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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

So Tell Me What I Want, Anyhow

Round two of the yearly recruiting to the neuroscience grad program starts tomorrow. I hate recruiting, yet I still wind up doing it. I just don't think I'm a very good spokesperson for the program. I mean, I'm still oscillating on whether I even want to be here, let alone do the whole career in academic science thing that they're pushing us towards, despite the utterly bleak prospects for actual academic science careers. I know, grad school is a privilege. Especially in the biomedical sciences, since I actually get my tuition and health insurance covered, plus a stipend (thanks, NIH!). And I am extremely lucky to get into this prestigious Ivy League Graduate Program. And to be paid to study rat love, basically. But still...maybe it is the sour taste in my mouth from the whole TA thing, maybe it is that the lab's finances aren't looking good, maybe it is the feeling that no matter how much I actually do - surgery, staining, sectioning, microscopy, etc etc - I still don't have any good data and you need LOTS of good data to actually write a damn thesis. I just feel so stuck.

There are, however, still a few shining moments that leave me with the thought that maybe I can do this - not just finish the degree, but postdoc and be all Important Science Person. While I complain (a lot) about being stuck socially with all scientists, there really are some cool people in neuroscience. For example, last month Michael Meaney was visiting, and I was his host. First, he's Canadian - he is at McGill - so I got to wow him with my disturbing knowledge of Canadiana and discuss such things as the prospects of the NDP that my fellow Americans just don't know. He even offered me a postdoc in his lab when I finish my degree (in, um, three years). Then at dinner, everyone got a bit drunk, including my advisor. And we all just talked about such neat stuff, from hockey to our individual theories on the neurobiology of mental illness, and it was just awesome. Will I miss out on that if I don't go in to academic science? I mean, that level of camaraderie and conversation? Yet, hose moments are just so few and far between right now I'm not sure it is worth it. Is one good evening really worth all this day-to-day crap?

Speaking of day-to-day crap, the thermostat in the microscope room has been broken for a few weeks. It is 58 degrees in there. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to do microscopy while wearing mittens? I've just been letting all my slides pile up, hoping that I'll come in one morning and the room will be all toasty. I think I'm just going to have to suck it up, since I do actually have to analyze my tracer distribution in the PAG if I'm to have any hope of getting in an abstract for the SBN meeting by March 1. Yikes!


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