The Plight of the Post-Doc

8.09.2010

There's no crying in science!!?? (part 1)

Like 28% of iPhone users, I popped on the interwebs before getting out of bed Thursday morning. I was greeted by an email from the Foundation telling me that they would not be funding my proposal.  The proposal that they asked me to write, and were very enthusiastic about in general.  The proposal that would allow me to work with Famous Dude, crank out a high profile paper or two, and score a sweet TT job in another year or so (that easy!!!!).  We really thought this grant was going to be funded.

Instead of a done deal, it's simply done--all of those hopes dashed by a reviewer who seemingly did not actually read the grant.  Yeah, I know everybody says that when they get their summary statements, but seriously--how else do you explain criticisms like "it is not clear to us how many animals will be studied and what is the number of rats per experiment," when the first line of each Aim's methods states, for example, "Sixty male Sprague Dawley rats will be used for this experiment?"

The rejection has a lot of ramifications that are really quite serious in the context of my very near and very distant future.  Not only does it mean that I most likely can't go work with Famous Dude, but it may mean that I will be unemployed in a few months. For the purposes of actually getting out of bed, though, I flicked the old denial switch to "on" and went about my usual morning activities: kitty medicine, Luna Bar, gym clothes, subway.

Once in lab, however, reality set in as I repeatedly fielded "how are you's" and "what's new's" from my lab mates (we are a friendly bunch!).  Unlike Famous Dude, I have a terrible poker face, so it wasn't long before I was reaching for the Kimwipes. Per usual, my lab peeps were super supportive and awesome and agreed that the reviewer comments were probably written by the Foundation CEO's pomeranian.

When I broke the news to PI, he was extremely surprised, but had few words of comfort.  He did, however, have many words of discomfort, most of which served to inform me that the grant I'm currently on would definitely run out sometime this fall. I listened to him, pressing firmly on the bridge of my nose, willing the tears back inside their ducts. It was of little use. When there was nothing else to say, I quickly thanked PI and ran out of his office before I completely lost it.

It is as if the floor has dropped out from under me. In 2-3 months I will lose my job, my health insurance, my productivity...all at a point in my career when I really need to be working.  It is terrifying.

There is more to this story, of the not-necessarily-solving-any-problems-but-uplifting-nonetheless variety. But this is quite long already, so I'll leave it there, for now...

20 comments:

Fia said...

*hugs* I hope you will find a way out. Any other grant applications under review?

Dr Becca, PhD said...

Thanks, Fia! Yes, I do have a NARSAD application in, which I'll hear about in November, I think. There's also a new FOA for an R21 I'd like to apply for, but of course, I need to have a job in order to apply for that. Academic science is an endless string of catch-22s, is it not?

MRW said...

I don't have any words of wisdom, but I thought I'd at least offer some words of sympathy: I'm rooting for you.

I don't remember all the details with Famous Dude, but one thing I've learned about them is that they sometimes have more money for hiring than they realize, so maybe there's still a chance.

melissa's said...

Hey Becca,

Hold on!

As for other opportunities, R21s are a good way to pay your way if you've run out of fellowship options. If you write well and your PI will submit what you write, you can even bang out 2-3 of these puppies. They will pay your salary, and also you can arrange it with your mentor to make it clear in the long run it was "your baby." That is, you write the thing, be a senior key personnel, put it on your CV in as prominent a way as possible without claiming it was funded directly to you, and then make sure Mentor writes in his/her letters "Becca designed, wrote and executed this R21 and did so masterfully" or somesuch. This will get the attention of search committees. In the short run, though, it pays the bills too.

Good luck!!!

melissasbench

Dr.Girlfriend said...

Thats a bitch! Are you limited geographically? If not you should be in a good position to land good postdoc position of your choosing - although starting over can be a pain in the butt. Does this Famous Dude have some funding for you to be his postdoc?

Image Goddess said...

I'm so sorry. *hugs* I have my fingers and toes crossed that you'll find a solution. I wish I could say something more or do something but know I'm thinking about you and sending you good vibes (and bad vibes to the pomeranian reviewer.)

Dr. Koshary said...

I empathize, Becca. I had my only form of employment and health insurance yanked when I was in school earlier this year, and I know exactly how that feels. I'm pulling for you -- it sounds like you're really on the ball with your career planning, so I'm hopeful that you will engineer an alternative that lets you keep on doing your work the way you want to.

Meanwhile, you get a consoling hug and a prescription for a glass of whiskey from me.

EthidiumBromide said...

Oh, hugs x 1,000,000. And a big chocolate chip cookie, too. :(

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Man, that sucks. Agreed that you should discuss this with Famous Dude and see if there is any hope of him scraping up some funds elsewhere to support you.

Dr Becca, PhD said...

Aw, you guys are the best--totally feeling the cyber love, here. Currently working on a follow-up post to expand on my options, what Famous Dude had to say, etc. Stay tuned...

Odyssey said...

That really sucks. Hang tight, we're all rooting for ya!

Odyssey said...

p.s. There is too crying in science!

tideliar said...

Uh, fuck dude. That's a fucking punch in the guts. Damn.

and yeah, there is plenty of crying science

Gerty-Z said...

That totally sucks! I hope you can work something out with FD. Good luck.

Micro Dr. O said...

Oh, Dr. Becca, I'm so sorry. ***hugs*** and chocolate...although I'm sure a job means more right now. Judging from our lab this past month, there's a whole hell of a lot of crying in science, so don't even worry about that. Hang in there, and we're all rooting for you!!!!!

Ewan said...

Anxiously awaiting part II. On the other hand, good neurosci postdocs are not exactly sprouting on street corners here in NY, so it should not be fatal regardless, even though it may feel like it...

JaneB said...

(((Dr Becca))) and chocolate. There is definitely crying in science! So sorry to hear this, hope things pick up soon

Female Computer Scientist said...

So sorry to hear, Becca. ~~Sending other funding vibes your way.~~

Venkat said...

Hope you find funding or a PI w/ available funds soon enough.

expat postdoc said...

Sorry to hear about that ... science sucks!!!!!! No, it really does, and it's destroyed many lives, including my previous marriage.

But what you do now IS ESSENTIAL!

Do NOT just take any shitty position because you feel like you need to be working or have health insurance ... this is an excellent chance to spend a month or three figuring out the best way to position yourself for a TT job in the future.

In fact, most people work too much and don't reflect on what needs to be done in the future. This potential short break could be extremely beneficial. You'll have time to read, time to think, time to plan, time to contact people, time to throw down some strategy.

Good luck and, I am serious about this, view this as a potential opportunity.

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