Monday, August 27, 2007

From grad student to post-doc (via long and lazy fattening vacation)

My glorious extended vacation (thank-you, USCIS) finally came to an end. My O.P.T finally in hand, I am proud to report that I boarded my flight out of India with little drama. I found that logic over-ruled everything else in my head this time- I was sad about leaving my parents, especially having been at home for so long, but I had had my fill of lazing and more, was ready to get started and this just had to be done. I was actually quite high-spirited and also excited about my first non-stop flight from India to the US. (Which, by the way totally rocked and I'd fully recommend it, the 15 hours literally flew past and the best part was no delays caused by stopovers).

My sis and b-i-l drove me into Philadelphia and helped me settle in, which made my life so much simpler. An apartment had already been reserved for me, I had a futon (thanks to my b-i-l and sis) to sleep on from night one, my alarm clock - radio plugged in, and the essentials to make my morning chai. I was all set. My first week  has been mostly "getting settled", paper work, formalities,and losing and finding my way around. The first thing that struck me was how much time I have now in the lab. A whole day just to do research! No T.A work, no classes to take, no grad-student responsibilities, just science! Wow!  There are very few grad students and no undergrads on my floor, so the other thing that jumped out soon enough was suddenly being surrounded by only 27-28-year olds and older. No inane conversations, silly undergraduate sense of humour, and such like. Post-docs seem like a more focussed, busy, and mature crowd of people, and I like being one among them. However, along with that, some of them also bring along a  strong shade of jade, something that I want to guard myself against for now.

Day 4 found me setting up for my first experiment in the new lab. It was a preliminary, straightforward experiment, a technique that I had performed a zillion times as a grad student. Still, there was  a broad smile on my face and a slight sense of nervousness as I went about doing it. How I had missed the pipetting all these months! The experiment worked, and I found myself saying "it had to work, there was no other way,  and it did." I had expected a bit more elation what with it being my first experiment in the new lab and everything, but apparently, it will take more for me to break into a dance over experiments that work, now.

Comparisons to my past life constantly dot my train of thought. "Can you believe they don't even have an online inventory  here!", and "The way <i> I </i> used to do it in grad school was different, but this works too..", and so on. The whole sharing bit is not coming that easy to me, having enjoyed the benefits of being the only student in my lab in lutom for many years. After a few days of trying to assimilate all the new stuff I was hearing and learning here,  I called up an old lab-mate in lutom, desperate for details about my old life.  It felt so good to talk in a familiar tongue, familiar words, familiar science.  Who is taking care of my frozen down parasites? What did E finally found out in his project? Did K's stuff finally work? What's the gossip from the meeting? Did they fix that centrifuge yet? And most important, who is using <i>my</i> bench now?

I then realize, I am the one using my bench. Because my bench is here. Yes. the science, the system, the vocabulary, are all very very new, but I chose to get into it, and I love the challenge and the excitement that the newness brings. The start has been smooth, but I get the feeling that it is a bit like the calm before a storm. A storm that should be fun tackling.

5 comments:

Pri said...

silly undergraduate sense of humour?
ahem.

Coco Captive said...

Sad I missed that drama.. *sniff*
And I loved it when u said that it feels good to be surrounded by 27-28 yr olds or older.. :D.. hain na achi baat.. u get to be the bachi! :)

Rebellion said...

now now now! You don't need to think so much Lajjo jee, esp about the future. You said its going well na, just keep that in your mind. If the start is good, the latter would just get better :)

The best part is, you're enjoying what you're doing sweetz :D

Janefield said...

Go get 'em tiger babeh! :P (nothing like a cheesy line)

Oh, wait...you missed the great Indian mantra by half a week- CHAK DE (TGFI)!!!!! :)

Ashutosh said...

How many semesters did you actually have to be a TA in grad school?