Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quitting Graduate School

Recently, fabio from orgtheory posted Grad School Rulz #21 on a topic of interest to 99% of all graduate students: quitting graduate school. It provides a good look at reasons to stay or quit the Academy.

I know this is of interest to my readers as it's probably the #3 reason search string that brings people to this site. For example, I get these a lot (insert various spelling errors): "graduate school cult" or "quitting graduate school". Even a good friend of mine (T-2 days from his defense) just posted on his FB that, following his advisor's criticisms at the 11th hour, he was planning to drop out.

Clearly, it's too late for me to drop out. BUT YOU MIGHT STILL HAVE A CHANCE!

Graduate school and the academy are quite cultish and as such, frank discussions about "quitting" are few and far between. Just this weekend I attended the National Postdoctoral Association annual meeting in Houston. For those of you unfamiliar with the organization, be sure to check out their website but do keep in mind the fact that the organization is heavily geared toward biomedical/science postdocs. Anywho, this meeting did a wonderful job presenting career development, networking, goal-setting, and job-landing opportunities OUTSIDE the Ivory Tower. My favorite part is when a group of recruiters from the [INSERT BIG FEDERAL RESEARCH INSTITUTION HERE] asked, "Why on earth do you people do this to yourselves? For Christ's sake, I pay my secretary more than you make!"

The meeting was great and I encourage you all to look into it. Let me know if you want more info on it, and I'll be happy to share some of the things I learned. Basically, I was newly inspired, filled with big thoughts and dreams, until I got back to my cube on Monday, and I realized I don't know how to do anything else.

What do you guys think about the re-entering the "Real World?" Worth it? Not? What about telling your mentor? (Now that would not be a discussion I would look forward to!)

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Public's Health

I have been following Sandy Szwarc's blog, Junkfood Science lately.

In a nutshell, Szwarc critically reviews recent medical and public health research and legislation, and media coverage of health, with a particular emphasis on anything relating to food, nutrition, physical activity, and obesity. As near as I can tell, she is pretty critical of any study or policies attempting to prevent, treat, or quantify the impact of fatness, or any health conditions relating to being fat. Sometimes she's critical in ways I agree with (for example, I think she's right when she repeatedly claims that a lot of public health policies are unsupported by solid evidence). Sometimes I disagree (for example, when she claims there is no credible evidence linking food intake to incidence of type II diabetes.)

She has a major axe to grind about "lifestyle medicine." I do too, actually. Just for very different reasons. Overall, I find her underlying theories (unspoken but obvious) to be too reactionary and well, atomistic. My philosophy about health centers on the social-ecological foundation of health, social determinants of health, and constrained choice...in a nutshell. And it drives me *NUTZ* to read Szwarc's reactionary rants that 1) claims the medical, media, and political industries are fabricating evidence; 2) all health outcomes are the direct result of genetics; 3) hails the randomized controlled trial as the final word regarding scientific evidence; and 4)fancies itself to be the end-all-be-all of renegade smoking-gun/myth-busting truth-busting information on health.

If I was motivated, which I am not, I think it would be a fun challenge to provide another perspective on her posts. Instead, I think I'll just rant about it in a non-productive way and leave you all with this!

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Random Bullets of Postdoclyness

•I just had my first dissertation article accepted. Huzzah! The reviews were the best I’ve ever had. One reviewer says, “ …I can see the paper being accepted almost as-is, and would not be surprised if that were the eventual decision.” WHOA. For the record, this is my first article in a good journal ever. It is also, not so coincidentally, my first good article. The others were mostly remnants from student projects. And it’s damn nice to know someone else thinks it’s good too.

•Can’t believe I’m already 6 months in to a 2 year postdoc.

•Do I just get the bad articles for peer review? Why do they all suck so bad?

•How is 100% soft money not some kind of violation of human rights?

•Why did I get myself volunteered to be a chair for a committee?

•Why has my article been “awaiting reviewer assignment” for 3 months? When it’s a freaking revision and has already been assigned reviewers!

•I can’t code well. I have no attention to detail. I waste a lot of time on fixing my own bad code.

•I hate my cubicle. I feel like it’s some kind of horrible hazing experiment to put the new postdoc in a cubicle with her back and computer screen facing the door.

•I really, really, really want to be a beekeeper. I think my backyard is too small for this right now though. It might upset some neighbors.

•Is it 5 yet?

•Is it normal that every other day I think about changing careers? When I haven’t even technically started this one?

•I am totally cynical. I think 99% of manuscripts in my field are b.s. Do I really want to write tons and tons of b.s?

•A small, optimistic, Pollyanna part of me really did think such existential crises would end post-PhD. The cynical remainder of me is pretty pissed (but not at all surprised) that this was not the case.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No More Room

I haven't been blogging much lately folks. It seems like everyday I have postdocly thoughts to share but I have been really, really busy running tons of analyses, none of which fail to reject the null hypothesis. Sigh. Thoughts of my future, like100% soft money funds and unrealistic tenure expectations, are causing me more and more stress. So, for that I apologize. But for the following I won't.

I have had a shitty couple of days, except for some small but significant good news (more on that later), and overall I have almost no more room for anger at myself or other people. Anger is a bad, bad emotion. (SO not shanti.) I've already been through a mantra and thoughts of detachment and they helped, they really did. But its jackasses like this (yes I am calling the Pope a jackass, with NO QUALMS ABOUT IT) that piss me off again.

I don't believe in hell. But when I meet my maker/equivalent I sure hope I never have to face down a blunder like this. Even if I do it because I think it's right. Especially if I do it because I think I'm right and everyone else is wrong.

clipped from www.cnn.com
Pope Benedict XVI refused Wednesday to soften the Vatican's ban on condom use as he arrived in Africa for his first visit to the continent as pope.
He has, however, assembled a panel of scientists and theologians to consider the narrow question of whether to allow condoms for married couples, one of whom has HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
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Monday, March 02, 2009

Question: What do Executions and the Economy Have in Common?

Answer: They both suck.

It seems every morning when I drive to work I hear more stories about lay-offs, foreclosures, store closures, and the general state of the sinking economy. For once, there is some good news as a result of these problems. Of course when we're rich again, I'm sure we'll pick right up where we started.

On another note, my recent lack of blogging is related to the general distraction of living and working on a 105 year old house and my overall tiredness of sitting at a computer to blog after working on one all day.

clipped from www.cnn.com

Budget concerns force states to reconsider the death penalty

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