Friday, May 25, 2012

The clothes make the scientist

  I recently got a lab coat as a gift, and I of course was thrilled. The white coat is a symbol of science and the go-to prop to indicate a person’s intelligence and profession. But in graduate school, I never wore a white coat, even to do lab work. That may not have been smart, but no one else in the department consistently wore one either. My post-doc department is the same, so when I started proudly wearing mine I got noticed. The white coat, with my name stitched on it, indicated my status as a real life scientist.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What’s in a name?

  If you’re going to start a blog, of course you’ve got to have a good name. Something catchy, perhaps with a bit of an insider-message-in-joke. And you’ve got to make sure it hasn’t been taken! The idea of standing on the shoulders of giantesses is, of course, a riff of the saying “standing on the shoulders of giants”, a phrase most often attributed to Isaac Newton (so right there we’ve got a science connection!). Of course, it’s got a history before that (yes, it’s Wikipedia, but it’s interesting: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants). The original phrase specifies dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants…perhaps we early career scientists are the dwarfs, hoping to gain a little height to become giants ourselves.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thesis Statement

  I recently finished my Ph.D. in the sciences. I’ve been lucky – I always wanted to get an advanced degree in something sciencey, so planning my life was easy for many years. High school + college + university + post-doc (+ some time wandering around) = about 15 years. But now I’m in the post-doc part of life and wondering what comes next. It’s always been vague and misty, involving a high percentage of research, perhaps some teaching, at an institution of some sort, oh and perhaps a family as well. It’s been a great experience so far, but now I wonder what that vague “early career” will entail. Do I indeed want to jump into the tenure pipeline, or do I want to enjoy a family and be a part-time scientist?