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....