We're a little crazy, about science!

Controlled chaos

Life has been pretty messy lately. Not just because of the pandemic, but that is definitely not helping anything right now. I’ve got papers due, I’m making a job change, and the wildest part is that my Co-PI may be leaving so I’m not even sure the job I’m changing to will still be there after the end of the year. That doesn’t include the outside factors, car issues, home issues, health issues. Those are all there too, but mostly right now I’m concerned about work related stuff and I realized that for the past few months it’s just been controlled chaos.

Since I haven’t done one in a while let me start with the semi-usual introduction! I’m a FOURTH! year PhD candidate (just hit year four, woo!) in neuroengineering. My work involves understanding changes in spinal signaling after injury. That’s just a fancy way of saying that your spinal cord talks and I want to figure out how differently it speaks when there has been an injury. Spinal cord injury is very personal, no two people have the same outcome from an injury and I want to figure out what exactly is going on so we can figure out how to fix it. Since that’s the dream I’ve recently taken a job in my Co-PI’s lab to do it full time. My school will still be paid for, but I’ll get paid better, get all the adult stuff, health benefits, things like that, while doing the research I love.

Things have been hectic, I feel like I’m always saying that, but it’s true and it’s more than usual. A while back I decided to take the leap and trust that things would work out by going from a nice student position (which pays like hot garbage) to a research position (here). Research doesn’t pay that great, I mean the money isn’t bad, but you’re not going to get rich. You do research because you love the work and want to help people. Or at least that’s why I went into research. So I made my choice despite the chance that it would end horribly for me. Well I submitted my application the other day and we’re in talks for pay, again not great, but better than what I was getting.

The thing is that the onboarding takes roughly four weeks so if I actually want to start getting paid anytime soon (and trust me when I say I need to get paid soon) I need to start working, like NOW. It’s happening, it’s just slow, like a lot of things at the hospital. The other side of that coin is that it’s my Co-PI hiring me, who may be leaving at the end of the year for a nice new job with a new facility (here). I don’t want him to go, this is the same man who is currently fighting to get my paid better than what they were going to offer me, I really like my Co-PI and good PI’s are hard to come by. So I really want him to stay, but if he goes then I have the issue with the fact that his lab no longer exists and I need to figure out my path from there.

However! I have news on that front too. The hospital he’s currently at has finally (this has been months in the making) given him an offer and it’s a damn good offer! Our lab coordinator went on a trip to the new hospital to tour it and was originally going to say she hated it so he would stay because he needed to hear it from her. Instead after the trip she loved it. At that point I was finally accepting that it was officially time to start saying the long goodbyes and plan for the fallout from him leaving. Basically find a new lab if I wanted to stay at the hospital or coordinate with my main-PI to take me back into his lab. Now that he has this offer she is officially back on team keep him here. So we’re trying to talk some sense into the man to stay, but no one knows what he’s doing quite yet (not even him).

Again, controlled chaos (maybe not exactly controlled), but I’m trying to work through it. And by work through it I mean work on not one, but two first author papers my two PI’s are expecting me to write. Yep, I’ve been working on one for each PI right now and I’m literally like 90% done with both of them, but the work is killing me and I really need a week or two to myself. I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon so I’m trying to take time to myself when I can get it, I just can’t seem to get it.

Thankfully as of this morning I’ve finished all the figures for one of the papers (my main-PI’s) and now I can finish writing the little bit I have left to get that done. Then I need to make a ton of figures for my Co-PI, we’re talking like 20+ for the paper. It’s a little excessive, but both PI’s have this thing about doing giant experiments that are really like five experiments wrapped into one. So there’s a lot of stuff to get done for it. The issue is both are basically due now, so I’ve been frantically going back and forth working on one then the other for the past few days. That wasn’t easy since the other day I got my third COVID vaccine shot (here), but thankfully the after effects were minimal and I feel perfectly fine today.

The goal is to wrap both papers up this weekend. Of course then I have an IRB proposal to write after this, then there’s a bunch of other things going on (experiments mostly) and I need to have a rather scary talk with my main-PI about the responsibilities I will have in his lab now that I’m moving to my Co-PI’s lab full time. I think that talk will go okay, but it makes me somewhat nervous. Now that he isn’t exactly paying me, I shouldn’t have responsibilities at all really outside of the basics, but that’s really up to him and I don’t want to have that conversation, I am dreading that conversation, so yeah it needs to happen, but I don’t want to do it.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have better news about the state of my two journal papers, but for now things are looking, well busy. Which I guess is the theme these days. I’m told doing your PhD is a marathon, not a sprint, but I feel like you’re expected to sprint the marathon, while juggling and dodging someone shooting live bears at you, oh and you’re on fire somehow.


4 responses

  1. Where did you get a research job?

    Liked by 1 person

    August 29, 2021 at 11:26 am

    • Good question, my fellowship was a dual appointment between my University and a local research hospital. Unfortunately the fellowship was only two years long and it ended this month. My Co-PI, the one I work under at the hospital, decided he wanted to hire me full-time in his lab. My main-PI (at the University) agreed that it would be a good idea so I could fund the last few years of my education, and so now I’m in the process of being hired.


      August 29, 2021 at 2:00 pm

  2. That’s a lot of things at once. I hope your meeting with your PI goes well and your co-PI stays. Wish you best luck 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    August 30, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    • Thank you! I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks there is a lot of stuff going on. Fingers crossed on the co-PI situation for sure!


      August 31, 2021 at 9:26 am

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