The Plight of the Post-Doc


Continuity, or lack thereof

The Scientiae Carnival, if you do not know—and I did not know until only very recently—is a collection of lady science bloggers who pick a topic each month and solicit posts on said topic from other lady science bloggers.  Sometimes men are involved, too.  Whoever is in charge each month organizes the responses on her (or his) own blog, pulling out all the best bits and perhaps providing a bit of commentary.  For an example of a job done extremely well, check out one of my favorite lady science bloggers, Candid Engineer.  Since there haven’t been too many developments in the whole job search thing that I can recount for you, I thought I’d have a go at the March edition, whose theme is “continuity.”

If you could see me right now, you’d see (among other things) that I’m smiling bemusedly.  My bemusement comes from having to ponder, as a young scientist, the idea of continuity in my life, a task I might compare to asking an accountant to write on the theme of “danger.”  Not only is there very little continuity in most of our lives, but we most likely--at least in the beginning--want(ed) it that way.  I distinctly remember that as an undergrad, one of the things that most appealed to me about an academic science career was that for my whole life I’d always be learning something new.  The questions I’d be asking at 25 would be different from those I’d ask at 35, and so on until finally, perhaps at age 95, I’d retire my named chair position and commit myself to catching up on The Sopranos.  I also hoped that maybe I could spend some time living in Paris.  Paris, je t’aime! 

In this respect, science has not let me down.  My quest for discontinuity has led me across the country and back (though not to Paris….yet).  I’ve studied humans, rats, rat brains, rat brain cells, and rat brain cell parts (OK, so perhaps there’s one point of continuity here). And like I imagined, I’ve gotten to ask all kinds of questions, travel, meet new people, and learn just tons.  Discontinuity like this is nice. Similarly, the discontinuity we may encounter in the lab on a daily basis, while often maddening (I can think of a particular method that I would presently like to shoot in the face if methods had faces), can be good in the long run.  It keeps us on our toes, teaches us to adapt, to troubleshoot—all things we need to be awesome scientists.

However, sometimes I want a little continuity, and of course I’m talking about the continuity of money being added to my bank account on a regular basis.  This is good continuity.  And at some point in the not terribly distant future, I’d like the feeling of knowing I’m where I’ll be living until I’m that 95 year-old parked in front of the TV.  These continuities, though…are a current source of worrying.  I don’t know if my boss will have money to keep me around for much more than another year, and I don’t know if I’ll get a TT job by then, either.  Even if I do, I’m headed for some major discontinuity no matter which way you slice it.  It’s both scary and exciting.  All I can do is take advantage of what good continuities and discontinuities I’ve got, and hope I end up in the right place. 


Lauren Hall-Lew said...

I loved this post; I can totally relate! A friend just introduced me to your blog, and I'm glad she did. Off now to catch up on old posts...

Becca said...

Thanks, Lauren! Hope you're having fun poking around!

Candid Engineer said...

Thanks for the shout-out. :)

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