My Future

So I have not really talked much about what I do beyond that I am a chemist. Because of what has happened today I thought that I would give a little bit more background on that.

I am what is called a Postdoctoral Researcher. What a post-doc is, is essentially the middle step between graduate school and being a professor. Everyone knows what a graduate student is (in theory) and definitely what a University professor is. Well, a post-doc is somewhere in the middle. I work and get paid like a graduate student (well, about $15,000 more a year, which isn’t much when graduate students get paid only ~$20,000), however I have more responsibilities like mentoring undergraduate and graduate students and grant writing. Theoretically I should also be mentored by the professor that I work for on HOW to be a good professor (some do this more or less than others, mine is more on the less side). If you’re still confused about what a post-doc is, think about a medical doctor doing an internship. It is the intermediate step between medical school and being an independent doctor. Well, for chemists, we have the exact same step in between graduate school and being a full professor. Our internship is just called a “post-doc”.


In December I submitted a grant to the NIH (National Institutes of Health) to seek funding. Funding is *critical* for me to get a professorship at a good University. It doesn’t have to be from NIH, but it does have to be from SOMEWHERE respectable.

I knew my “score” last month, which was good – but not excellent.

Today I received the comments on my grant. And honestly, I’m surprised by them. I thought they would mainly rip apart my science, but that was only about 25% of the grant application. They also analyzed me as a candidate (my grades in college, graduate school, my number of publications, ect), my boss and training institution (how much funding he has, how many students he’s mentored, what facilities are offered at my university), and my potential to be trained (what letters of recommendation, the training plan outlined by myself and my boss, how it flows from my graduate research). And these people were HARSH. But at the same time, they were HONEST. And it was interesting how much these people could discern from my application.

They also said some really encouraging things, like this:

“There is great enthusiasm for the proposed work in specific aim 2, which stands apart as being potentially ground-breaking

“Dr. [SS4BC] is an enthusiastic scientist who is committed to interdisciplinary research at the interface of biology and chemistry, and her research experiences clearly indicate this. Her graduate work led to an impressive number of first author publications in good journals.”

“She has already gained experience in organic chemistry during her doctoral training and is well published in bioorganic chemistry. Her postdoctoral experience should equip the applicant with valuable molecular biology tools. The areas of her doctoral and postdoctoral training are complementary. Success in her postdoctoral studies should lead to a very promising career.

The candidate obviously has good personal skills and is an accomplished chemist.

The training potential was viewed as very substantial: the candidate was trained in synthetic bioorganic and bioinorganic chemistry and will be gaining experience in molecular biology, microbiology and biophysics. Upon completion of the fellowship the candidate will be superbly trained to pursue a teaching career. All in all, high enthusiasm was expressed for this application from an excellent candidate.

It is a REALLY great feeling knowing that leaders in the field think that I’m an excellent candidate, even if I DON’T get the funding. These people think that I CAN do it and that I’ll be good at it. It is nice to know… and is very encouraging for the future… even though many times I don’t feel like I can do it. But, as one of my mentors told me, it isn’t for ME to decide if I’m really to be a professor, that is up to the search committees. If they think I can do it, then I can.


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