Saturday, December 31, 2011

Random Encounters

New Year's Eve always holds a special place in my heart.  Not because of the parties, the ball droppings and the copious amount of liquor.  Mostly, it is because Mr. Dr. Zeek and I met in a random bar that we both frequented, but never on New Year's Eve.  In fact, he was planning on staying home and I was planning on heading to a different locale that evening. 

Fate, chance, randomness whatever you call it, threw us together that evening, sharing an ashtray, and later a shot or two, laughs and stories, at a fairly crowded bar.  Since that night nine years ago, I have always had this mysterious, almost reverent respect for the things that can randomly happen on New Year's Eve.  That being said, Mr. Dr. Zeek and I usually stay home, buy a bottle of cheap champagne (and some OJ for the next morning), order a pizza and watch a movie togehter.  We are both past the point in our lives where we feel the need to go out, get sloshed and barely remember the evening.

Even so,  I can't help get that feeling that something "magical" and big is going to happen this year.  And soon.  Maybe today I am feeling optimistic about the TT- applications I sent out.  Maybe it's the week I have taken off from lab work and the anticipation of planning out experiments that "are bound to work" (famous lat words-I know) next week.  Maybe it's just having too much sleep and my body copes with it the same way most people cope with too little sleep and I am hallucinating.

Whatever it is, I'm kind of digging it right now.  So, I'll keep enjoying my coffee, pound away a bit on the grant and then get into comfy pjs and enjoy an evening with Mr. Dr. Zeek.

May all of you enjoy New Year's Eve (safely) however you choose to celebrate and may all your random moments and encounters turn out to be everything you hope them to be. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I do believe that there is a special circle of hell reserved for the people who incessantly talk to you while you are trying to pipette 2 uL of ten different components into eight PCR tubes.  An even deeper level of hell exists for those who are talking about numbers while you are trying to keep track of which tubes you added things into by mentally counting how many times you have added the PCR buffer mix to the different tubes.

I also believe that there is a small place inside this circle for those who feel it necessary to not only prattle on but also look over your shoulder while trying to load said PCR reactions onto an agarose gel and comment on your technique.  Especially when said cretins have never poured or run a gel in their lives.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Did some "reliable" experiments today.  Reliable as in I know what I am doing and how to troubleshoot and fix anything weird that shows up in the assays.

Prior to today, I had been designing and doing experiments that I was not entirely comfortable with.  I understood the theory behind these experiments, knew what I needed to do but, never having gotten my hands truly dirty by actually doing the harder part of there experiments, I stumbled along the way. 

My psyche needed a day like today.  A day where I am confident in the results.  A day that yielded some usable and interesting data.  A day that allows me to cross something off my list that has been looming over my head for awhile.

Not only did today help the ego, but the results from said experiments are really quite cool.  Sometimes I find myself having to intersperse days like today with the "head beating against the desk" type of days or experiments just so I don't feel like a total and complete hack.  Although, sometimes it backfires and the simple assays and tried-and-true experiments do not behave at all. Those are the days my boss usually walks into the lab only to find me swearing up a storm or caressing the instruments in hopes they respond to that better than my threats of violence.  Those are also the days I  cut out early and hit the bottle of Beam at home and try again the next day.

Semi-happy news on the job front probably helped my mood a bit.  Well, OK, so still no word.  But I heard from a reliable source today that one of the places where I would really like to interview at is still going through the applications.  In my slightly optimistic mood, this means that I have not heard anything from them, not because I suck, but because they are still sifting through the pile.  So all may not be lost.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


It has been nearly two months since I submitted my TT-applications to a fairly (in my mind) significant amount of schools.  Most of the schools had deadlines between Oct 15 and Nov 1st. Two schools had application due dates of Dec 1st, so I understand not hearing anything more than "thank you, we have recived your application" from them. 

But what about the other 25 schools?  Well, I have heard from one. One. That's it.  Just one.

Granted, it was a good phone call ("you have made it past our initial round of applicant screening, we would like you to have your references send us letters and phone interviews will be in early Jan"-so YAY!").

Other than that, I have heard nothing.  No rejections.  No interviews. No phone calls.  Nothing.  Is it too early to start panicking?

In order to quell my rising panic and motivate my ass in the lab (so, in case nothing comes through I can at least get some more papers out the door) I was hunting on youtube and iTunes for some new music last night.  I stumbled across this gem of a band.  They make me happy.  Very very happy.

And, a somewhat more "ballad" type song...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seemingly radom oscillations

I started putting together my job apps today (yes, later than I expected, but getting those papers out will surely be worth it when it comes to interview time).  Anyway. I have been oscillating all day between "I can so do this. They'd be silly not to interview me" to "What the fuck am I thinking?  There is no way anyone will consider hiring, let alone interviewing, me." 

I cannot tell you what triggers these manic swings of emotions, only that the low end of the oscillation seems to be directly proportional to the lack of hot coffee in my mug.  Maybe there is a postive correlation between caffeeine consumption and the improvement of ones self-image.  Hmmm.  I wonder if I could put that in my research proposal.  I could then justifiy buying a fancy-smancy espresso maker and the super good coffee.  Maybe even some poop coffee

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Things I hate...

Well, OK, right  now let's change that to the thing I hate.  Writing progress reports.  I hate writing progress reports.  I have added the pub list, I have the "sections" and now need to fill in all the "blah-blah" space fillers with honest to god text.  Argh.

And, after just checking my e-mail, I will be able to add another thing to the things I hate.  I hate collaborators who know nothing, but think they do.  I hate collaborators who talk to you like you are the stupid one, who can't, after a year of discussion, understand what the basic underlying concept is and refuses to acknowledge that this is out of his realm because, really, he isn't all that smart.

And now, I feel better.  After the last e-mail, I can now tackle the progress report.  In hindsight, the word hate for the report was a little strong.  There are things I hate so much more. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Website Woes

I spent all day yesterday looking at university websites, trying to find the links for faculty job positions and get organized for the big "job application marathon" I'm planning to start today.  Once I found the actual job posting and requirements, I then hit all the research areas in my division to get a "feel" for the department.

27 universities and 8 hours later, all I can say is that I wish universities would spend more time and effort in making their websites a little easier to navigate.  Really? I have to click 8 (yes, I counted) 8 different links to get to a single job listing?  I wonder if this is how they weed out the applicants.  Only those who truly want to work at this university are going to go through all this bullshit to find the job listing.  Damn. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Damn you reviewer...wait no reviewer three?

So, the reviews of my two majorly huge papers came back late yesterday afternoon (after only 5 weeks from the date of submission).  There were only two reviewers for each manuscript, and they also had access to the other manuscripts (since we are proposing to publish them back-to-back) so (a) there is no reviewer three to get pissed off at and (b) the reviews are a mish-mash of comments on both papers.  In essence, then, there really are four reviewers? Argh.  It's confusing in my mind.

But the good news.  No, the fantastic news-- accepted with minor revisions.  And those revisions are minor.  In fact, they are more well why didn't you talk about this more.  Talk more (we are already at a 49-pg double-spaced manuscript people) about this. 

In fact, the reviews were the huge ego boost I needed right before I started working on my job app packages.  When total strangers tell you that the papers are well-written and the science is "impeccably done" and "well-executed" and even complained that because there was so much data some of it didn't get the "attention this type of work and data warrants", well that my lovelies was cause for a margarita last night. 

I know, it's only a paper (well, two) getting published, it's not like I landed a job or an R01 or something along those lines.  Still, there is something satisfying about seeing the work you have put your heart and soul into, work you are proud of, work that you think, while it may not revolutionize the field, has totally advanced some of the thinking, be well received.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Things I Learned Today

Things I learned today:

Even at 1 mL, 240 samples is a shit-ton of samples to analyze

Gels made with water instead of buffer melt.  Even if it is the fourth time you have made them today.

Having papers on hand to read doesn't actually mean you'll get to read them.

There is only so much one can do before you throw your hands in the air and plead to the science gods to have mercy. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where are the BAYBZ? Not HERE....

So, I’m a little late to the party.  Let’s just say that five one too many birthday tequilas and a late night early morning 3:30 a.m. conversation with my partner in crime fellow post-doc about the finer points of banging your head against the wall protein expression and PCR sub-cloning made for one hungover groggy Dr. Zeek this weekend.  But, in between preparing the proper bacterial sacrifice for the PCR gods and patiently waiting for my cells to be happy and healthy enough to force them into work-horse mode before going home and curing my slight hangover with a Hawaiian pizza and a Bloody Mary, I thought I would answer the few “sans baby” questions the Hermitage sent us a long time back (yes, I procrastinate).  I have to tell you guys, having these panel discussions without the baby-talk makes me happy.  Very happy.  See, I love babies; I just don’t always like babies but sometimes, just sometimes I want to scream “Just because I have a uterus doesn’t mean I care!” “Please no more baby talk…”

So, without further ado, Dr. Zeek’s slightly warped different perspective of the world of science.  

1. When you were looking for your post-doctoral position, how (if you knew) did you know that your PI would treat you fairly?

This is an interesting question.  I was switching fields when I was applying for post-docs.  Same general heading but drastically different sub-heading.  So my grad school advisor had no idea who these people were and I had no idea what I was getting into.  So what is one to do?  I suppose you could always *cough*standard answer*cough* ask the people working in the lab.  But honestly, my impression of treating someone fairly and someone else’s perception of fair are two completely different things.  And, those perceptions are most likely completely different than your PI’s idea of treating you fairly, which the biggest thing everyone needs to realize.  Fair to your PI may be not requiring you to work on Sunday or having group meeting at 10:00 a.m. instead of 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning (yes, both of these are true stories/comments said to my lab by my boss in grad school).    

I can tell you what I did when my boss did treat me unfairly and how I got a little perspective on someone else’s idea of fair. My grad school adviser mentor slave-driver ungrateful, unfeeling, cyborg boss said something to me once that was, quite frankly unfair.  See, there had been relatively few (n<2) female grad students or post-docs that had gone through his lab prior to my glorious arrival.  I noticed that he rarely raised his voice to me.  The other indentured servants grad students in the lab-oy vei.  He would yell, he would raise his voice, he would call them the scum of the earth worst grad student in the world, he would have little vein things pop out on his forehead.  He was not a happy camper.  And he would make his displeasure with everyone extremely and clearly well known to all the grad students in the lab.  Except for me.  He would calmly and coolly explain that I wasn’t “quite getting it” or I wasn’t “quite working hard enough.”  And the kicker? I was not the incredibly awesome science smacking guru I am now best grad student.  It took a few years for me to get it.  So I would wonder why he was screaming and yelling and raising a fit about all of these people who were working harder than me, and quite frankly, were better technically than me, but not really sharing the love with me.  What the hell?

 About two years in, I finally got my act together, but things still weren’t working with my shitty project in the lab my boss and I were having a conversation about things and I said “but you never yell at me.”  He looked at me point blank and said “I never yell at you because I do not want to see you cry.  I had a female student once that I yelled at and she ran crying from my office.  I swore that I would never yell at another girl again.” 
And honestly, I was pissed.  I didn’t want to get yelled at. Period. But, it’s a weird situation to be in, knowing that you don’t want to get yelled at but also knowing that your boss is holding back his true opinion of you because he doesn’t want to “hurt your feelings.”  All I ever wanted was for him to be honest.  Honest with his impressions of my work.  Honest with his impressions of me as a grad student and so on.  From that point on, he and I had an understanding that he wouldn’t pull any punches but he would also not raise his voice.  As soon as his voice raised a few decibels I had free reign to walk out the door and come back later on with no consequences Haha..Riiiigghhtt.  We learned a little bit about each other’s idea of fair and I have to admit, I never did let him see me cry.  But that is a whole other blog post.  

Now, I am not saying that I got what I wanted.  I did get his honesty, eventually.  And I did get his opinions of me.  They weren’t necessarily right nor fair (and I can say this based on what I have done since getting out of that hell-hole lab), but they were honest. So while I don’t have any idea as to how to you can know if your PI is going to treat you fairly or not, the main thing is to realize when you are being treated unfairly and to try to understand why.  That’s the first part.  Perspective. Until you get the perspective, though, you can ever really change the situation.

2. It seems to me that often women don't have as strong professional networks as men - the kind that gets built over shared interests (sports or drinking). People seem to gravitate towards others like them. What specific advice do you have for establishing and maintaining network with men as well as other women?

This one is tough for me since I have a tendency to be “one of the guys” more often than not.  In fact, I sometimes prefer the company of males to females (and yes, Mr. Dr. Zeek is cool with this).  While I do enjoy more manly sports and drinking (which, by the way why in the hell are these consider “shared” interests for just men?  I mean I know plenty men who hate football and quite a few women who love it-but I digress).  It really comes down to being yourself and being confident.  Now I have a secret.  I get incredibly intimated when I meet the higher ups in my field.  While I am not intimidated because they are men, I have to admit that about 80% of them are men.  And they are smart.  And I think in my brain “What the hell, Dr. Zeek, do you think you are doing? Don’t make eye contact, don’t smile, and don’t say anything stupid. Wait, just don’t say anything.” Then I push those thoughts aside and fake it.  I smile.  I look directly in their eyes when they are talking.  I give them a firm handshake.  There is nothing more important in establishing a new connection/collaboration then exuding the confidence that you may not have yet, but should have soon.  

While faking confidence is one thing, don’t bullshit.  I mean, we have all bullshitted in our careers, but sometimes it can end up backfiring.  If some smart dude/dudette starts pontificating on how Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback ever or the widget machine from so-and-so is superior from whose-its and asks for your opinion, don’t try to pull shit out of your ass.  There is no quicker way to put a screeching halt to a budding collaboration than to basically try “lying” your way through something. Even if it is totally unimportant. They won’t trust your opinions and maybe won’t trust your science again.

3. Early on, what was your "Oh Fuck" moment, how did you recover?

There are so many ways that this can be taken.  I have “oh fuck” moments daily.  Those are the little ones, like “oh fuck, I added 10% instead of 1% glycerol…” or “oh fuck, this is never going to end” or “oh fuck, the grant application is due in two weeks?  What the hell?”, but my favorite is the “oh fuck, this might actually work….”

I am assuming that this is more of a major “Oh Fuck” moment.  Like “I broke and NMR tube in the NMR,” or “I sucked some a lot of pyridine into the vacuum pump,” or “I broke the vac lines,” or “I forgot to turn the shaker back on while your super important bacteria was growing,” or “I shattered some bottles in the centrifuge and made a huge mess.” (Yes, these are all true examples of things that have happened to me or I have done.)

So, what to do?  First own up to it.  Similar to what I said above.  No lies, no excuses, no bullshit.  Yes, I fucked up.  In fact, seek out the person who can help (or who is going to be the most pissed off that you screwed something up) and tell them.  Immediately.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect 200$.  Do not go to lunch and avoid the lab for a week.  Tell them, apologize and then help fix the situation.  

Listen, we all make mistakes.  We all have accidents, but I have a lot more respect for my undergrads who royally screw things and admit to screwing them up than I do for those who have every excuse under the sun for why they did.  It sucks, and you’ll probably be in the dog house for a bit, but it is tons better than not admitting to your mistakes or making up excuse after excuse.  Not only do you piss people off, but you lose their respect.  And that is probably the hardest thing to ever get back.

4. For those of us who like things like pink, skirts, baking, sewing, knitting, heels, makeup, and other things girlie, how important is it to not do / wear / talk about these things lest we be seen as fluffy girls who can't do Science?

I was “anti-pink” for the longest time because I seriously thought that it made people think I was less into science, or not as good or a fluffy wittle girl who can’t hold a pipette the right way.  I got over that not too long ago.  You have to keep saying in your head over and over.  If you are doing everything you should be, your science will speak for itself.  I was pretty pissed when my boss told me he put that I was “always cheerful” in my rec letter (trust me there was a lot more impressive stuff in there, but that line totally stood out to me.  Would he have put that in there if I wasn’t a girl? Probably not, but it is also a comment on how well I play with others. The main thing is you are who you are.  I have tattoos, a nose ring and listen to heavy metal in the lab.  I have a pink laptop.  I bring my boss leftover lasagna when I cook way more than Mr. Dr. Zeek and I could ever eat.  I do kick ass science.  I am who I am.  I work my ass off in the lab.  I get stupid shit done and do pretty fucking cool science.  People will see and notice what they want.  And if someone wants to ignore the awesome science and hard work and think that I am some fluffy girl who doesn’t know what to do with the business end of a pipette man, then screw them.  

So, again, my slightly warped view of my place in the world of science.  I leave you with the words of Stuart Smalley, because sometimes, we all need a boost.    

Friday, July 8, 2011

All the questions you were afraid to ask...

So, want to know what it is like to be an awesomely cool female post-doc/scientist in the craziness that is academia?  Want to know all the dirty little secrets of female science professors and how crazily awesome they are? Ever wanted to raise your hand and ask some awesomely insightful questions of the panel members at a "Women in Academia" session only to be drowned out by the same old "babies, babies, babies..." talk?

Well, now is your chance.  I, along with several other amazing female post-docs and professors have agreed to bare our soul and answer your questions about everything in acedamia that has to do with being a woman and exactly zero to do with clicky here to post your questions.....

Conceived (no pun intended) and hosted by the incredibly awesome Hermitage, this round of "Wimminz in Academia, now with 100% Fewer Babies Q&A" should prove to be awesome indeed!

Monday, June 27, 2011


In my efforts to collect all the relevant papers/manuscripts/obscure references I need to write an -gasp-NSF proposal-gasp- on some really cool science-y stuff, I ran across my first ever "WITHDRAWN" manuscript. This is the first time a manuscript I really, really wanted (from its title at least) has been labeled withdrawn. There are big huge red letters on every page of the manuscript.... And with no explanation (or at least that I could see in the "corrections" etc.....)

Now I want to know why it was withdrawn.

And since there is no explanation, I now have this most likely unfair bias in my head about the other articles these same authors have put out.  Can I trust this? Was the other paper withdrawn because of some contaminated buffers? Or was it something more sinister.  Dammit.  I want to know!!!!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

What? Four months gone?

Science has gotten in the way of blogging and for awhile, life had gotten in the way of science, so of course, blogging was the first to go.  Still alive.  Still breathing.  Still trying to do really cool science.  More to follow....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Put a fork in me....

I'm done.

One of the things I have learned from my husband is adaptability and the ability to handle whatever life throws at me without having major meltdowns.  But this morning-everything just seems to be too much. 

It could be that I am stressed out and Mr. Dr. Zeek is stressed out making my main support network/cheerleader obsolete at the moment. 

It could also be that I was in work mode all weekend since we hosted the speaker giving the colloquium seminar today which meant being in lab all day yesterday talking about my data and his data and how we can collaborate and the what not.  This also included going to a nice dinner on Saturday night with him, big boss man and collaborator from not so far away.  And today, more of the same.  Hosting the "student" lunch, going to the seminar, going to dinner with him and a few other PIs.  While I feel fantastic about our conversations and the fact that I have quite possibly forged a new alliance, I did not decompress at all this weekend.  Being a slight introvert, I do need some time away from people to figure out what is going on.

It could also that I still have these two manuscripts sitting on my desk right now, needing to be written.  It is not the writing that's hard, it is the analysis.Or maybe that I have three undergrads this semester--one of which I cannot trust to make media.  Or that big boss man may add another undergrad this summer, but to do that he needs a scholarship which means I have to write a detailed training plan for him by Thursday.  It could also be that I agreed to take on a side project on something I have never worked with before using equipment I have only read about in books.  It could really be that I have not learned to say no.

Or it could be that I have decided to write the K99 (thanks CPP for the advice) even though I am still waiting to hear from my F32 PO.

It could also be that my little POS car, which had been in the shop twice now in the past two weeks for a gas inlet valve replacement and then for a major gas leak, is now leaking oil like a sieve and is undriveable.  And that Mr. Dr. Zeek yelled at me yesterday about it, wondering why things only go wrong with the car when I drive it.  Like it was my fault.

It could be to that Mr. Dr. Zeek has a Dr. appointment this morning (which he is not going to be pleased with when he finds out what time I made it for) and is worried that he may need to go back in for major surgery. 

It could also be that my sister just had a fairly hard break-up and my mom is calling extremely concerned about her well-being, which means I have to take the concerned, empathetic role.  Even though, honestly, it is just not in me today.  It could be a lot of things.  Normally, I just put on the big girl panties, suck it up, and keep going.  Things could be so much worse than they are right now.  I just do better when it is one or the other-work or home--not when both the major components in my life seem to be sucking at my soul.

Maybe things will look brighter after another cup of coffee.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

To K99 or to not K99....

So, here is the question, write and submit the damn thing or focus on getting out papers etc. in the next 6 months.
  • A little added info-- I was planning on starting to apply this coming fall/January to start in summer of  2012.  
  • Applying to/shooting for a mid-tier research institute (ok, so MIT and Harvard are not in my cards, but I don't want to end up at small tiny university in Podunk, USA if I don't have to- big boss man agrees that I can hack a second tier research institute and is fully supportive of this career move.  God knows he has seen enough of us coming through to know if you have the shit needed to be successful or not).  
  • As of September 2012, I will am 5 years our from my defense, so no longer eligible for the K99
  • I currently and in the second year (started year two in Dec 2010) of a three year F32 (YAY!)
  • I have 4 first author papers out, two that I am writing now and three more that need to be written up in the next six months (minor experiments need to be finished)-I am also middle author on three papers right now from our collaborator's.  That number may increase
  • I don't do "Glamor Mag" science--I mean the science, technical merit, caliber of the actual work is worthy of Glamor Mag status but the topic- not so much.  I am a basic science research sort of person.  While what I do is important and there is a HUGE interest in it, it is not generally thought of as Scieney paper stuff-which is common in my subset of the broad sweeping category of Chemical Biology.  I am OK with that, though.  
  • Sometimes, when you look at my CV, I look like the jack of all trades (and I feel like the mistress of none sometimes)--I switched fields (big switch) coming into my post-doc, but I can apply some of the techniques I used in grad school which is useful
  • Recommendations will be great.  And right now, I am working for one of the biggest names in the field at a highly ranked research university-so I have that going for me.
So, do I take the chance and "waste" my time writing one of these (especially knowing I heave a bit of a deadline for a resubmission etc. to stay qualified) or should I just pound out the papers and hope I look good enough on paper to the search committees.  Any clues/help/advice would help at this point.  My boss looks at the K99 as an "meh-no biggy- let me see the papers" sort of thing but I worry he might be a tad old school.  So, feel free to discuss below.  I'll tell you later in the comments which way I am leaning......

Thursday, January 20, 2011


And collaborator is late.  No surprise there.  This should be interesting, folks.

On a side note, I saw a moped getting towed from our parking lot this morning.  Wait, read that sentence again.  A moped.  On a tow truck.  A big tow truck.  Weird.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


So we all survived the conference.  And a great one it was at that.  Mr. Dr. Zeek of course enjoyed the locale (who wouldn't-leaving places snowy and cold for warm sandy beaches?) as did I (or at least the little bit that I could enjoy of it).  I even had someone ask me to send them my CV and preliminary info since their university is starting a job search soon.

Big Boss Man commented to me yesterday how I was hitting everyone up to find out if they were hiring or not.  Really, it wasn't exactly like that, but people do know that I will be officially entering the market this fall.  Which, according to Big Boss Man, sounds like great timing.  That is, of course, if I sit my ass in the chair and write these two manuscripts.

There seems to be another rumble looming on the horizon, this time with close working collaborator.  I have said it before and I will say it again, it sucks when you have to treat you collaborator as a competitor.  We have a mini-meeting coming up to "discuss" the three manuscripts (two are "mine", one "his") that are so closely related it would be silly not to put them in the same journal or try for a back-to-back submission to "Great Journal Everyone Reads But Has Low Impact Factor".  Or at least that was my assumption.  While I understand as a PI you need to look out for number one (namely yourself as the tenure clock is ticking) throwing every post-doc, graduate student and member of the community who is trying to help under the bus is NOT a good way to get to where you are going.  After talking to a few people at the conference, the general unsolicited opinion of said collaborator is not so hot (mind you, I kept my mouth shut and took it all in).  Maybe I need to distance myself as soon as possible?

So, in spirit of our mini-meeting next week, I have been listening to my favorite Social Distortion song which seems to sum things up quite nicely.