A · Taste · of · Nonsense · and · Chaos, · of · Madness · and · Dreams...


...like the lives of all men who stop deceiving themselves

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I'm coming to realized that I have only a few good hours in me in a day.

I'll get on a roll because I'm feeling good about one thing--I got enough sleep, I finally got my ativan, yoga class was awesome today...whatever--and then that will give me a few hours of optimism. I think I get maybe a little more if during that time I keep up good habits... talking down bad thoughts, focusing on one thing at a time, etc...but that may just be my wishful thinking.

When it ends, either because something difficult happens or because it just breaks through... it's like being sucked back underwater. Drowning in it. How will I ever be ok with this. I've ruined my life. I've ruined everything I've worked towards. What have I done? I hate myself. I wish I could hurt myself. I wish I could do something to get out of my skin. God, everything hurts.  I keep hoping it's a dream...

My days are spent rolling between the good moments above the pain, when I have the energy to keep myself afloat, and the bad moments that come when a wave knocks me over or I just get too tired to swim any more.  I know eventually I'll make it to shore, but there is just something about that sensation of drowning... you can't quite convince yourself that it isn't forever. It feels like hell, like doom, like being swallowed whole by the pit of self hatred roiling in my gut.

I have a meeting tomorrow with a professor who is quite possibly my best bet for a new PI. She does all bioinformatics (computer analysis instead of bench science), but she does it on things I'm interested in, like pathogens at various stages or the human microbiome. I think her main objection to taking me would be my inexperience in the techniques, but I'm hoping that I can win her over with my brilliance.  This could be the beginning of solving everything, or it could be a huge let down.

Gulp.

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I wrote up this description of what I have to offer a lab and what work conditions I need to succeed. I'm trying to get a sense of what is reasonable to ask for given what I'm offering. Feedback welcome, whether you are in science or out.

A: What I have to offer

1.     Above-average skills in reading/understanding literature, designing experiments, and writing papers—all supported by multiple references.

2.     Ability to quickly learn the basics of new subfields thanks to intensive and efficient reading.

3.     A passion for understanding interactions within complex biological systems. I have a history working in pathogenesis in both plant and animal systems, but I have a general interest in how tightly evolutionarily intertwined organisms interact/communicate and how those interactions evolve, whether the relationship be parasitic, symbiotic, or in some nebulous in-between.  Aside from relationships between organisms, I am also interested in intersections between systems within the human body generally considered separate (i.e. the immune system and the nervous system).

4.     Passion for and experience in teaching and mentoring undergraduates. I find teaching to be invaluable to my own intellectual development, as it requires me to consolidate my knowledge and then prepare to answer novel questions.

5.     Excitement about learning about new fields/subfields. I have some personal interests but am adept in learning new techniques and engaging with new subject material.

6.     A willingness to and even excitement for working on ‘risky’/out-there projects, so long as I have some more reliable work going on as well just so I can graduate some day.

7.     Experience working with basic molecular biology techniques, C. elegans, some basics of biochem/protein work and microscopy, mammalian cell culture, and mammalian animal models (primarily rodents).

8.     I’m not especially scared of classes, committee meetings, or orals. I can present well and I’m good at earning grades.

B. My personal goals

1.     Contributing something truly meaningful to the world while also staying sane, healthy, employed, and having a life.

2.     Fighting the good fight—taking advantage of opportunities, be they personal or professional, which may increase scientific literacy/enthusiasm for research in the public and/or young students.

3.     Securing a job after graduate school that will utilize my greatest assets and make me enough money to live on and potentially travel/have adventures a bit if I budget my time and money appropriately and carefully.

a.     This will require opportunities to practice and showcase my writing and/or teaching abilities, as well as further developing my skills in experimental design.

4.     Staying engaged in/aware of current research, regardless of where I end up professionally, simply because I find it entertaining/intellectually stimulating.

C. My abilities/limitations.

1.     I work efficiently and hard, but not excessively long.  I have no interest in staying in lab when I know I am not functioning at a high level unless there is a legitimate emergency going on. I don’t hang out in lab when I’m not being productive for the sole purpose of earning brownie points for being committed enough to work long hours.

2.     On average, I can steadily and efficiently at bench work for roughly eight hours at a stretch (with bathroom/meal breaks) before my productivity diminishes severely and/or the quality of my work begins to suffer.  This may mean more than an eight hour day on campus if I have long assays that I can leave unattended while relaxing or more likely dealing with non-work necessities such as exercise, but I avoid going significantly over 12 hours unless there is an emergency or I have the ability to work lighter days in order to recover.

3.      I can manage roughly 40-50 hours of actual active productive bench work during the week, plus weekend drop-ins or half-days as necessary and a bit of reading/writing/data analysis outside of the lab as needed. I can manage more than 40-50 hours for brief stretches of time in order to meet urgent deadlines or [in the case of teaching] to serve my students during high-stress periods, but will not do so for more than two weeks at a time.

4.     I do not sacrifice more than one night’s sleep in a row to bench work because I know the costs to my physical and mental health are too high.

5.     I am willing to work irregular hours to account for timing of inconvenient assays, but I ask that this be considered when assessing the amount of work I am putting in. Basically, if I am doing assays that require me to spend the night on campus or stay exceptionally late, slightly attenuated hours should be acceptable for the following day.

6.     I am not naturally a particularly neat or organized person—these things take significant effort for me. I will do them gladly, but planning my experiments/days and keeping my notes organized are legitimate work activities and I will not do well in a work environment where there is pressure to rush on or neglect these activities.

7.     When I’m sick with anything significantly contagious or anything that significantly hinders my ability to work, I take care of my essential lab responsibilities to the best of my ability, and then I rest. I don’t work while significantly incapacitated just to win brownie points for commitment.

8.     I want to actually get my PhD someday, so I won’t take on the doomed orphan project that no one else in the lab will touch unless I have a damn good reason to believe that my approach/results will be different from those of previous students. I’m not that desperate.

D: Personality/management style considerations

1.     I need an advisor who is generally responsive and who cares about my project, but they don’t need to be available to me at all times.  Having formal meetings weekly, biweekly, or monthly are all acceptable options so long as that fits the pace of the project reasonably well. I’m also glad to discuss results/ideas on a more frequent basis informally/by electronic communication, but in my experience formal sit-down-in-the-PI’s-office meetings without explicit purposes more than weekly mostly just serve to waste time and clutter schedules.

2.     I need explicit and clear instructions requiring expectations for behavior, recordkeeping, safety, and other basic/administrative concerns in lab.

3.     I need someone to train me on new techniques, or access to classes/resources/study time to teach myself new skills.

4.     Nagging or guilt-tripping me is an ineffective way to manage me. If you are coming to me ten times a day to ask about results that you know take more time to obtain, you will make me anxious and less effective. If I make a small mistake and you try to hold if over my head for an extended period, I will begin to dread being in your presence and this will impact my effectiveness in the lab.

5.     I don’t deal well with passive-aggression or other subtle hostile behavior from coworkers. I would be glad to fix any problems that arise with my work to the best of my ability, but I need people to tell me what they need from me or to criticize me directly.

6.     I need clear feedback from my PI, early and often. Again, I don’t catch/properly interpret all hints. You are going to have to use actual words with me.

Summary:

I am an intellectually talented biologist with broad interests but deep passion for biology in general. I have a great deal of breadth in lab experience but less depth. I will not be aiming for a research faculty position due to the insane demands on young PIs in this funding climate, but I will find a way to make valuable contributions in industry or education. I work realistic hours and respect my personal physical limits, but I work hard and efficiently when at work. I want to earn my PhD because I believe it puts me in the best position to obtain a variety of jobs that I find desirable, and because during my PhD I would like to publish more and gain more relevant skills before entering the job market.

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Hello, my abandoned LJ and anyone who still has me on their friends list.

I've posted here only once since Travis and I split, more than a year ago. My whole life kind of went dark for awhile then, and I never got back to the habit of writing. I kept aiming too high when I tried again, with trying to start new blogs and do Serious Writing, as if I could make anything coherent and useful come out of my pen/keyboard on a regular basis without also venting all the randomness in my head first.

I still want to do Serious Writing, or at least writing for an audience bigger than just myself, but first I have to get back to a place where I am used to venting my thoughts on the page. It is always hard to write things that I have 'high' hopes for, like people beyond my inner circle reading it, or publication, or even just producing a finished 'piece' if only for myself/practice. But it does get easier when my brain is decluttered on a regular basis. If I am used to words flowing for at least awhile every day, then I can more easily trick my brain into putting in effort to try and write something 'good', whatever that means.

I'll be aiming to write daily, but some of it will be private and the vast majority of it will at least be LJ-friends-only. If you're seeing this then I'd probably be glad to friend you on LJ and let you read, but I warn you that this is mostly a space for me to think out loud, and not always on things of any interest to other people.

Looking forward to being back, though as always upon return, a little scared of what I may find inside my head.
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there are so many moments lately... painful, but in kind of a beautiful, bittersweet way.

makes me really wish I still knew how to be the angsty teen writing mediocre poetry, because i want to capture it, make something from it.

but I can't. it just floats away.

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It's odd to me, but perhaps not really surprising, that since I wrote here the other night, I've felt a bit better.

It's actually kind of sad, because for the last few weeks I'd been trying not to even think the word depression, as if the word itself was toxic. As if that would protect me.  And apparently I couldn't have been more wrong.

I'm not magically better.  I still want more energy, less intrusive nasty thoughts, and better dreams. [That last one in particular, though it seems the least consequential of the three.  Suicide dreams break my heart, and have an annoying tendency to create incredibly salient images that stick with me for a very long time.  If only I was an artist... some of them are beautiful, in a very dark way.] But I'm muddling through just a little bit better than I was a few days ago.

Funny how that works.

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