Tuesday, June 19, 2007

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


Anonymous said...

I totally comiserate on the highs and lows thing. In grad school I often shrugged off the lows, but I find that harder to do as a postdoc.

By the way, you are showing your relative youth in attributing that song to Rusted Root. Rusted Root did not write that song, they simply did a remake of it (one of many). The original was written in 1969 by Mark James and performed by BJ Thomas.

Veo Claramente said...

yes it gets harder and harder as a postdoc.

thanks for the attribution, the rusted root version is the only one i've heard. :)