08 April 2015
So, it wasn't spring 2014 when I defended my thesis, but end of 2014. Whatever. The thing is done. Defence went shitty because of grumpy opponents. But whatever. The thing is done. After that I found a job. And for the first time since 2005 I earn enough money that I can start paying off my student loan. However. I had to leave science for that. I landed a sciency job, close to science, but I stepped out of the core sciency jobs. There was no place for me at the uni I worked during my thesis. And my project does not fit in well with other institutions. And for a grant I need to be an expert, so writing a grant on another topic is simply impossible. The topic I wrote my thesis on simply isnt going to get me grant money, since it is not in one of the 5 important topics where funding agencies like to give away their money. Plus I lack having been abroad. Which is obligatory over here for a career in academia. If you want that career you need to go abroad. Those young scientists who have not been abroad do not get TT or funds or teaching jobs. The older scientists who already gathered grants and fame before the (silly?) rule have never worked abroad. And these people now demand young scientists to work abroad for at least 3 or 4 months, but prferebly at least a year. This going abroad demand wasn't compatable with my life, since I have a husband who also persued a career (which is sort of logically, considering our age), and we have a kid. And family who needs us. Only people who do not have these 'issues' can go abroad. And only these scientists can get funding (of course they also need to be awesome,but I think I can be awesome as well, just not abroad, but in this country). So, here I am, I started paying off the student loan, and bought myself 2 pairs of jeans, and a pair of nice office shoes. And some tops. And I went to the hair dresser. And bought our kid a bike. All these things we could not afford while I was working as a PhD student. Now I just have to come to terms with me not making it to be professor, as I always wanted to be. But for the first time in years I feel somewhat positive about the future. A future in which I can afford buying 2 pairs of jeans at once :D
12 August 2013
The past couple of years venting on this blog has really helped me. Not that I have finished my thesis, but it helped writing things down. Things that went wrong. Major epic wrongs. And I/we have had a lot of wrongs happening to us. But also a lot of rights. I foresee that spring 2014 I am defending my thesis. I am unemployed right now, but sort of okay with it. Writing articles, applying for jobs. And of course there is the major time consumer of them all. The baby. Not a baby any more, 1 year old. My my time flies. And what I have seen happening with a lot of blogs of PhD mums who gave birth happened to my blog. It bled dry. It is simply tooooo much, working on a PhD thesis, plus trying to find a job, plus running a household, plus a husband who is nearly done with his Bachelors, and the baby. Even when there is nothing to do in the evenings, and future parents there are loads of empty evenings, I am simply too tired to blog. For some reason it is completely out of my system. And I am more worried about my privacy than before, since I want a job. What is somebody happens to add things up and reads the complete blog? So I am thinking about quitting. Lets see what happens in the next couple of months ;)
18 May 2013
I have just finished the 6 lectures I had to teach as a university teacher, not an assistant. As assistant I am well experienced, this was the first time I was allowed to pick my own subjects and teach them. And test them. Problem was that there was no book with the course. on which I have had no influence. So the students had to learn the slides and one article that came with each lecture. Of which I reminded them. But hardly anybody took notes. I even saw students doing homework for another course. Welllll, the grades were as to be expected: 18 of 30 students had lower than 55% correct. Only those people who made notes and responded to the interactive bits scored higher. I am so frustrated. I made the questions while preparing the slides, so I KNOW I covered the topics I had questions on. Plus most of the questions were about something we covered interactively in class. And the first question was an exact copy of the person I adopted the course from. The first sub-question was about stuff they did in first grade, and something we repeated 4 out of 6 tests. Hardly anybody new the answer. Wondering what the coordinator will say about this massacre. I strongly feel this is Not My Fault, since there were students who got 100% correct on sub questions, so they were not that hard...
21 December 2012
I starting to step out of the comfort of the baby bubble. The bubble is nice and warm. And very rewarding. Plus as a scientist I enjoy the development of my child, and I enjoy interacting with my child to evoke the small but very cool developmental steps. My own project ;) However, a bigger project needs to be finished.... My PhD thesis. And for that I STILL need these 3 articles (plus analyses etc) written. And submitted apparently. One fo the 3 was sort of done and submitted, but rejected with excruciating comments. So I thought, put that aside, and focus on the other two. It is an article, it was fine enough to submit, so why not leave it like that, it is good enough as it is to be in my thesis. But noooo, Prof was very clear. He is the one to decided whether an article is good enough. Apparently it was good enough to be submitted twice (and rejected), but it is not good enough to simply leave it and dedicate my time on the last two... Even more, I get paid to teach, and that consumes a lot of time as well. Plus of course getting used to a sort of routine including the baby. When to work, there is hardly any time left for the thesis, most of the time I am awake I am either interacting with the baby, feeding the baby, correcting exams, once a week I spend 25% of my awake time traveling back and forth to work, plus some additional stressing out because this includes dropping off and picking up baby. Somewhere before the baby I also had a horse which I rode 5 times a week. Now horsey-time is baby time. And PhD time is grading time. And the rest of the time is allotted to recovering of the constant pressure, some hormonal balance sheitte, and feelings of sleepiness that come with the season anyway. I wonder when (if ever) I will be able to pick up the parts of my life and at least finish this bloody PhD...
06 November 2012
So I have had some time off, being absorbed by the little one. And hormones. And my article has been rejected, reviewers claiming I should completely re-do the thing (which costed me 1,5 years) on a different sample. Getting that sample and approval to do testing will cost at least another 1,5 years. So perhaps not... This made me realise I want to get this thesis over with. I have the needed amount of publications. Why not write up the other chapters and NOT wait for them to be published as well. I am sort of done with academia because of 1. said comments on paper. Not the exact comments, but the fact that it works this way 2. the job insecurity 3. wages 4. the pressure on me to move abroad in order to make it as a scientist. Leaving my family or uprooting them is regarded as a small sacrifice by senior scientists in the various selection committees who did not feel this pressure when they were my age and are now installed with such high wages that uni can't afford hiring anybody else but 'them fossils'. Well, for my family (husband, little one, parents, sister, in-laws etc etc this is not a small sacrifice, nor will me leaving little one, husband, and everybody else here and leave alone [insane idea!!] be doable) I think I have written this before. And will probably write such a post again. I just need to find the strength to keep my back straight and not cave in to the pressure of the committee who wants me to submit/re-write/submit/re-write. I want to (analyse, write)x2, staple, defend, PhD. I should print that sentence out and stick it on the fridge....
31 May 2012
No no I am not really giving up. Trust me, I am too faithful for that but... My contract ends in July My uni persons are really happy with my teaching, I get really high appraisals from the students as well My uni persons asked me if I wanted to stay However, the teaching persons wanted to make a job application public in which they wanted to find somebody who isn't pregnant So, my contract definitely ends in July This feels like: first I had to beg for an extension of my PhD contract which I really deserved but did not get because the want to screw me over by offering me a part time teaching job that doesn't AT ALL cover the costs. I even have to pay 200 dollars a month simply to go to work, leaving me with even less money Now I have to beg if they want to be so generous as to renew my contract. It is Illegal to not renew a contract because a woman is pregnant. But nobody is going to put that reason in writing of course. And it sure feels like they should make a step to help me out. They left me in the cold when my first prof left. Leaving me with a year delay. But nooo, I have to make concessions. Taking a pay cut to get an extension. Taking a small job to keep my desk. Doing an excellent job as teacher isn't even good enough to be able to get a job renewal because I got pregnant. After two years of praying and hoping and losing a pregnancy. And every job I apply for I get these stupid messages that my CV isn't in line with the job. Raaaaa
20 May 2012
I have not been posting for a long long time... SO busy! My contract ends in 7 weeks or so, they are trying to help me out fixing another too small contract so that I am not unemployed, but this is difficult apparently, since I am on pregnancy leave for 10 weeks into the "new" contract and that is hard to manage or something... Meanwhile we have to fix a room for the baby, and I followed a very intense course on leadership and management. Plus, I have 3 more articles to write. And first do the analyses for. In 7 weeks. Without getting stressed because that is bad for the baby. And I have to teach two courses, and correct all the stuff the students hand in, And I want to apply for jobs that make more money while preferably are closer to home. Even writing down this list makes my heart rate increase and my stress level rise noticeable. All this stuff combined my life feels like one big mission impossible :(
23 April 2012
After some further thinking on the stuff I wrote the previous post about I can conclude three things: 1. I am a better scientist if I shut up and think first before panicking. 2. I am a horrible scientist when trying to combine the pregnancy (which seriously effects my cognition, my brain is going as slow as my husbands grandmother of 89) with a serious flu. There is a reason one should stay in bed and do nothing when having a flu. So should I... 3. There is nothing wrong with the data. The script I wrote was not completely revised. However, on re-reading my lab book, I noticed that I did a different calculation (before the flu). Upon doing that proper calculation (as described in the lab book and the article as well.... could have been a hint in the stress episodic of this weekend) the data came out fine... No reason to panic. What a waste of my weekend.........
I am now in the I hate my work phase. I have seen it happening in many of my colleague PhD students, and apparently it is my turn now. The problem is that I had everything done for the final final version of another chapter of my thesis, when somebody said.. well you have checked everything, right? And I said yes of course. And compulsive as I am I ran all analyses again. Finding that a script was malfunctioning all the time, leading to one column of data that needed another step of processing. Having repaired the script my data is "all different now". Well it is mainly the same, only two results flipped. The rest is the same.... So the chapter can remain somewhat the same, but the main conclusions, that we measure what we measure is "slightly" different. Let me try and explain: I have designed two compounds, Z and Y. There are two logical compounds Z and Y can react with, A and B. I expect Z to react with either only A or with A and B. And I don't care if Y reacts with A, B or A and B. I apply bonferroni because I do a lot of reactions. There is some discussion about why applying bonferroni, some co-authors say I am over zealous applying it because nobody does that. The latter, I think, is a bad argument, which I chose to ignore. What we found was that Z did react with A and B, and Y reacted with B. Due to Bonferroni, one finding I can not explain (a reaction with substance V), is no longer significant, so I don't have to think of any weird explanations why on earth there is this weird reaction with substance V. Situation now in the correctly calculated data set: Without Bonferroni: Z reacts with A and B, Y reacts with A and B, and Z and Y react to each other (explainable). And substance V does its weird thing as well (unexplainable?). With bonferroni: I loose the weird substance V again, jay! However, I loose my precious Z reaction with A, while the (completely legit) reaction with B remains. Z only reacts with B. Y reacts with A and B. I wish I wasn't so compulsive in this phase, or would have been more compulsive in an earlier phase in the process. Now what. I thought I was done with this chapter. And now I guess I need to figure out a way to either integrate substance V in the manuscript. Don't know how... Or I have to think of a way to explain why Z still is related to A, only there is no significant reaction. Don't know how... Tomorrow I have a meeting with my co-promotors. I feel like a lousy scientist right now. I am so afraid they will think of me like that as well.... Why on earth havn't I checked the complete file in an earlier phase. Why!!! Bad, bad scientist!
11 April 2012
Is that they can not speak. Only yesterday I was talking to a friend at the stables how happy the horse is and that he has been so healthy over the year, and today another friend of mine took the horse out of the stable and it was behaving "weird". It is so frustrating to make a list of possible 'symptoms' you think might be related to the weird behavior. But you can not ask the horse whether he experienced the ‘symptom’ or that it is simply a figment of your imagination that is concluding things in hindsight. I guess it is a good practice-round for when the baby is here and these issues of weird/sick/WTF is going on???? will take place at our house but then with baby as star of the show. Now, I just continue to type in combinations of the ‘symptoms’ in Google to see if anything that comes up makes sense. I hope I remember that when baby is indeed the subject of this stress I will never do this. Man, some disturbing stuff turns up… Most likely the horse is suffering from cramps. Now how is that for baby-training ;)
23 March 2012
Part of my job is mentoring students. I mentor 50 students all first years Ba. It is amazing to see how much is going in on so many lives. Parents are sick or dead, siblings sick or dead. Abuse, trauma. On the other side the more common problems like do I actually want a university degree or are my parents forcing me. Should I join a fraternity? How do I get a room/friends. How do I study as efficient as possible in the time left between my jobs, my friends and my parties? I expected the last part friends/jobs/etc., not the major life trauma things. Well, I expected some, but this year we have quite a bunch who are dealing with a lot of pain and stress. All of these students keep in touch, and come to the one on one talks we organize in order to make the transition from high school to uni as easy as possible. On the one hand I think this mentoring is a good idea, on the other, I never had to and I did not miss it. Plus this faculty has enough students as it is, so it might have something to do with getting better ratings… And part of me thinks the students should grow up at some point, so why keep holding their hands well into Uni? If you can’t handle uni, stop studying there. There are enough Ba and Ma as it is…
07 March 2012
I have complained about this more often, I guess, so sorry, dear readers, but I need to vent.. My Achilles heel is that I freeze when uncertain. More specific: my problem is that I can not decide what the take home message of my current paper should be. Some digging in my psyche and talking with friends made me realize: I am capable of deciding and advising on all sorts of matters, just not on my PhD topic. The why behind that issue is also clear: I am afraid I will decide to pick a message that, seen through the eyes of the Experts, is crap. Because none of my supervisors is an expert in the topic I am working on, I feel that the decision is mine, while I do not have any back up. In my horse world, I know that what I know is not BS. When friends ask me their opinion, I easily give it. Coming from a family of hotel and cafe owners, I can also easily see what needs to be changed when eating out or sleeping in a hotel. Only on the matter of my thesis, I just freeze. Writing one of my previous articles was easy, nobody had touched that topic, so our study was the first. I do not mind at all if other people come up with other ideas, I do not mind that in the end I might be wrong on that topic. The core topic of my thesis however simply isn't that "new". I could easily have missed some papers, or formulated the already proven wrong ideas. And simply do not know about it. I read all related stuff, search through google, I pubmed, and all that stuff, I am almost certain I am safe. But what if there is a key word I simply do not know about since I am not in the inner circle? I just wish I had a supervisor I could trust on this topic, who would say ""Jump, there really is water in the pool, the pool only looks empty. Trust me, it isn't. You could say that after 4 years, I should be mini-expert on my topic. Problem is, I never had a decent conversation with an expert. Yes, I presented posters on conferences, but never had a talk. Yes, people stopped by my posters, and gave thumbs up, but those people never were experts. And I was too shy to introduce myself (why should this expert want to be bothered by me, simple phd student...). Being uncertain is a pain in the ass.
03 March 2012
I am writing a lot these days, as well as correcting written stuff of my first year students. What strikes me, is that my writing skills have improved a lot because of the correcting I had to do. Perhaps not visible on my blog, but in half a year I have improved my paragraph constructing, I can now write clear and concise, and keep the number of words down to a level that what is written is understandable, but not swamped in unnecessary words. However... I can not formulate a take home message. This has always been a weak point for me. Part of it is due to the vagueness of my topic. Lots of studies I ran were more of a 'let’s see what this might get us' (usually ending in epic fails) than first working out a hypothesis, and subsequently test the samples. If the last way had been possible, my life as a scientific writer would have been much much easier. Now, when data is in and stuff actually happens, there are many things I love to tell about my data. But what angle should I pick? As such, multiple angles in analyses are possible. The manuscript I am working on now already has two well written versions with a complete different angle. And still I am unable to select what analyses to show in my result section… Add to this the different points of interest and points of view of all my supervisors, and I get lost every other time. I know I should pick my own point of view, pick a take home message I find relevant, since I am the expert of the topic. It is just so very very hard!!
02 March 2012
My prof is writing a fund-proposal and has sent me a graph, so I can help prof out a bit. I think the graph is too full, but because the topic is kind of intertwined with 1000 other sub-topics this is how it is. Full. However, the graph is also asymmetric. I hate asymmetric graphs; when you can obtain symmetry, make the graph symmetrical. Or at least make sure the circles and boxes are aligned. I aligned the boxes, and made the graph symmetric. In doing so I wondered what the chances of prof getting funded will be… (S)He clearly has no clue of Office skills, lay out has always been a hassle. English is a problem as well. Not that my English is all native and stuff, but when I can detect writing and grammar errors, the level of proficiency is not that high, I guess. Adding those things up, considering that (s)he will compete against all these super-duper well prepared competitors (people whose blogs I read, who invest a lot of time in the how-to's of funding, who sit in committees to increase their knowledge on how to get funded) , I fear chances are low of prof getting funded. Even though the topic is really relevant. In the end I feel that content, knowledge, and feasibility should play the most important role. But without writing and graphic skills there is no way that a proposal will be selected for a second look, proposals with bad lay out and written in weird English will be dismissed as one of the first… Or am I too negative?