

Though, of course, I'm trying to find a way to incorporate my love for microbes into something that can be viable for my future.... and I do still think that the main course of choosing makes more sense (to me) is "I'd rather regret the things I tried than never try it at all since I think I'll be more likely to regret the things I never gave a chance...".

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

sort of word bingo

"If you have the right mind set, we'll make this work"

"You aren't interested in working with it?"

"Why not give reuslts in three days?" (Because the assay takes 14 days.... and a result after 3 days will prove nothing.)

"We need this now. We need that then. And most of all we need all that last week." Of course you do...

"The decision is all based on what Dr chall gets as results on this assay. No pressure..." (Funny enough, I sort of like these open pressure things since at least I know what's expected right off the bat. I know, I'm crazy... hopefully noone will try and test just how much I can be coaxed into.)

Attitude, it's everything. If you really wanted to, you could do it. Right?

(As a side note. I'm sort of envious of a few of my former collegues in post doc land who has gotten funding from many sources. At the same time I think about my other friends who are presently "between jobs" even with their PhD and/or post doc and other experience... The old saying seems true right now; "To those who have, give lots. Those who have nothing, all will be taken away" ... )

Thursday, November 03, 2011

not exactly the evening I had hoped for

Imagine a weekday evening, "little Saturday", and you meet up with a friend for a drink. You sit down and have some food, at a new bar that opened a bit back, and have a beer or two. You talk, vent science, discuss future plans and hopes... You finish the food and after a few hours, you call it an early night and go home. A nice evening out with friend. Nothing big with that.

Yeah, if only.

Imagine an evening, you go to a newish bar with a friend. Have a beer, some food and then when you return from the restroom your friend is starting to behave a little odd. You end up in the night, not only driving them home, but also carrying them up the stairs, tuck them into your bed and watch over them since someone at the bar slipped them drugs.

Yeah, not really the night to want.