Saturday, January 31, 2009

You have got to be kidding me...

So, I got my five minutes with my co-author. I cornered him in the room and threatened to withhold important sequencing primers until he talked to me (OK, not really but I was completely willing to do this). So all is well on that front.


A plague has hit the lab, and for once it is not our bacterial growths that are infected, it is the humans in the lab. The two research scientists have a cold (one "called" in on Friday- something he never ever has done since I have been there). Our building manager has been hacking up a lung for a week now, and yesterday I realized that no, the funny taste in my mouth after I coughed was not normal (nor was it from smoking). The grad students in our lab are staying as far away as possible.

I was sick right after Christmas- two days under a blanket on the couch, stuffy nose (I looked like Rudolph for weeks), and just feeling like crap. And now this, almost exactly one month later. Not so much the stuffy nose, but the coughing hack where I sound like I am trying to expel the deepest darkest part of my lungs out my mouth. All that coughing is not good for the head, dear children, nor the voice. No, no no. So now, I sit here, staring at data and a teaching statement that I promised I would look at this weekend, alternating between hot tea and cold orange juice, counting down the hours till I can take more cold medicine and smelling like I bathed with mentholated shampoo--trying to convince myself that if I pack it in early tonight, I will wake up tomorrow morning bright and early and get everything done.

The only bright spot of being sick...Monday is my official "quit smoking date." On a normal Saturday, I would have most likely smoked about a pack by now (give or take depending on the day). I have had 1 and 1/2 smokes today. That's it. And I don't even want one. Maybe being sick is a blessing...and I do have the last three episodes of "Battlestar Galactica" DVR'ed which I need to watch. But maybe not in a cold-medicine induced haze.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Is it wrong to expect a co-author to give you five minutes of their time to look at some data and "push" you in the right direction?

I understand that independence is one of the hallmark's of a good post-doc, but where do you draw the line between being independent and being to stubborn (or unwilling) to get/give some help. I don't want to have the data analyzed for me (sorry, this is the part I love), but what I do want is five minutes (OK, maybe ten minutes) of someones time to bounce ideas off of, to find out if doing a, b, or c is worth the time or effort or if I am just chasing my tail.

Yes, I could go to my PI (who is a great scientific mind, amazingly knowledgeable in the field in general, and just a nice guy to go talk to when you are stuck) but he is somewhat "removed" from the specifics of the project, the recent literature, etc. The vibe I have been getting from him in our past few meetings has been one of "I've seen the individual parts before, now I want to see it all together..." and is waiting patiently (emphasis on patiently since he really has been) for the big huge pile of data.

What I want from my co-author (OK, he trained me on everything involved in the protein prep, mutations, etc.--stuff that I had no clue as to how to do, made the first batch of protein with me so I could learn, etc. and is a co-PI on the grant we just wrote) is just five minutes, that's all. Is it too much to ask? I know is busy starting up a lab and getting into the new "faculty role" and having grad students in his lab, but things here are not that easy either...five minutes, that's all I need. I wouldn't be complaining/whining/whatever if he also responded to emails on time, showed up to pick up various things (ie cultures, stocks, reagents that I have prepped for him since I have the functioning lab right now) on time, and just in general be around when I need a quick pick-me-up (like I have been around for him). He asks me to do something (or I generally offer) and I am johnny-on-the-spot.

Ok, enough with the whining and the poor-me. I can figure this stuff out! I have the books, I have the papers, I CAN DO THIS AND I DON'T NEED ANYONE ELSE...ok, I feel better. Let's see if I still feel better when he shows up in a bit to pick up a stock of reagents...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

everyone else is doing it--

So, everyone else seems to be taking teh pesonality test. I had a bit of time to here are my results..

Neuroticism (sometimes also called Emotional Instability) is the tendency to experience negative emotions such as sadness or anxiety. People who score high on neuroticism are vulnerable to stress and tend to experience negative feelings more often. People who score low in neuroticism tend to be less susceptible to stress, and experience negative feelings relatively infrequently.
You scored 37 out of 50. This score is higher than 87.4% of people who have taken this test.
Hmmm- MrDr Zeek already knew this....

Extraversion (or Extroversion) is the tendency to experience positive emotions and seek out stimulating situations. People who score high on extraversion tend to be active, energetic, and enjoy being around other people. In contrast, people who score low on extraversion, known as introverts, tend to be quiet, low-key, and are typically less involved in the social world.
You scored 24 out of 50. This score is higher than 17.3% of people who have taken this test.

Openness to experience
Openness to experience is a general tendency to appreciate emotion, adventure, and unusual ideas or experiences. People who are open to experience are intellectually curious, appreciative of art, and sensitive to beauty. People with low scores on openness tend to have more conventional, traditional interests.
You scored 33 out of 50. This score is higher than 13.1% of people who have taken this test.

Conscientiousness is the tendency to show self-discipline and persistence. People who score high on conscientiousness tend to be persistent, responsible, and duty-driven, but are sometimes perceived as being overly perfectionistic and concerned with order. Individuals low on conscientiousness tend to show less persistence and may have trouble seeing things through.
You scored 41 out of 50. This score is higher than 82.5% of people who have taken this test.

Agreeableness is the tendency to be sympathetic and cooperative towards others. People who score high on agreeableness strive for social harmony and value getting along with others. Disagreeable people tend to be more suspicious and hostile towards others.
You scored 40 out of 50. This score is higher than 72.0% of people who have taken this test.

Interesting, no?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nooooo...Part II

I just sat down and looked at the calendar, no I mean really looked at the calendar. I am, right now, feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed. I have this ticking clock in my head saying "You've been in lab for 18 months, 24 left to go" or something along those lines (the sole project I am working on has been refunded for an additional 4 years. Since I am the only one in the lab working on it, and there are plently of things to do, my PI gave me the option of styaing for the full four years if I want to, meaning not too much pressure yet).

Anyways, I have to finish writing two manuscripts (including the derivation of the kinetic equations, data fitting, etc.) and try convince my boss to let me split it into three papers. Rewrite and reapply for the NIH fellowship (compltely redoing the research plan). Preferably in that order (as in best case scenario would be having the papers in press when I reapply for the fellowship), train my two new undergrad minions (this is a teaching univeristy for god sakes, but two of them? with almost completely opposite schedules so I can't have them here at the same time, and both of them so green that neither knows the difference between a disposable pipette and a pipetteman?) Oh yeah, and with the somewhat new grad student moving to a different lab in the other departmental building, I can move to his lab (just down the hall) and have my own lab (yup, we have that much space), but I have to clean out the 30 years of crap that has accumulated in the lab that the grad student just worked around.

All of this before April 8th (the deadline for the fellowship)?

Oh, and yeah, to add a little more fuel to the fire, MrDr Zeek's doctor told us yesterday, after looking at the CAT scan images (which, I might add was probably one of the coolest things I have ever seen-the doctor even let me "play" with the images, scrolling through cross-sections, etc. It was the highlight of my day--I am such a nerd-and I digress) that his top spinal fusion is somewhat taking, but the bottom one isn't. We have three choices. (a) he quits smoking (which means I quit smoking since (a.1) it is bad for me and (a.2)I would never inflict that type of torture on him. if he has to quit-I have to quit) (b) they implant electrodes into the fusion area to stimulate boone growth ( can I just say (b.1) ewwwww) or (c) they go back in and redo the fusions which means pulling out the rods in screws in his back already, replacing them and the "fusion" cages, etc. (this means (c.1.) 3-6 months recovery time (c.2.) a repeat of what he/we went through about two years ago--it was bad, and fodder for a blog post one of these days and (c.3) hell no!). So, MrDrZeek (who has been smoking for >20 years) got into the car, looked at me, and asked "When are we going to quit?" My heart lept! YAY! Not that I truly want to go through the hell that is quitting smoking (I quit for four months last year, MrDr Zeek didn't, I am now smoking again) but I am happy that he is on board for quitting.

And the continuing weight loss battle. I am trying to loose weight, be more fit, more tones, and its starting to pay off. I am eating healthier, working out (I heart turbo jam) everyday, and yeah. But still.

So there it is boys and girls. Dr Zeek is tired. Worn out, feeling a tad overwhelmed and having no idea how to begin tackling this all. Small chunks.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.


Dear self,

Bacteria will grow in highly concentrated LB media (enough media for 20 L growths dissolved in 5 L of water) if left in the warm room overnight thereby pushing your start time ahead three hours while you remake, autoclave, and cool said media.

A frustrated me

Dear growth of e. coli containing really important mutant plasmid,

I have grown you (and your little buddies) multiple times. I am good to you. I feed you, I keep you warm, i put you in a big giant carboy so you can swim around with your buddies. I don't even have you make my protein (which I know you don't like all that much) until after you have partied it up and such. Why then are you giving me so much hassle? I really need you to work right now. Now.

No love

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nope, I am not an undergrad...

I still get that little tingle when people call me "Dr. Zeek". You would think the novelty wears off, but not so much. Maybe it is because I am at an institution where everyone calls everyone by their first name. It was a little bit of a culture shock to me when I started calling Dr. Big Name just Big. I don't usually pull the "I-am-Dr. Zeek" card, though. Everyone here calls me by my first name, and most think that I am a graduate student, if not an undergrad (YAY good genes) even though I am quickly approaching a big milestone birthday (7 months and counting). I don't mind be mistaken for an undergrad, but I just don't fit the typical (or stereotypical) look of a self-admitted nerd.

Anyways, I had this conversation outside the other day while having (GASP!) a smoke. One of the IT undergrads came up to ask me if he could bum a cig, which I obliged. There is a little "unspoken" smoker's etiquette that if you are not on your phone, or walking away, you awkwardly try to start a conversation with the person you just bummed a smoke from.

UG: So, you work here? (points to old building I am leaning against- mind you there are multiple "departments" in the building-the 3rd-5th floors have functioning labs)
Dr. Zeek: Yup, I work in the labs on the third floor.
UG: Oh, I've been up there a few times. How many credits are you taking this semester?
Dr. Zeek: (huh? whaaa?)Credits? Oh, no I went to (insert name of small liberal arts college here. I am a ....
UG: (cutting me off mid-sentence) Oh, so you just started grad school...I heard its pretty rough here.
Dr. Zeek: (trying to get a word in edgewise) No, No, finished grad school last year...
UG: (again cutting me off) So you can work in the lab's with a Master's...
Dr. Zeek (now I am getting a tad frustrated...) Well, yeah, but I am a post-doc. I got my PhD last year.
UG: (stares at me, stares at the ground, stares at me again...extremely uncomfortable at this point) Oh, well, ummm, yeah. So, yeah....

Obviously he was a tad uncomfortable after he realized that I was a Dr. just like his professors that held the fate of his GPA in their hands. Its weird, because that's one of the reasons (esp when out at the bar's and stuff with MrDrZeek and his friends) that I keep it on the down-low that I have my PhD. Its not that I am ashamed of it, its just that sometimes it seems to make people really uncomfortable, esp when they find out I have a PhD in Chemistry. The normal response "Ohhhh, you must be really smart..." And I have to laugh, "Nope," I usually respond, "I just pretend."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Just one more thing...

Went to talk to big-boss man about the "last" few experiments he wanted done (ok, that I wanted to do too) for paper(s) that I am writing. Mind you I have been in new post-doc lab since last sept (that would make it one year and some odd months). There was a huge learning curve for me, since I switched fields, but let's say that I have been working on the data for this manuscript since last Feb (as in getting quality, publishable data since then). In October, I approached bigboss man and said "Let's start writing this up" in which he agreed that there was more than enough data to put together a really good story.

So I started writing it up, saw a few holes in the story, did the experiments to fill in those gaps, and found a whole slew of new questions. It seems with every experiment, there are a million new questions that come up (which trust me, I thoroughly enjoy, esp trying to put it all together), but when is it enough? I think I have convinced him that we are better off with two manuscripts now, instead of one (YAY me--first author on both!!), but there doesn't seem to be a good ending point, if that makes sense.

So, I suppose I should go back to adding in the new results, fixing the graphs, and writing the discussion for the part that I am pretty sure is not going to change. And, now that I write that I have jinxed myself. But that is OK, its good to be back on a normal schedule, back in a routine, back in the lab getting my hands dirty and puzzling over all this data.