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Post Archive
2020 (0)2011 (4)
February (2)

PSA: It's cold, buy a Carbon Monoxide Detector.
Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cold Fusion
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
January (2)

Going back
Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fun with Jackass
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
2010 (33)
December (4)

The 12 days of (Lab) Christmas
Friday, December 24, 2010

I really hope there isn't a number 3
Thursday, December 9, 2010

So why don't you have more papers?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Picking a project
Thursday, December 2, 2010
November (2)October (7)

As promised: Geeka and A Cow
Saturday, October 23, 2010

Finishing something
Saturday, October 23, 2010

A cartwheeling Geeka
Monday, October 18, 2010

Some Classroom got funded, I get embarrassed.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bounty for Donor's Choose
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

If I couldn't be a scientist
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

That's not the shape of his head.
Friday, October 1, 2010
September (6)

Glutton for Punishment
Saturday, September 25, 2010

I talk to machines.
Friday, September 24, 2010

World's worst Journal Club.
Monday, September 20, 2010

The IACUC Chair
Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hell, I did know then, I just didn't know it until it hit me.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stuff Geeka Likes: The Toys Edition
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
August (9)

How I ended up a scientist.
Saturday, August 28, 2010

Monday morning crapped on my head.
Monday, August 23, 2010

Naming your equipment
Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stuff Geeka Likes: Inaugural edition
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Silent Squee
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In which I come clean
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Having a bad day
Monday, August 9, 2010

My blogging philosophy
Friday, August 6, 2010

Balance? We don't need no stinking balance.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
July (5)
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Hi! I'm Geeka. I've been a scientist for, I don't know, it seems like forever, I guess since I started college, so, like 15 years? Anyhow, this is where I'm going to give my take on a bunch of stuff. I'm usually a little bit out there (that is, I don't see the obvious at the outset), which means that you are probably going to have to deal with reading such topics as: Interpersonal relationship training for scientists, my lab pet peeves, how to get along in business when you just came straight out of academia, trying to deal with having a life and being a scientist, really odd topics for a paper, random stuff I found on the internet that made me shoot coffee out of my nose, you know, (ab)normal Geeka. Why the title? Because at the very heart of me, I'm a virologist, and while I don't necessarily do that now, it's how I view the scientific world.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Confession: I hated science class when I was in elementary school. Elementary school science for me was mostly all physical sciences (earth science sort of thing). I imagine that this is normal, so that students have something hands on to do, but for me, it was incredibly boring. My favorite classes were always English and music. I actually remember telling my science teacher that I was never going to be a scientist.

My first year in middle school, I had a really great science teacher. He was a big man of Italian descent who had a rather long mustache that he would chew on when thinking. Early in the year, stuff changed for me in science class, I think that he realized that I wasn't being challenged, and suddenly, things got fun. I remember him giving the class assignments, and then tweaking mine. I remember him getting me to do all of the demos. I also remember him pulling me out of home ec class to set up the experiments for the higher level classes. I got the impression that his wife was a scientist too, I think a geologist, because through her he got these really cool slides of Mt. St. Helen's erupting and some moon rocks. He really encouraged me. In fact, it was him that convinced me to quit the all-city choir and go to 'Saturday Science Academy'.

Then, when I moved to 8th grade, they had sectioned all the gifted kids off together in preparation for high school. (How it worked in my district, was that after testing, if you passed the 'gifted test', you got to go to a different school for one day a week. This other school was mostly cool. It was here that I learned classics and video editing and photography development, and higher maths.) The 8th grade science teacher was awful. She thought that she was great, but there was just something about her that didn't mesh with me.

Then I ended up in high school. If you were on the AP track, you had Biology 1 your freshman year. That's where I really embraced science. The teacher was awesome. Mr. Mateka or 'Teak' as we would call him. He was who taught me that science was fun. I got to do all sorts of ridiculous things in that class. He was awesome. It was him that made me decide I wanted to be a biology teacher.

Then I went to college. I went to a SLAC. My family didn't have the money for me to go to college. And, to put a finer point on it, didn't actually want me to go. They made it as difficult as they could for me to go. The SLAC was my savior. I had gotten a free ride scholarship. I started out as a Biology Ed major. I loved my science classes. I was in love with my chemistry classes. Environmental Toxicology was the hardest class I have ever taken, but it was awesome. I'd spend Saturday's in the micro lab.

I didn't start my Ed classes until my 3rd year. After 3 weeks, I dropped the Ed part of my major. I couldn't get behind a department that would allow people to be science teachers if they were getting D's in science classes. So then I changed my major to just straight Biology, but I picked up a second major in Environmental Studies. At this point, I had so many math and psychology classes, I was seriously thinking about becoming a quad major. I graduated. I was a 5 year student. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I still kind of wanted to be a teacher. So during my 5th year I stared applying to grad schools. I applied to 3. I got in all of them.

One of them was a journalism program. I had always loved writing, but I found science writing to be seriously awful. So the summer between graduating college and ending up at the major university for my PhD I did classes in Advertising and International Journalism and Editing and the like. What I came back with was that I wrote like a scientist, and as such, wouldn't succeed as a science journalist. So I took a hiatus, and figured it was a good thing to do while I was working on my PhD.

I took a long time to get my degree. Part of this was because the first 2 years I worked on a project that had no hope of working, so I had to start over again. Then, when I finally did get a project that would eventually work, it was all based upon things that would take forever (~2 months for an experiment, assuming everything worked, not including making it). So, I took 8 years to get my degree. I have to believe that some of that is not due to me not working hard or long enough. I worked long and hard hours. I worked for 6 months at one point without a day off. I read, I wrote, I did science. And then, after everyone had agreed that I had done enough, I graduated.

I did a post-doc. It was something similar to what I did as a grad student, with a boss that could have been the anti-jackass. However, because I was still in a University setting, I still kind of felt like I was in some sort of cocoon. I loved my post-doc. I loved the science and the people, but that cocoon wasn't right, which is how I ended up in biotech now.

What do I do? Well, I get to do science at the bench. When asked, I say I'm a scientist. I was trained as a virologist. When pressed for specifics by someone who's not a scientist, I've decided that I'm going to say that I am a 'Cell Photographer".

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Blog Comments

Prabodh Kandala
Texas Tech University Health Science Center
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Long journey.

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Very cool story :)

Jason Goldman
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Cell photographer sounds awesome :-)

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Nice ! Thank you for sharing :-)

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The first part (up until you started grad school) sounds very similar to my route, hitting many of the same points. Very cool, I always like to know what motivates people to be where they are and what got them there.

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2 months is a long experiment? Hahahahahahhahahaahahah!!!!

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@Drugmonkey: 2 months was if everything worked and nothing got contaminated. That seldom happened. I know that animal models are worse. However, when you had to deal with an evil idiot post-doc, and the lab only had 1 incubator, and she would ROUTINELY not figure out that her B-cells were in actuality YEAST, getting something to work for 2 months was a miracle. Also, I carried ~50 cell lines at a time.

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Thanks for sharing your story!
As a (fresh) BSc graduate (5 years at that), I'm still unsure what I want to do. It seems everyone around me is so sure on their paths and graduate programs, but I know my journey will be long. It's inspirational knowing I'm not the only one :)
Thanks again!

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I'm fairly late to the game but very much hoping I will end up a scientist.
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