Friday, March 30, 2007

Look out Grissom!

A news crew came by work the other day to do a story about some stuff we do in the lab. Of course they wanted the "working" shots. Working shots for a news story do not involve actual work. I call it Hollywood science. There were many, "Ok, can you do that again? I want to get a wide angle shot". Then there was the pointing at meaningless data on the computer and acting like it was oh so interesting. I had to hold back the laughter. Lucky me, that's the shot that they put in the story. The husband watches it and says, "Trying not to laugh, hey?". Apparently it's more noticeable than I thought. At least they cut out the shot of me looking inquisitively at some solution in a tube like it meant something. I thought for sure that would make it in because the camera guy was taking many various angles of that shot. Honestly, who looks at a solution in a tube that intently? It's not like we have x-ray vision and can see actual mutations in the DNA. Although I suppose on CSI they can. They can also get a centrifuge to analyze their results. That's my favorite - put it in the centrifuge and oh look, a pretty print out with graphs and tables that tells them who the killer is. If only science was that easy. I would like to propose a TV show to the networks that's like 24 but it's forensics in real-time. It would take a whole season just to identify the killer. Then when there are repeats there can be a blurb at the beginning stating the experiment didn't work so episodes 7-9 will be repeated to repeat the experiment in real time. Oddly only my fellow science geek friends find the humor in this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A PhD outside academia

You've probably noticed I haven't Blogged much lately. That's partly due to my over analyzing what I should blog about and partly due to just being busy/lazy. I've decided I'm just going to blog about whatever strikes my fancy, be it science or not. One idea I've had, though, is to discuss my reasons for getting a PhD but not going into academia. The reasons are varied and long and lengthy, which will probably require a number of blog posts but a recent post on ScienceWoman's blog brought up some issues relevant to why I'm a PhD outside academia.

For one, I never really had a desire to be an academic. Writing grants and doing paperwork all day is not my idea of fun. So why did I do a PhD then? Well, one was pressure from my supervisor and another was solely selfishness. I wanted more from my research project I was working on than simply what I would have achieved with a Master's degree. In the end I was pleased with what I achieved and don't regret doing a PhD.

Secondly, was the desire to balance family and career. I know it's doable in academia but honestly, I want to enjoy my life and not be consumed by my work. I can be a workaholic if left to my own devices and I didn't want that kind of life and end up missing important moments with any future children I'll have.

Another reason I didn't go into academia was due to lack of mentorship/advising. Past posts point out my problems with my supervisor and being that we weren't even at the same university at the end of my degree made it difficult to get any sort of advice or mentoring from him with respect to post-docs and academic positions. Plus, although my experiences with academia were probably not the norm, it did give me a bad taste of that career option.

Lastly was location. My spouse has a job he likes and that he has been at for a while now. To ask him to move so I could do a two year or so post-doc and then move again for a job or possibly another post-doc just didn't make logical sense since I wasn't keen on being an academic anyways.

In the end we ended up staying in the same city and I now have a job I love, free time in the evenings and weekends, and a much happier life with less stress. There is, however, the internal struggle of having a PhD but not being an academic. This is mostly due to the expectation that a PhD will follow that well laid out route of PhD, post-doc, academic faculty and that anything less is consider somewhat of a failure. This is a post for another day though.