My new life

I have not forgotten about the blog. It is just that I am not having enough time to write. I promise I will write a detailed post about my first three months working at the company in this very nice city. Today I will just make a brief summary.

I feel extremely happy living here. I do not remember last time I felt like this, honestly. It is this wonderful feeling of coming to a new place that you did not know before, where you did not know anyone, and starting to build up a new life. It is the feeling of discovery, of challenge, of having nothing to loose. I know that for some people the beginning of a new life is hard (that is what it is usually said and what I was expecting when my plane landed). But it has been totally the opposite. I have even made some friends already and I am trying hard to improve my language skills in order to favour my integration. I am loving this small city that has greeted me with arms open.

At work everything is very different from my previous lab. Not only because I am not working inside a lab, but because working at a company has nothing to do with working at a public research institute. Some things are better than others, but altogether, I am learning a lot and I still do not regret my decision.

I am enjoying this experience.

Doctor of Philosophy

I did it. Now I am a PhD. I feel very proud, not particularly for being a PhD, but for having endured the long journey until this moment without being defeated.

The days before the defence were an absolute nightmare. I was extremely tired and at the same time nervous. Until the last evening before the defence day, my PI kept on kept on making me change and add slides in the presentation and saying that I was completely ignorant on important subjects that the jury would ask. That made me feel completely unconfident. However, the defence day arrived, and after a sleepless night I gave my best presentation ever and I was able to answer most of the questions of the jury. I even gave answers that made the audience laugh! The presentation lasted for around 45 minutes and the questions from the jury for around 1 hour. Time went by very quickly for me when I was on that stage. There were some critics, of course, but most of the comments were positive. Some questions were easier than others, but I always had something to say. And that was it. Cum laude.

I am still going to the lab, but just to talk about the experiments that will be continued by other labmates and to order all the material. I have already packed my personal things.

I do not regret my decision to leave. At least, not yet. Now that this PhD nightmare is over, I am anxious to see how things will be in a different country and what working in industry will be like. I hope everything will be fine. I cross my fingers!

I have already booked a room in a shared flat, just for the beginning. In a few days, I will be packing my clothes and taking a plane to a new life. I am really happy.

Final week

These are the last days before my thesis. I am trying to read papers and rehearse the presentation and at the same time I try to finish experiments. It is simply impossible to do everything.

I am very nervous about the thesis defence. People tell me that I should not worry… but the presentation is extremely long and I get exhausted during the rehearsals. Moreover, I am used to giving oral presentations in English and all my slides are written in English, but this time I will have to speak in my native language, which I thought it would be much easier… but sometimes I just cannot find the words and I feel very stupid.

This nervousness does not let me sleep at night and I feel really tired. I have lost a couple of Kg, which is quite a lot taking into consideration that I am already on the thin side.

Besides, people at lunch time keep on asking about my new job: where is it? where on Earth is that city located??? how much are you going to earn? what are you going to do there? how did you find it and how did you get it? and so on… I find these questions quite annoying. Perhaps the most annoying question is the one about the money, because I think that it is quite indiscrete. People in the public sector who usually claim that doing science for money is not totally ethical and that applied science performed in industry is not really science, are all now extremely interested in my future salary. Sometimes I have felt obliged to give an answer, and when this has happened, the other person has said something like: “Oh, well, it is not sooo much…”, which I find quite disgusting. They assume that one of the reasons why I am switching to industry is because of the money, and so it seems that I have made a bad business with this company because I am not going to become rich at the first minute. The second question that annoys me the most is the question about the location. Nobody knows this city. It seems that if I am not going to any of the four most famous cities in that country, I am some kind of looser. Actually, people have laughed at me when I have told them where I was moving to. I do not find it funny at all, but anyway, I will not waste my time giving explanations to these narrow-minded people.

Fortunately, in a few days I will not have to talk with my current colleagues about these issues any more and the truth is that now I should focus myself on the thesis because there is not much time left before the defence day. I am going to take a tila infusion a read a couple of abstracts before going to bed. Good night!

Happy end of 2013 :)

I wish you a happy end of 2013 and an even better 2014!!

Today was my last official working day at the lab. I will still go until y defend the thesis, but I hope to spend more time preparing the presentation and defence rather than doing experiments. My contract is over and there will not be another one here. This is some sort of historical moment, after so many years. In a couple of weeks my PhD should be over.

I have already got the final thesis editions and they look so so nice. Since finding any mistake is something that frightens me a lot, I have not read it all the way through again before sending them to the thesis jury. But I think it will be all right: these last days I have been reading and correcting it like a paranoid.

Nobody works here today, but I have gone to the lab to take out some plates from what should be my last experiment. After all, working on holidays is nothing new for me. However, I feel extremely tired and all I want today is to spend New Year’s Eve peacefully sleeping in my bed.

2014 will bring a brand new life for me, full of hope, challenges, happiness and illusion. At least, that is what I would like.

Plain ticket

Yesterday I bought the plain ticket. In more or less one month I will be landing on a new country. This is a big step and finally I feel everything is starting to move fast forward.

Although I had many doubts during the summer, now I don’t regret the decision that I have taken. Maybe it is because time has passed and I don’t have a fresh idea of what had been the interview and the visit to that city like… or maybe it is because I feel more confident.  Anyway, the option of searching for a postdoc position still feels unappealing to me.

My thesis has been finally approved at the last Uni commission and I now I have to print the books for the thesis jury, prepare my presentation and study. I really hope that everything goes right. I do not have so much time, so once again, a good organization and time management is essential for success.

I wanted to be a biologist

I had nearly always wanted to be a biologist. This idea was clear to me when I was 10 years-old. Before that, I wanted to be a teacher. I have a feeling that I was extremely wise when I was a small girl. I loved Nature above all. I loved animals as much as I loved trees.

I went to the University to study Biology. For several reasons, which might be explained any other time, I ended up as a Biochemist. I really liked Biochemistry and I still do. I keep a very nice record of the Uni years, when I learnt so so much and I met such good friends.

Unfortunately, during the PhD years the lab became like a prison for me. I was stuck inside that building, where windows do not open, during endless hours every day of the week. No positive results, no support, no enthusiasm, no hope, no time. I intensely missed being outdoors in the middle of the countryside. I became so alienated that I thought the lab would finally drive me insane. Those Uni days, when we would go out to the fields to meet and understand Nature, suddenly belonged to another life; a wrecked dream. The past.

Despite lab times, I still like biochemistry/molecular biology and I still love Nature above all. Now that I have finished writing the thesis, I have been able to spend some time in the mountains during these last weekends, and I have promised myself never to give this up again. The wounded dream is still alive and I will make it heal.

Life brings Life back to me in a positive feedback that now I recognise as something essential for my survival. I need to see the colours of Nature, I need to feel the cool wind on my skin, I need the smell of soil after the rain, I need the caress of moss and the crunch of leaves in autumn. I need to see the sun through the branches of the oak trees. Birds coming out at dawn and dusk, flowers in bloom, the silence of snowflakes falling…

December deadline and the final countdown

I am happy to announce that I have submitted my thesis (the draft version) to the University comitee! I will have to wait until the end of December to know if it is finally approved, but once at this stage, the evaluation is normally positive.

This is my last month in the lab and I will defend my thesis in January. It’s the final countdown! I want to leave things as finished as possible and clear enough for the person who is going to continue with my experiments in the lab.

I’m really excited about the idea of returning to a normal life and being able to do all the things that were left aside during the PhD. The uneasy feeling of leaving academia seems to be fading or at least, does not cause me sudden stress attacks any more. I am not even hiding it from my department colleagues. I still do not feel totally comfortable when talking about this, but at least, I am now able to tell the truth to people who ask me. Yes, I’m leaving despite being considered as a very good PhD student and a potentially excellent researcher. I don’t feel guilty any more for not wanting to search for a postdoc position. I’m starting not to care if other labmates or colleagues think that I am wrong. It’s a very personal decision and I have been thinking about this for many years. I reckon that doing a postdoc has some valuable advantages, but I really want to try something different.

I have already written to the people from the Company saying when I will be able to start working (most probably in February, if everything goes right) and I have started to look for accommodation in my future foreign home. I am really scared about the thesis defence, but at the same time, the feeling of future freedom, relief, progress and renovation pushes me forward. As far as I now, nobody has died at a thesis defence, no mater how embarrassing the situation might be, so I shouldn’t be the first one.

I am also trying to spend as much time as possible with my family and with the few friends I have. I am going to miss them a lot, but for me it is essential to take this step in life.

Panic

I still don’t feel comfortable with public speaking.

Yesterday I gave a seminar to my whole department for which I had volunteered in order to overcome the scenic panic. Although this time I didn’t run out of breath, I spoke too quickly and finished in 25 minutes what I should have told in 35 minutes. I know that this panic I feel is totally irrational. I try to calm myself down and try to think that it is not such an important thing, but when I start speaking, I cannot manage to control my nerves. I only calm down when I finally finish.

I guess I will need to gain some more confidence and rehearse a lot for the day of the thesis public defence…. I am really scared, but I now that I will finally do it. It’s a must.

 

 

The reasons why I’m leaving

I guess this should be one of the most important posts of the blog. Now that I have read the few posts that I have already written, I get the impression that I am always venting, which is something true that I should change. However, despite the fact that my PhD has not been an exciting experience for me, there are other reasons why I want to leave academia. I will try to make a quick list that will be updated in the near future if necessary.

1. I must recognize that I didn’t have a good experience with my PI and that his discouraging attitude and lack of leadership in the lab has made me feel extremely frustrated. Working in this lab has been very very very stressing for me and therefore, I have not really enjoyed the work.

2. I want to see the results of my work because I am a practical person. I believe that basic research is extremely necessary, but being honest, I am not the kind of person who can work happily on something which might or might not be useful in the future. I would like to know that my day-to-day work is going to be surely useful for at least one person in the world. I would like to have short-term results. This doesn’t mean that I am not patient enough… in fact I think I am very very patient. However, I don’t see myself doing basic research forever. I want to be useful for society in the short term.

3. I have worked a lot during these years and I have published my results and received an award at a congress… even though I didn’t have positive results during most of the time and the research topic did not really match my personal interests. It’s a long story to explain why I stayed in this lab. Anyway, now I want to work on something that I find interesting and challenging. I am sure that if I was able to put so much energy on something that I didn’t really like, I will also be able to reset my mind to work on a different field and learn if I have a much more positive attitude. In fact, I am eager to learn and work on a different subject, to open my mind.

4. The situation of science in my home country is disastrous and most probably, I would not be able to ever get a permanent position in academia. Despite being quite small, the private sector offers better opportunities (not more, but better) if you are well qualified. Therefore, my strategy is to accept the job in a foreign company, move abroad, gain experience in a sector which has suffered an important boost and come back after the crisis. I am not particularly interested in money, as long as I have enough to live (and I am quite austere), but I am very interested in having a job which satisfies me and ensures me some working security: I would not like to find myself at 50 having to renew my contract each year, with the uncertainty of whether I will have any position at all next year and depending on the government investment, which in my country is quite ridiculous.

5. One of my dreams was to move abroad, learn a second foreign language and live in a different culture. I know this can be done by landing a postdoc position, but according to the previously stated reasons, I don’t really feel like doing a postdoc at this moment, at least not until I try something different.

6. I made my PhD in a Molecular Biology topic that is quite different from the one in which I will be working at the company.  I really don’t know how I managed to get an interview after sending this first and last CV+cover letter. I thought it would be much more difficult and I was mentally prepared to send dozens of CVs. I don’t know how I got the job after the interview either, which in my opinion had not been successful. The fact is that I got it, and it means a great opportunity for me. I really appreciate this opportunity and I do not want to waste it.