Monday, September 03, 2007


I closed my CV when I opened a Word document so I could compose this post. It is 7 pages of neatly formatted Arial font documenting my life for the past six years. Bullet points mention various projects on which I’ve worked. There are many because I grow bored easily and enjoy collaborations. I could - and have, I suppose - tell stories about every single publication located near the end of the document. Given that I feel it is in written communication where I have learned the most in this post-doc, it is that section that pleases me most.

But. I appear to be thinking of leaving science.

“How much time do you spend on research, publications and literature?” I asked during my lengthy phone interview.

He said a word I can’t now recall - and I didn’t write it down - and it bugs me that I can’t write a simple word here rather than explain that my memory is apparently shot as I age and I can’t remember the stupid word. (I even tried to google it. Does anyone know the word? Please? Where something isn't rewarded, but isn't discouraged. It is [insert correct word here]. Perhaps it begins with in- or non-? Please?)

“Oh.” I replied as I tend to do when something requires a moment of thought. Next to where I’d written “publishing” on lined notebook paper in blue ink, I drew a small X. I wrote “research” underneath and made another X.

“It’s not that we’re against it.” He tried to explain, obviously seeing that he’d given me pause. Perhaps he was surprised at my reaction since his first question involved why - after apparently doing quite well - I’d want to leave academic research. I had reasons and lists and talking points - all of them sincere and true and valid - about the impact of my work, stability of funding, the vision of research at my current institution clashing a bit with my own.

“I want to do something important.” I told him. “And my view of what is important is what impacts patient care in a positive way. I feel like - for me - industry might be the way to do that.”

I also want to be closer to my family, though I left that unsaid. I need to take steps to make that happen - for me and for them - and am absolutely ready to do so. That’s the priority, honestly.

Yet I spoke of projects and collaborations and publications with my interviewer for nearly an hour. What I’ve done and what I still hope to do, software packages that are important and features I wish were included in the technology. I think of days where I want to do nothing more than manipulate data and see histograms and statistics that offer tiny hints at how a particular system behaves. I love doing lit searches when I finally find something that’s just perfect in describing a method or some results that coincide with my own. I even like writing papers, basking in the knowledge that I know where this sentence goes and need to make sure this thought it placed near the beginning because it is the key piece of information.

I have a page and a half of notes on what the job does involve. And, basically, I’d sit at a desk - perhaps in a room with other people or perhaps in my own tiny cubicle - with a computer and work. Someone would send me problems and I would try to fix them. After enough time had passed, I would go home. Perhaps - while I was at the big building in the city closer to home - I would attend some meetings, go to lunch with my new friends, answer some email.

It’s not that I would be bored, necessarily. The job is focused on something I don’t know how to do. They seem to think they can teach me. I tend to agree and upon closer consideration, the huge hole in my background is in this specific area. I’d like to become good at this particular skill. And I can think of few better ways to really learn it than to work with people who do it constantly. Then - after two or three years - perhaps I could seek a promotion and do something different. There are several jobs in the company that I think would better suit me, yet aren’t currently available. Or I could depart from industry and reenter the academic world. Many people do and it’s not like working for Industry Giant would be seen as negative. I think.

I would get a 50-60 hour a week job. Not the constant strain of thinking of new problems, resting from working constantly or worrying over where my name will appear in the author list. I wouldn’t have to beg for patients or resources to do my job. I’m frustrated here. And even as certain feelings tug at me - people I’d miss, facets of this lifestyle that I love - I have a feeling that if I’m invited to interview and extended an offer, I’ll likely start the arduous task of finishing up, packing my things and heading north.

My current life - projects and papers and scattering highlighted papers throughout my house - would become a hobby. I’d have to rely on established collaborations to keep my hand in. And at some point, it would be necessary to decide whether I actually need to keep tabs on research at all. Perhaps it will grow too time consuming as I need to personally subscribe to journals rather than logging in at the pretty library site and taking whatever I need.

It seems an important step to decide how highly I value this lifestyle - the flexibility paired with insane stress, the headaches of frustration and euphoria of triumph. So the idea of being part of the team with a common goal appeals to me. I love the idea of having a house somewhere with deep snowfalls and cozy sweaters. Of feeling at home rather than wondering why I’d been transplanted in an environment that - while lovely - isn’t right for me.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. I have yet to hear from the group manager. I’ve no idea if I’ll be invited to interview in person, let alone receive an offer comfortable enough to maintain my current lifestyle in a region with a higher cost of living. So I wonder and worry while I continue to script my talk to be given next week and watch my ankle continue to deflate.

Do let me know if you can think of that word though. It's just another piece of the puzzle that bugs me.


ppb said...

I hope the image clears, soon.

Psycgirl said...

tolerated? is that the word?

post-doc said...


No. Good word, but not the one I seek.

The word is also not inconsequential, though that's a good guess too. If my vague memory (and much focus to try to recall) is any indication, it starts with in- or non- then there's some part I can't remember, then maybe an -able at the end?

Come on, folks! Someone must know my word. Please? Please, please, please, please, please? (It's seriously bothering me a great deal.)

Anonymous said...

sorry, i can't help with the word.... but keeping my fingers crossed for you and this job!

TitleTroubles said...

For the love of God, please--if anyone out there cares about me at all--please, oh, please, come up with the right word...

post-doc said...

We are in a spot of a bother over here. Someone knows my word - though I'm starting to wonder if I'm a bit crazy and said word doesn't exist.

The word is not in the following list:

However, it belongs in that list because the meaning is similar to some of those words.

Anybody? Please?

Campus Snoop said...


Campus Snoop said...

no, insouciant?

Locks said...


good luck with the job

Day ByDay said...

My first instinct was "indifferent" as Locks suggested.

I really like how you describe academia as so bipolar! There is this wonderful "leisurely" lifestyle that can be attained - but also this hugely neurotic and stress inducing bit that seems to always tag along!

I too feel rather out of place, even though where I'm postdoc'ing isn't so different from where I've lived before. It's very pretty here - but I miss family and friends SO much. And am also starting to really really hate the american border guards. Yesterday after asking me where I lived (I was driving back to american postdoc city after having visited my parents in home country), the border guard said "NO. You do not live in (insert postdoc city here). Only Americans can live in America. You, you're just taking up temporary residence there."

Well, uh, fine. Quit asking me questions like that if you're just trying to trick me so that you can be a smug jerk. Honestly, he had all my documentation, my passport- everything! I swear they AIM to be unpleasant.

Sorry, didn't meant to use up your comments space for my own little rant!

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