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Priority Score Confusion
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Working from home sucks; aka "Preeclampsia for Dummies"
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Editor's choice
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Dr. O's advice to new grad students
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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 27, 2010

I recently published this post on the Tightrope, but I think it kind of fits over here too.¬ Besides, a little bit of light-hearted self-deprecation in the midst of a nauseous job search is always welcome, IMHO.

It seems I have all the energy in the world these days, as well as loads of lab work to put this energy towards. However, there are some pregnancy-related changes that are making my work, stoichiometrically speaking, a bit challenging.

Take this huge belly that I'm sporting: as cute as it is (and it really is cute), it's also becoming quite the laboratory hazard. It seems that, because of my shorter stature, the Little Monkey is just growing straight forward. The result? A belly that is continually running into equipment and knocking things over. Don't even get me started on how long it takes to pick something up when I drop it, and I do a lot of dropping while working at the bench. Of course, if I don't need it, then it remains on the floor; the poor janitor must love cleaning up the mess of toothpicks, tips, tubes, gloves, and kimwipes from around my bench by the end of the day. I'm starting to think I need one of these:

Figure 1. The Long Arm Grabber, available at your local hardware store

My newest challenge involves reaching the keyboard of my laptop, since the belly is preventing me from scooting my chair any closer to the desk. Leaning over isn't an option, since that squishes both the baby and belly. I can move the laptop closer to the edge of the desk, but I generally have notebooks/papers/data in front of the laptop. To try and resolve this issue, I spread my notebooks/papers/data onto the neighboring desk (which is vacant). But this seems to have created a new problem: I can't find anything. I've now printed out the same friggin' email containing much-needed information about an antibody I'm using three times, and I've lost all three copies. As much as I'd like to say screw it, I need a paper copy to have at my bench because, well, I can't remember a damn thing these days.


At least I'm still willing and (mostly) able to do the research...I just need a little patience to grow alongside my already larger-than-life mid-section. Especially since the Monkey has another two months to grow, and I'm told he's about to enter into a growth spurt. WTF

Just don't be surprised if you read a story about a pregnant postdoc taking out a confocal microscope with her belly...I swear it's an accident waiting to happen.

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Disgruntled Julie
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A post-doc in my lab was pregnant my first few months in the lab, and I was preparing to take over her insect cell culture. Watching her in the hood at 39 weeks pregnant was so funny, even she was laughing so hard she was in tears -- her hands didn't even clear the edge of the fans when her belly was pressed up against the hood.

microbiologist xx
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LOL! Even 5 months post-pregnancy, I still enjoy bending at the waist.
Yes, picking things up off the floor is a monumental undertaking. At least at home I could grab it with my toes or leave it for the hubby to pick up. I didn't take out any machines, but I knocked over a shit ton of solutions. Just wait until the waddling and swelling kicks in.

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LOL! Oh, I hear ya! For some reason I keep hitting my belly when I open doors. I just can't get used to it! And I can't believe it's just going to get bigger (I've been saying that since I started to show a few months ago :P).

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I guess they payoff is in a few years you'll have free lab assistant to ferry papers to and from the printer, to pick things up from the grounds (their little hands are closer to the floor than yours) and do any other simple tasks... ;)

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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LOL, Rift, I think they'll make more messes than they'll fix

Washington University School of Medicine
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LOL! We are on baby watch in our lab right now. One of our techs is literally due any day now. She is constantly dropping and spilling things on baby. We lost count of the number of things she runs into. I feel bad for her!

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What about a wireless keyboard that you can prop on your belly?

Or voice recognition software? That could come in handy for writing papers while you breastfeed.

Dr. O
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It's definitely a comedy around here these least it's making me laugh right now!

@MXX, I think I'll be doing a dance every time I lean over to pick things up for a year!!

@Alyssa - I keep hitting the belly with the car door...I feel so bad when I do, like I'm slamming my child's fingers in the door or something.

@Rift and Brian - A lab asst sounds great, but the Monkey won't be allowed in the lab until he's 15 because of all the pathogens...a currier from my office would be nice, though, as soon as he learns not to eat the paper. ;-)

@Cricket42 - There's a wireless keyboard and mouse on the vacant desk next to mine. I'm thinking an unused computer isn't in need of a wireless keyboard and mouse. They will be mine by the end of the day...muahahahaha!

Dr. O
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Wireless keyboard and mouse are now mine...sitting with my feet propped up and keyboard in my lap. This is heaven!

Thomas Joseph
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Replace ? with !

Dr. O
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Ah, TJ, I'm a sucker for As Seen on TV products, especially when it's called the "Deluxe Gopher". The only thing missing is the great late-night tag line of "Buy now and get a second one absolutely free!!" - I could actually use one of these at home too. ;)

Thomas Joseph
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I bought one for my mom (who has a seriously bad back). The Deluxe model comes with an LED light, just in case you need to use the Gopher in the dark, because I mean really ... who doesn't?!?!

Dr. O
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I didn't see the LED light feature - awesome!!

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Oh, I have so been there!
I was lucky that I could still work in the hood, but I kept bangging the belly. I liked to imagine it as a big protective orb, so I didn't feel like I was smushing the fingers or anything. Instead, I was just annoyed at what he was doing with those feet in my spleen every few minutes!
Some insights:
1) later on, you may sometimes watch your stumbling little Monkey and wonder if you have misnamed it- monkey babies (and other animals) are much more coordinated than human babies. Then, think back to how growing this fast threw off your *practiced and adult* sense of balance and spatial awareness, and realize your kid is a freakin genius for figuring out how to move at all
2) @ 13 months, I am still waiting for the fetching aid thing to kick in. Now, I hear that at this age *some* kids bring their parents a clean diaper when they need to be changed. My kid seems very confused by repeated requests accompanied by dramatic gestures, but he will eventually bring up his shoes, some of the time. I wish I'd gotten the delux model :-(

UC Davis
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Ha ha, great post! I worked with a postdoc during my PhD who had very similar issues, she also had a small stature, so perhaps this is what I have to look forward to as well!  Surely though this is the perfect excuse to demand a little grad student minion to do all your bench work for you whilst you sit with your feet up and direct them over a cup of decaffeinated tea/coffee?! No?!

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