Archive for: February, 2011

Applying for "nearly sure" funding

Feb 22 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers]


"Ugh, I would never apply for an XX award because the payline is so low*. I only ever apply for nearly sure sources of funding."

Ahahahaha!!! Let me know how that works out for you, superstar.

* The payline of the institute/award in question hovers around 30%.

14 responses so far

A Frogge in the Guest Blogge

Feb 15 2011 Published by under [Etc]

Here at the Scientopias, we've got ourselves a shiny new Guest Blogge. This is a space for some of our non-Scientopian friends to come over and share some of their fine writing for 2 week increments.

This week, we have Paolo V. from Zygoma, who specializes in museum science and natural history. Also on tap is FrauTech, a sassy fellow engineer holding it down in industry. Stop by and check them out!

If you are interested in writing as a guest blogger, we welcome inquiries. Please email PhysioProf at gmail with a description of your existing blog (if you have one) and what you would like to blog about at Scientopia.

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The PostDoc Experience: Reinvention

Feb 13 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers], [LifeTrajectories]

I love being a postdoc, although I often get the sense that, at least on the internets, I am in the minority. This series of posts is dedicated to some of the more wonderful aspects of this middling, temporary, and underpaid position.

This is not the real world. This world of the postdoc, where the words "you can't" are rarely spoken.

Armed with a Ph.D., presumed evidence of his intelligence, perseverance, and creativity, a friend of mine foraged into the world of industry some years ago. There, people only wanted to hire him to do exactly what he had done before. Motivated by quarterly profits and complicated investment models, the real world is unwilling to take many chances. No chances on you learning something new. No chances on broadening skillsets, no chances on real innovation.

And that's fine, there are some other benefits in those sectors. But it's not for me. The opportunity to increase my knowledge base, the call of the experimental unknown... giddy up!  Being a postdoc, at least for me, has been like taking a trip to Disney World, and being told to "go play". And just like when you're at an amusement park, you have a choice: you can ride the merry-go-round again and again and again, or you can hop on every ride in the damn park. The former choice is comforting and fun, but the returns are diminishing. The latter choice-  disconcerting, maybe, but thrilling.

It's this opportunity for Reinvention during the postdoctoral training period that is so outstanding:

Candid Engineer reinvents herself. A) As a virgin researcher enamored with gaudy lace, Candid Engineer carried out her graduate studies on Banana Peeling. B) Dr. Candid was thrown for a loop in her new position as postdoc, and did a lot of praying to get her through a transitional period. C) Confident and beautiful, Candid Engineer slices and dices Mangoes for the first several years of her postdoc. D) Maturing in her intellectual desires, Candid Engineer cuts her hair and shifts research focus as a senior postdoc. E) Professor Candid embarks on the Tenure Ambition World Tour (projected).

And you know what? I'm getting it in while I can. Because once I'm an assistant professor, the funding agencies aren't going to want to take a chance on me, and at least for 5 or 10 years, I'm going to have to rely more heavily on everything that I already know. Not that you can't reinvent yourself as a professor, but it appears to become significantly more challenging. This is the time, I say.

17 responses so far

Oh Postdoc, Why so critical?

Feb 05 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers]

During the preparation of a proposal, I somehow managed to draft my specific aims page quickly enough to be able to solicit feedback. Smartly or not-so-smartly, I gave the thing to about ten people- five professors, four postdocs, and a grad student. Unexpectedly, a very clear trend emerged regarding the nature of the feedback:

Sample comments from professors:

  • "Please clarify this one sentence in your background paragraph."
  • "Nice job. Only comment is that this clause sounds funny."
  • "Looks great."

And then there were my postdoc and grad student colleagues. Hahahaha. Their comments were a fucking hoot. Now, don't get me wrong, I got plenty of good feedback from these trainees. It was just that they were so critical about every damn thing.

  • "I hate this adjective!"
  • "I think you should say that instead of which"
  • "I think aim 3 should study eight mangoes instead of seven."

Four out of five trainees returned my aims page covered in red. And the graduate student... oh my. The graduate student went so far as to say he hated the whole proposal. He found it unoriginal, uninspired, and "exactly what he expected  [I] would write". Hahahaha. OK, sez I- I am predictable, and you are retarded.

Makes me think more than ever that those nasty reviews you get on your brilliant manuscript? They really were written by postdocs.

These observations lead me to my hypothesis:

Postdocs are extremely critical of other's efforts because they have not yet realized that there is more than one way to write/study/do something well. They have not done the whole science thing enough times over, they haven't had enough successes, enough failures, to recognize that their way isn't the only way.

31 responses so far