Monday, March 12, 2012

The Happy Post doc

Moving to America has been a powerful change. One strong realization is that there no happy ever after. I think at this point, it is reasonable to accept that a complete clarity of who you really are is beyond reach. Nonetheless, post docing has been a really refreshing change too. I had read this post by FSP long time ago and I had imagined how cool it would be to be in a similar situation. I am very fortunate to say that despite all the hurdles I faced coming from a smaller, not-so-well known group to a bigger, famous group, I completely agree with the her. On most days, I am a Happy Post doc.

The one really happy change I noticed in myself was a remarkable improvement in my ability to plan. As a PhD student, I sometimes assigned myself unreasonable targets, mostly because I failed to see what could go wrong (or was in happy denial). Also, I had a tendency to suppress nagging pop-ups my mind came up with about what the reviewers might point out in an experiment. Most of these doubts turned into reviewer comments and I had to go back to the drawing board. As a post doc, I can sense that I am more rational about doing a thorough study right now than wait for it to be a reviewer comment. I also seem to have a better understanding of what could go wrong (I am the Cassandra for my own experiments!).

Like FSP says in her post, working on different projects and see them shape up separately is one of the exciting bits of this job. My ability to multitask has certainly been a big plus. Managing different experiments and collaborating with different people on each project is really exciting. I think I am more in control of what I am doing now than I was as a PhD student. There is no thesis to worry about. My fear of failing has been diluted to a great extent too. Although I sense that the overall uncertainty is still the same and failure now would mean an overall failure in life, I strangely enjoy being now and here.

Stepping into a new country/city, a new lab, being alone all over again was really daunting in the beginning. But now, a few good friends later, I realize that it is this confidence of being able to start over again that keeps me happy most of the time. The feeling that nothing really clings to you and you don't cling to anything has been a source of great happiness. I have also realized that I work better if I start happy. I think a really good voice for my thoughts would be this Ted talk by Shawn Achor.
Working in the lab has been a source of curiosity, joy and wonderment all over again. I hope this feeling stays *touchwood*. :)


Rich said...

Hi Saee!
I have been reading your blogs for almost 2 years now. You have an amazing quality to connect with people, I guess because of your honest expression of thoughts.

I am commenting on this post as it has given me hope :-). I am a PhD student at the moment and I am already looking for a Postdoc position in US. However, I have my share of doubts and fear. This post does make my start of the day "Happy".

Thank you

Saee said...

Hey Rich,
Good luck for the next exciting change. And thank you for your kind words. Are you doing your PhD in the US?

Rich said...

Hey Saee,

I was doing my PhD in Germany at University of Heidelberg. Now I am in the process of submitting my thesis and preparing for defence in the coming months. After almost a year I am still on the hunt for a postdoc. :-)

ps: sorry for a very delayed reply I saw your reply only today.