Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Endgame

I've been thinking about "the endgame" a lot these days.
(Style note: I swear not to begin anymore posts with "I've been thinking about..." anymore, it might be time for "It was a dark and stormy night...")

What is my endgame? With this postdoc and all that I am doing now, involving low-level politicking, writing etc. Let's say its an academic position in India, doing cutting edge research in infectious diseases. What then am I doing to go there? How specifically do I go about getting there, as opposed to just trying to do good research and sending up prayers to the gods of funding and publishing?

This is a novel way of thinking for me, and one that I think should have started a long time ago. I drifted into science because I was bright and academically-inclined. The drift wasn't aimless, it was influenced by the fact that I love talking to intelligent people about intelligent things, my mother is a scientist, and I thought science and scientists were so cool. I came to the US because it was kind of the done thing at my (competitive) college: my friends all wrote the GRE and sent out applications. Most of us did well, and nearly all of us went to good schools. I floated into biology because I liked both biology and chemistry, and biology incorporated elements of chemistry. I went where I did for grad school because they offered me a place, and it seemed really cool.

I don't mean to say that I just faffed through life and things happened to me. I think it was more that I hadn't found all the the dislikes and loves that I have now. I liked most things, I was interested in studying most things, and I looked on travelling as an adventure. I had no conception of the mind-bending cultural changes I was about to face, and I did not think for one second about how hard it would be to consider living and working in India after nearly ten years as an American scientist. I am pretty fortunate that things have turned out well, and I am very fortunate to have discovered both ambition and immunology. Fulfilling that ambition would be much easier if I had actually started thinking about my life and career choices more actively a long time ago. I didn't, though, and whether that was a function of culture, personality, upbringing, I can't say with certainty. But it is what it is, and I'm going to find out, soon enough.

Now I know better, its all about the endgame. Which includes immunology, India, a family, my large and extended family, writing, travelling and a faculty position.

Too ambitious?


doc-in-training said...

Veo, I don't have personal experience on looking for a faculty position from across the country, but I've seen many people done it. I'm still in Asia btw. So. I'm sure you'll do fine.

Please feel free to send me an email if you wanna chat, although like I said, I don't have personal experience on this. =p Good luck.

drdrA said...

Funny that I happened upon your blog today. I am writing a short series about looking for an academic position. If you are looking in another country that makes things more difficult- but there are LOTS of excellent scientists (and some are probably some are immunologists) from India working in the US, and many maintain ties with home- so you can actually start networking right here. Other ways to get started might include the internet- you must know what the large research institutes are in india, start looking at which ones apply to your interests, email a few faculty, introduce yourself, and ask about the hiring plans of their departments for the next few years...just get your name out there and make personal contact with a couple of people to get started!!

Veo Claramente said...

Thank you both so much! I will definitely be in touch.

Mad Hatter said...

I think it's fantastic you've figured out what you want. I went through most of my academic career like you--not really drifting, but definitely without a specific game plan. Although I agree it would've been useful to have developed a road map earlier, it's hard to do that when the destination is unclear. But it's never too late, and I'm sure you'll find a good path to what you want.

A few years back, I managed to finagle a visit to the NIH equivalent in my mother's home country through a scientist I know. It was very enlightening. Perhaps you know someone in India who can help you get a foot in the door in the local institutions?

Wayfarer Scientista said...

absolutely not - you can do it! Yes, I too am trying to figure out that endgame but the thing is, it doesn't seem to stay fixed for me. Good luck!

CAE said...

I have a friend who's succeeded in returning to India in a faculty position after several years in the UK and US. I know it wasn't easy, but he made it happen!

The Nature Network has a group for Indian scientists that I keep seeing at the top of the "most active groups" list. That might be a good place to start.

Good luck with the endgame!

aparent said...

go for it Veo! start the networking as commnets above suggest.

Amanda said...

That's awesome that you've figured out what you want. :-) I'm sure you'll do well.