Archive for: February, 2011

My post-doc sabbatical

Feb 16 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

To say I've hit the ground running would be a massive understatement. It's only my second day, and already I've learned a new surgery, gotten in touch with vendors, stared perplexedly at a box full of ancient apparatus parts, and read about a gazillion papers. Not to mention had my new-hire physical with an EXACT REPLICA of Dr Strangelove (minus the wheelchair), who literally asked me to sit on his "torture table." I almost died from all the win, though I can only imagine what the less cinematically-informed among his patients must think.

Watch as long as you like; it's one of my absolute favorite movies of all time.

Anyway, the new lab is pretty great, and although I'm feeling overwhelmed by all the new stuff I have no experience with and pressure to perform in areas I do, I think this is going to be really good in the long run. I'm very excited about the project, about how different it is from things I've done before, and how much more I'm going to know when it's over. This morning I was chatting with my PI and co-PI (they are totes the Odd Couple and I <3 them!) about the things I'd learned so far (i.e. on day one) and co-PI remarked that "this is sort of like your post-doc sabbatical!" which is pretty spot on, when you think about it.

I'm quickly getting in the mindset that this is not a stop-gap, but an opportunity. And I'm also thinking, what a great fucking idea! Location (and funding) permitting, how awesome would it be for post-docs to get to go spend 6 months or so immersing themselves in a new lab, learning new techniques and broadening their scope of interest and knowledge?

The answer is, very awesome. Look, as the beautiful and talented Candid Engineer recently noted, we post-docs need to diversify our portfolios. Interdisciplinary is in, and I'm pretty positive that a big part of the reason my TT apps fared better this year than last is that in the interim, I started a new collaboration that gave me not only new methods, but new perspective on the research I'd done so far.

With the average time spent in  post-doc-land  ever increasing, the definition of what one is meant to do during those 5-7 years may need to change.  A post-doc sabbatical could not only expand a TT hopeful's repertoire and infuse him or her with fresh ideas and knowledge, but could also be the zap of newness needed to help prevent the burnout many of us feel as we reach our "elder" post-doc years. Post-docs loving science again = better science, I am so sure of it.

Now of course, the $64,000 question:  who's going to fund all this?

9 responses so far

Employment, I haz it!

Feb 07 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

OK, before you get too excited, this is not THE big job announcement that, FSM willing, I'll be able to make sometime in the not-so far away future (I can only say now that things are going very nicely on that front). But with respect to the immediate future, I am happy to tell you that I'll no longer be collecting unemployment, which itself is nothing to sneeze at.

It is amazing the way things work out sometimes. One of my (many) sciencey skillz is something that would be considered by some to be...I don't know, antiquated, I guess. I prefer "classic." Back before my TT interviews I visited a group here in the city to tell them about my skillz in hopes of landing a 2nd post-doc, but I felt I had to be up front about my upcoming interviews. The very awesome PI told me that he totally wanted my skillz, but that he thought that my interviews indicated I probably wouldn't be around all that long. I understood.

Fast-forward 6 weeks or so, and very awesome PI writes, "I think we can make this work for you, even short term." So we do some chit-chatting, and he tells me about the awesome projects that he has up and running and that would be even awesomer with my skillz. I am offered a Research Scientist position, with the understanding that I may be gone by the end of the summer.

I'm really excited--I'll be applying my knowledge to a new problem, in a new organism. I'll learn a ton.  I'll be in a world-class department, making new potential collaboration connections. And really, really importantly, I'll not be completely fucking broke .

25 responses so far

Adventures in real estate

Feb 04 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

In a rare turn of events, J passed out before me last night, and it crossed my mind that I might take the opportunity to have a teensy sip of Basil Hayden's and do a little scribbling. Naturally, I got about 5 sentences in before quickly following suit, the bourbon rapidly propelling me me into a warm, sleepy haze. Best laid plans, etc (if you're inclined to call whiskey drinking and internet navel-gazing a "plan"). So I'm finishing this post on a train, heading somewhere...job related (oh, so coy!), and I thought I'd tell you about my latest adventures.

Aside from all this job-hunting business, the major hot topic in our lives these days is finding a new apartment. Apartment hunting, you might say. I am a hunter, it would seem, of both jobs and residences. Our landlord has indicated that he intends not only to raise our rent, but also to take away the use of our sick, sick roof deck, home to some of Brooklyn's most fabulous parties (2006-2010). And what with me having no income and all, staying is both fiscally ill-advised and, in some senses, undesirable, so move we must.

Now, one nice thing (of--trust me--many) about being unemployed is that your days are free to roam the city in search of new digs. Accordingly, I've been jetting off to Queens this week doing just that. I always think that apartment hunting will be fun because it is kind of like shopping, and I love shopping with a fiery passion that burns in the very seat of my soul. But apartment hunting in NYC on a budget is like going shopping in the dumpster outside KMart, paying 3 times what the clothes are worth, and then paying another 10% to the guy who opens the dumpster for you.

It's a rare broker who could be described as neither More Than A Few Screws Loose nor Scum of the Earth Douchebag, and in the outer boroughs, they trend more toward the former than the latter. My favorite so far has been Cathy*, who carries a parrot on her shoulder and has a semi-related story for just about any scenario you could imagine. She is, without question, a Chatty Cathy.

Cathy and I traipsed through the slush-filled streets of Queens yesterday, looking at several possible apartments for J and me and the kittehs. All the while, Cathy talked my ear off about...oh, what didn't she talk my ear off about, really? The fantastic deal she'd gotten on her spiky fur vest, her parrot's troubled, abusive past, her experiences with online dating. We finished well in advance of my next appointment, at which point she said, "Well, it's 12:30, why don't you come over and have a glass of wine? We can play Scrabble!"

I frantically racked my brain for what pressing engagement might allow me to escape another 90 minutes of TMI, but came up empty. It also occurred to me that it's at least somewhat in my interest to have a broker who loves me, and so I did what any real estate-savvy New Yorker would do--I took one for the team. She poured me a large glass of Australian Cabernet, and I drew seven tiles.

The stories I heard over the course of the afternoon have burned images into my brain that may take years to fade. I know things about this woman that I don't know about some of my closest friends. An hour after I left, I got a phone call that the one place I'd liked had been taken.

This woman. Had better. Find me. A fucking. Apartment.

*not her real name, obvs.

9 responses so far