Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Careering off course

There should be a link to a science news story here, but there isn't, it's just a clip from Rhys Darby's new DVD

Evening. Not done one of these for a while, but been busy. I'm now attempting to complete my thesis whilst simultaneously looking for a job I can do as soon as I complete my thesis but I can't really get a job yet as I haven't finished my thesis but the thesis is taking too long because I'm also looking for work.

Repeat as necessary. You see the quandary I'm in?

This is my first experience with job searching in the field of high level Science research. A lot of people have asked me which I'm going to pursue when I finish my PhD; Science or Comedy. I don't really see why I have to choose one and ignore the other, I haven't so far. But if I did, I really enjoy both, but which one pays better? I'll be honest, I've never seen a situation where desperate scientists have to drive hundreds of miles to conduct 20 minutes of research in front of a disinterested crowd of strangers in exchange for a fiver.
A lot of people I work with seem to have gravitated towards new jobs by some form of academic osmosis, and well done to them. I didn't think this would ever happen for me, for several reasons. Namely, although I enjoy and am interested in my research, I don't live and breathe it. And also I am still startlingly ignorant about how this industry works, unlike those who have a family history of higher education so know the correct procedures and conduct. My parents have always been supportive, but I'm the first person in my family to do A levels, let alone anything else. I guess I could have just asked people how things work, but then I was always worried about being exposed as the blatant fraud I am, so I kept my head down and people just assumed I knew what I was doing. But I'll show them!
Current wisdom is to do a post-doc, or post-doctoral position. Form what I can gather, this is where you do basically the same thing you did during your PhD, but you don't need to put it all in a big report after 3 years, and everyone just lets you get on with things rather than check up on you every few weeks to make sure you haven't snapped and run off to become a bricklayer, or been killed by a rat 'gone rogue' without anyone finding your partially shredded remains.
Traditional sources of career advancement aren't as useful as I remember. The Job centre used to be an option, but it focuses largely on converting the 'unemployed' to 'employed', anything beyond that is a bonus.
I did go to the careers centre for a 30 minute meeting about my options. The nice lady asked what I wanted, and I said ideally, I'd like a job that incorporates all my skills. She agreed that this was something I should definitely aim for. Then I told her all my skills., basically the Neuroscience and comedy. It's fun seeing a supposed expert genuinely at a loss for what to say. We agreed that I have created my own niche, but as I pointed out, a niche is only a niche if people know of it. What I've created is more of a blind spot, a phantom zone of career possibilities. If I'm being outrageously self-promotional, I could say I'm like the nuclear power of employees; potentially extremely useful, but if no-ones discovered it it's not worth a damn.
So I'm currently applying for post-docs in the Bristol area, with the hope of moving there some day. I've had to re-do my CV several times over, and it probably still could be improved. But if anyone knows of a neuroscience post-doc going in the South West or Wales, let me know.

And just to keep up to speed, here's a Science news round-up.

Mice Traced to Vikings: Studying the genomes of mice can be useful in studying human migration patterns. Because mice and humans so frequently travel together (unless you're in first class I assume), their genetic variation has been shaped by our movements in the past. Very interesting, although I'm suspicious of any research that involves mice, the most evil of all creatures. I honestly wouldn't put it past mice to change their DNA just to screw up our research. Horrible little bastards, all of them. Even this article had me excited, I thought it would suggest that mice ARE actually Vikings, after some evolutionary twist like the one that turned dinosaurs into birds. But no, an interesting if less exciting bit of news about species cohabitation reflecting migration patterns. Curse you, you scampery little furry balls of evil!

People don't like living next to a Nuclear plant: It turns out, that people might object to having a nuclear power plant built in their back yard. How much did they spend finding this out? I've been to a nuclear plant, it was quite cool (metaphorically, I'm sure the reactor was at temperatures normally found beneath the surface of your basic star) and a fascinating experience. i would go again. Would I live next to one? No. Nothing against nuclear power, but I don't like the thought of living next to any gigantic complex power plant, it's just ominous. And I'm well informed. But at least this story makes more sense than people objecting to sea based wind farms because 'it'll spoil the scenery'. Jesus wept, get a sense of perspective! Would these people object to life-saving brain surgery because it spoiled their hair?

Microsoft say Google is better: Microsoft says they are a 'David' to Google's 'Goliath'. As I'm currently writing this on a Microsoft PC with windows, like my laptop has, and as does every other computer I've ever used or even seen except for macs which don't count because I don't know that many pretentious people, I have to say I have limited sympathy for Microsoft. And I may have even supported them if they'd used the term 'Googliath'. I wonder if we'll see that term in some official capacity over the next few days?

CONSPIRACY! Keeping it going, here's another conspiracy theory.

McDonald's build secret global transit system!
Haven't you ever wondered why McDonald's burgers never look like the pictures over the counter? It's because all the burgers McDonald's sell (approx 45 million a day) are made at the very first McDonald's restaurant, in San Bernardino, California. The exact recipe of McDonald's burgers which makes them so addictive despite being crap is a very closely guarded secret, so the McDonald brothers decided never to let one be made off-site. Since then, every McDonald's franchise has been connected to the ever expanding kitchens underneath San Bernardino via a system of high-speed pneumatic tubes. There are no actual fryers or ovens outside of the main restaurant, just tube terminals cleverly disguised. These tubes now stretch all over the world. However, the 'fast food' commitment means burgers have to travel at supersonic speeds to get to the correct restaurant in time. This is why American McDonald's seem so much better, and British ones are squashed and crap; it's because the British ones have just crossed the Atlantic in less than 3 minutes, and the pressures incurred squash them until they look as pathetic as they do, whereas American burgers have a much shorter journey time.
The secret sauce is made from the processed remains of employees who risk giving away the great secret.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I have a mac, not pretentious just got really, really sick of how shit windows is.

I wrote my thesis in Latex rather than ms word on a linux machine. Not sure what that makes me, a geek, perhaps :D.

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