1&2. Damien Scott and Michael Stonebridge
3. Carrie Mathison
4. Mr. Rogers
5. Jack Bauer
1&2. Damien Scott and Michael Stonebridge
I'm trying to begin preparing for a fellowship proposal on a project that I am really excited by right now. I'm trying to jot out some aims for the project but I am hitting a brick wall whenever I start to put type them out. Does this ever happen to you folks? I am really enthusiastic for this project but it is crushing me that I'm not laying down my aims with clarity. I'm sitting and staring at the preliminary data that I have collected so far to draw inspiration from. I know I'm not crafting the Great American Novel, but I'd at least like to extract the ideas out of my head with some clarity and put them down to paper (I'm going back to the old school route, this tends to help when I have writer's block).
So does this ever happen to you?
So I'm trying to broaden my podcast horizons and wanted to know what everyone else is listening to. My list of what I listen to while I do some of the more mundane tasks in the lab are:
-Tony Kornheiser Show (long time loyal little)
-Tim Ferriss Show
-Monday Morning Podcast w/ Bill Burr
-Dan Carlin's Hardcore History
-Stuff You Should Know
-Reasonable Doubt w/ Adam Carolla and Mark Geragos
-Tell 'Em Steve-Dave (occasionally)
So let me know what you are listening to.
So I got saddled with a presentation to some local undergrads about our work that we do in the lab in hopes of inspiring these young and bright minds to come do a senior thesis in the lab. I've got ~20 minutes and I'm wondering how to organize the presentation. I'm thinking of either talking on project in some detail or giving a broad and quick overview and then presenting two or three short vignettes on projects that these students could work with me on. I know I can give a better presentation if I just present one project, but since this is a sales pitch I think I'm going to work present it as here is what we do and some things that you can work on.
Thoughts. Tips. Excuses not to?
I'm working on making figures for a paper that I walked into and have done some work to wrap up the study. I'm currently going batty digging through old files to find the raw files that were used to create graphs that apparently only exist in powerpoint files. These things are spread out to the four corners of the earth and its getting really annoying. Some of the files are in prism, some are in excel, some are in jmp, its getting crazy. If I make a figure I keep the raw data in excel but tend to make the polished figure in prism so its sitting there waiting to go into a publication.
Do you guys have a standard for graphs and how you want to see them?
Is anyone using an ELN system for their lab. I've been looking at a few, Evernote in particular, to help me keep my multiple projects organized? Didn't know if you found a helpful system or what difficulties you had in implementing this?
I think I might need that $8k to purchase a license for Ingenuity Pathway Analysis. Goddamn that stuff is not cheap.
For the summer I have been fortunate to be assigned (read: saddled) with a high school intern. It turns out this kid kicks ass and has been nothing less than a pleasure, making reevaluate my dim view of summer interns. My goal from day one was to make them fairly autonomous but giving them a real project for which they have helped to collect data on. And they've done a great job helping me finish up the last few figures for a paper we are trying to push out the door soon. And its a win win for them to as they are wanting to use the work they did in the lab towards gaining an International Baccalaureate diploma.
I've been really impressed at their desire and ability to grasp not just the procedural stuff but also the conceptual aspects of what we do. This intern has been fun and really rejuvenating, I'll be sad to see them go. But we might work out some type of research arrangement in the fall.
No one has the right answer! Everyone's proposals to fix the NIH funding situation boils down to give money to folks like "me" and fuck everyone else. So I have to agree with Odyssey's premise, maybe the current system is as good as we get. Maybe, the current system just cannot function properly when it is heavily taxed by an expanded investigator pool and a not enough resources to support them.
A shift to a HHMI style process is quite ludicrous as HHMI could never exist in a vacuum without the NIH and as Drugmonkey posits, the scalability of this is laughable at best. And once again you create a very insular version of science that looks more like a circlejerk amongst friends that limits the playing field even farther.
Is the answer that there is no answer and that we but here to play the game, trying to adapt and survive each day, while trying to make incremental beneficial changes to the system? Fuck it I don't know, but I know its not Germain's plan. To me there is a macabre but reassuring thought that all of us, the good, the bad, the riff raff, and (to some extent) the BSDs are all being crushed under the same terrible wheel. It could be that is the justice of the system, when the times are tough, to some extent we all bleed together.
So now that I'm ensconced in my new position as a postdoc, I felt it was time to talk about the post Ph.D. Transition. The last few months of my Ph.D. program felt like a wild ride. It also felt so far removed from the rest of my experiences in grad school.
1. Thesis Writing: I wrote the thesibeast in about a month and a half of full time writing, followed by a round of making edits with the boss before submitting to my committee. What really helped was developing a solid outline and sticking to a writing schedule. Otherwise I would have fallen apart. I also learn that while I work best in the lab in the morning, my most productive writing occurred between 8pm and 2am. Nights were spent writing, just getting thoughts to paper and leaving placeholders, no worries about editing. Mornings and the rest of the day were better spent doing routine editing or working on figures.
One other huge benefit during the thesis writing was enlisting a really good editor who dissected it line by line pointing out issue. It is humbling to have some just ripped though your stuff and have so much red ink on it that it looks like a prison knife fight took place over my thesis. But it was good, it made me realize where I need to clean up my writing and how to make me a better writer and communicator of ideas.
2. The Defense: I'd like to say that I spent a lot of time honing a well-crafted and beautiful presentation, but I didn't. I spent 30 minutes putting it together and my boss spent 5 minutes reviewing it with me the day before my public seminar. There were no practice presentations, no run throughs with trusted friends and lab mates, none of that shit! I had already given a similar evolving talk on multiple postdoc interviews (more of this later) so it wasn't much work or effort to give the talk.
The public seminar went really well and then came the room. This had been filling me with fear and dread. Not because I thought it was going to go like 12 rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson, but because I never really knew anything about the whole closed door meeting. My boss was tied up before the seminar so I couldn't ask them what was standard operating procedure for this so I went to another professor. Their question to me was how did you enjoy your qualifying exam, it would be like that. I nodded my head and feigned pleasure at their response saying that the qualifying exam was a pleasant experience. This dear reader, was a bald face lie. My experience with the qualifying exam was tantamount to sandpapering the asshole of an alligator in a telephone booth and the exam was chaired by the professor who I had sought advice from. This same person came to apologize to me the week following my exam about how rough they went on me. I'd like to say I remember a lot of the details from this event but I guess we tend to repress the most painful of memories.
But my time in the room with the committee post-public seminar was brief (~45 minutes), the committee had minimal edits to my thesis (most of these came from my boss). Most of the discussion centered around clarifying things that I had written about and then talking about future directions of the project, even though I wouldn't be there to do them. I amended portions of my thesis that caused any confusion to be much more explicit so whoever (read no one) picked it up to read it would have an easier time understanding it.
It took all told about a week and a half to finish all of the edits and get it into final format to be submitted to the graduate school. And because it had a good chunk of preliminary data I had to go through channels to embargo its publication on Digital Commons for at least one year to give us time to publish the data.
3. What's next: Okay, so you are about to get or just got a Ph.D., what the fuck are you going to do for that? That's a very personal question that we all have to answer our own self. For me I knew I wanted to do a postdoc in order to expand my knowledge base and skill sets. About 5 months prior to my defense I sent out enquiry packets to prospective labs for postdoctoral positions. This was timed as the main publication of my thesis was set to come out a month later. My first interview occurred a week before the publication went live, so everything was happening really fast and was a bit exciting and nerve wracking.
I feel that part of my success at getting postdoc interviews was crafting a nice application packet that included a personalized cover letter, cv, and copy of my in press manuscript. The email was also personalized and literally every person I sent it to, I got a response from whether it be an invitation for an interview or a sorry I'm out of money. Even the folks who didn't have space or money told me to check back later or suggested someone else to contact.
Interviews...I had all kinds of interviews...less than 24 hours on site, three days there, skype interviews, phone interviews, you name it, I did it. Dinner with the PI, dinner with the grad students, nice PIs, standoffish PIs that try to elicit a response from you, it was like Patty Hearst in the bank video...all a blur. But I was there. My suggestions for interviews are to make sure you have enough cap space on your credit cards as some places made me pick up my accommodations and then I would get reimbursed or other places would pay. Everyone I met I always asked them the same few questions: what makes their lab different from any other lab, what frustrates you about their lab, and if you could change one thing about your lab what would it be. Its interesting to see the spectrum of answers that come from techs, students, postdocs, and even the PI. It also provides insight if everyone says the same thing is a problem then it probably is a real problem.
If you want to chat more about the postdoc interview process and how and why I selected the lab that I did, shoot me and message or email and we can chat in a more private manner.
3. Ramblin' Man...This is the really tough part, when do you put the pipets down, pack your shit, and hug your friends. For me the decision was easy. I got my main paper out and one co authorship out. Other future stories that I was developing were proceeding with some progress and could be capably handled by other members of the lab that I had trained. I decided jump shit approximately one month after my defense so that I could start my postdoc. This was due in part to the fact that my previous lab was going through a period of funding troubles, so one less mouth to feed at the table, means you can feed the rest of the mouths for that much longer. The good news is a grant came through for the lab, spurned by some of my work and contributions.
I think the main reason that I bugged out quickly after the defense was that we had a glut of papers that still needed to get out. Those papers would take close to at least one year before anything else of mine may come out. So to quote the Allman Brothers "When its time for leavin', I hope you understand, that I was born a ramblin' man."
4. FNG. I'm still the FNG and the stench has yet to wear off. Making the long move and starting the postdoc was exciting but brought with it a whole new set of frustrations: orientations, trainings, byzantine rules of supplies and procurement, etc. The lab is good and I'm making good data (which I'm happy about) but not at the pace that I want (which I'm not happy about). But overall things are looking up and my new master, at least for the time being, seems to be pleased with me. I'm adjusting to the differing mentoring styles and how this PI likes to conduct individual progress and laboratory meetings compared to my old PI.
The folks in the lab are great about teaching me new techniques and in return I'm showing them things from my bag of tricks, so its been great. I'm still less than four months in the lab but I feel like I have yet to be able to turn it up to 11.
So in conclusion, the transition has been interesting and is still ongoing. I'll post more as time allows. Feel free to leave feed back about your own journeys and transitions from post graduate school. Maybe this will help someone out or at least bore them into fitful sleep if the Ambien has yet to kick in.