And so it continues...
It's been quite a while since I last had a blog post, despite the occasional words of encouragement from Claire. Things in graduate school are pretty much always busy. It's hard to justify wasting time writing a blog. It's far easier to waste time on Reddit or elsewhere in the cesspool of the internet where no remnant of the lost moment will remain.
Alas, things are pretty good here. I have a deeper understanding of my expectations now and have learned to grow as a scientist and be sane simultaneously. Our year lost a couple more students, I can't help but wonder if they're better off. It seems like every week I read another article about how the university system is the next unsustaniable bubble that's going to burst, or how the Ph.D. is useless these days. There's lots of Ph.D.s and simply not enough jobs I fear. Academics don't retire and open up the gates for new academics. I guess that's an artifact of not actually enjoying your life until you're 40 when things settle down and you're actually running a lab. I've said time and again that I wouldn't be doing this if I felt like there was something else better to do. I guess I have this pipe dream of being a bona fide scientist with his own lab doing what he wants and letting his interests guide his work. It seems like quite the journey from here.
So what have I been doing in the last six months? The short story is, well, a lot. I rotated through Josep Comeron's lab early this year and sequenced 24 complete genomes to address the question of how recombination varies within a species at different conditions. It was a really great rotation project, and added to the labs over 4000 genomes they've compiled in the last year. It was a lot of work but I really enjoyed the people, pace, questions, and approach.
The rotation ended and then I got to go to Sarit Smolikove's lab. Sarit is perhaps the best adviser that one could wish for. She's dedicated, interested, and very involved. I have to reject the null hypothesis that Ph.D.s don't actually do benchwork when I'm around her (P<.01). She teaches and spends at least 10 hours a day actively doing research, and that gives me a lot of hope for my future career. My project in her lab was to determine what proteins interacted with one that they had implicated in synaptonemal complex dissassembly (the protein scaffolding that holds together homologous chromosomes during meiosis)--the first protein discovered to be involved in this process. I produced a lot of hits, and knocked a few of them out in vivo to see how they affected meiosis. A really cool project. I feel like I'd be in her lab right now if she had a grant. It's sad, but she already has two graduate students and no grants to keep them going. I think she'll eventually pick up a solid grant, but I just can't risk having to teach every semester and watch my productivity take a nose dive.
So, that left me to join Josep's lab. I started last week and will be there for the next four to five years working on recombination variation. Our first task is to get a review paper out the door. As such, I've been reading articles pretty much every day. Basically this way I can get my first paper in the lab, the first quarter of my comprehensive exam written, part of a grant application, and a piece of my thesis written within the first semester of my work in the lab. I think Josep is really thinking ahead on this one, which is a very good thing if I'm to get out of here in a reasonable amount of time.
I suppose the next obstacle in my way is our Qualifying Exam. We've been given the topics for the exam and are expected to know them well enough to answer specific questions within the topics on July 10th. I've started the studying process and should be ready by that time. Some topics are specific and doable, like "The biology of small interfering RNAs", while others are extremely broad, "The origins and maintenance of diversity in natural populations." Oh well, just another hoop to jump through.
I suppose that's all I've got. Haley will be passing through Iowa City in early June and staying the night at my place with Ari--I still haven't told her that I don't actually have a couch for her to sleep on, but I'll drag out the small mattress for her. It should be a fun time.