Friday, July 31, 2009

And I'm supposed to do this for a living?

I am taking a mid-work break to vent (and procrastinate). I have been working on a proposal now for some time, and have come across the following problems (some perceived, some real). For the sake of being specifically vague (can you be vaguely specific?), let's create a variable x and make an assumption that x = my current research. Let's further make an interesting (entirely fantastical) substitution and say x = animal hybrid breeding.

Now back to my proposal problems:

1. My research area is chock full of over-zealous scientists.
Lab A is working on monkey-rabbit breeding, Lab B is trying to get the same genetics down but maybe with hamster instead of rabbit ears grafted on, Lab C is trying to weld bananas to rabbits and call them "monkey-esque".

You get the picture.

My research interests are in dog-monkey hybrids because, let's face it, dogs could only become cooler as pets if they have prehensile tails.

My worry: That the general field of animal hybrid breeding is too crowded for a new player, especially one who isn't willing to sharpen her elbows.

2. I have brain block.
I wrote one paragraph, was super proud of myself, and then sat there for another hour, just staring at my screen and piles of data.

My worry: Being a professor is 90% about writing, especially proposals. How am I supposed to do this for a living if I can't even do it when there's not the added pressure of needing to support my graduate students

So with all of this worrying, and thoughts of failure, what do you think happened?

Fate interceded. Or rather I chose to interpret it that way.

I passed a doodle on a wall (no kidding) that had the following words, boldly but simply inscribed in awkward handwriting, and underlined twice:

"Work hard today."

Gods of academia, thy will be done. I won't give up, no matter how poorly phrased and ill-constructed this current first draft is!
I will think hard,
dream hard,
and maybe even write.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

To you - my biggest fan

I was informed today that I actually have a non-anonymous follower of my blog. (Surprising someone would have to tell me this. Not so web savvy are we?) This instantly lit up my day after hours of poring over journal articles to the point of mind-numbing exhaustion. Funny how little things get us going. For all I know 'muddled grad' clicked on 'follow' by accident and will never again visit my blog to hear how my postdoctoral travails are going. For all I know 'muddled grad' is one of my labmates, intent on posting clever retorts to my flailing attempts at societal commentary.

But I digress.

The real point here is thank you. Yes, YOU, muddled grad, for being muddled enough to care to follow a muddled postdoc. For you, I include tonight's tidbit:

According to recent statistics from the NSF, women make up two-thirds of psychologists, less than half of biological and life scientists, a quarter of mathematical and computer scientists, and just one-tenth of engineers.

Bottom line: hang in there and we may just be able to scooch those numbers up.

The ultimate mediator

There was a CNN article today called "Obama, professor, officer sit down over brews". (If you don't know that this involves a potentially racial incident between a cop and a black Harvard professor... well, kindly remove your head from the sand.)

Where was Obama when I needed a sit-down with my advisor? Ah, so many troubles could be averted if the President of the US would just have a beer and mediate.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Not In my Head

I am applying for my first NIH grant soon, and am quite nervous about it. From what I've heard, it's a bit like trying to get into an exclusive club, except I don't think I'm wearing the right club attire, and I'm not cool enough to know the bouncer at the door. We shall see if this impression is all in my head. Wish me luck!

This also reminds me that "grant writing" is a seriously under-addressed topic in graduate school. I think more faculty members should make a concerted effort to include their students in the process, especially those students who express an interest in academic careers.