Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The week I've had

It’s been quite a week my friends, quite a week. If you have a while, pull up a chair and I’ll tell you all about it.

Last Monday I had a committee meeting. For those of you who may not know, this is a pretty stressful experience as I get evaluated by my advisor and a handful of other professors. These are the people who decide if (and when) someone like me can graduate.

For the record: I currently am in hate with them and wish they were actually helpful to me all of these years (and it’s going to be six complete years come December).

I thought that the meeting sucked, but my boss thought it went great – mostly because my committee actually paid some attention to what I was presenting and then spoke up with some actual advice. What a miracle – they did their job. How lucky I am to witness it in this lifetime. The suck factor was pretty high because, as my boss so eloquently put it “I wouldn’t say they were ‘freaked out,’ exactly, but let’s say they were ‘concerned.’” Oh, OK, that sounds MUCH better. I feel great now.

No… WHAT??? Apparently my committee thinks that *I* am unfocused. I know, your jaw is hitting the floor just like mine did. As you will recall, I am self-admittedly anal retentive, so calling me “unfocused” is just the worst insult imaginable. Those of you who are former co-workers of mine (or loved ones of such folks) know where I’m going with this. I wanted to scream, “It’s my ADVISOR who is the unfocused one, you nitwits!” But, that would be uncouth. These professor types tend to band together against we evil, lazy, short-cut-seeking graduate students. It’s infuriating.

So, they told me that they want to have another meeting in mid-September and by that time they expect me to have accomplished 3 key experiments. They never said what those 3 experiments were. After the meeting, while talking to my advisor, I asked him what those 3 experiments were. Let’s call them A, B and C with 3 parts. As I continued to talk to him, and he would refer back to the big 3, they’d change to, say, A, B and D, but don’t forget about C with 3 parts, and if you have time, throw in E, or maybe throw E higher up on the list. Bottom line: my committee wanted 3 experiments done, and my boss wanted 5-6.

In an effort to clarify things (and to be a little shit to prove my point), I emailed each of my committee members separately to ask what the big 3 were. One member emailed me (and BCC’ed the other committee members – how shady is that?) with B, E, and F as the most important experiments to do. Another member emailed me with “I agree with member number one and think that B and A are the most important.” The last member never replied.

You can see why I am not impressed with these people.

The bottom line is that I will definitely be doing B – no question. Experiment A is second on the list, and I’ll deal with C with 3 parts, D, E, and F in my own time.

Tuesday I got up bright and early to fly to Rochester, MN for my interviews at the Mayo Clinic. I interviewed with a group of 3 professors who collaborate on projects together and help each other out on articles and grant applications quite often. There had been another woman who interviewed a few weeks before I did and decided to join one of their labs, so I was actually only officially interviewing with 2 of the 3 profs. The first prof, while very nice, was working on a project that I simply don’t find interesting. I believe that part of my aversion to his project is the fact that it is very similar to my current advisor’s favorite research topic. Anything my current advisor likes, I hate. Poor guy (the prof, not my advisor). He seemed pretty desperate to get a new person in his tiny lab. But I liked the second prof better. His projects are either moderately similar to what I’m doing now (so I wouldn’t have to come in and completely reinvent the wheel), or are freaking cool so I wouldn’t mind learning from scratch.

Dinner that first night was just me and the 3 profs. The guy I want to work for reminded me of my grandpa in a way. You know how men of that generation are taught to always open the door for a lady, and to lead her around by the elbow or small of the back? That’s what he did. I know it’s a generational thing, but it’s also kind of skeevy – dirty old man-ish by today's standards. He was in charge of driving me to and from dinner, and while talking to me in the car he would go to put his hand on my knee or arm to punctuate what he was talking about, and stop himself in mid-air. As my coworker put it “Ah, he must have been to sensitivity training.”

Wednesday was a full day of interviewing activities: I gave my presentation and received many compliments on it (so THERE! I say to my advisor). They formally offered me the job and look forward to hearing from me. I left in good spirits.

I got home late, crawled into bed, and got a couple hours of sleep. My body woke me up in the wee hours, urgently compelling me to go to the bathroom. Enter the deluge. I had the flu, and it was violently trying to exorcise itself from my body via every possible fluid – vomit, diarrhea, sweat, and urine. Sorry to be graphic, but I want you to know how bad it was. It explains why I stayed home from work Thursday through Saturday, enjoying my symptoms: a delightful mix of stomach cramps, heartburn and lack of sleep replaced the vomit by Wednesday night. I didn’t actually feel human until Monday. Don’t worry, I quarantined myself in my apartment to avoid infecting any other hapless soul.

I would like to take a moment and damn to hell the person who infected me, whoever they may be, gallivanting about in a public place, misting their flu plague about the masses.

My labmates are ANGELS. They did brave a brief visit to drop me off some Gatorade, and to verify that I did in deed look like shit. They also would periodically call to check on me, which I also appreciate. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the flu, or been sick enough to miss work for that matter, and to be that sick while living alone can be a bit worrisome. Not that I envisioned myself passing out or needing to be carted to the emergency room, but when you’re that feverish and tired, you’re not the best judge. It’s nice to know that there is someone else around checking in on you, should your faculties be in question.

And though I missed work, I wouldn’t say it was a welcome break. I really didn’t need to be sick, who really needs to be sick? There’s rarely a good time for it. At least I wasn’t still out of town when it hit. I can’t imagine trying to fly home, or trying to quarantine myself in the hotel room. Yuck.

Now I have to try to get back in the groove here at work, prepare for another interview at the NCI on Friday, and pack to move next weekend. The one thing I am grateful for is my advisor going out of town from July 23 through August 9. He also alluded to wanting to cancel meetings for all of August. Sweet! We’ll see if it actually comes true. I’d be able to get so much more done without our marathon meetings every week. I just have to get through this last one tomorrow. Wish me luck!


Blogger dressagemom said...

Wow, sounds like a sucky week. And you're moving? That's the worst. You have my sympathy.

7:27 AM  
Blogger craig said...

Wow... I feel like I know you better than ever before. Maybe, um, a little too well? And jeez, you're really moving away? That sucks.

7:41 AM  
Blogger Lil Kate said...

Not to worry, I'm staying in the greater Cleveland area. Seeing as how I'm not allowed to leave until December, I'll be throwing the majority of my crap in storage and renting a nice little furnished carriage house. I'll still be available for parties and corporate events.... and cat-sitting. :)

7:51 AM  

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