Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Some people may have called it


Your Score: Freak- INFJ

26% Extraversion, 73% Intuition, 33% Thinking, 80% Judging

Well, well, well. How did someone like you end up with the least common personality type of them all? In a group of 100 Americans, only 0.5 others would be just like you. You really are one of a kind... In fact, I do believe that that's one of the definitions for the word "FREAK."

Freak's not such a bad word to describe you actually.

You are deep, complex, secretive and extremely difficult to understand. If that doesn't scream "Freak!" I don't know what does. No-one actually knows the REAL you, do they?

You probably have deep interests in creative expression as well as issues of spirituality and human development.

You've probably even been called a "psychic" before, because of your uncanny knack to understand and "read" people without quite knowing how you do it. Don't fret. You're not actually psychic. That would make you special and you'll never accomplish that.

You're also quite possible the most emotional of them all, so don't take this all too hard. Nevertheless you most definitely have the strangest personality type and that's not necessarily a good thing.


If you want to learn more about your personality type in a slightly less negative way, check out this.


The other personality types are as follows...

Loner - Introverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving

Pushover - Introverted Sensing Feeling Judging

Criminal - Introverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving

Borefest - Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging

Almost Perfect - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving

Loser - Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving

Crackpot - Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging

Clown - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving

Sap - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Judging

Commander - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving

Do Gooder - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Judging

Scumbag - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving

Busybody - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging

Prick - Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving

Dictator - Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging

Link: The Brutally Honest Personality Test written by UltimateMaster on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Sometimes responsibility is the only thing that keeps me going.
I was a good kid, a reasonable teenager, and a successful college student. I wasn't particularly virtuous or hard-working, I was just really responsible. I always felt responsibility weigh heavily.

Now I am a postdoc, and not too thrilled with the state of my professional life. I feel like I am pushed to work on something that just doesn't interest me, I do not enjoy the nitty gritty daily grind of the lab work I do, I fell that my abilities are not adequately appreciated let alone compensated, and I feel that I am not being given enough other opportunities, such as reviews and writing. Yet I keep going. Sometimes it is the small part of my project I enjoy, sometimes it is the thrill of research, of finding out something new, sometimes it is just ambition, visa status or inertia, but mostly what keeps me trudging onwards (and upwards? outwards?) is an over-developed sense of responsibility.

I feel a responsibility to my employer, despite what I think I do not get in return. I feel a responsibility to my Ph.D. boss and lab because my success reflects on them (and terrible guilt on behalf of all the mice that were sacrificed along the way). I feel responsible to my future husband because I rooted him out of a place he loved to move here. I don't want to let my family or my country (really) down. Most of all though, I feel this immense responsibility to myself. I have spent so much time working towards this, so much effort. I have heard to many times that I have potential, and dammit, I want to fulfill it. I owe myself that. I am responsible to myself for the person I am and the person I will become, and giving up is not a part of that person.

So I go responsibly on, and if it wasn't for that aggravating rational-state-that-shall-not-be named, I would have quit a while ago. At least I think so, who knows, maybe ambition and inertia are sufficient. In any case, my responsibilities are here to stay, and I am made that way. And maybe that's enough. After all research requires persistence and luck above all, and who cares what motivates the persistence. Does it matter that it is responsibility? In my case it appears to be enough, so why not. Its as good a way as any to keep going.

I think.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Reunification, A joining, whatever. Clarity has been merged with this blog, and I've re-posted some of my favourite Clarity posts over here. Since blogger will not let you merge two blogs that you own under the same account. Because that would be too easy.

Anyway, here I am and here we go.

On Race and Being a Scientist

Skookumchick over at Rants of a Feminist Engineer had posted on the subject of race in science. Taking my cue from her, here I go.

I have to say that because of my nationality, race and nationality are rather inextricably linked in my thinking, so I will declare right now that I use the two to refer to the same thing. Sorry.

I am Indian, as may have become obvious to those of you who read my blog and notice my stubborn use of -ou- spelling. I grew up in India and came to the US to do my Ph.D., now I am a post-doc. I've been a foreign student, a non-resident alien, then a resident alien and now am a temporary worker.

There are so many stereotypes associated with various races and their work ethic/abilities/social skills. I'm not trying to offend anyone, but here's a list of some I have heard: Indians are bright and lazy, lack social skills and speak English with a funny accent; Chinese people are incredibly hard-working, paranoid and competitive and do not speak English well at all; Japanese people are eternally polite to your face but do exactly whatever they please anyway, the French are clubby and snobbish, the Germans are correct, humorless and boring, Americans are crazy workaholics with an alien literal sense of humour.

My accent in English could easily be American, in fact I get judged for that quite a lot in the Indian community. One of the two most paranoid, competitive people I have met was indeed Chinese, the other was American. However, the single most helpful technician I have ever known is Chinese, she is a darling. Two of the most intelligent-and yes, sarcastic- people I know are American and I enjoy and respect their insights and judgment tremendously. One of my dearest mentors in grad school was Japanese and he was always communicative and sharing with me. Many of my friends and my best colleagues have been, and are, French. Based on friends again, I think Germans are the most modest, open-minded people I know and amazing friends in the bargain.

I think that it is important to discuss issues of race and representation but one always risks falling into the trap of letting stereotypes do the deciding. However hard one tries, if one makes race a central issue one will end up classifying people one meets based on one's perception of their countrymen's qualities. If one is lucky and honest, one may overcome these stereotypes and make real connections to people despite all, but how often is one lucky or honest?

I resist concentrating on race for many reasons, a big one, and possibly an ignoble one, is because I do not want to be associated with the stereotype. I have known incredibly lazy Indian people, I have also had Indian colleagues who shamelessly made use of a boss's niceness and took way too much advantage. I am not like that, and it galls me no end to have colleagues who "have given my countrymen a bad name". I have also met hard-working like-minded Indians whom it is a privilege to associate myself with. However, I do not speak to Indians at work in our native tongue, if it is the same, or the national language because I think it is wholly inappropriate to use a language that other people do not understand in a workplace. It makes people hostile, which is completely understandable. Over coffee, I'd love to gab in Hindi, but in lab? No. I won't do it.

I resist emphasizing my race for another reason: I have worked so hard to be thought of as "just" a scientist, not an "Indian scientist", or the "Indian girl in that lab". People have actually called me by another, very different, name because there was another Indian in our lab with that name. The foreign student, the foreign post-doc...I think I have managed to shed all these labels, not because I am not proud of being Indian or because I am embarrassed to be considered foreign, but because I want to be thought of primarily as a scientist. I don't want Indian to be my defining professional label, just like woman is not my primary label of choice, more on that later. I feel that as a foreign post-doc, race and nationality are such dominant issues in the rest of my life- getting fingerprinted upon entry into the US, needing authorization to travel, my boyfriend shaving off his beard because he is Indian and will probably have trouble flying with a beard because of what he looks like. I don't want my race or nationality to be a central issue in my professional life as well.

I am joyously Indian and fiercely proud to be so. I am also a scientist and proud of that. I am not necessarily an Indian scientist is all.

I was a Happy Postdoc that week

I started writing this last week, so the title should actually read last week, but since there is still some residual happiness, the title stands.

The experiment worked!!!!! It worked!!! The one that really sets up the whole project, the one that indicates that I just may be on the right track...that one worked! I may yet be wrong, and hundreds of controls and repeats have yet to be done, but it worked! (Mad happy dancing) That's the feeling, that's the feeling I work for. That is why I do research. That is why I worked hard, that is why I swallowed disappointment after disappointment and kept on plodding. It's a great feeling.

It's an ephemeral one. It will last till the next one doesn't work. Or, the next experiment will work and the next and the paper will go out. Then the happiness dulls or is replaced by other happinesses-it had better, otherwise you're the person who is always talking about "My Science paper.." (I don't have one, I'm just saying). The happiness can make you drunk with success and eventually flushed with arrogance. Or it will fade leaving something worse, the memory of exhilaration. Or, if you're really lucky and balanced, it will even out into something you can sustain in the longer term. However, if you're lucky and balanced, you wouldn't care so much that results would exhilarate you...and so on.

Is it worth it, to work for such transient highs and more persistent lows? I don't have the energy to sustain such high ups and such low downs for so many years. Soaring is great, crashing sucks and repeating the cycle is even worse. Or am I one of the less common hyper-emotional ones who is far too affected by her work? It is not because I am a woman, in fact the most emotional scientists I have met were men, but I digress into trivializations. Do I want to work for those elusive high moments? Do I want to deal with all the pits and self-doubt? To borrow from Rusted Root, am I hooked on a feeling? Am I high on believing that I will succeed? Do I need to be that way to be a successful scientist?

Don't really know, and dude, when the experiment works I don't know if I really care to think about it. Doubts can wait.

"I can't stop this feeling
Deep inside of me..
I'm hooked on a feeling
I am high on believing.."

-Rusted Root, The Ooga Chaga song, adapted to Postdoc-hood

Professionalism or the Lack Thereof

One of the things that bothers me the most about the scientific establishment these days is the pervasive lack of professionalism I see at every level. From department heads and PIs to postdocs, lab managers and lab technicians. The only people who might be excused for not having learnt some professionalism are early grad students, but as they move onwards through grad school it should really be something they learn. Given the nature of many labs today though, they are not going to learn the value of being professional and will go on to be unprofessional postdocs, then PIs, then department heads.

What do I mean when I say professionalism? I mean that you have a job, therefore do your job, whinge if you will but do not make a career out of emotion and insularity. One's boss does not have to be one's friend. Their moods should not be a cause of great concern to their employees. Tantrums, hissy fits, concealment, bitching, sabotage, paranoid delusions, prestige issues, ego hassles, ignorance and just plain idiocy shouldn't have to be a normal part of one's day. I don't claim these as problems unique to a laboratory setting, I am sure these issues affect many workers in many walks of life (I know they affect publishers and engineers for example). But am I wrong in thinking that these problems are overrepresented in academic research settings?

Research is a hard job, it is completely self-driven, there are no benchmarks, no signposts that mark significant achievements other than peer-reviewed publications that go through an incredibly subjective evaluation process. You don't get much pay, praise or publicity. You work on an arcane subject in dimly-lit surroundings (maybe not always) and set yourself up for pillory by your peers every so often. Maybe 0.1% of us will find a cure for AIDS. Or even discover what AIDS is. I don't, however, think that the difficulty of what we do makes a lack of professionalism okay.

In fact being a professional would make life easier, at least it would according to me. Detachment from drama, perspective about achievement, calm in the workplace, hell, I want all these things! I am a better scientist when I don't want to curl up in a ball of stress every time I sit down at my desk. The experiment didn't work? Oh well, troubleshoot it and do it again. It did? Awesome, go get a drink. It's a job, life goes on. The boss didn't say hello? Forget it, as long as he or she discusses your data with you constructively and with an open mind. Go in, do your job, make some friends as a bonus, leave at the end of the day, go on with your life. Courtesy and respect (Propter Doc has put this very well) should be the cornerstones of the lab not precedence and credit-mongering. I don't know how we came to be a generation of scientists and mentors who are so caught up in the cult of scientific personality that an egregious tyrant with Cell papers in their CV is worshiped while a fair-minded collaborative mentor with less famous papers is followed by condescension and pitying whispers. It saddens me.

I really believe that increased professionalism, which also involves better treatment of employees and better compensation of exceptional talent, is the only way to better research. The question is, is unprofessional behaviour too institutionalized to root out? I don't


The paradox of anonymity is that you can be more yourself.

Anonymity enables us bloggers. Intimacy, truthfulness, genuine feeling, none of these would be possible without being anonymous. One expresses frustrations with lab, with particular people, one shares one's stories-be they funny, sad, outrageous or mundane. We all do these things under the comforting cover of anonymity. the first post about one's lab is made with trepidation, will someone see me? What if they find out? Then gradually, acquisition of a blog-persona emboldens you, you become Veo Claramente when you're typing, not Dr. Postdoc. You say the things that you have always thought and only told Postdoc Parents, Postdoc siblings, Mr. Postdoc-to-be or those always lovely and amazing Fellow Postdoc friends. Writing comes pouring out and suddenly people are reading! Someone comments, and you're on your way. You have this different life, almost, and you feel free to talk about the things that bother you. And then some.

Anonymity also shields some truly repellent people, who stalk and threaten. Trolls who lurk and comment. Malicious bloggers who use also their anonymity to liberate themselves, but to liberate their bad sides (maybe I shouldn't assume these people have good sides, but) and let it hang out in all its stinking glory. Freedom is universal after all, and can be used in any way. Your personal code is the only thing that prevents its misuse. The protection of anonymity is offered to everyone.

Here's the rub, It really bothers me that we should should we need it. The need to hide bad behaviour is obvious, the need to hide frustration less so. Why do we have to be careful about voicing our frustrations as long as we are reasonably polite and resort to only limited name-calling? Why is it that we face the possibility of reprisals for expressing opinions and telling it as we see it? I do have a quixotic sense of justice and what the world should be, but even so. Something is not right if so many people are out there, blogging about being grad students, postdocs or faculty, all staying anonymous and guarding that anonymity intensely. Hey, I'm not "coming out". I feel like I should be able to without the fear of destructive consequences. However, if I was guaranteed no bad consequences, would I turn Veo Claramente into a pseudonym? I don't know. My conscience and my sense of what is right would be satisfied, but I don't know if I want all the things I say to be attributable to me. I really don't know.

What would you do if you could out yourself without negative consequences?