Thursday, February 16, 2012

Torch song or swan song?

In my research into new directions, I have stumbled upon lots of blog posts just like this one (for example, this and this). They all seem to share a sense of loss.  Indeed, one day in the lab I was listening to some sad music, as I am wont to do on a rainy, gray day, when suddenly, I found myself crying and it took me a while to figure out why: I identified my relationship with science with the heart-sick protagonist in the song. 

My friend and lab mate from grad school often compares work at the bench to an abusive relationship: one in which you are constantly beaten down, but are apt to forget about it once you have one good day.  At the bench, that one good day every few weeks has to carry you through all the dark, data-less days.  For some people, that one day is enough, but it does not seem to be enough for me anymore.

For more than twelve years, my quotidian existence has been built around getting up and heading to the bench.  The idea that I won’t be picking up my pipettes anymore seems strange.  Instead, I suppose my day will be filled with reading the literature, checking the science blogs, and writing and editing.   For the time being, I will be working as a freelance scientific editor.  Of course, I will be looking for more traditional jobs in scientific publishing as well.  I hope that this leaves some time for science writing, which is what I started graduate school with the intent of doing.   

I hope that this change will help return my love to me.  In recent months, I have felt the flutter a few times, usually while reading science blogs.  There is certainly lots of great science out there.  Now I hope to find it from the computer rather than at the bench.       

Update Nov 2013: Looks like someone at Nature had the same thoughts: Postdoc's torch song


  1. Thanks for the link back to my blog post. I can completely relate to your analogy of the the abusive relationship... I also thought of leaving science as a break-up of sorts. I can tell you that, 7 months later, I'm in a much happier place.

    Best of luck to you!

  2. Thanks for the update! That is the only problem with these types of posts, usually the story ends well, but I only get to see the goodbye posts.