Thursday, December 23, 2004

Today Has Been a Mixed Bag

It’s been tremendously quiet around the lab today. I got to work around 7:30am and turned on the lights. As I walked toward the Food Safety & Toxicology Center all the lights in the offices are off, with the exception of the one next to mine on the 3rd floor. I wonder if it is foreshadowing how quiet the building will be today.

I started with some cell culture work, changing the media to keep the B cells (the cells that make antibodies for the immune system) happy. Cell lines don’t know about holidays, they just keep growing. Nothing too exciting happening around the lab, a few people roll in to take care of what they need to and not much more.

I got a call from my mom last night. She and my youngest brother were coming to East Lansing today to do some errands and they wanted to meet Ellie and I for lunch. Ellie couldn’t get out of work, but we all met at the Marriott and exchanged gifts with one exception; this morning we left David’s gift under the tree. Whoops.

My Mom, brother, and I made the quick trip across the street to visit the only Indian restaurant in downtown East Lansing (I do love Indian food, but Ellie’s not one for spicy food so it’s relatively rare we go). I was in a hurry to get back to work because I set a meeting with one of my old professors, Dr. Roth, at 1pm. We talked for a good half-hour over a nice mix of Indian dishes. It was really nice to see them both. I was especially happy to talk to David, as I do a really bad job of keeping in touch with him. I try to call my middle brother, Rob, every week or two to hear about what he’s been up to down in Texas, especially after he and his girlfriend broke up. Dave is in the same town with me and I hadn’t talked to him since we helped my Dad move out of the old house. Ellie tells me when she talks to him at work, but it’s not the same as sitting down with him and just talking. It was a good meal with good conversation and company. I wish I hadn’t been in a hurry to get back to work.

I needed to meet with Dr. Roth because I’m coming closer to the end of my current lab rotation and will need to make a decision soon about what lab I want to do my dissertation work in. Making a decision about which lab I liked better would be really difficult because the experimental work done in both is excellent, the people are fun to work with, and the labs are both reputable in their fields.

It seems the decision will be a bit easier than I anticipated.

Tuesday I was driving in the car with some other graduate students and one asked what I wanted to do. Not having a specific answer I chose the one that was probably the most accurate: "I want to work where I can pose the questions that interest me and find the answers." One could probably work in academia, government, or private industry and do that, but to varying degrees. Academia would have the most freedom, but the least resources. Industry would have the most resources, but the least freedom. Government is somewhere in between, but the politics does play a factor here from what I’ve been told. Why am I writing about all this? The point is in academia one needs to stretch monetary resources to accomplish the goal, so professors cannot always afford to take as many students as they might like.

I knew another student, Pat, who had worked in Dr. Roth’s lab at the same time I did had already committed to returning to do his dissertation work. I like Pat, and we’ve known that we both had some similar interests in terms of where to research, so we knew it might be a possibility that we might both want to work in the same lab, but there would only be resources for one student. So I met with Dr. Roth to ask if he would be interested in taking a second student. If he were then my decision about where to do my dissertation research would be difficult, if he weren’t it would be simple. While he told me that he thought the work I’d done was good, they didn’t know that there would be the resources to take another student. It would be worse to take two students and not have the money for both of them to do their research than it would be to have to chose between two. I understand and appreciate that decision, but it does leave me a bit sad.

Some of my favorite memories of school and work are from the time that I spent working in Dr. Roth’s group. At this point it looks like that’s what they will stay. Next I need to talk to Dr. Kaminiski (who I’m currently rotating with) check whether he has the resources to take another student.

So today has been a mixed bag so far. Happiness tempered with a touch of disappointment. Such is life sometimes, and that’s part of what makes it great.

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