Archive for: August, 2012

Happy Prof-iversary to me!

Aug 31 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Today marks the official 1-year point since I started my faculty position here at NJU. And what a year it's been! Taking a page from the Neuropolarbear handbook, here are some musings on the first 12 months.

  • Unlike NPB, I do use my office landline phone. It's an easy way to know that whoever's calling has nothing interesting to say.
  • I will think VERY carefully before agreeing to create a lecture course from scratch again.
  • The first time an undergrad calls you "professor" is pretty much one of the best things ever.
  • You can make yourself look way more dressed up than you actually are by wearing a necklace, I am so serious. I never used to be much of a jewelry person at all, but on an impulse bought some cheap dangly thing at Ann Taylor Loft (or we are just calling it "Loft" these days, I guess?), and I love it. Between that and this other necklace my future mother in-law got me for Christmas at TJMaxx, I feel so grown up! If you get a long one, you can wear it either long or doubled up, and it's like having twice as many necklaces! Anyway, that is my fashion tip for you.
  • It is amazing to me the ease and transparency with which some undergrads will try to bullshit you.
  • Alternately, there are some undergrads whose wisdom and maturity are equally amazing, and I find myself thinking, I didn't have my shit half as together as this person when I was 28, let alone 21.
  • I don't know why, but I continue to be surprised by the fact that I can ask for something and get it, even stupid stuff. My desk is L-shaped, with one side of the L about twice as wide as the other, the intent being that you sit facing the wider side. Nearly a year ago, the contractor was finishing its assembly, and he put the pencil drawer on the wide side, where it normally goes (in front of the desk user). But I could tell that it was going to be hanging too low and would hit my legs, so I had two choices. Suffer thigh bruises for the next 5+ years, or see if something could be done. So I said, "is there any way to move that drawer to the other (non-sitting) side of the desk?" and it turned out there was, and he did! Big teaching moment, there, and I'm only being slightly hyperbolic. Since then, I've also asked for and gotten: 1) an extra room for behavior testing; 2) a new, better, custom-designed microscope room; 3) an extension on the time limits of my startup. There can be a feeling when you first arrive, like,  I just got this gigantic pile of money and space, wouldn't it be greedy to ask for more things? But the reality is that there may be things that you can justify, and that wouldn't actually be all that hard for people to do for you. As they say with jobs, grants, etc, the only way to be sure you won't get it is not to apply/ask.
  • Running journal club with my small lab is one of the absolute most fun and rewarding things about this job.
  • I still kind of feel like I'm making things up as I'm going along. I've had both good and bad instincts, but so far only one thing has caught fire, so I consider that an overall success.

13 responses so far

It's BANTER time!

Aug 17 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

For those of you who are old far enough along in your career to remember the halcyon days when New Orleans was a regular in the SfN location rotation, I'm willing to bet you're as crazy over the moon as I am that it's finally, finally, back. Beignets! Hurricanes! Po' Boys! Pralines! I can feel myself gaining many pounds just sitting here thinking about all the amazing things I want to eat over the span of the meeting. As it turns out, I unknowingly scheduled my wedding for the weekend immediately following, so I'll have to watch it with the etoufée. But nothing on earth could keep me from planning a fabulous tweetup for SfN's social media-savvy set (that's you!)

Now in its third year, BANTER is a casual get-together that lets you interact IRL with all the hilarious people you've been chatting with all year OTI. This year, we're very lucky to be sponsored by Frontiers, which means it's quite likely you won't have to pay for anything (except tips! Anyone caught not tipping their bartenders has to wear a big D-for-douchebag scarlet letter on their shirt). Additionally, I am joined in hosting this awesome event by the equally awesome Neuropolarbear! We shouldn't be too hard to spot when you arrive, as we'll probably be the two tallest people there.

All the deets are in this terribly professional-looking flyer thingie I made last night. Evangeline is super close to the convention center, and has a sweet courtyard so we can mingle al fresco. And naturally, I'll be tweeting up a storm as things get closer.

As they say in the Big Easy, laissez les BANTER rouler! 



29 responses so far

My standing desk: an Instagram journey

Aug 09 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

This is a story of pain. Back pain. And this is also the story of one brave, determined, and resourceful scientist's quest to alleviate that pain.

One of the many, many things that change when you move from being a post-doc to a TT professor is that you spend WAY more time sitting at your desk. No more running back and forth to the animal facility, standing at the bench pipetting, or pacing around the dark room waiting for westerns to develop. No. You write. You just write and write and write--emails, grants,'s endless, and let me tell you, it is hell on your lumbar area.

Lately, I've found myself thinking is that all I'd really like to be able to do sometimes is stand up for a few minutes and keep working. What I needed was a standing level screen that mirrored my desktop so I could just stand up and sit down as I pleased. I had a vision, and I set out to make that vision a reality. Here's how!

Here's what my office looked like before. It's pretty small, so building a wholly separate standing desk wasn't really an option. And yes, I need more books or something.

What I wanted was a way to have the standing element to my right, on the small side of the L desk. Because my iMac's keyboard and mouse are both bluetooth, it would be easy just to move them when I wanted to work standing up. I looked for some sort of riser for them, and settled on the Billy height extension from IKEA. Now, this is going to be something that varies person-to-person. I'm pretty tall (5'10"), so I needed a decent lift. Before buying something similar, have someone help you measure the distance from where your hands comfortably rest in typing position (while you're standing) to the top of the desk.

It's been a while since I put together a new IKEA product, but the joys of the experience came back quite swiftly.

When it was finished, I flipped it down, so that the back was the top. This gave me the widest possible surface for mouse movement, plus since it's an extension and has no bottom, the back is now open for stashing stuff when I need to tidy up quickly. However, there was just one little problem.

Fucking IKEA and their insistance on not painting all sides of their furniture! I thought it looked a little silly with those two unfinished ends, so I got to work with a brown dry erase marker.

Next up--a kick ass display! The new Apple Thunderbolt Display was not the most thrifty of purchases, and you could certainly get a PC screen and be totally fine. But I am nothing if not cripplingly enslaved to good design/shiny things, plus I have a little money to burn right now, so I splurged.

Now, the new Apple Thunderbolt Display is totally fucking gorgeous, but it is also totally fucking not ready to be released yet because nobody makes anything to help you connect it to stuff. It comes with a ~2ft Thunderbolt cord attached to it which is great if you want to set the display up with your laptop, like, right in front of it, but is useless for setting up a display at any distance beyond that. I tried a couple of 3rd party extensions, but those were MiniDisplay Port, not Thunderbolt, and even though the physical port is the same, the display refused to work. It wants REAL Thunderbolt, or nothing at all! Apple doesn't yet make a male/female Thunderbolt extension, so I had to settle for a male/male 6' Thunderbolt cable, and connect the display to my iMac that way, port to port. Slightly annoying because I lose the 2' extra cable length from the built-in cable, but it just reached.

And voilá! I'm all set up. In fact, I'm standing RIGHT NOW as I type this. My back is so happy.

16 responses so far

Dr Becca's Lonely Profs Club Band

Aug 07 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

We've just now passed the year mark in New Job City, folks, and there has been much mulling. It's been a long time since I moved to a city where I didn't have a built-in social scene (grad school) or already have good friends (New York). And with J still in NY, trying to wiggle his way into a line of work that's VERY insular in NJC, I've been a little lonely.

Starting a new job in a new city means not only finding your bearings within your department and your university, but also within your world in general. For me, I need to feel a part of the city I live in, and a mailing address just isn't enough. I need to know people beyond my workplace, and have bars or restaurants that are mine. I'm a social person; I need  a social life.

But it's not like exploring the local watering holes on a regular basis is something a new TT professor has tons of time to do. For the first couple of months that I was here, I rarely went anywhere besides my apartment and campus. I was working hard on the R21, trying to staff and equip the lab, and squeezing in a quick workout at the NJU gym when I could. It was pretty rough--I felt totally disconnected from any semblance of reality, especially with only cats to come home to instead of J (nothing against my cats, of course--they're very snuggly. It's just that they don't have quite as much to say about Game of Thrones).

My reward to myself for finishing the R21 was a membership at a real gym in downtown NJC, which helped somewhat; at least it got me off campus. I got to see and interact (a little) with actual NJC young professionals, and spent a little more time exploring NJC (the eucalyptus-scented towels didn't hurt, either). In addition, I was exceedingly lucky that a new prof from a different department was given temporary lab space near mine while hers was being finished. We became quick friends, and even though we do completely different kinds of science, were able to help each other negotiate our New Lab Startup deals with Fisher and VWR in a slight variation on the classic Good Cop/Bad Cop routine. It was awesome. But then she moved across campus, and though we make an effort to have lunch or drinks once or twice a month, it's not the same thing as seeing someone every day--being able to pop in and say good morning, yell across the hall to their office, or spam them with text messages when you can tell they're having a particularly ridiculous phone interaction with a vendor.

Late spring/early summer I was perhaps too busy wedding planning, getting back in the research swing after a killer semester teaching, and looking forward to a much-needed vacation to notice that I was lonely. But after a week at the beach with J--the longest stretch of time we've spent together since the move--it hit again, and it hit hard. The reality of how long we've been living apart, and that there's no end in sight to this, is sinking in. The day after we get married, he'll go back to New York, and I to NJC.   It is too depressing even to think about.

I realized recently, too, that I'm kind of Science Lonely. I miss having people in my immediate field around who I can chat with about a new paper, or bounce ideas off for a grant. The latter has really started bugging me in the last few weeks, as I started to put together two grants due this fall. I couldn't quite wrap my head around my ideas, and I really needed to talk to someone. In person. I thought about trying to organize some sort of "NJC New Faculty Drinking Club" (there are one or two other reputable institutions of higher learning in the area), but figured that might take too long for something like that to build up steam. So I put on my big girl pants, and emailed the faculty member who intimidates me most to see if she wanted to have lunch. I figure I've got a few more weeks left of being able to play the new girl card--time to cash those chips in.

And just for good measure, I took myself out for a drink. There's a super old fancy hotel that I walk by on my way home from the gym, and for the last 6 months I've been drooling observing as renovations to their stunning dining room/bar progressed. When they were finally complete a week or two ago, I popped in after spin class and perched at the bar with a paper, happy just to be in a beautiful, bustling space with a decently made cocktail. But one of the things about hotel bars that makes them easy to go to alone is that a good majority of the other people there are also alone, and it is not at all difficult to start making friends. I happened to be next to an alone woman a few years my junior, in town on business from Seattle, and we had THE BEST TIME. We are friends on facebook now.

Of course, the downside to hotel bars is that the patrons are rarely from the city in which the hotel is located, so this may not be the best long-term course of action for creating a community for myself. Perhaps next spring I'll start working on my NJC Lonely Profs Club--I think with enough interest, we might be able to get a monthly thing going. In the meantime, I've got two grant deadlines, two speaking engagements, two meetings, and a wedding coming up--that should keep me busy for a while.


38 responses so far