Itâs time for some past tense and a departure from Port Townsend, as I air some thoughts on my future.
Exactly a week ago I had a meeting with my thesis committee and was told that I should leave Berkeley within a calendar year. Between now and that ominous date I must submit two manuscripts, help author a third, and write a thesis. I must also decide on a lab for a postdoc, which is where this entry comes in.
In the comments of a Port Townsend entry, Michele suggested that I look to Portland for employment. Unfortunately, my scientific interests and long term plans rather limit my options. Only a few labs do the kind of work Iâm interested in. One is at UCSF, another at Duke, and the last at University of Washington.
The lab at Duke is doing amazing things, but is headed by someone described to me as âweird and intense.â This depiction came from the weirdest, most intense professor I have ever met. Not a good sign. To make matters worse, Iâd like to stay on the West Coast. So much so that, even though precautionary strong ropes tie me to the mast, my deaf ears can not even hear North Carolinaâs siren song. Then again, Iâve never even visited the South, so who am I to say that Iâll dislike it?
The lab at UCSF seems a fun place and is filled with experts who could teach me just what I want to learn. However, the boss has just started her own group. Generally, this means that Iâll be the only âwetâ biologist in the entire lab and that Iâll have to reinvent the wheel every time I want to do something on the bench. Specifically, the professor does not yet have tenure, and if she fails to receive it Iâll be suddenly cast adrift after only a few years. On the other hand, it would be nice to stay in the Bay Area, as well as to finally explore San Francisco more thoroughly. But part of me feels that staying here would be treading water. This geographical question is where Iâm most conflicted. I have a great group of friends here in the Bay Area, and would hate to leave you all behind. But a perversely masochistic piece of me thinks that it would somehow build character for me to be jostled by an area Iâve never lived and where I know no one. Realistically, this may not be a good plan. But every time I think about staying in the Bay Area for another 3-5 years, I feel a little guilty.
The UW group is kicking ass and taking names. Despite his young age, the boss is internationally known as a genius, and the lab âwinsâ what are essentially interlab method competitions by a large margin every year. However, fame has its price, and the group has ballooned to forty members, all of whom are complete bad asses. New postdocs are essentially required to bring their own money with them, in the form of fellowships. Thatâs a lot of people and a lot of pressure. The boss has a good track record of helping alumni find research positions, both in academia and biotech. But I worry that I could slip beneath the anonymizing waves of such a large group. And my recent experiences with northwest weather have made me realize just how much I like California. Could I re-acclimate to nine months of rain? Several people I know from high school and college are in Seattle: would that be a nice safety net, or would I feel guiltily stifled, as I worry I would in San Francisco?
Iâll be interviewing at all of these labs in approximately half a year. At that time, Iâll be able to make more concrete decisions, since labs that look great on paper could be disasters in person. But at the moment I canât seem to get my mind off these choices. Iâd love to hear comments and suggestions from you guys.