The Lilies of Dawn by Vanessa Fogg

27 07 2016

Today my good friend Vanessa Fogg from the blog It’s a Jumble has released her first novelette, The Lilies of Dawn. I was privileged enough to get an advance copy to review. I am not going to lie, I was mildy hesitant when I first opened up my e-copy. While I have known and read Vanessa’s writing for years, what if I didn’t like this? What if I couldn’t relate? Vanessa was my friend and what if I didn’t like the book? What would I say?

Well those fears were unfounded. I can honestly say that I was 110% blown away by this novelette. From the beginning the poetry like flow of the words,  drew me in. The words, the characters, the story drew in, not just me, but my kids. I made the mistake of reading it to them as went to bed. Normally, both bear and monkey will pass out when I start reading a book for me out loud. That didn’t happen this time, both my kids were entranced by the story and ending up staying up way later than they should have. It was honor to be able to say that I know the author.

This is a great story about one girl discovering her strength and learning to trust her instincts. You should totally go buy this book now.







13 11 2015

Its always slow starting in a new lab. Especially when you’re coming in with vague goals / direction. I’m not sure how others have found their post-doc positions. From what I have read, most take a lot of time to think about what they want to do, academically speaking. What skills do they want to learn? What new model systems do they want to explore? Do they want to continue in the field they did their PhD work, but examine the questions from a different perspective? When thinking about these things, they probably researched many different PI’s, examined their research program, asked about their track record regarding mentoring, asking  where former post-docs have landed. Collecting data to answer the question , is this a PI someone that will move my scientific career forward?

Yeah I did not do any of that.

I know I want to go into the management of research, either in a not-for-profit or an industry sector. I’ve been looking for some positions after completing my PhD, but hiring takes awhile and I could not go with out a paycheque. My strong need for income led me to approach a PI that works in flies to see if they needed help shoring up some projects. The benefits being that I am well trained Drosophilist with amazing microscopy skills so I could start immediately, didn’t need training and could be producing data in a week. S/he didn’t need anyone but she passed my CV to another local PI who was looking for some hands. I’ve been hired to help move a project along so I am back at the bench. Except its not a fly lab or a lab working on anything I did during my PhD, so that whole hit the ground running? Not happening. Instead, I am adjusting to learning about a new field, learning the workings of a new lab, and basically feeling like a newbie grad student all over again. Twitter has said this is normal and I “know” that it is. It just is such an odd feeling walking into work and not having a list of things I must do today. I come in and read papers. Then I contact x about training y. wait. Contact A about D. wait.

The research is interesting, the lab folk are really nice. The next few months will demonstrate whether I LOVE the bench or if I’m really done with it. Which direction do you think I am leaning?



29 10 2015

Well its another new adventure. When I finished my PhD, I thought I would take the time to find a “real” job. I wasn’t going to start a post-doc simply because it was easy thing to do, especially since I know I will not be going the tenure track route. The thing is in PhDCity biotech isn’t very big. We lost a few companies right after I started my PhD studies (way back in 2008) and we haven’t really recovered. As much as I know I would be good in product sales (ie working for the big supplies providers) its not something I want to do. I know it sounds snobby, but i had the opportunity to get into sales when I finished my MSc. If I was going to be “sales specialist”, I could’ve been doing that 8 years ago. I want to do something that uses my skills as a scientist. Which is why I was really excited by the recommendation from, Cath for a position like hers. Although, Cath doesn’t do bench work, she gets to still be involved with science. I had multiple with her’ employer and although I was shortlisted I didn’t get the job. I’m totally OK with it, because the process of interviewing really helped me think about what I want to do. One of the great questions that I was asked was whether I was ready to leave bench science. I answered honestly that I wasn’t sure because I love science. Looking back I realize that was the wrong answer, its not science I love it asking a questions, figuring out how we can answer it and then trying to get the data. MY absolute favourite part of science is the data analysis. I’m not going to lie, I am perfectly happy to let someone else collect the virgins, make the crosses and conduct the experiment. Analysis the data? I’m there. I’m also a rule follower. I like rules, I like crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s. One of the hardest things i find about academia is the bendable rules. You don’t really have to send you progress report 2 weeks beforehand because the prof isn’t going to read it. I like deadlines that I can meet. I like standards. I”m a type A. I like to know I met my targets or I did not, then figure out why.  These traits aren’t necessarily well suited to make the next scientific breakthrough but they are good skills for project management, clinical trial management and for administration. They are the skills that got me a PhD after 7 years with 2 labs, 2 mat leaves and 2 years parttime work. The next step is to find a “real” job in one of these fields without experience in them, but I still need to work because I was going crazy at home and I was stressing out not having an income. Even though my paltry student stipend didn’t really contribute to our mortgage or everyday expenses, it allowed us to put some cash away every month and have a bit of a financial cushion. Then I remember something I read on Biochem Belle’s post about transitioning. I need to be looking for my next job not my last job.

With that I’ve taken post-doc. Its not a traditional post-doc where I come in with a project to myself and run with it. The PI needed someone to help finish up some projects and s/he is involved in setting up new center at one of the UNI’s. A center for a technique which I have quite a bit of experience with, one could say I “haz skillz”. I’ve negotiated a post-doc where I get to learn new lab skills and refresh ones i haven’t used in awhile, while being involved in grant writing, budgeting and coordinating the development of this new center.  On the surface it seems like a win/win. The PI know what my career goals are and would like to help me get the experience I need to transition into the roles I mentioned.  I have the skills s/he needs to finish projects. I’m nervous, its in a field I have limited experience with, Neuroscience and with a PI I have never worked with nor do I know anyone who has worked with hir. I’ve met them, s/he seems very personable and nice. The lab members speak highly of them. They are well liked by the university admin. Another PI, whom I do know well suggested I approach hir. A PI wouldn’t send a colleagues graduate to a crazy PI would they?

Fingers crossed my friends. I figure out if I’m in the fire or not!