With yesterday’s partially unmitigated disasters still around to deal with this morning, I was thankful I didn’t find anything new to wreck the day. At least nothing major.

The tire with the flat was nearly empty in the morning, but it was enough air to delicately get me to the nearest gas station with an air machine. Filling the tire back up, I made it back over to Dunn where they conveniently had an opening to deal with the tire. I asked them to re-examine one of my tires that they missed a bulge on during my last rotation, and just even with a cursory inspection they determined that it would need to be replaced. Additionally, they discovered the leak in the flat tire was a sidewall puncture, so that one had to be replaced as well. I’m now sitting at 25% of my original new tires still on the car in less than a year since purchasing them. Two bulges, one debris-less sidewall puncture. I’m starting to think I’m jinxed! Thank goodness Dunn has been so good about replacing them so far.

Over on the work front, unfortunately I still do not have my appointment established yet. I’m going to be antsy like my pants are on fire until that gets resolved. Having a lapse in my payments is totally going to fuck up my plans to try and get back to North Dakota near the end of this month. I still need to get back there for a vacation of sorts, and moreso to help out my parents with the house. It’s gutted down to the frame, awaiting an electrician’s repairs and inspection, before it can be sealed back up. Once that goes through, then it’s walls, insulation, and new sheetrock up ASAP before the cold weather moves in as long as the HVAC systems pass muster as well.

I was sent confirmation last night that my order from BioRad was supposed to show up today. Unfortunately, even despite my late arrival at work, no delivery showed up from them. Purchasing told me it should be delivered by today but then the forwarded email that said that was ambiguous as all hell. It claims expected delivery to have been today, but since the order was a single item, the whole “following items on back order” blanks being present have me uneasy.
It worries me even moreso that those important remarks are blank.

Ugh. I’m starting to worry that I’m either (a) being a drama queen about all of this, or (b) that I’m freaking out way too much about this. Also, the fact that I’m stuck waiting on this BioRad order even further puts off finishing this paper. I’m rock-solid on finishing this paper and having it submitted to the journal’s editor before leaving for Minot. I can’t put it off any longer, and would leave a convenient period to insert my belated vacation time that never came this summer.

Oye. As if I didn’t have enough on my platter already. Some days, I really do swear I need drugs to keep my brain straight and try to manage all this crap going on at once. May be time to just man up and start taking them out with a bat, one by one. Messy, unnecessarily excessive and exhausting, but damn well effective.

Even though I had nothing really planned for the Labor Day holiday, the evening ended on a delightful note with a short-notice get-together put on by my landlords. Got delightfully intoxicated, met some new people, had fun chatting with said new people, and slept blissfully in the cool comfort of 50˚ overnight temperatures! Tuesday morning was a whole whizzbang of craziness, unfortunately.

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02. August 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Grad Life, Rant, Work · Tags: ,

I try not to pick out individual coworkers specifically for their asshole-ishness on a regular basis. However, one of them really just struck a nerve with me today.

One of my coworkers (#1 for this post’s purpose) in the lab had been ragging on one of the newer graduate students (#2) in the lab for his inability to ask questions. This was primarily done in the context of describing his chronic ability to set himself up for failure by not preparing enough for the experiment/activity/event. I would have to agree with this, as it is often the case. I have offered advice in the past, and it usually goes the wayside until things aren’t working properly. Then, he either realizes (or someone else suggests) that my recommendations were valid and worth considering. So he could save himself some trouble by asking in varying degrees of uncertainty about stuff.

Cue to this afternoon, while I’m finishing up my preparations for tomorrow in the lab, and I have my iPod running in my ears. Coworker #2 is pissed to all hell, half-yelling at coworker #1 that he’s an asshole and he can’t give a straight answer. Coworker #1 is also just laughing at coworker #2, throughout all this visibly-pissed off ranting. I find out it’s because #2 has been trying to ask #1 for advice on submitting something to another location for analysis, and #1 just kept telling him “have you read the instructions?” Coworker #2 obviously (and stated as such) read said directions, and was asking for supplemental information beyond that. This renders #1’s response as moot, because #2 is obviously asking what #1 does beyond the regular instructions for this protocol.

Coworker #1 often does this regarding questions asked of him. He thinks it’s funny, cute, obnoxious, or lord knows what else. I really don’t know; he just gets a kick out of it. What really pisses me off regarding this now is for as much as he’s stated/bitched #2 never asks questions for help on stuff, here #1 is being an utter jackass by not answering the question, now that #2 is asking.

Seriously? Who the fuck do you think you are to first criticize someone for an inability to do something, and then throw it back in their face when they finally do it for you? I can’t wait to see him function on his own in a post-doc somewhere. This mentality will never cut it.

In other related news…the other three regulars in the lab have started to take a slightly more proactive approach to cleaning the lab. The dish drainers were entirely emptied a week and a half ago (shock!!!), all three of them collectively emptied their vast uncleaned reservoirs of glass culture tubes, and coworker #1 has been remarkably proactive about removing the autoclaveable waste, and even did a run himself and immediately took it down to the dumpster (instead of letting it sit in the lab over a week like the last batch he took down just prior). I can only hope that this is a change to stay (so I can return to the shared cleaning responsibilities), but only time will tell. My ranty tweet that also ended up on Facebook (without restriction on who saw it amongst friends) probably served as a more obvious kick in the ass about it.

Oh well…oops (not really).

P.S. I cannot wait until I’m finished with this lab and have left, despite how much I love the work…

December 28 – Achieve. What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

What do I want most? Get published three times in scholarly journals! Namely, in order that I envision the papers coming along, Molecular Microbiology, Journal of Biochemistry, and then finally Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

How will I feel? Seriously? Is that a legitimate question here? I am going to feel fucking awesome!!!

Ten things I can do to get there? Oy vey…here comes the trouble.

  1. Figure out what alternative pathway hda seems to be mucking around with, either genetically or biochemically.
  2. Purify a bunch (more) Hda protein and demonstrate that it definitely impairs translesion synthesis DNA polymerases.
  3. Demonstrate that Hda is able to stabilize the replication fork and alter the ability for other accessory proteins to interact with the complex.
  4. Show biochemically that my mutant library is composed of both RIDA-competent and RIDA-incompetent mutants.
  5. Get a crystal structure of Hda, or a co-complex of Hda with the ß-subunit of DNA polymerase III.
  6. Selectively break interactions of Hda with other accessory proteins, and restore those interactions by compensatory mutations on said accessory proteins.
  7. Genetically demonstrate the ability to block and/or promote these interactions with mutants.
  8. Demonstrate the blatant redundancy of the initiation regulation pathways in cellular viability.
  9. Demonstrate that accessory functions of the initiation regulators were the evolutionary pressure for adoption as opposed to control of initiation.
  10. Make the grand corollary of what all this means in the greater scheme of breaking the microbial replication cycle and propose a new, unique pathway of antimicrobial targets.

Nobody said I couldn’t be dreaming when I thought all of this up. But it’s an entirely possible order if the experiments go in my favor…

I’m off and gone in Whistler, BC, Canada, for the rest of this week, and I’ve been here since last Friday. Lots of random things to chatter about, but simply don’t have the time to right now. As it is, I’m still sobering up after night #4 of going out (and it’s night #4 of the conference I’m attending, no less).

Details will likely ensue. Including pictures of zip-lining. Whooo!

The sciences are starting to feel the crunch of the economy, but in a slightly different means than one might expect. For the past couple years, the National Institutes of Health have been been cutting funding, both intramurally and extramurally. In fact, from what I understand, this is the first time that funds have actually been cut from extramural budgets prior to their expiration/date for renewal. This is making renewals for research funding through NIH even harder, as they are being awarded a smaller budget each year and they are forced to either fund for less, or fund fewer grants.

NIH isn’t the only organization that is impacted by this fund slashing. The National Science Foundation is also feeling the grip of this, as it seems they are being far more selective in their pre-doctoral awards. I was encouraged to apply for this award when I joined the biochemistry department, as were the other new students to the department. Unfortunately, not a single one of us was awarded the grant, nor even an honorable mention. Granted, I don’t think mine was outstanding, but I felt that at least one of our class would’ve had the material to get at least an honorable mention. After looking at previous years’ awards and that year’s awards, it became apparent that the predominant award winners were in mostly engineering and chemistry related fields. Combine that with the fact that my “critiques” were asking for things that I simply could not fit into the application (we’re only allowed two pages for each portion of the research proposal, I wrote nearly ten pages for my departmental research proposal), it makes me wonder if I wasn’t writing over the application, and not for it. Irrespective of that, it seemed that certain sciences were favored more than the others. I’ll discuss that further in another post.

With all these pressures as a researcher these days, what is a prospective doctoral candidate to do? I heard that a doctoral candidate that I know may actually be opting to leave with just a Master’s instead. Frankly, in the interests of his own financial security, this isn’t a bad decision. With a MS degree, you’re not overly qualified to work a position like a research technician in a lab, and you’re not so inexperienced that you’d be stuck with trivial and repetitious tasks. That, and you’re less dependent upon competitive funding; it’s no longer your responsibility, as you simply find a job with a primary investigator who does have funding (as opposed to being the one who has to hunt and apply for the funding). Looking at how many people are graduating with doctoral degrees compared to the past, and the large deficit in government funding, there’s a large push towards the stress of industrial doctoral positions. Sure, they pay well and are usually bleeding edge, but with that comes the stress of keeping up with that edge and driving results and deadlines.

Hearing that college is the new high school for the job market isn’t exactly reassuring. It’s bad enough the doctoral degrees are getting devalued through other means, and not just through dilution effects. Is it really worth the money to work for these degrees now, or should we just hand over our loan money to the creditors directly?

The weather has gone crazy again. Big surprise, right?? We had beautiful, sunny skies yesterday with highs somewhere in the 50’s, and now we’re down to crazy mid-20’s with freezing rain and snow due later tonight. Crazy weather fronts and silly southeastern moisture!

This weekend is recruitment weekend for my graduate program (Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in the Biomedical Sciences). Like the weekends in past since I was accepted into the program here, I’m helping out with the recruitment process by meeting with the students and answering/reassuring any questions they may have. Personally, it’s nice to meet some interested parties in the university and help get them excited about coming here, but I have to admit that the free food and beer is a nice perk on the side also! Thursday night is casual night out to break them in and let them meet some students. Friday they get to see the school and meet with selected faculty members of their choice, lunch with students and faculty both, and dinner with faculty and students again. I get to help out with both dinners, and then meet with them one last time Saturday morning for breakfast to show those interested about general housing areas in the city and ‘burbs. Granted, I’m no expert like many of the people who grew up in this region of WNY, but I’ve gotten a good feeling over the years for what’s nice and what’s sketchy.

Being that this is my third year helping out with the recruitment process, I’m starting to feel my age within the program a little bit. The first year I helped out, there were a couple fifth year students still doing it, and numerous other ones above me. Since then, we’ve lost more of those upperclassmen. This year, there are only three that are upperclassmen to myself, and only by a single year. I’m getting to that point that I am the upperclassmen, and it’s starting to feel weird. This is only compounded by the fact that I’m no longer taking real coursework (just research credits and seminars), and I’m already on my way to candidacy as long as my research continues to be fruitful. Ironically, I don’t feel that I’ve accomplished a ton in terms of research, but I have gotten some really interesting results since I’ve started my project. Additionally, I’m on the edge of finishing some crucial experiments to determine where my research is going to continue, so perhaps I’ve really accomplished more than I thought? Who knows…I’ll just be excited to finally get a project of my own to publish!

It’s late on a Saturday night, and I just don’t feel like going to bed quite yet. Despite nearly being done with my BerryWeiss and developing a mild headache (likely induced from unnecessary screaming at a lacrosse game), jut not in a hurry to get to sleep yet. I’m sure that will change once the temperature has dropped and I start getting cold.

The Bandits game tonight was good once they got their act together. I’m so used to seeing Kilgour as the starting center, that I didn’t even think twice when the away team (Philadelphia Wings) got the ball repeatedly after scores were made. Only then did I notice we had some rookie Sanderson at center, and he was doing a horrid job in the face-offs. Swung wild nearly 6 times, completely missing the ball and giving it to the Wings. Kilgour would fight until him and the opposing team member would go down on the turf before he’d give up his hold on the other man’s stick. Within 7 minutes, the Wings were up 6 on our nothing going into the game. I couldn’t believe it! Then the one chance we did have to score (and theoretically did), they called a roughing penalty on the shooter and negated the score. I was a bit livid, since it appeared to be a shoddy act more than a real blow to the goalie.

Ironically, once we got most of the rookies off the field and went back to the tried and proven guys, we came back…with a sweeping lead I might add. Game ended 21-12, thanks to some cooperation resultant in some real shooting (1st quarter shots were lethargic and horribly inaccurate) and a solid defense. I was very glad to see them come back and clean their act up.

Work was a little stressful this week. The week was going okay up until Thursday morning. Wednesday night, I left our FPLC unit running with a chromatography column on it that I was equilibrating for the morning. Unfortunately, I forgot to turn down the flow rate and it depleted all the water I was passing over it, resulting in approximately “420mL of air” going over the column. Needless to say, the column dried out, and the pumps were running dry with dried out seals, no less. My boss was the first one in Thursday morning, so he was the one to discover this first, much to my chagrin. Thankfully, being the ridiculously laid back fellow that he is, he wasn’t too flustered by this. Just caught off guard by the odd noises coming from the machine. The column has since been rehydrated, and is still flowing under a constant flow of ethanol/water to ensure there is nothing problematic with the column. It will continue to run like that all weekend, and then I’ll run some standards on it on Monday (providing our rotation student isn’t using the FPLC) to see how badly I’ve affected/destroyed the theoretical plates in the column. I’m praying it’s minimal…the column runs around $1400 brand new! Then again, I’m not sure I’d want to purchase a used one. Regardless, the FPLC is running fine, and hopefully the column will be as well.

The cat is starting to pester me, so I think it’s time to head to bed. She gets a little too whiney in the middle of the night for attention, I swear!

10. October 2007 · Write a comment · Categories: Work · Tags: ,

I used to think that the workplace drama would be mitigated once the fall semester started. The eldest undergraduate was going to be done working in the lab since she graduated in May, and the other undergraduate would be sparse in the lab due to classes and applying for graduate school. The first graduating student is also gone in Maryland to start his next job while his committee members read his thesis. The lab was all-around a bit cramped with eight active members in a single lab room. We were down to five people in the lab, with typically only three running around doing work in the same room at once.

I’ve taken on an undergrad student to mentor and train, so that brings our running total to six people on the busy days; she will only be around two to three days a week at most. I knew we were taking on a rotation student interested in Lil’s (next graduate student due for graduation, this coming spring as she’s already gotten permission to write), so that puts us to a steady six, as she will try to work most days of the week. Little to my knowledge, there was another rotation student lurking that I was not aware of. She’s simply pending her approval to work with radiation. Once she receives that, we’ll be up to a steady seven. Bear in mind, that theres really only desk space for six in the lab at present. To top that off, the undergraduate that was taking a break returned today. She’s mostly done with her applications for graduate schools (as most are due in January), she’ll be returning to work in the lab.

We are back to a slightly crowded lab! In addition, next week the graduating student will be back to meet with his committee members regarding his thesis. I have no idea how much he’ll plan to be in the lab, but we’ll be far more space-strapped with his presence, if so. Take into account that there are still at least two more 1st year graduate students interested in rotating in the lab. Thankfully, we’re not obligated to accept all of them if they’re interested. However, last I checked in discussions with the 1st students, two of these four were strongly interested in the lab, such that they would consider staying with the lab unless circumstances provided otherwise.

Right now, we’re limited to how many students we can accept by financial reasons. My PI’s primary grant runs out this spring, so the money he has funding the three students before me will essentially end. His renewal for that grant entered the study section today. Hopefully within a week or so, he’ll get his review/rating for the renewal, giving him some real perspective on whether or not the grant will get renewed. All three of the graduate students before me are expected to graduate this spring (or sooner), in order to deal with this adjustment in the funding. Realistically, we also cannot take on any more graduate students unless he brings in more funding, i.e. the renewal. Myself and the other PhD student are on other squandered money sources (I’m stashed away money, the other is supplemented-by-the-department-money if the renewal doesn’t come through), so we’re okay for now.

I’m anxious to hear the review of my PI’s renewal application, but at the same time, it’s hard to think that by the summer I will likely be the senior graduate student with another two new students in the lab. The lab is already mostly women, which is an odd change with the one student graduating (as he and I got along pretty well). My previous lab experiences tended to err on the side of more men in the lab, so it’s slightly different to deal with socially. Additionally, the two female graduate students that are in the process of finishing up seem more much headstrong than the younger (newer) students. This makes me wonder how the younger students will fit into the lab compared to the present two.