February 27, 2013


Things I fantasize about.

Sometimes I imagine things. Probably silly things. Mostly.

  • A job. That I like. That doesn't feel too dead ended.
  • Being a professional wrestler. There's something about imagining you're facing your problems in the Steel cage and suplexing them into submission. 
  • Swinging like Spiderman through the buildings of NYC.
  • Getting a job interview.
  • Never having to switch off so I can get more done.
  • Performing the Jedi mind trick to get free coffee. 
  • Being as smart as The Doctor.
  • Moving.
  • Being normal.
  • Building a better world.
  • Giving a great talk. Or lecture. 
  • Introverting to inspiration. To my bliss.
  • Run a half marathon.
  • Traveling in the TARDIS
  • Publishing. (Maybe my research project will actually succeed or I'll write a great novel).
  • Vacationing someplace new I've never been before and not freaking out b/c of it.
  • Sleeping enough.
  • Becoming a beer brewing internet guru. 
  • Repeating my (mostly non-roaring) 20's.
  • Becoming a speed reader.
  • Falling in love.
  • Getting a hug. Every day. 

February 17, 2013


Engage is the command Captain Picard gives when a course is laid in and things are ready to go. Usually at warp speed. Warp speed is what I'm thinking I need to get to to get all of my things done that I want to, work wise. Of course, that won't really happen. A guy can dream.

I've talked before about how this blog is in part what not to do as a postdoc. Which is as much for myself as for any Ph.D./postdoc I can help not hit the floor (or if they do, how to bounce back quickly & be resilient). 

And something that's been on my mind lately is being engaged with your work. 

Feeling like your'e doing something that matters. Feeling like you're advancing something greater than yourself. 

It seems particularly important in a time when postdocs are having a hard time finding work. Academic jobs particularly. 

Being truly engaged and passionate about what we do is more important than ever. The postdoc who finds what they love will more likely be successful. 

I haven't been nearly engaged enough in my postdoc and besides getting depressed about my work and my life, I think lack of engagement has been a big issue for me. 

Choose your field/project well. And carefully. Based on what you love in science.

I love science. But I haven't found my thing or so it seems anyhow. Is it too late? It appears so some days. 

You also have to carve out time for things outside the lab that you enjoy. It will make being engaged with your work that much easier.

I'm starting to do this. Finally. Enjoy the present. Getting some space is good. Other people is good. Being an adult (and a scientist) shouldn't mean 'I don't spend time with friends, family and significant others' (I don't have a significant other, but do have friends and family).

I'm reading @ShaneMac's book 'Stop With the BS' which is focused on the business world, but has a lot of good things for scientists in academic labs to keep in mind too. Work beyond your title, network, pitch ideas w/o fear, push your comfort zone. 

I have been struck by the parallels between business, art, and science worlds; sometimes jobs are 9 to 5, but if you're creating new things, it's very similar (science and business cross all the time. Art and Science are starting to more and more- which is why STEAM (Science, technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) ought to be the acronym; we have a lot to learn from one another. 

Learning is of course the key to success. Never stop. Learn by research, learn from others, learn from your errors. It can be uncomfortable, but one good thing about being a scientist. We experiment, try things and see if they fit a hypothesis. Bring that ehtos to your life as well. Try, see if it fits or works. Change your mind if the evidence suggests the opposite of what you thought (like me w/ Twitter for a long time- I didn't see the point. Now I think it's amazing). 

I want to be in a place where instead of answering 'how am I doing?' with 'I'm OK' I say 'I'm f*cking great!' (a phrase from the documentary 'I'm Fine, Thanks').

Work hard. Know yourself. Accept yourself. Don't beat yourself up too much. And don't give up. You'll land somewhere (even if it's not a TT position at Awesome U.).

Things I'm trying to keep in mind.

February 14, 2013


Based on a Twitter discussion with Steve Hamblin (@BehavEcology) I am a little too excited about comparing postdocs and grad students to an ant colony. Biochem Belle (@BiochemBelle) posted a few months ago about how tired the indentured servant analogy is- and how inaccurate (I'm sure others have said similar things). 

However, the ant idea has legs...six of them. 

  1. Ant colonies are collectively smart, so are Ph.D.'s and postdocs (and the scientific enterprise generally).
  2. In ant colonies individuals are expendable, so are Ph.D's and postdocs
  3. Ant colonies are very persistent and collaborative, following other ants to food, etc...sounds like Ph.D.'s and postdocs
  4. Ant colonies are adaptable. Ph.D.'s and postdocs also adapt to solve problems in their environments
  5. Ants are very strong. Ph.D.'s and postdocs have strong brains at least
  6. Ants can have fungi infect their brains. Ph.D's and postdocs seem very prone to depression, anxiety, impostor syndrome and other brain issues (I'll raise my hand and say I have had to deal with these things & I don't think I'm alone)
I like this analogy...there's at least dignity in it (ants are cool!). It acknowledges the difficulties faced by individuals and can be put into an ecosystem context- currently there are too many ants for the resources available. I have no idea if this actually ever happens in the real world. It is certainly the case with Ph.D's and postdocs. Hopefully it's not so dire that only the lucky few make it to 'old age' as it might be with an ant colony. 

I also realize that ant colonies are all female...which is obviously not the case amongst the scientific population (especially at the faculty level), but that may be taking the analogy to the breaking point. 

I might well be crazy here, but it was fun to think about this. 

As an addendum, I've basically disabled comments here- I'd prefer to interact via Twitter. Such a great medium for discussion. 

February 11, 2013

High School Self.

High School Self

I was made aware of this article on why we never leave high school and why that's actually not good news for many of us. It mentions one of my current favorite books 'Daring Greatly' and Dr. Brown's research. 

That thought terrifies me. I think that it might well be true. If I think back to my high school self, it is much like I am now. If High School was where I was supposed to learn how to interact with people, I dont' think I did very well. It's something I struggle with daily. I did my best to stay invisible- for fear (somewhat legitimate) that being noticed would lead to bad things- something I still tend to think too often. This blog is supposed to help with that. Stick my neck out...

I suppose there is one good thing: I survived. 

Which brings me to this...


I have been watching 'Buffy, The Vampire Slayer' lately, which got me thinking about high school even more. For those who aren't familiar, Joss Whedon took the concept of the motion picture and turned it into a great television series. It supposes a world where magic, vampires and demons invade Sunnydale, CA and they often serve as metaphors for surviving high school. The show is funny, smart, awesome and a lot of fun. Most of the characters are well developed too. And of course, it takes me back to the 90's...when I was youngish.

In a quite literal way, the characters (especially Buffy) slays demons. Even the demons have demons at times. 

The first few seasons deal with the high school years. There's a plot where a girl literally becomes invisible- a lot like I felt. It is a show very good at portraying all kinds of outsiders- as well as the impostor syndrome, depression, and anxiety...and of course fighting through all of these things. 

Breaking Bio

Because of Twitter, I discovered The Breaking Bio Podcast, and apparently video blog. Episode 13 is with @JacquelynGill, a paleoecologist and blogger and short term postdoc who has a faculty position nearly straight away- the hosts of the podcast are all youngish postdocs...compared to me who feels like an ancient in postdoc years. It was a good discussion a large group of internationally located people had about her research, impostor syndrome (which clearly many of the hosts have dealt with and at least gotten past to some extent), and women in science- and how they might be more prone to feeling like impostors. While I can't speak to that part, I know that I have never really felt comfortable in academia. I'm getting slightly more comfortable, but don't feel that connected- in any aspect of my life. 

One of the things they talked about was the fact that being desperate in any avenue of life won't help you get anything. It's an odd thing...the more relaxed you can be, and yet engaged and caring at the same time, the more successful you'll be in dating or in job interviewing. I know I've been way too high strung for way too long; I've been trying to be more relaxed and am, but of course, it doesn't seem like it's enough. 

I'm introverted, high anxiety and perfectionist. And feel rather desperate too often...recipe for success, it's not. To be clear, that first trait doesn't make me less qualified, just viewed as less desirable in the United States at least...where the focus is on interacting with as many people as possible. 


I'm trying to stay positive even though that's difficult..it's not exactly like a world ending apocalypse on 'Buffy', but feels that way a little bit. I'm currently not all that successful professionally or personally. I'd like that to change of course, but my own brain seems to have some very strong walls against that notion. 

I can feel cracks forming in my walls, but they certainly aren't anywhere close to structural failure. 

And with that, I am going to bed. 

February 9, 2013



Today was kind if terrible. I wasn't efficient. I was tired and hungry all day. Experiment failed. I couldn't read well. I didn't get much done. I beat myself up all evening after not being able to remember part of a conversation I had with my advisor last month- and failed to email him after trying to write it for an hour instead of going to the gym. I bought a horrible peach salsa unintentionally at the store. Didn't eat much for dinner. Went out to do my laundry. Got my haircut just before the place closed. I feel like nothin is going well for me just now (stylish haircut aside). Will anything ever change? It doesn't seem possible right now. What is wrong with me? Obviously something. 


This has been a rough couple of days. I know everyone has them, I'm just feeling particularly down trodden and can't see much light anywhere. Ugh. 

I hope things start looking up. 

February 5, 2013


Impostor syndrome (IS, happen to be my initials)

I was looking at Twitter and saw a post about the Science Online 2013 where they had a session about impostor syndrome. 

This is something I still feel strongly even today. In graduate school and the first few years of my postdoc, I always saw it as a negative thing. It certainly can be devastating if it gets to the point of 'I am an impostor, I am a mistake' (which is something that I thought for years; still do sometimes). This form of the impostor syndrome prevents people from trying new things and even tinkering around to find things that might work. It prevents action. 

The healthier form of IS

However, there is a healthier form of impostor syndrome that I'm trying to keep in mind more. It's the 'I'm new at this and don't feel like I belong, but that's OK. I'm learning. I'm trying something new. I'm stepping out of my comfort zone. Stepping out from the cave. Feeling awkward doing it.  But you're Daring greatly. Like with this blog. It's not as if I'm setting the blogoshpere on fire with my amazing posts. I do this because it's fun for me. And maybe I'll learn a thing or two through doing it. 

The challenge

One of my challenges I set for myself this month is to be more extroverted. Which means talking to more people I just see when i'm out and about (just saying an audible 'hi', with eye contact counts). I feel very awkward about this. And I've done OK with it so far (no Earth shattering moments of having a long conversation yet). I am pushing myself to do things in the lab that are new to me and I don't know if they will work or not. While these are all good things, it is hard to implement. It goes against my nature. 

Tomorrow's another day to work on being, not simply trying. And another day to practice getting to a healthier mindset with the impostor syndrome.

February 1, 2013


Despite my better



                               still working.

                 Still trying.

                                       Still a scientist.

        Still not giving up.