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*sigh*
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In need of a break...
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But I don't wanna go to work
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Rejections
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In reverse
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Back in the lab, sort of...
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12 months of blogging...easy enough
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Open letter to committee head
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By popular demand - The Arrival
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How to do it all
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Cabin Fever
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Donation reward - new pics!
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Why am I doing this?
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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
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Oh, the guilt...
Monday, October 25, 2010

Priority Score Confusion
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Working from home sucks; aka "Preeclampsia for Dummies"
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Editor's choice
Thursday, October 14, 2010

Let the obsessing begin
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

DonorChoose - start giving!
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Careful what I say...
Friday, October 8, 2010

To dance or teach...
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Tailspin
Sunday, October 3, 2010
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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
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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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Awesome Stuff


Tuesday, September 7, 2010


We're all writing about "What I wish I knew before..." today at LabSpaces, or at least some of us are. I, on the other hand, am celebrating the naive ignorance of my former self. Why? 'Cuz sometimes in life, it's worth jumping in blind and full of optimism.

For all of those that don't know, I'm a bit of a planner...okay, so "controlling, Type A, organizing, OCD planner" might be a more apt description. I had my life planned out to a "T" in high school - go to college, get accepted into med school, become an amazing pediatric oncologist, achieve world domination, then, eventually, find a husband and have three kids.

After a couple of years in college and some clinical rotations at a local hospital, though, I realized I wasn't really into the whole physician thing. I liked science, especially biomedical stuff, and I liked my lab courses. I also really liked kids (hence the pediatric angle). But an afternoon job at a nursery school taught me that I hated their parents...at least some of them. I also started wondering if I really wanted to spend my days around kids who were, or had a good chance of, dying from cancer, and it all sounded so very depressing to me. So onto Plan B...

...which was graduate school. As hard as I tried, there just wasn't much planning after that. I had no research experience as an undergrad, I had no idea what I was getting into, and I'm glad. If I had known how hard it was going to be, I might not have done it. I jumped head-first into a very scary new world...and I loved almost all of it. A few years later, I started sending letters out to potential postdoc mentors, again having no idea what I was getting myself into. I found what ended up being a great postdoc lab, moved to a new state (never thought I could bear leaving the South or my family), and started working on the next phase of my academic career.

As a new postdoc, I pushed full throttle on the pre-tenure-track peddle, hoping to one day hold the coveted position of "assistant professor", no longer even thinking about the husband-and-three-kids thing. But even the best laid plans sometimes go off track...with amazing results. One year after moving here I met my best friend and Hubby. Two years later we were married. A year and a half later, we found out we had our first little one - The Monkey - on the way. In the meantime, I've busied myself in the lab, establishing a nice little scientific niche with some strong publications, helpful collaborations, and sound advice from my mentors. I've also enjoyed the research at this phase of my training even more than I did as a grad student. But the hunt for tenure-track jobs this past year has not been friendly, and the coming year's job postings are even less promising. With a baby (and new-found monetary responsibility) on the way, Hubby and I have finally begun working on back-up plans (aka - Plan C).

At this point, I have no idea what the next phase of my life holds for me. At most, I have the possibility of two years of tenure-track job searching ahead of me before my mentor retires. There's always the possibility that K grant funding will come through next month, ideally boosting me to the top of search committee short lists. I might even be competitive without the funding, and maybe find a "real" job in the next two years. Or I could end up on the still-developing Plan C track when/if nothing comes through on the tenure-track job front. There's just no way in hell to know what the future holds.

If there's one thing I'm glad I didn't know about this career, however, it's how unpredictable it is. And while I may not grab onto the golden tenure-track ring, I've gained so much more in the past 10 years. On top of the thrilling experience of being a "Scientist", I've gained a husband, family, confidence, and a new-found appreciation for the unknown. I never would have chosen this life for myself, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

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Blog Comments

Doctor Zen
The University of Texas-Pan American
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Nice post.

Jason Goldman
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What Zen said.

Brian Krueger, PhD
Duke University
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Not fair, you can't buck the system like that! Great post though. I wonder if it would have been better (more enjoyable) if I went in blind!

Alyssa
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Great post - I think ignorance is bliss sometimes too!

Prabodh Kandala
Texas Tech University Health Science Center
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I feel those who planned ahead never failed. If not Thermosphere, you would reach Mesosphere.

Tideliar
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I love this :) There is so much truth here that made parts of mine so hard to write. For some us it does work out, and you make an excellent point - if you can carve out your own niche you can (kind of) write your own future.

Part of me wishes I'd known that and part of me still gets pissy that I couldn't get someone to pay me to do just what I wanted.

yannisguerra
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"Life is what happens while you are making other plans"
It really seems like that is what ends up happening
But it is what makes it fun!

Ash
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Wow.. Amazing post, Dr.O.

Dr. O
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Thanks everyone, but I think I upset our Overlord. ;0 I actually struggled with the "I wish I had known..." topic for awhile before giving up and moving onto my more rebellious version. Blame it on the hormones and my new-found disrespect for authority.

I wouldn't suggest the ignorance angle for everyone (it doesn't suit certain people very well), but it seems to have worked alright for me. I do think people bring way too many expectations into their careers (as Tideliar talked about yesterday), and the complete ignorance thing definitely kept me flexible.
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