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January (2)

*sigh*
Friday, January 7, 2011

Update on crazy
Monday, January 3, 2011
2010 (45)
December (9)

In need of a break...
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finding the "Merry" in Christmas
Thursday, December 23, 2010

Down time
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The pump and science juggling act
Monday, December 20, 2010

But I don't wanna go to work
Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rejections
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In reverse
Monday, December 13, 2010

Back in the lab, sort of...
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

12 months of blogging...easy enough
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
November (7)

Open letter to committee head
Tuesday, November 30, 2010

By popular demand - The Arrival
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to do it all
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cabin Fever
Friday, November 19, 2010

Donation reward - new pics!
Friday, November 12, 2010

Totally non-science news
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why am I doing this?
Saturday, November 6, 2010
October (12)

Bribe time
Thursday, October 28, 2010

On the market - what to do with a priority score
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

DonorsChoose - more projects to support
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Oh, the guilt...
Monday, October 25, 2010

Priority Score Confusion
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Working from home sucks; aka "Preeclampsia for Dummies"
Monday, October 18, 2010

Editor's choice
Thursday, October 14, 2010

Let the obsessing begin
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

DonorChoose - start giving!
Monday, October 11, 2010

Careful what I say...
Friday, October 8, 2010

To dance or teach...
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tailspin
Sunday, October 3, 2010
September (6)

Challenges at the bench
Monday, September 27, 2010

What am I really?
Monday, September 20, 2010

A double standard
Friday, September 17, 2010

The Little Lab Bench That Could
Saturday, September 11, 2010

What I'm glad I didn't know before...
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Round Up: 8/29 - 9/4
Sunday, September 5, 2010
August (11)

Procrastinators beware...
Friday, August 27, 2010

You don't need no stinkin' permission
Monday, August 23, 2010

I'm still alive, just buried
Saturday, August 21, 2010

NanoKids!
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dr. O's advice to new grad students
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Open Letter
Monday, August 9, 2010

What you should know as a new TT faculty
Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tagged?!?
Friday, August 6, 2010

A little professionalism, please
Thursday, August 5, 2010

How picky is too picky?
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hello LabSpaces!
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
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Dr. O

After a frustrating year on the tenure-track job hunt, my eyes are still on the prize, and I've learned that sheer will might be the most important quality required for this career track.

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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Monday, September 20, 2010

A short while ago, Microbiologist XX lamented about how little she gets to use her favorite science tool - a microscope. As a fellow microbiologist, I sympathized with her. Until a few weeks ago, it had been years since I peeked at my bugs under one of these amazing little guys. Some recent data, however, prompted the need for a gram stain, which I haven't performed since I was an undergraduate (some 12 years ago). After scanning a protocol online, I thought "no problem". I had forgotten how much of an art this protocol was when I first learned it, though, and it took several hours and attempts to finally get an answer I could trust.

This experience got me wondering, am I really still a microbiologist? I spend most of these days doing molecular biology, lately even dabbling into some biochemistry (which is really quite fun, considering my fear of chemistry). When doing genetics, I feel a bit more like a microbiologist (streaking and patching bacteria out on plates day after day can do that), but genetics is more of a means to an end for me. This may seem like a stupid question, but it's brought up some issues for what seems to be the focus of my life these days...the TT job search, better known as "what the hell am I doing with my life?" Enter in a brief interlude by The Talking Heads, since I haven't gotten this song out of my head while writing this post:



So maybe the more apt question for this discussion is, am I just a microbiologist? During my first year on the job hunt, I only applied to positions "in my field". But the current dearth of available jobs has got me branching out quite a bit more this year. Not only that, there are many labels I feel like I fit under now. Depending on the week and what aspect of my project I am currently focused on, I feel like I could be considered a biochemist, geneticist, molecular biologist, or, yes, even a microbiologist (I did just do a gram stain after all ;). Yet I wonder how much of a stretch it is to be applying for some of these other positions. How much should I spin the cover letters/research statements, and is it even considered "spinning" if I just focus on the aspects of my project that more closely fit into the job description? Am I locked into ignoring one aspect of my project if I take a job in a department focused on another field? Will I still be able to enjoy interactions with other microbiologists if I end up in a job outside of "my field"? Do I even need these interactions to do my job well? Am I wasting my time and the time of search committees in these department by even applying?

I've already answered some of these questions, and, in general, I'm considering each of these "stretch" jobs on a case-by-case basis. In some situations, when there are other microbiologists at the institution, and the job description seems open enough, I feel completely comfortable moving forward with the application. For others, Hubby and I think about the place and institution as a whole: would we (both) be happy living and working there, even if my job was quite a bit different than what I imagined? When the answer is yes, I'm applying. I do still wonder how much, if at all, I should alter the focus of my application in these cases (guidance here would be fantastic).

The biggest thing I'm learning, or trying to learn, right now is to be open-minded. Not only about where I want to go or what kind of job I want to do, but also about who I am as a scientist. The fact that what I actually am is unclear could be considered a strength. I'm asking an interesting biological question, and I've got a lot of tools and knowledge at my disposal. The fact that I've picked up this knowledge without somebody holding my hand should translate to a nicely diverse research program in the future. And, while I likely won't need to be a gram-stain aficionado to run a successful research program, I know how to get one done if needed.

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Blog Comments

Prof-like Substance
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You are working from a position of strength, not weakness, if you are hard to define. Use it to your advantage and wear whatever hat you need to in order to apply for interesting jobs. Don't worry about what the department is looking for, because you will never know ahead of time (and sometimes they don;t either). Apply to them all, because self-selecting yourself out of the game is the only sure way to ensure you don't get an interview.

Nikkilina
Washington University School of Medicine
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I agree with Prof. You are lucky to have such flex within your projects. It makes you a more attractive candidate and increases your odds of finding the perfect job for you.

biochem belle
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I gave up on trying to put myself in a box a long time ago. In fact, I intentionally avoided grad programs that seemed to create hard divisions between subdisciplines (e.g. organic vs. physical vs. biological chemistry). It's good to have the room to reach and stretch.

Dr. O
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Thanks for the back-up. I think I'm struggling the most with getting over the impostor-syndrome. But you're right, PLS, I should let the search committees make the decision about whether or not I'll be a good fit.

Dr Becca, Ph.D.
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Agreed with PLS!! Your flexibility, your many hats, your karma chameleon, what have you--is going to work in your favor! As long as your primary research questions are awesome, whatever tools you use to answer them are just icing on the cake!

Dr. O
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I've got a new song in my head now, Dr. Becca, and it's making me dance at my bench. :)

Gerty-Z
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I have never been able to fit a box, either. I think that it is rare that anyone does, really. I agree that you should let the search committee decide if you are a good fit. But I wouldn't try to sculpt your research plan to match what you think they want. My own view is that you should make your case in the cover letter but that the research you want to do is the same no matter where you end up.

Prof-like Substance
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You need to have a couple research plans written that will fit the various hats you can wear. I had three totally different research plans, all things I was willing to do, but that could be applied to very different descriptions. Be flexible and send in what you most think will get you an interview. From there, take it one step at a time. Remember that you are there as much to interview them as they are you.

Thomas Joseph
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My degree is in Microbiology. My first job I was classified as a Geneticist. My job consists of me doing primarily Molecular Biology. It's all how you write up your CV, and you mention ALL of your skills but highlight the one your current job-search is directed at.
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