Tuesday, August 3, 2010
This really is the story of my life. I meant to write this entry last Saturday when Genomic Repairman
suggested we do a blog theme sometime next week. Of course I thought Monday was too early because I had a weekend of coding and lab work to get through, so I picked Tuesday...And here I am on Tuesday morning, writing this entry.
My scientific life really began when I was in junior high and got my first subscription to Discover magazine. At the time I didn't realize that most of the pieces in there were sensationalized glam science, but for a kid in junior high I found the research fascinating. I've wanted to do scientific research for a long time, and finally when I got the opportunity to get my hands dirty in undergrad, it really wasn't what I expected. I got a job at a USDA lab in Peoria, IL while studying biology at Bradley University. I was really excited until I found out that the bullshit job description they wrote up actually translated into "4hr a day indentured servant dishwashers." I did actually get to do some
science there, but it wasn't enough for me to tell if I liked it enough to make science my career. So I went to graduate school to get a better taste.
See, in graduate school, I was kind of a jackass. I applied to some really amazing schools and got into a couple of them, but ended up deciding to go to the University of Iowa because it was close to home, the cost of living was dirt cheap by comparison to any other school I applied to, and...wait for it...my girlfriend at the time was still in Peoria (Which is an hour and a half drive from Iowa). Maybe I was disillusioned by my USDA experience of what science actually was, or maybe I didn't understand the whole process, but I found out very quickly that science is a very hard commitment, a commitment that outlasts most relationships (in this case, probably for the better :P). When I chose my first rotation, I picked to do it with one of the biggest names at the University. He's an amazing scientist and I had a great time working with him! PI's are such nice people...when you do rotations ;) So I was set on joining his lab and essentially blew off my other rotations (Ok, I didn't blow them off, I actually got better data in those than I did during my first rotation, but my heart wasn't in the science).
Little did I know that things change drastically once you join a lab... The iron fist came down, and I was chained to my bench for 60+ hours a week, in addition to coursework. On top of that, I had a girlfriend an hour away that wanted to see me every weekend (To make matters worse she acquired a phobia of driving her car, it was legit, she had just gotten hit by a car while walking in a crosswalk, so the fear was warranted). The situation became daunting very quickly, I couldn't find the balance and as my personal relationship deteriorated, I chose science.
And I chose science for a couple of reasons. I've found through my relationships since, that people who don't do science, don't understand what it requires to be a scientist. It takes many hours of dedication, all hours of the day. There are few weekends off. Finding time for vacations is almost more trouble than it's worth, especially when restarting things like cell cultures can take upwards of a month depending on the cell line. (And do you really want to trust anyone else with the task of maintaining your cells/mice/flies?). Others don't understand why you have to go into lab at 6am and emerge groggy and droopy eyed 16 hours later after doing a timecourse/protein purification/etc. I can't tell you how many times I have been guilted by a relationship, and it's all science's fault. The solution, for me at least, has been to find a scientist that will put up with me.
Whitney(the Fiancee) and me (she's the cute one)
I guess I'm kind of a special case scenario. I'm the scientist with a second job, so you can imagine what it's like for my significant other. LabSpaces has always been a project of mine. I actually started coding it in graduate school after I broke up with my girlfriend and found that I had some free time at night when I wasn't chained breathing and sighing into a phone for 4 hours (Yeah, long distance relationships lose their luster fast...). LabSpaces consumes close to 3 hours of my life everyday, just looking for and updating the news links. I do most of this in the morning or late at night out of sight from my fiancee so she can't yell at me for not paying attention to her. I usually code new features on the weekends when I have free time while she's out shopping, but more recently I've had to devote whole nights to coding. She's surprisingly OK with this for now because she has wedding planning to keep her busy (so I better get most of these things fixed/updated/made before November or else there could be trouble). The awesome thing about my fiancee is that she's a scientist too. She's an infectious disease Epidemiologist. She studies how diseases are transmitted from animals to humans, and although most of the work she does is statistical, she understands that science is a commitment. And the bonus is that she puts up with my devotion to this site, most of the time. I still get yelled at for updating news links, or responding to comments from my phone...while we're at dinner...with her family, but I guess that's to be expected.