Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And the weeks marched on...

Alright-it has been awhile since I posted.  Rest assure it has been a busy month in the Dr, Zeek household. In the last four weeks:
  • my laptop melt-down resulted in a complete wipe and reinstall (thank the gods we had carbonite installed)
  • all the experiments I needed for the poster for the upcoming conference worked about two weeks before I needed to start putting everything together--so there was a massive push to analyze the data
  • then, a really bad cold knocked me on my ass for a few days a week before christmas
  • which resulted in my stressing
  • which resulted in stress-induced muscle spasms in my lower back--no relief except laying flat on my back in bed.  It is hard to work on a poster when laying in bed.
  • resulting in more stress--and the viscous cycle continued until I finally went to the doctor for some muscle relaxers
  • which resulted in family Christmas festivities in a somewhat drug-induced haze and still no poster (which needed to be printed by today at the latest)
  • which resulted in a marathon illustrator/photoshop session (12 hrs on the 26th and 12 hrs on the 27th) and a beautiful poster to print yesterday
  • and a corrupted illustrator poster file
  • which resulted in few panicky tears.  4 hrs later the amazing IT/media center people printed my poster

It has been a rough few weeks, but the poster is printed, the holidays are almost over and we fly out to places warmer for the conference on Sunday.  I almost cannot wait to get back from the conference so I can put my life back to some semblance of normalcy.  Oh, wait, the weekend after we get back is Mr. Dr. Zeek's surprise birthday party.  Then maybe some normalcy?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bad planning....

Shit.  The two key things I need to run the short experiments this week will not get here in time (even though I ordered them early last week).  One will show up late today and one late tomorrow.  I realized while walking to the bus stop this morning that I am out of both of the key things needed-basically screwing up the routine/schedule I had formulated in my brain before I finally fell asleep last night.  I hate when the things I plan to do don't get done.   Damn. damn. damn.

While during a "normal" work-week, this would pose little problems since I would have multiple, multi-day experiments starting/running.  Alas, the shortened work-week though has put a huge monkey-wrench in the plans.  (and while this may make me a horrible scientist-I am not working on Thanksgiving--Mr. Dr. Zeek and I have plans to visit family and goddammit I want to watch me some football-St. Kern will be pissed....) 

With only a month before I have to have my poster printed for the conference in Jan, I am freaking out a tad.  I suppose I should go over those damn papers again and start doing some of the figures/general things for the poster.  Damn.  Damn. damn. 

Friday, November 19, 2010


I just ran across a paper that contradicts a whole slew of things/experiments I have seen/done with this project.  I *know* my data is right (excluding that little snafu before). 

Wait, let me explain.  We do NOT see what they are seeing.  We see the exact polar opposite.  As in a yes/no.  There is no gray area in this one.  I would be worried if someone else in "our" lab(s) haven't had seen the same thing, so at least we are self-consistent.  But WTF? 

And this is not something you can hand-wave away with "it's from a different source" crap.  And it doesn't make sense.  So now I wonder if I can "trust" the rest of the stuff in the paper which really sucks because, well, it's a cool paper and I thought would be useful for the discussion.  I guess not. 

Damn.  What a way to end the week....

PS-blog post theme for next week- just because it is published (or in this case written in a patent) doesn't mean it works....or how I spent the past two months beating my head against the wall....

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Paper push

So right now there is a huge push to get three manuscripts out the door by the end of the year (two of which I am first author on so no pawning it off on anyone else).  On top of getting more than "preliminary" data for an upcoming conference in January.

Therefore, Dr. Zeek needs some new music for her iPod.  Any suggestions*?  I have been obsessively listening to Mumford and Sons lately, although now I am getting a tad bored with the album (and I have a tendency to do that--listen over and over to an album till my brain turns to mush).  I need things that I can rock out to in and out of the lab and have no problems listening to Metallica (old-school---not the new crap off of "St. Anger") while I am writing a paper**.

As an indicator of what I like- my iPod has almost everything that I can find from Social Distortion, Eve 6, Led Zeppelin***, Buckcherry and a hodgepodge of Motley Crue, Guns N Roses and the whatnot. 

So, any new bands you cannot stop listening to?  Send them my way.  It is going to be a long winter.

*and if anyone suggests Lady Gaga,  I do believe that I will suggest they be drawn and quartered (I understand-Buckcherry in comparison is not the greatest).  Not my cup of tea. 

**For some reason, this absolutely stunned my collaborator.  He, on the other hand needs complete silence or some mamsy-pansy classical or Kenny G going on to write.  Please, listening to that while pounding through data analysis would compel me to stab my ear drums out with a dull pencil. 

***I do believe that "Led Zeppelin II" is one of my favorite albums- I even thoroughly enjoy "coda"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Data woes

Things I learned about MY data today while trying to troubleshoot my friends data:
  • multiplying by 1243.27 is not the same as multiplying by 124.327
  • milli means a 10^-3 multiplication, not 10^-2
  • combining these two mistakes into one cell calculation means that all of my data is off by two orders of magnitude
  • using this cell (cut and paste, drag and drop) for all the other calculations means that all the data in the sheet are off by two orders of magnitude
  • copying this cell into two other sheets means that all of that data is off two orders of magnitude as well
The good news- the data is not published yet.  The not great news-- I have made a table of these results and have sent them around to the other collaborators and to my PI.  My PI used the data in a talk he gave in July.  My boss will probably think that I am a big, huge fucking idiot....wait, I am a big fucking huge idiot.

Even crappier news-- I had my friend in the other lab trying to figure out why she was getting results that were two orders of magnitude lower. So because of my stupidity and lack of calculating/checking formulas ability I made her doubt was she was doing.

It has been a shitty week.  I have decided that either I am never going to do an excel formula calculation again OR I am going to write the formula by hand in every cell.

I feel like an idiot.
A big one.

I just want to go home.... 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

And the cloud has lifted....

Mr. Dr. Zeek and I have had a fairly major issue/problem in hometown city that we have been dealing with since we moved to post-doc city more than three years ago.  It has been ongoing and, while not putting a strain on our marriage, has caused numerous stress-induced discussions, tears and frustration. 

We have almost always been on the same page as how to proceed, what actions to take and how to deal with this problem.  At the beginning of the year, we both had decided to throw in the towel, stop fighting and say enough is enough (with the problem, not the marriage--).

As of today, it is done.  The problem is no longer there.  It's over.  Finished.   While somewhat anticlimactic, there is a huge weight gone right now.

Sorry for being so cryptic, just know that there will be much celebration in the Dr. Zeek household tonight. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pissing and moaning...

It always seems like I am posting things when nothing is going right, when I am down in the dumps, when I want to scream in frustration.  So, as a change of pace I decided to post a good thing or two.  For the past few months nothing has been working.  Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

But I kept plugging along-and seriously, boys and girls- when it rains it pours.  It seems like the three main points of the project are working.  All at once.  In the span of three days, I had data in hand that was (a) clean (b) relevant and (c) pretty fucking cool.  That was about a week ago.  Now on to finishing it all up.  So good news on the lab front.

I still need to wean my new undergrad from asking me "Is this mixed?"  I think tomorrow her and I will spend some quality time together where I will teach her the finer points of making a homogeneous mixture and properly reading the level of solution in a graduated cylinder.  I may even use a sciencey-term or two.  With everything going on and struggling to get the preliminary data for an abstract for a conference (due in two weeks)- methinks I have been neglecting her a bit.

So, a happy Dr. Zeek will go home, watch some football (eh, maybe-doesn't seem like a "thrilling" game tonight) and relax in the new king-size bed Mr. Dr. Zeek and I just purchased.  I didn't realize how small our old bed was until I slept the whole night through without Mr. Dr. Zeek's elbow in my eyeball.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dear Mother Nature...

I thought we had an understanding.  After the first frost of the year, you would stop with the pollen, ragweed and all the other nasty, but necessary, crap that puts me in allergy hell.  Last week, you decided to give us our first taste of fall- with not one but two nights of frost.  I was happy-no, I was thrilled.  I thought--no more sneezing, no more allergies.  On top of that, I thoroughly enjoy fall.  I enjoy being outside in jeans and a sweatshirt, I love cuddling up at night under my blanket as the temperatures dip below 35 degrees.  I truly do.

But today, Mother Nature, I woke up to a beautifully sunshiny morning.  65 degrees at 7:30 am (and why I am awake at 7:30 am on a Sunday is another story entirely).  OK, so not entirely "fall" weather in almost the middle of October, but I can handle that.  What I can't handle is the sudden onset of some of the most severe allergies I have ever had.  And only on one side of my face.  And the itching.  It is extremely annoying to have only one nostril completely plugged up and one eye constantly watering/puffy and swollen.  I fear doing any delicate work in the lab today because the sudden, violent uncontrollable sneezing attacks could cause me to stab my eye with a pipette or spew snot into my bacterial cultures. Why did the frost not take care of this?  Why, Mother Nature, do you feel the need to torture me like this? 

So, I beg of you, Mother Nature, please go back to your normally scheduled programing and give me fall back.  With all the frosty nights you can.  Teasing me like this is just mean.  I would like to be able to breathe normally and not carry around wads of Kleenex with me wherever I go and and not have people treating me like a leper because it is not allergy season and they all assume I have some super-cold.

I promise that if you do this for me I will not bitch when the first snowfall comes.

A stuffy miserable Dr. Zeek--

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Up for air...

I have been extremely quiet because, well, I have been extremely busy.  No shit, eh? Who isn't.  But writing four (yes, four) recomendation letters, a progress report for my fellowship, a section of the NIH grant our lab is submitting in a few weeks and keeping my noobie and not so noobie-undergrads in line these past three weeks has done little for my sanity, let alone for my progress.  That, coupled with the stomach ulcer diagnosis, finding out I was highly intolerant to penicillin (the hard way), a two week round of tetracycline/some other antibiotic and a four day treatment for a yeast infection (and not necessarily just where you were thinking-- ever have a fuzzy, yellowish-tongue? ya, not fun to say the least) has left me tired, worn-out and crabby.  I have been short with everyone at work lately.  I just want to be left alone to run some experiments.  Let me surround myself with bacteria and proteins and assays.  Let me delve into the piles of data and make some sense of it all.

I am an introvert who plays an extrovert on TV.  I need to recharge if I have had people around me all day long.  Interaction with people all day is not in any way restorative to me, it's just plain draining.  I am perfectly content without talking to anyone all day long-I do not need to be the center of attention and quite frankly, it makes me uncomfortable if too many people are staring at me/putting me on the spot at one time. Things like that make me break out into a cold sweat.  When my mom and mother-in-law threw a wedding shower for me, I absolutely dreaded it.  I did not want to sit on chair in front of everyone and open presents, or give a toast or anything like that.  The wedding was the same way.  Since we got married in a very public place, there were a lot of people there who stopped to watch.  It was, probably, one of the most uncomfortable things for me. 

So, you are probably thinking "Uh, Dr. Zeek, that does not bode well for your career as a scientist.  How can you give talks at meetings and stuff?"  Well, here is the thing, when I give a talk it is not Dr. Zeek giving the talk, but Dr. Zeek the Scientist giving the talk.  Wait, let me explain.  I was into drama big time in high school.  I loved being in character on the stage.  Why?  Because I was no longer me-geeky, nerdy high school student- I was some other person.  And I loved it.  I didn't mind being on stage having everyone stare at me, hang on every word because I was no longer me, I was "cowgirl #2" (when we did Oklahoma) or bitchy "Aunt Jenny" (from I Remember Mamma).  It was the same sort of thing when I was a bartender.  No longer was I the somewhat awkward nerd trying to get through college, I was "the sweet-flirty bartender".  I played a role.  And it made me money.  I quickly learned that I was great in front of a "crowd"--weather it be acting, behind the bar, or giving a talk as long as I treated it as a "role", rather than just being myself up there.  As long as I don't have to play the role of "myself" then I find that the panicky feelings go away and I am confident, smooth and totally at ease. 

When I give a talk, I am no longer Dr. Zeek, the go to person in the lab who can never say no.  I am now "Dr. Zeek the Scientist"  and it works.  Now, mind you, I don't completely loose my personality, my wit, charm, grace (wait, grace I can't loose because I don't have to begin with), but I just throw all that into playing the role as the scientist giving a talk.  I can play the role well.  Now, does that make me a fraud?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Telling me that you were trashed this weekend with your parents does not increase my somewhat iffy-opinion of you.  Sitting here during our hour-long incubation time, laughing out loud (literally) at every text, new face book message and e-mail really does nothing for my opinion either, especially when you decide to tell me what the who the person is, what the person said, the back story behind the comment and  why it is funny.....  Nor does the discussion on you and your boyfriend.  Really, I understand that this is the first time you have worked in a "real" lab- but I am not here to entertain.  I am not here just for you.  I do need to get other things done in the lab today--besides baby-sitting you the whole time.  Running over to my iPod every time you hear a good song to see who sings it while in the middle of weighing something or pippetting some solutions (which, in all honesty, need to be somewhat precise) pushes my opinion in the opposite way.  It is now nearly 4:00 and I have gotten nothing of my own stuff done.  Grrrr....

Friday, August 27, 2010


I had a mini-meltdown this week.  Not a full-blown panic attack, but definitely a meltdown where I nearly curled up in the fetal position in the corner of the lab, wishing I could be swallowed up by the few cracks in the floor.  It was a shit week with shit results and shitty people draining all my emotional energy. 

I was/am toast at this point.  It was one of those weeks where, excited to be back in the lab after my week long vacation, I started some new cool experiments, did some housekeeping on other experiments (i.e. made new cells for a protein prep for next week) and all in all tried to get back on track. 

Well, peeps, it is Friday and it seemed that everything I touched this week either blew-up (not literally, of course) in my face, showed the exact opposite trends from previous experiments, didn't dissolve, didn't behave, didn't survive, didn't like the conditions I was running, didn't keep the pH (goddamn phosphate buffer) and all in all conspired to send me to the brink of despair.

I know.  I know.  It was only a week- but shit, a year from now I will be applying for TT-positions.  1 year.  That's 12 months. 365 days.  8760 hrs. 525,600 minutes....  In fact, I lost about ten of those minutes just sitting here writing this post. 

Things need to start working again.  Or at least work as well as they did two months ago.  My to do list is way way way to fucking long for routine things like this not to work.  I cannot afford this right now.  Maybe I shouldn't have taken vacation.  The biochemistry gods are looking down in disapproval, and hence have sent their evil minions to come and terrorize my experiments this week.  That must be it. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010


So, today marks the end of a week long "staycation" (which, in my humble opinion is the stupidest sounding thing in the world-but eh...).  Mr. Dr. Zeek and I did a whole lot of nothing this past week (major exceptions being cleaning out the closets and heading to hometown city for a day-more on that in a minute)- and the van is still in the shop.  The dealer forgot to inform us that they are closed both Saturday and Sunday- so no picking up the van till tomorrow.  Which means leaving work in the middle of the afternoon to pick up the van...

The trip to hometown city (which normally isn't blog worthy since we usually head down once every few months-- it is less that a two-hour drive away from post-doc city) was great.  Little sister is starting college in a week (yes, we are a "blended" family and yes-dong the math there is 12 years between the two of us).  The fact that she is going to go where I went for undergrad (a very small liberal arts college in hometown city) makes me doubly excited.  Of course she is freaking out, so big sister to the rescue, I decided to take her around campus for a bit, introduce her to some of the professors, show her where classes are, just all around try to make her feel more at ease.

Now, mind you, I graduated in almost 10 years ago (oh mylanta I feel old) so imagine my surprise, when walking around, that the professors and such remembered me without me having to explain what classes they had me for, etc.  It made me feel good and set little sister at ease a bit more-knowing that these people actually care enough to remember people, to know things, etc.  The worst part for her, though, will be the killer general chemistry class (which kicked my ass when I was there) considering she had never had chemistry in her life (no shit!  I know!).  She was assured by one of my favorite professors (now dean of arts and sciences) that he will do everything in his power to help her past and to find the people she needs to know to help her get through the class.  All in all, I think she feels a bit better about the whole thing.  And it put a smile on my face.

We went to a church festival that night.  I miss church festivals.  There are no church festivals out here in post-doc cities.  Where else can you drink cheap beer, listen to awesome cover bands and all around have a great time on a Friday night?

Oh yeah.  One other minor thing.  Today is my birthday.  No big plans.  No big anything really.  Honestly, Mr. Dr. Zeek is leaving everything up to me (i.e. do you want to go to dinner? do you want to go do something?).  Now, after 5 years of being married and 7 years of being together, I would think that he would know what I like to do and would just plan something.  Would just say get ready honey  and get in the car.  It is weird saying OK I want to go here and here and here and here.  Mr Dr. Zeek is a huge "homebody" too, so he isn't thrilled on going out a lot, so yeah....I have a feeling this is going to totally just be another day.  On a related note, I have had 15 "happy birthdays" on Facebook already (yes, I have a Facebook account.  Facebook is the devil.).  Weird, because in all sincerity I think Facebook has made us even lazier than email has.  No more stamps, no more pondering over a card, and even no more thinking/trying to come up with a little sweet message to send via email.  Nope. Facebook even reminds you of upcoming birthdays, click on the link and there you go-- deposit birthday greetings at will.  Now honestly, I enjoy the sentiment and everything- but really, it loses some of the charm, some of the sincerity, knowing that someone had put in the effort to send their birthday greetings. 

So, yeah.  Tomorrow back to work.  Cannot wait to get back to the lab.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Joy of...

owning a POS van.

Estimated cost of break job- $1100 (that would be for a full break job including the replacement of a master cylinder that was replaced only TWO YEARS AGO!)

Shit. Shit. Shit.

What wonderful news to hear on vacation.  Thankfully, though, we are on vacation so not having a car for a few days is no big thing...Is it too early to crack a beer? I am on vacation after all.  Did I mention I was on vacation?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Dear Frantic Collaborator-

The experiment design and idea was mine.  While I do admit it is extremely cool and applicable to the other systems you are studying, this is mine.  Just because we collaborate on one project does not mean you can use my work/labor/everything else for the other things you look at.  I wouldn't have even thought I would have to explain this to you.  I do not work for you, and such, the things I do/ideas I come up with are not fair game for your other projects-especially when you have no intention on putting me on those papers with the other system.  You barely know what the acronym of the technique stands for, let alone how to do the fucking experiments.  This is mine.  Mine. Mine. Mine.  Mine.  Hands off.  This is twice now where you have suggested and commented about putting things in your grant/papers based on my stuff that HASN'T BEEN PUBLISHED YET!  You can reference the papers once they are out just like everyone else.

I understand that when you took the job at semi-cool university that you blabbed about how "we" (I) was going to do this and everyone there got all excited about things and wanted to help-- but this WAS NOT your project to take.  I understand you needed some sort of validation/common-ground/ass-kissing way to get in good with the people down there (who, by the way fucktard-were my committee members when I was in grad school in case you forgot docuhebag- and with whom I have a good relationship with)--but to try to screw your collaborators because you are realizing how cool this thing *may* be (who knows, it may not even work--it is a total hero(1) experiment) and how you now want in on it makes you an asshat.  You didn't realize how cool it was until you started running your mouth about my shit to everyone else...

Remember.  I. Do. Not. Work. For. You.  And using my friendship with your post-doc is a shitty, shady-cowardly backhanded way to try to get what you want.  Neither of us are stupid, which you would realize if you got your head out of your ass- and know when someone is trying to play us.

So. Mine. Mine. Mine.  At least grow some balls and talk to me again (for the third time) about this.  Oh wait, you must realize you don't have a fucking leg to stand on....

Fuck you very much.
No love

Dear Post-doc friend--
We are and will always be more than OK.  No worries. Ever. I don't mean to be pissed and I hope that you realize that I do not define you and other shit by your boss--who is an assmonkey.  Thank you for telling me things, thank you for being there, but most of all--thank you for looking out for me and my ass down there and being the best friend I have ever had.  I am sorry you are in such a shitty situation and I am even more pissed that your boss has decided to "use" our friendship.  I will do everything I can to help you in the next few months, but Fuck him.  Come work for me when I get my TT-job.  Either that or we can run to an island with our respective significant others and open up a bar.  I'm flexible like that.

Thank you again--
Forever in your debt
Dr. Zeek....

(1) Hero experiments: Experiments that, if they work, make you a hero and that, if fail miserably, you never tell anyone you ran.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pet peeves (or things that have royally pissed me off today)....

  1. If you e-mail me with a question about MFP and what MFP I have in stock that you may "desperately need" please have the courtesy to answer/respond to my e-mail-- even if it is just a "Thanks.  I'll let you know."  Really, is it that hard to hit "reply"?
  2. On a similar note- if you mark something urgent, I treat it as urgent, drop everything and get back to you as soon as possible.  This is your stuff, your inquiries, your bullshit.  If I can take the five minutes out of my busy day to figure something out for you and give you several options as to how to proceed, waiting >36 hrs to get back to me on how you want things done does not seem all that urgent to me. 
  3. Paper-grubbing- watching me set-up an experiment for all of five minutes (because you are "training" me) does not mean you get your name on my fucking paper.  
  4. Nor do I need your help designing or interpretating data from said experiment.  If I need the help, I'll ask someone besides you.
  5.  I do not care that your reaction didn't work.  I do not care about the nitty-gritty details of what you are doing, mostly because when the question is reciprocated you cut me off with some ADD tangent. 
  6. Please do not assume that I am a complete idiot. A minor idiot, OK, but treating me as a complete and in how do you get dressed in the morning idiot...I can do without. And, by the way, just because I have a uterus does not mean that "it's my time of the month" because I got pissy with you for being a complete and total jackass.  
  7. Just because I have a uterus does not mean that I care that your kids went to the dentist and have no cavities.  That does not make you a good mother.  Watching your kids run up and down the hallways of the lab screaming like the devil's spawn that they are does not make you a good mother.  bringing them to the lab does not make you a good mother.  Making them sit in front of a computer and play games while you "work" or leaving them at home would maybe, possibly make you a better mother.
  8. Experiments do not always work--they don't.  It happens.  I do not need your help troubleshooting the experiment.  In fact, I really don't even want to talk about it.  I have several ideas as to how to fix things.  I do not need your help, especially since you ahve never, ever done these things before.  Please, also see #6.  
  9. If I am talking on my cell phone it is either (a) really important or (b) Mr. Dr. Zeek trying to figure out what time I am coming home so we can have dinner together.  You do not need to sit in my lab, listen to my conversation and then comment on it after I hang up.  Especially if you have come into my lab to tell me about #5 or #6. 
  10. Please, for the love of God and all things holy, do not tell me that smoking is bad for me.  No shit? Really?  Please get off of your sanctimonious high-horse and stop telling me that everything I am doing is unhealthy, yadda-yadda while you munch on your BigMac, super-sized fries and slurp down your Coke.  I would have to have lived under a rock not to know that smoking is a horrible, awful habit that is not only destroying my health but makes me "unattractive" (yes, that is what was said)  Do I smoke near you?  Around you? No.  You have to smell it on me when you come in my lab?  Then please, don't come in.
  11. Talking to someone while they are pipetting multiple things into a reaction cocktail mix is just cruel.  Continuing to talk after the cry of "Ah, Fuck. I already added that" is just plain mean.  
  12. When I say "I don't care" I really do mean "I don't care".  You will not be able to convince me otherwise.
Today sucked.  Sucked my soul dry.   Tomorrow I just want to shut my door and run some experiments.  It can't be worse than today, right?  I am just so frustrated.  It is bad enough that my enzyme is not behaving, but throw people into it and now things went from bad to unbearable.  It took all my willpower not to go screaming down the hall I don't care! I don't care.  No really. I don't.

I have not had enough "down-time," away from people, conversations, etc.  As much of an extrovert I can be (or at least come off as--those silly tests always told me I was an introvert), most of the time it is forced extrovertisim.  I need time away from people to recharge-otherwise I get like this-where everything and anything pisses me off.....  This weekend Mr. Dr. Zeek and I have no plans, no work, no anything.  We are locking the doors, taking the phone off the hook and not talking to anyone but each other.

EDIT: I just downloaded some Buckcherry, 90's alternative and all around lab rocking music for tomorrow.  It seemed to help a bit.....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

No place like home...

I am home.  The conference was absolutely amazing!  Five days of intense science, schmoozing and incredible sessions really made me get excited about things again. (and completely and totally exhausted) I made some new friends, found some collaborators (although really, there are already 4 of them, do I really need more?), and all in all had a fantastic time.  It was a highly productive meeting.  My poster was well received and I had gotten a few suggestions for experiments which may help clarify things in the end.  I think my liver may be a bit unhappy with me right now, but a few dry days may help that out.

At one point, I was sitting at dinner with Big Boss Man and several of the pioneers in the field.  We were talking about kids and grad school and things like that.  I looked around the table and realized that these are all "normal" (I use the term loosely) people who have normal lives and are just a bit geekier/nerdier then the rest of the general population.  I think I will fit in just fine. 

I think the funniest part of the conference for me was having the image of people in my head completely shattered.  I do believe that there was not one person there that I had "pictured" correctly in my brain.  I am not one of those people who google-stalk someone, so when reading papers I do tend to formulate a picture in my brain of Dr. So-and-so and tend to see them bent over the bench with a gilson in hand.  Yup.  Not one of those images was right.

I have to admit, there were times where I almost had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.  This conference to me was like a bunch of high school girls meeting Zak Effrom or something.  Sitting on the porch in a rocking chair with some of the big names in science, listening to their stories about being in Big Boss Man's lab 20-30 yrs ago was almost surreal.

I am just glad to be home.  Five days is a long time.  It also made me realize how much I need to up my game.  And soon.  Monday, in fact.  Operation take the field by storm is now in effect. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010


The poster is finally done and printed.  It doesn't look half-bad and really, using Illustrator wasn't as mind-numbingly awful bad as I thought it would be.  There were only a few times where I was ready to toss the laptop out the 3rd floor window a tad frustrated.  I just realized, though, that there is a lot of data on the poster.  But it is what it is and no way to change things now.

So, the poster is done, Big Boss Man's talk is finished (and saved on two different thumb drives and on the laptop-just in case) and the realization that we are leaving on Sunday is starting to sink in.  Even though I am only giving a poster, I am still as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  Could be because Big Boss Man has forewarned me that he will lob all questions from his talk to me .

There are a lot of big names in the field that are going to be there-people who are going to review my papers, and someday soon, my grants.  I have to admit that my boss is absolutely fantastic about "putting me out there" and I am looking at this conference as not only a way to see some really cool science, but to network the hell out of people.  They won't know what hit them. 

I am leaving Mr. Dr. Zeek at home for this one (the next conference in January he will be tagging along--more to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather than anything else) and he commented yesterday that this will be the longest that we have been apart since we moved in together almost 6 yrs ago.  Maybe that is adding to my nerves a bit.  That and I hate- no detest- flying.  Not so much the flying, but the taking off and landing is really a problem for me. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The bitch that I am....

Sundays in the lab are my few hours of escape.  I don't come in for a full eight hour day- more like two or three hours-- but it is enough to save me a day or two of frantically running around like a chicken with my head cut off during the week. I usually do a few transformations and some plating, some cleaning, some planning for the week, some catching up in the lab notebook.  Nothing too serious (as in a full day of assays), but enough that I can hit the ground running on Monday morning.

I love Sundays in the lab.  Why, you may ask?  Because it is quiet.  Because no one is here.  Sure, Big Boss Man may pop in to check his e-mail or to work on a grant or something (since he lacks the modern convenience of having the internet at home) and the research scientist who drives me crazy during the week is usually holed-up in her office searching the internet for the latest-greatest ways to rear her spawn-but for the most part I can sneak in, close the lab/office door and work in silence (OK, silence as in no one bothering me--Metallica and Hinder are still playing away on the iPod).  Sundays are my days to recharge.

I can normally play nicey-nice and smile and are helpful and great to talk to, but I harbor a deep, dark secret.  If I don't get some downtime away from people, away from being on my game, I will totally and completely loose my shit.  I need that downtime where I don't have to put in the effort to carry on a conversation with anyone.  I have noticed that if I am severely lacking in that "me time", its a struggle for me to not look at someone and tell them point blank "I don't give a flying fuck." when on a normal day I don't mind hearing about their latest escapades, or the fact that your child is teething or they can go "poopy and pee-pee in the potty" (yes, this is how the 40-year old woman talks to me) or that you can afford to have the windows redone in your house.

Well, folks, it seems that today is not my Sunday.  I came in a few hours ago made the coffee and settled in for a few hour incubation that would leave me free to start working on my poster and such.  The tunes were going, the floor was deserted and Dr. Zeek was happy.  Until the phone rang.  Our new visiting scientist wanted to come in to set-up a column today to save himself some time.  No problem, I can set you up a bit.  That was two hours ago.  Where is the soap?  Where is the gradient maker? Where is this? That?  How is this? How is that? Can you help me set this up?  I don't mind, really--and I am trying not to be a bitch-but I guess I feel like one.  Yes, I will set up the column for you.  Need some tubing? No problem.  Mop for the flood? Sure, here it is...AGGHGHGHGHGHGHHHH...

This, my friends is bad enough.  Then, crazy research scientist comes in and starts telling me how I am setting everything up wrong.  Snide comments about how she wouldn't have done things this way or that way.  The other RS just sat there and watched.  I made it clear that he could do it anyway he wants.  She of course wants to redo the set-up for him- he is perfectly content leaving thigns the way they are since I appear to know what I am doing.  Then the "conversation" begins--and I quickly dart out the door. 

Of course, the conversation between the two of them--of which I have NO involvement in- then moves to my lab.  Not that they don't have their own lab or anything- I just think they couldn't stand the thought of me sitting in my lab by myself on a Sunday, enjoying the solitude.

Now normally, I give two shits and cheerily carry on a conversation. But today, it's hard.  Not even hard-down-right frustrating.  It is Sunday, and I hold my Sundays sacred. 

Looks like my two hours is turning into six since I do have some things I need to get done and now I feel like a bitch.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Poster Virgin...

Things have been crazy here.  Beyond crazy.  Downright chaotic.  Between the wedding (and all the various drama that goes along with standing up as a bridesmaid), the following nearly week-long intercontinental pow-wow with our collaborators here at post-doc university and getting the visiting professor/research scientist up to speed on my project and what he will be doing this summer-I have had little time to breathe, let alone blog.

I finished the initial drafting of the PPT slides for Big Boss Man's upcoming talk at the conference we are going to go to in July and decided to start working on my poster. 

That is when it hit me.  In all of my academic career, I have never, ever had to make a poster.  Ever.  Including undergrad- that's nearly  13 years of advanced education.  I am a poster virgin.

Not that I have never attended a conference before- but I have always opted to give a short talk instead of laboring over the intricacies of PhotoShop and Illustrator (and by now I am a PowerPoint whiz-not that it is that difficult to master).  I like giving talks.  I enjoy standing in front of a crowd and putting my "Dr. Zeek. Woman of Science-" hat on.  Could be that all those years in theater and drama in high school have finally paid off, because not only do I love to give talks, but I am fairly good at it as well.

But today, I must embark on a new adventure, expand my horizons, explore uncharted territory, fumble through vector-based vs. bitmap-based drawings and figures and schemes, much like the kid in the backseat trying to clumsily unhook a bra for the first time. Hopefully, I can avoid all the pitfalls that seem to plague the n00b posters.

May the PhotoShop gods smile kindly on me and, as always, any advice, tips and truly horrific stories are always welcomed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trust me.

After a freak storm this morning (which was impressive to watch from my third-floor lab window) and a two-second (literally, the lights flickered-no computer nor clock reset) power outage, the air compressor and extremely important piece of equipment went out.  Fixed important equipment, fixed air compressor.

Did I mention that the air-con in the building also went out?  Did I also mention that, due to air-flow/circulation in the building, the windows in every lab and office are covered with storm windows screwed into the concrete that cannot be opened?  Did I also mention that an 80 degree lab is more unbearable than the 90 degree weather outside?

Really, it is.  Trust me.

And turning off the fluorescent lights in the lab-while conserving energy-doesn't do much for the overall temperature in the lab.  I would be working from the confines of home right now if the silly bacteria would grow....

Did I also mention that a highly humid lab is not conducive for weighing out LB media?  Really.  Trust me on this one.

Friday, May 14, 2010


The satellite company we have is coming to upgrade our satellite boxes this morning. Not that we couldn't do it, but the logistics of shipping us the new boxes and shipping back the old ones is a nightmare-therefore having them come and install them would be easier.

Or so I thought.

Being the one with a more flexible schedule, I told Mr. Dr. Zeek that I would stay home this morning and wait for them to come.  Running out the door this morning at 7:30, Mr. Dr. Zeek called over his shoulder, "The appointment is for sometime between 8-12."

Wait.  What? A four-hour window?  They cannot narrow it down farther than that?  I am chained to the house, and the phone, for four hr?  And, the really cool thing, if you miss their phone call (they call you as they are leaving their last job), the put you at the end of the cue and go to the next place.  I am afraid to even go to the bathroom right now for fear of missing a phone call or the doorbell ringing.  I wonder if I can pull the four-hour window for meetings with Big Boss Man or my undergrads.  Yep, Big Boss Man, we can meet to talk about very important manuscript tomorrow, say sometime between 12:00 and 4:00.  Just wait for me in your office. 

Somehow I don't think that would go over so well.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A letter to my next-door neighboor...

Dear ass-hat-

Could you please refrain from using any power-tools before, let's say 9:00 am, on a Sunday morning?  Starting your power-sander thing outside my window at 7:30 am on a Sunday morning is not conducive for anything but pissing me the fuck off.  I understand that you are busy and may need to get some stuff around the house done, but seriously dude, WTF?  I was up till 3:30 last night working on some cool ass science, and four hours of sleep is going to make me one cranky mofo.  I mean really, 7:30? On a freaking Sunday.

And, if you were only going to sand-whatever-the-fuck you are for 30 min and then start packing everything up, could you not have waited until a reasonable hour?  Really, douchebag, you never show any fucking common courtesy, I understand that and should expect no less from you, but since I have been sitting on the porch with my coffee for the past 30 min (since, for some silly reason-I couldn't get back to sleep with all the buzzing and the whirring and the general cacophony coming from your backyard) you have talked on the phone, paced around, and not done anything but glare my way.  Thank you for the wonderful wake-up call.  You are right, I had things to do today, so what is an extra hour of sleep anyways, ass-munch.

No love me.

Dear Mr. Dr. Zeek-
Damn you for being able to sleep through a fucking tornado. 
I expect a nice dinner tonight.
You sleep-deprived wife...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

6 minutes (UPDATED)

Supposedly, frantic collaborator will be in my lab in 6 minutes.  We have a ton of data to talk about--let's see how this goes....

UPDATE: So, frantic collaborator just left.  Twas not so terribly bad.  But, I find it amusing when he focuses on a piece of data that I thought was only so-so in importance and blew by my "really cool thing" piece of data.  Ah well, I can't fault him for that.  

Sunday, April 25, 2010

TIme to get down and dirty...

There was an interesting post in the blog sphere a few weeks ago (which I can't seem to find at the moment) about when you know it's time to start writing up a manuscript.  If you have read any of my last blog post, you know that I have been frantically trying to finish data for not one, but two manuscripts which Big Boss Man wants to submit to somewhat impressive (at least in the broad definition of our field journal) back-to-back, which hopefully will be published back-to-back-to-back* with the manuscript from frantic collaborator since all three papers deal with the same enzyme.

Last week I finished** the data for manuscript #2 and have just a few more experiments for manuscript #3 which can easily be finished in the early part of next week.  I have been reading and reading and reading in the down time between experiments and have most of the background/intro already formulated in my brain.

So, how do I know it's time to sit down and write these damn papers?  Because they are all I have been thinking about.  On the bus, in the shower, laying in bed at night, even during conversations over lunch.  When it becomes obsessive and all I can think about, then it is time to purge my brain onto the paper.

One small problem, though, which is keeping me from sitting down with the laptop is that I need to come up with the models, derive the equations and do the data fitting.  Not that I mind, in fact this is one of the reasons why I choose this field.  There is something so elegant and extremely satisfying when your model and therefore the system can be described by simple mathematical equations.  Show me the numbers.  Even so, the task is somewhat daunting and sometimes my intuitive sense for what is going to work does not work.  While frustrating in the beginning and sometimes slow to get going, it is my favorite part of the whole thing.

While I am by no means one of the great writers of the century, I do enjoy writing manuscripts (even though I curse myself and the data and all while doing so.) It is my chance to put my spin on things.  I like hunting through the literature to see if there is any scrap of previously published data that may further support our claims, I love making sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.  Maybe I am a closet masochist.

So, today on this wonderful glorious, rainy cold Sunday, I will embark on the model-making and the equation deriving armed only with a legal pad, a pot of coffee, a pencil, my data and my worn copy of Segel's Rapid equilibrium system.  I hope to make it through relatively unscathed, but I know that tears, frustrations, and such are inevitable.  As long as I can get all this craziness out of my head and onto the paper, though, it is worth it.

*This was something that he (Big Boss Man) and others did in the early days--while frowned upon now, I think that he may have enough pull with the editor's to push this through this way.  It's not that the papers wouldn't stand up on their own, more that they tell three highly intertwined stories, but as one massive paper we are looking at around 30 pages in the journal....

**Finished is a highly relative term- finished in that I can tell the story without resorting to major, major hand-waving--although each experiment brings up several new questions, as some point I have to draw a line for these things-they are already going to be the manuscripts from hell to write--a ton of data with a ton of side-stories, etc.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Interesting choice for a first-round draft pick.

Although, I have to admit that (a) we sorely need an offensive line that will keep Aaron Rodgers off his ass all season and (b) Bulaga already has the Midwest, corn-feed look. God, he is big!

By the way, what is it with the gold/diamond encrusted watches?  Holy shit, I don't think I have ever seen that much bling on anyone. Maybe I should have tried to play football in high school and college.  Oh, wait...that's right...never mind.

Unfortunately I will be missing round 2 and 3 tonight.  Have tickets to go see "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" tonight.  Cannot wait!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An open letter...

An open letter to my frantic collaborator...

I did not realize that writing a, say two-line e-mail, giving a status update on the current project was that difficult.  I am not asking for an in-depth, detailed analysis of the latest super-cool new data, just a quick note so I know that (a) you are getting my e-mail(s) (b) my e-mail(s) has(have) reminded you that I still haven't gotten the new data and (c) you are still actually living and breathing and making some sort of progress.  Far be it from me, a lowly post-doc, to expect a response from you, all revered and venerated 2nd-year professor, and I grovel at your feet to be asking for you for such acknowledgment that you have received my unimportant e-mail.  I cry your pardon as I remind you that two years ago you were in my shoes, in fact you had trained me before ascending to the higher levels of the ivory tower from where you now look down on me as nothing more than a minor nuisance. 

Please remember that, in all truthfulness, one of the few reasons you currently hold an assistant professorship and I am a lowly post-doc is that you are four years older than me and started this whole game sooner.  While I appreciate any scrap of data, attention or praise you throw my way, please refrain from coloring all your statements with derogatory terms and statements directed at me and my boss, who I might add was kind enough to put you as a co-PI on his really big grant which supports the work on the project for which I am begging you send the data from.

If you can find the time in your incredibly busy schedule (what with all the students and exams-the whole 3 of them-you have to mark) and general professorship-like duties, could you just send me an e-mail saying the "data is on its way" or something along those lines so when Big Boss man asks me about it, I (and you) don't look like a bumbling idiot.

The more I hear, the less I am liking you.  After this grant is over, I don't think we will be collaborating again.  How such a silly thing can put such a damper on a former friendship.  But you, dear sir, put that huge divide between us.   

No love-

Rocking out in the lab...

I have been swamped with data and manuscript(s) writing.  So, today I leave you with a song or two-this has been on repeat for the past 20 min in lab.  I forgot how much I absolutely love this band.

Sorry about the commercial in the beginning...but well worth waiting for

And, to end....

I do believe that "Your voice is sweet as salt" is one of the best song lines ever....

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The black hole time suck that is my life...

Still alive, just busting ass...

The "Black-Hole Time Suck" (also known as PowerPoint) nearly killed me last week as I frantically put together slides for my boss's upcoming talk (which I have absolutely no qualms doing since it, in turn, gave me an "updated" talk ready to go in a few minutes notice).

The recent conversation with collaborator nearby made me realize that the two manuscripts I promised to have done by the end of the month (at least in rough draft form) are no way near being ready and there are still some major gaps in the story.  I think I know what is going on, but convincing god damn reviewer #3 may be an issue. Although, discussing things yesterday, it looks like he wants to add two new variants to the data set we already have (which means at least 3 weeks before we get any usable data from them and another week to analyze/incorporate them into the story-so I may be able to by myself an extra week or two for writing).

It never ceases to amaze me as to how busy I always seem to be in the Spring, when the weather in post-doc city is gorgeous and being cooped up in the lab all day long is sometimes unbearable.  It is like all the planets align and there are manuscripts to finish, datum to analyze and conferences to prepare for.  All at once.  Not in winter, not in summer. Just Spring.  And I am not even teaching--although my two undergrad minions are in the lab.  Which, by the way, have to be the most productive and helpful undergrads I have ever had.  They both worked on the same project, one starting things on one day and the other picking off where she left off the next day.  They greatly exceeded expectations and generated a lot more stuff that I am going to need to finish off paper number three.  I have never really "trusted" the undergrads (in general) enough to give them parts of my project that I was eventually going to use.  It is extremely hard for me to give up control like that, but it is something that I have to learn to do if I ever am going to be a PI and trust the data generated by my grad student minions. I have to tell you, having them do so well this semester has helped a lot with my control issues. I have offered both of them first dibs on the "open" spots to work with me next semester, and I know for sure one of them is taking me up on that offer. 

Research scientist is still a twat, and in the past two days has managed to piss me off, insult me and trash me in front of big boss man more times than I can count.  I watch the clock, waiting for 2:30 when she leaves.  There is a longer, ranty-blog post in there somewhere, I just don't have the time to write it right now.  But, let me just say that goading me into commenting about her spawn(s) latest predicaments does not give her the right to dismiss what I said with the catch-all "What do you know, you have no kids.  Although, I am sure you will change your mind on that..."

So, all-in-all still alive, just turning out some awesome data, smiling a lot and putting out a few fires here and there. Unfortunately, I just finished reading "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"--Oh my god, absolutely amazing book, and I hear the second in the series calling me from my nightstand even as I write this post. Is it summer yet?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ah crap.

I had an idea brewing for two blog posts.  One completely about science (and some really cool science) and one about relationships among collaborators and what should be the minimum expectations from all in the group.  Then Big boss man came in with registration and travel info and then I got an e-mail from my comrade in arms in collaborators lab and now I am too pissy to even think about writing either post without it turning into a whiny, ranty piece of garbage.  So instead, I will go ponder some data, reread the incredibly cool paper I was going to talk about before and maybe, just maybe work from home the rest of the afternoon.  Seriously, why do people have to suck so bad?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

UPDATED:FFS...I think I lost my mojo

Seriously, either my shit didn't work today or someone was joking with me and decided to piss in my reaction mixture.  It should not be this yellow, should it?  WTF?  I would not be so pissed off if (a) I hadn't done this a million times before (b) I hadn't spent 4 months troubleshooting a problem with this stuff that wasn't a "problem" on my end and (c) I need these next few MFP preps to work since I have a very big conference deadline looming in the horizon and Big Boss Man is talking about this shit, so I need data! Pronto!

I won't know until late tomorrow if things really crapped out or if it just worked so extremely well that this is "normal" and I have never seen it before.  Dammit.  Now I am going to be mulling all this over instead of enjoying the basketball game tonight. I have been looking forward to the game, a beer (mmmm, Leinekugel's Creamy Dark), pizza and hot wings, and some trash talking to my Dad (my alma mater vs. his hometown team) all day now.  

Seriously, where did my mojo go?  Do I have to start dancing around the equipment and make sacrifices to the biochemistry gods?  This is just getting ridiculous....


The beer was awesome, the pizza even better and the game, while incredibly well-played and exciting to watch did not have the outcome I wanted (one point? one point down with 2 sec left...come on? seriously???). 

As for the lab mojo-- all that worrying for freaking NOTHING!  Just checked some things and everything is behaving as it should.  Maybe it was just that damn impostor syndrome rearing its ugly head? (and I think I know what happened the last time-I can be such a dumb ass and this just confirmed it) Anyways, it is a good way to end the week.  And puts me in a great mood for the start of "week from hell" on Sunday.  I may just go to the coffee shop this afternoon and plan experiments/read papers since I was convinced I would have to spend the day troubleshooting.   

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Design and implement

I popped my head into Big Boss Man's office this afternoon to comment quickly on an e-mail he had sent me about some equipment her on campus.  I knew I shouldn't have casually mentioned that I had heard back from one of the collaborator's from far away about a question we had about MFP (Big Boss Man is all about shooting off a quick e-mail rather than pouring through the stacks of literature if, as he puts it, we are collaborating and they use a chunk of our grant money). 

An hour and a half later, we have come up with a whole slew of new experiments that, if I do say so myself, are a fairly clever and extremely novel (no one, in the past 60 yrs of research on MFP have done this) way to get some hard-core answers.  While I am excited about these experiments and trying to get them to work, right now I am more excited in that I contributed a lot to not just the idea of doing these things, but also to their design and importance. 

While he and I "talked" our way through the ins-and outs, for one of the first times, I really felt like I was discussing things with my boss, rather than he telling me what to do.  Even when we were talking about what this would eventually tell us (both negative and positive results will tell us something), I could see where his reasoning was going and, like I said, helped put my spin on more than a few things.  I left feeling like this is one of those rare moments where we were on the same page.

I always leave his office with way more things to do than humanly possible, but today he made the comment about "Every time you come in here, I think of more things to do and this (these-since now its officially two papers) are going to turn into monsters..." Hahaha at least he realizes.....But tonight, I am going to enjoy the high and begin the nitty-gritty design and implementation tomorrow.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I survived...

I survived this year's "Girl's weekend"-- the third annual descent of all of Mr. Dr Zeek's female relatives (and when I say all, this includes his 85-yr old great aunt, mom, aunts, and various cousins-about 20 in all) to post-doc city for a weekend of drunken debauchery.  While I do believe my liver is still recuperating, I am finally completely re-hydrated and the blisters on my feet from the 1-mile liquor "run" in ill-fitting plastic (but oh-so-cute) flip-flops are feeling much better today.  My stomach is still killing me from laughing so hard, and I do believe that dancing at midnight to "Thiller" may have burned a few of the calories I consumed all night.

But I think the most amazing thing is looking back to the stories we shared, the laughs we had and the amazing strength of these women.  Mr. Dr Zeek's family is very matriarchal and yet it never ceases to amaze me as to how strong, how together, how amazing these women all are.  While our careers are as diverse as our personalities (two dentists, a lawyer, financial consultants, architects, several nurses, an engineer and several stay-at-home moms and I am missing people too)we all managed to put up with the crap, to come out better, to come out stronger, to be sweet and loving and to kick major ass when we need to.  These women have seen and experienced death and divorce and affairs and poverty and abuse and the pain of losing children before their time, and yet they all seem to come out stronger.  It just amazes me (and is soooo difficult to put into words) as to how awesome these women are and to how incredible they all are.  I am just honored to be in their company. 

So, while my liver seems to be functioning at normal capacity, my sleep quota for the weekend is severely deficient, something I must take care of tonight.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Maybe this isn't the best idea....

So, in a fit of procrastination (actually, I am working from home this afternoon-after a long talk with big boss man yesterday, we decided to write two manuscripts with all the data I have instead of just one-- so here I sit trying to revamp the story I was going to tell...) anyways, I digress.

Let's start this again.  I decided to peruse the NIH website looking for info on K99 awards and whatnot.  That is when I made the fatal error of looking at the application material.  I have seen how the specific aims/design and methods sections/etc. sections should look. Hell, I even wrote my own for my NRSA fellowship and "helped" (wrote) with the co-PI in writing for the RO1 grant we have.

I was not expecting to see the budgetary part.  Never have seen it, don't know if I want to again.  Scared the shit out of me, come to think of it.  I don't know how much money I am going to need.  I don't have the slightest clue how to budget for consumables and equipment and salaries and ...holy shit.  I think this was one big huge rude awakening.  I thought I was ahead, I thought I had things down.  I thought, I am awesome, I do cool science, they'll decide how much money and just give it to me.  I didn't realize that I had to break things down, justify things (OK, I did--I am not a total dumbass--but seeing it in black-and-white freaked the hell out of me). 

I thought, no big deal, I can do this PI thing (well, OK, not "no big deal" but at least I have been exposed to it) but it just kind of hit me how behind the eight ball I am when it comes to this.  I kind of feel like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo when he would sit there and say how bad of an idea this might be.  Can you already feel in over your head when you haven't even stepped in the pool yet....or maybe I am just freaking myself out and trying to run before I can even stand. (Hmmm, what other cheesy-ass cliche can I throw in here...again, with the digressions--focus, damnit, focus!)

How rude would it be to ask Big boss man if I could see our budgetary things?  Or maybe the former post-doc turned TT faculty if I could see his start-up budget list (since we are doing essentially the same things).  Maybe I am not as cut out for this as I thought.  I can do the science.  I can come up with the big ideas, I can mentor, but being an accountant, a manager, a budgetary guru...damn, maybe I should go back and get a degree in finance. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010


While quite possibly a placebo effect, I woke up this morning feeling better than I have in months.  The hard-core three times a week Vit D supplement plus the double-dosage of over-the-counter calcium/Vit D supplement is starting to work its magic, or again I could just be imagining everything.  Of course, the sun, the 40-degree weather and melting snow may have had a teny-tiny little bit to do with how good I am feeling right now. 

But, in all honesty, I didn't realize just how shitty I really felt until I started feeling better.  How ass backwards is that?

Either way, placebo or drugs- bring it on.  I have piles of data and table upon table to go through and make, sequencing data to analyze,  two-intensive protein preps and a "girl's weekend" here in post-doc city with all of the females in Mr. Dr Zeek's entire family that all need to be attended to and finished in this upcoming week.  There is no time for being tired.

Thank god I am feeling better, I just hope it's the real deal. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


So, everything normal except for vitamin D.  Looks like I have a greater than normal vitamin D deficiency that is causing all my symptoms.  Let's see if the supplement works (and mind you, tis a great load off my mind....)

And the results are in....

My health care provider has this awesome little thing where you can look up your test-results etc. online.  While this may not be the best thing in the world, the curiosity and waiting was killing me.  So, last night I glanced to see if my blood tests were up (remember, my Dr. in her awesome and infinite wisdom-ordered a whole battery of metabolic, iron and other tests).

And the results?  Nothing out of the norm.  No glaringly obvious levels of anything that could be causing all of my symptoms.  Sure, some of the numbers are on the high side of normal, as in extremely close to being out of the "normal" range, but seriously, there seems (at least in my uneducated view) to be nothing wrong.  I am not sure how I feel about looking at the test results, though, without having an educated idea of what's going on with them.  I mean, really, any Joe Schmoo could look up their results, google things on the internet about the test and self-diagnose.  I wonder if they put the results for the really hard-core tests on there as well-like if the tumor biopsy is malignant or not.  I mean, wouldn't you rather hear what's going on from the doctor rather than seeing the cold hard numbers on a computer screen? 

Maybe that is why this isn't such a good idea--looking at the test results without actually knowing what I am doing. 

So, it looks like I am a lazy hypochondriac who just needs to get off my ass and suck it up.  Not that I am bummed that there is nothing wrong with me, I just want to stop feeling like shit and get on with my life, like I was 2 months ago.  Right now, I feel like a loser (not that, again, I wanted something to be wrong with me, but I want to know why I feel like crap!)

The actual Dr. appointment is in an hour.  Maybe she has some other ideas. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Exploiting my undergrads...

I have two undergrads working with me this semester.  Both are returning, one is doing this for credit, one for the "experience."  I have them both working on a subset of my bigger project (basically the rudimentary molecular biology) and it works nicely since they come in on different, but consecutive days, so the one can finish up what the other started. 

The problem, well OK, not problem, but the issue is that a lot of the stuff they do is "hurry-up-and-wait" type of experiments.  Set up the PCR, wait three hours, add some water and go home.  I have told them that they can sit in the lab and do homework and things like that (as long as they can stomach/don't complain about the music--I cannot work in complete and utter silence-my brain doesn't function that way). 

Last semester and in the semesters before I have prided myself on not pawning off menial tasks to my undergrads, as in doing my dishes, racking boxes of tips I have gone through, making up some stock buffers.  And then, it came to me, that doing some of these things is part of the whole lab "experience."  There are days that I have to do all the catch-up work (autoclaving kill bags, pouring plates, making buffers and media, etc.) on the things that I use.  Since I am extremely lucky to be the only one doing what I do in my lab group of 3, I am the only one who uses the media, buffers, etc. so if something is out, it is my fault and I need to make it.

I was even a little shocked a year back when one of our former students was making his undergrad rack tip box after tip box or make buffers for him while he was sitting on his ass, stuffing his face with chips and watching TV on Hulu.  It pissed me off, actually, since he was a lazy bastard and then had the balls to complain about (a) how is undergrad never takes it upon himself to do these things without him telling him to and (b) how his undergrad keeps screwing up buffers, etc.

But, I guess I look at having the undergrads in the lab a little different now.  I want them to maybe not "master" the techniques that we use, but get more of a general academic research lab background.  Things like knowing how to make media, or do a mini-prep or run a Ni2+-column.  Things that will help them if they go to grad school or are a tech or anything along those lines.  And, I guess part of that is just lab up-keep.  I realized yesterday and today that having my undergrads make up the 20 L growth culture, or racking tips or making media is not exploiting them at all, and in fact rather than doing homework, they wanted to do all the putzy shit in the lab that I have let fall to the wayside (I do that sometimes--get wrapped up in the data, forget to do everything else).  It's not exploiting them if they are willing, is it? I will have to admit, though, I haven't made them do my dishes yet.  I have a hard enough time getting them to do their own....

Thursday, February 25, 2010


The vampire phlebotomist took the necessary vials of blood for preliminary tests before the big Dr. appointment next week.  Seriously, 6 vials.  Thank god my doctor is awesome and is testing for a myriad of things, rather than just chalking this up to smoking, or the weather or me being crazy.  My arm is killing me, though, and I am now sporting a large purple bruise.  Good thing I love the color purple.

Going to work from home for the rest of the day, it just seems like my concentration is next to nothing lately.  Maybe the change of scenery will help.

Monday, February 22, 2010

To post-doc or not to post-doc....

Two posts in one day, can you tell I am putting off looking at the monstrous data sets I ahve?  Phdamned (who I absolutely love and  reminds me so much of myself just a few years ago) posed a list of questions about being a post-doc and, I have to tell you, this post has been stewing in my mind since she posted it.  Tonight is a good night for me to finally sit down and do this since it's a good reminder to myself as to why I am doing this all (can you also tell I am in a bit of a funk with the data and the feeling like crap). So, here goes. 

 Why did you decide to do a postdoc? 
There is a few reasons why I decided to do a post-doc.  The first is that someday I want to run my own lab.  I want to be able to come up with the big ideas, to study what I find fascinating, to ask the questions that I have always wanted the answers to.  In my field, there is no way to do this without having a post-doc.  I want to have a lab of grad students/undergrads/scientists who I can inspire and get excited about science.  I do love talking about it, about the data, about the puzzles, figuring things out and I want to share that.   I also knew that the work I did in grad school was ok, there was no way on god's green earth that I would spend the rest of my life working on what I did.  I wanted to go into a more biologically related field, rather than doing chemistry for the sake of doing chemistry.  The only way I could do that was to find a lab that was doing the type of research I wanted to do (even only marginally related to what I did) and hoped that they saw enough potential in me to hire me on.  But in all honesty, I couldn't see myself doing anything else.  There was no way I was ready to run a lab or do anything along those lines without doing more/training more.
What do you think the primary purpose of a postdoc is in terms of research? 
Personally, I look at it as a chance to learn as much as I can about everything I can.  Ohhh, scientist A is running technique I have never seen before, can I watch?  Its a time to learn how to think as an independent scientist, not as a yes-man.  Its a time to make the leap from doing what your PI tells you to do to  thinking like a PI.  To look at doing experiments from the point of telling a story, filling the holes, rather than just getting the data out.  Of course, getting as many papers out (first-author in good journals) is the most important part, but I think all of the other stuff goes along with that.  
A non-research thing, but somewhat related--get your name out there.  Go to conferences, present posters, introduce yourself to others after talks, schmooze a bit, talk to everyone you can.  These are the poeple who are going to be reviewing your papers and eventually your grants and future collaborator's (or competitors).  While your science needs to stand on its own merit, having people know who you are does help. 
 How did you go about contacting potential postdoc PIs? 
It was about 12 months before I was "ready" to graduate when I hit the internet and started looking for possible post-doc labs.  I found a bunch (about 30 in all) and started writing cover letters/CV's for each lab, highlighting how my previous experiences in grad school would fit really well into what they were doing in an unrelated field.  I sent out a cover letter, CV and copy of my latest published manuscript in the mail (yes, in the mail...there is something to me about sending something like this in the mail--maybe I felt like I was putting in the extra effort? I don't know...I could be wrong).  and waited.  and waited.  I heard back from about 15 of the PIs, most saying they weren't sure about the funding and had two solid offers.  The day I was going to accept the offer in lab far away, I found out that the top PI (the one who I worked for now) had called my reference and wanted to set up an interview.  Although, interview was somewhat of a loose term.  I went out there, met the lab members, talked about the project he would put me on if I was to come here, and then offered me the job.  I was elated!  So, 30 unsolicited applications, two solid offers.
 Does the name of the PI or the university have more impact on your future (or do neither since your publication record will speak for its-self)?
For me, it's both.  My PI is a big name in the field, which means I get introduced to all his contacts.  The university I am at is great, which I think really helped with getting the NRSA fellowship.  Really, though, int he end, I think its 6 of one and half a dozen of the other.  The more people your PI knows and is willing to introduce you too (which is KEY to the whole thing) and the better off his reputation is, the better off I think you are when you apply for the next job.

For the PIs, what do you look for in a postdoc?
  Just need to add what the big boss man told me once.  He took me on because I was willing to learn, work hard and had a great reference.  Nevermind the fact that I was swtiching to a field  that was completely on the opposite end of the spectrum from what I did in grad school.  He saw soemone who was trained to think like a scientist and new that I could learn the basics later.
So, the pregnant thing I can't help with, since I never have been nor never will be.  But I will tell you this.  While being a post-doc has its ups and downs, and while people always will complain about not getting paid enough for what we do or for how much training we already have, I have learned more, seen more, done more and have had my name recognized more in the past two years than in my entire grad school career.  And, ont op of that, I get to come in and do some hot science everyday and figure out the answers one step at a time.  DOing a post-doc where I am and with my PI was the best decision (OK, second best---saying "yes" to Mr Dr Zeek when he was on one knee was the first best decision) in my life.  But, I guess the best advice I have is to just go balls-to-the wall and do it. 

Coaxing out the right answers...

I have been toiling away at what should be some simple assays which should, in theory, give some simple answers to basic questions about my favorite protein. 

Alas, the "simple" solutions are definitely not the right ones.  There is some crazy things going on, all of which are completely plausible, its just not as simple as my boss or I thought it would be.  I like the complications, the multiple variables, the intricate puzzle.  In a way, it just seems to ascribe even more awe to the well-oiled machine designed by nature to carry out several simple tasks in the cells.  Humbling, really.

The answers are all there, I just need to ask the right questions. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Maybe it's time...

I have come to the realization that I need to go to the doctor.  I am not depressed, it is not the weather, I am not pregnant, and I have been eating healthy (just to put that out of the way).  I know I am  older than I was in grad school and undergrad, but really, that shouldn't account for the extreme fatigue (sometimes, I can barely find the energy to get up and out of the chair) and just general feeling of crappiness I have had for the past few months.  Yes, I am stressed out, but it's the low level stress-- no severe anxiety, nothing like that.  I push through the tiredness, and my work is not suffering, but seriously I come home from the lab and want nothing more than to not move from the couch.  I sleep 9 hrs a night (I know, but I cannot function on less lately--I used to be able to function on 6 in grad school) and wake up and could still sleep more.  No appetite, I eat only to stop the dizziness/light-headedness that I feel every 3 or 4 hours (which goes away when I eat something).  And its not being dehydrated, I drink 2-3 liter bottles of water a day (just at work, mind you...I always have water around-- always somewhat dry-- but that could be from the smoking).  This has been going on for at least 6-8 months, but has been getting worse, or at least more noticeable, in the last 2 months or so.  And nothing has changed in the past two months.  I just hate feeling like crap.  And I am almost worried that going into the Dr. they won't find anything wrong and its just something that I have to deal with (mainly that I am a lazy hypochondriac)...maybe I will just bite the bullet and make an appointment today.  After I take a nap. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Varying degrees of suckage....

Things in the lab had not been going well for Dr. Zeek lately.

For the past four months, I have been troubleshooting, working, reworking and trying to optimize something that had previously worked beautifully.  Granted, I had swapped out a teeny-tiny part of the whole for a new and improved part of the whole. The new piece would ultimately be more efficient, cheaper and overall, would make my life much easier. Or, so I was guaranteed by my collaborator.

When the troubles started, I immediately called up Dr. Collaborator and was assured that there were no problems with the piece in his lab whatsoever.  Nope. None. Nadda.  Things were fantastic with the new piece.  Hmmmm....

Wondering why I sucked so bad, I began to systematically change everything and anything that I could think of which would have some effect on the piece of the whole.  Buffers, columns, resins, time, temperatures, the super-secret voodoo dance.  I was ready to start sacrificing bacterial cultures to the molecular biology gods, thinking somehow I had pissed them off.  While the whole was technically working with the new piece, it was working at only 10 % of what I had before.  "Isn't that good enough?" asked Dr. Collaborator.

No, it wasn't.  Not when I knew it was capable of being so much better.  Not when I knew what this thing could do.  Not when I had already tasted the sweat success.  So I kept plodding along, tearing out my hair, dragging myself to the lab and wondering, still, why I sucked so goddamn bad.

That was, until I saw the "internal memo" from a friend.  Seems Dr. Collaborator had mentioned that they (as in my friend and the rest of those she trains in that lab) should switch back to the old piece since...da-da-dum! the new piece wasn't so hot after all.

Not going to lie, I died a little inside when I realized that because I trusted what he was saying, because I put so much stock in what he was saying, because I doubt every single thing that I do before I even begin to question someone else's work, because I am a moron, I lost four months of time and countless hours of sleep, and gained not only several gray hairs from the worry and stress but also renewed that horrible feeling of suckage that I thought I would never feel, or at least feel as strongly, once I left grad school.  But that, in the great grand scheme of things, isn't the worst.  I lost so much confidence in what I was doing, in what I have and can do in this lab that I was seriously questioning all the other data, papers and everything else I had done from day one.  That, to me is the worst.  I already have a case of impostor syndrome, I don't need someone else adding to it by not giving me all the information.

But tonight, looking at the data from the last two days, things are back to normal.  Things are back to where they were four months ago, when I had optimized all this stuff before.  So, all in all I am feeling fantastic.  Its not like I have made any great strides, its not that I have data to submit in a manuscript (because really all of this is just a means to an end), but I am back in business.  And, I am realizing I am not as dumb as I think I am.  That is why I am in a great mood tonight.  And why I poured myself a whiskey and Pepsi (yes, I said Pepsi because folks, Throwback Pepsi made with real sugar is like liquid crack--now if they would only bring Crystal Pepsi back...Oh mylanta), and why I am letting myself sleep in an extra hour tomorrow morning.  Because while I usually do suck, I just don't suck as bad as I thought.  I think.  Maybe.  We'll see.  Sometimes, you have to realize that it may not be you screwing up, that other people are just as likely to fuck up as you are.  I think, for the first time in four months, I will sleep good tonight.  Things may start looking up soon.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cylons and toasters and caprica oh my...

Ok, so it's not Battlestar Galactica , but Caprica  may help fill that void on Friday nights when only sci-fi geekiness, toasters, cylons and intergalactic romance will do. And, is it just me, or does alessandra torresani remind you of Zooey Deschanel?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Breathe in, breathe out...

Took a CPR class today (with the associated AED training).  Glad I did.  Not that I ever want to have to use it, but I feel prepared now.  Good thing since my PI just turned 80 last week. 

I still don't understand how giving someone mouth-to-mouth will help them get oxygen, though.  Isn't our exhilations mostly CO2?

Anyways, I have additional blog fodder which ties into yesterday's rant (once again, I go for months with no issues--although this may not be gender related) but I am too tired right now.  Doing a whole bunch of chest compressions did a number on me today.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Car repair and gender relations 101

For the most part, I don’t have to deal with the fact that I am a female in a male-dominated field, meaning it’s not thrown in my face at every, single turn. There is an underlying anxiety I have when I am giving a presentation to a mostly male audience, though. I wonder if my science will be taken seriously because I am a woman, or if they are staring at my slides or at my somewhat ample bosom. Do I look too “girlie” and therefore cannot be taken seriously? I know, I know, it may be a tad extreme, but it’s something that runs through my head all the time when I first get up there, but then the coolness of my science, the awesome data and the really cool story I have to tell takes over and all those thoughts fly out of my head.

Yes, I have had my run-ins with blatant sexism in both graduate school and in my post-doc. My friend accused me once, of playing the “sweet, innocent girl” routine when I was asking my boss something. I do, occasionally catch myself doing that as well. Not so much as being the “poor, helpless female” but being a little more sugary than normal. There are also rare occasions when the bitch mode comes out in front of my boss as well. And for that, I have earned the “feisty” title from my boss.

Still, sometimes the blatant disregard or dismissal by a male because I am a “girl and don’t know anything about [insert “manly” subject here]” still takes me by surprise. Today, for example. My little POS car has not started for about two weeks now. With the extreme artic temperatures, wind and snow, it comes as no surprise. Mr. Dr Zeek and I decided to try starting it one more time, since, for the first time in about ten days, it has been sunny and above freezing. Of course, we tried to start the car, threw our hands in the air and decided to call the towing company to get the car towed to the mechanic.

The roadside assistance showed up and asked for our membership card. Since I made the call, I handed mine over (which, by the way, does carry the Dr. title- one of the few pieces of identification that I have that does). He read it, gave me the once over, and proceeded to ask Mr. Dr Zeek if he could try starting the car. OK, no big deal. Even though it’s technically my car (actually, all of our cars are in my name so they are all mine) Mr. Dr Zeek and I make the decisions together. Once he got our car started with the mega-super battery booster (which I now want one of), he proceeded to explain to Mr. Dr. Zeek what he thought was wrong with the car. When I chimed in a few times, he answered/retorted to what I said while still directly staring at Mr. Dr. Zeek! Not once did he address me, not once did he even acknowledge my existence. I could have danced the Macarena around him and he would not have noticed what I was saying. Of course, I thought, I am “just a girl” there is no way that I know what a carburetor is. And, when I pointed out the Mr. Dr. Zeek was mistaken, that my car indeed have fuel-injectors instead of a carburetor, the man looked at him and blatantly repeated what I just said, stood in front of me, and continued to show Mr. Dr. Zeek things under the hood while blocking my view, nearly pushing me out of the way. It was so unbelievably infuriating!

He finally left and we drove the car to the mechanic. On the ride back, I asked Mr. Dr. Zeek if he caught the whole exchange. “What, honey? That you are (sarcasm by Mr. Dr. Zeek inserted here) just a girl and don’t know anything? That I am the “man” of the house who can’t even get the car started?” He grinned a bit, knowing that things like this piss me off. “At least, in this douche bag eyes, honey” Mr. Dr. Zeek continues on “you have an excuse since you are just a silly girl. I, on the other hand looked like a bigger ass since I was the man who didn’t know any better…” Unfortunately, while Mr. Dr. Zeek was trying to make me feel better, he really didn’t do a good job. Just because I wear make-up, tweeze my eyebrows and take a half-an-hour to get ready in the mornings does not mean I am automatically mechanically deficient and stupid when it comes to cars. Granted, I can’t change a spark plug, but I can change a flat tire and my own oil.

It just pissed me off today. It's one of those things that has a tendency to rear its ugly head every once and awhile. For me, it’s (sexism, blatant dismissal just because I am a woman, whatever you want to call it) not something that is always in the fore-front of my mind, but rather, has a tendency to sneak up and slap my in the face. Maybe I am blowing it out of proportion, but I hate feeling like “I’m just a girl” like its not enough, like it’s a bad thing, like I am incompetent at everything except cooking, cleaning and bearing children. Maybe I will take a basic auto-repair class over the summer.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Being a student again....

I am auditing a class this coming semester. I know, I know, but part of the fun of being a post-doc is the training. That and I am hoping to look at this from a soon-to-be professor point of view. How the classes are organized, what's important, is there any material/antecedents/jokes I can pilfer for later use, etc. (Hey, I am still learning the ins-and-outs of the field-give me a break). Anyways, I decided that, since classes start next Tues, I would start perusing the first chapter, maybe take some notes, read a few papers, and broaden my horizons.

I have not "studied" since the first few years of grad school (so, let's say 4-5 yrs ago), and I am sorely out of practice. And I think my attention span has greatly diminished. How is it that I used to be able to sit for hours, actively studying and learning, at time and now I can barely get through a paragraph without being distract….oh, look shiny things....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hmmm, does it do that everytime?

This is how I feel today.  Rerunning some experiments from the other day, trying to figure out if this thing really happens everytime or if it was a fluke.  Wash, rinse, repeat. 

Sometimes, I feel like I am just banging my head against the wall when the answer is right there in front of my face. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Over do it much?

Worked out this morning for the first time in awhile.  (Medication for my migranes had zapped every ounce of energy I had--better now).

I digress.  Let me start again.  Worked out this morning for the first time in awhile.  Cannot lift my arms above my head and even keeping upright to type this post is a chore.  I was fine until about 4:00 or 4:30 this afternoon, then, like a ton of bricks, tired, exhausted and oh so sore.  But a good sore. 

Friday, January 1, 2010

what the hell am I supposed to do?

I agreed to stand up in Mr. Dr Zeek's cousin's wedding 6 months ago. While not extremely close (i.e. we don't sit up at night sharing girly secrets-but she is a chemistry nerd too and we have bonded over the years-- bonded, ha-ha that was funny) I really like her and was extremely honored to be asked to stand up in the wedding.

The wedding is this June and the dresses, shoes, and various sundries have already come in. I am fully committed to this wedding.

And then, last night it hit me. My little (and only) sister is graduating from High school this year. Class of 2010. Anyone see the problem yet? Let me fill you in. Graduation's are generally in June. Second week in June. As in the second week of this coming June.

In a shear panic, I called my mom this morning and confirmed that the wedding and the graduation are on the same date, an hour apart. Wedding at 1:00 and graduation at 2:00, about 90 miles away. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

My mom suggests I bail on the wedding (of course). Mr. Dr Zeek thinks I can't bail on the wedding (only because I am standing up in it....if we were just guests, we would have completely skipped the wedding or showed up late or whatever and been front and center at graduation....). I have yet to talk to my sister.

Anyone figure out how to clone someone so I can be in two places at once?

What a way to start the New Year.