Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Thinking about the next step

So I'm 2 weeks in to this postdoc, which means I pretty much have to start thinking about the next step now.  It seems slightly ridiculous, but I felt I left it too long to start thinking about it during my last postdoc, and its possible that this job may only be 1 or 2 years long anyway.

So what is the next step? I'm on my 2nd postdoc.  Two seems fairly justifiable to me, particularly since I've moved to a really great lab in the US for the second one (where I'm hoping to pump out a lot of papers).  Three would probably be less justifiable...

So this leaves three options a) Lecturship b) Fellowship c) Doing something else.
Lets throw c away now, I'm not ready to contemplate that yet (although one day I might).

When I was looking at postdoc jobs this time around, I did a bit of looking at Lecturing jobs too.  The issue with these seems to be money, in that you need to have had some of your own to be seriously considered, which excluding a small travel grant, I haven't.   Which leads us onto Fellowships.  An enormous unknown for me, its hard to even know where to start really, although I guess by seeing what I'm even eligible for.

A quick look around the internet showed a big lack of information about applying for Fellowships written by people who have do it.  There are quite a lot of pages written by specific universities on their policies, but not much about the experience.  Does anyone know of any links?  I'll continue to document here anyway.

Friday, 8 November 2013

My problems with AcWriMo

AcWriMo stands for Academic Writing Month.  It came about as an off shoot of NANOWRIMO, which stands for National Novel Writing Month and is basically a challenge to try and write a novel in a month.  AcWriMo was started by Charlotte Frost, and if you'd like to learn more, I recommend going to her blog which you can find here -

Both last year and this year I have signed up to AcWriMo full of good intentions to improve my writing habits and to become more productive.

Last year I gave myself a word count for each day, but I think I ended up giving up halfway through as I wasn't really in the right place in my research to do lots of writing, just finished one project, too much actual research to do for the next one.

So this year, I decided that I would just block out an hour a day for writing.  Any writing e.g. this counts as part of today's hour.  But I can already see myself slipping off the wagon.  So I'm going to try and work out the reasons for this and use my realisation of these to re-new my vigour.

1. New Job - The 1st week of November (Academic Writing Month) has coincided with the first week of my new postdoc.  I think because it's a new job and I've had quite a lot of admin things I had to get done etc. I've not found it easy to say "This is my writing hour".  But a lot of those things are over now, so from Monday 9am-10am is going to be my writing hour and we'll see how that goes.

2. I don't have a paper in need of writing up - I think when I envision AcWriMo I think about having a bunch of research that I've done over the Summer that needs writing up into a paper, spending November doing that, and then submitting said paper at the beginning of December.  Of course the big problem with that is that I don't write like that, I do it as I'm going along, so what I actually have is a half written paper that needs more analysis.  However, this year rather than a word count, I've just got an hour I need to write in.  That leaves a lot of other hours to do research in.  Also, since I'm starting some new projects, there's a whole bunch of literature searching to write up.

3. I find writing in chunks kind of boring - I'm going to try and use pomodoros to get over this one.  It makes it into a kind of game - and games I like.  

Does anyone else have a problem like this, i.e. they find the idea of something like AcWriMo really exiting, but the reality seems like hard drudgery?  Anyone got any ideas of how I can buck myself up?

Sunday, 3 November 2013

First post from the USA

So I've been in America for almost 2 weeks, although only one day of that has been at work so far.  I figure I should write out some of my thoughts about what seems to be the same and what seems to be different.

Firstly, Rutgers seems to run in a similar way to every other University I've been at.  I've probably been to every admin building in the several campuses we have, clutching various forms.  I now have an email account and login, but it's Department of Life Sciences specific, I'm still working out how to get the full one.  My login card now lets me into my flat (it didn't to start with), but I've discovered this weekend that it won't let me into my department out of hours, I suspect I'll have problems with the Library too.  But I'd expect this sort of thing at a UK University as well!

There are two main things that seem to be very different from the UK. Firstly, alcohol.  The age limit of 21 in the US means that the vast majority of Undergrads aren't allowed to drink.  Therefore, you can't get a beer on my campus.  There's no bar - the student centre has fast food outlets instead.  But more than that, you can't buy alcohol in the convenience store.  This is the first way that it's a very different experience to being in the UK.

The second way is all the 'School Spirit'.  It turns out that the weekend after I arrived was Homecoming.  There were banners everywhere!  Even now that Homecoming's over, there are pennants saying Rutgers on every single lampost on campus.  I guess they think we might forget where we were otherwise.  Probably a quarter of the people you see are wearing some kind of Rutgers themed clothing and the Barnes and Nobel store has a whole floor of the stuff.  They have every type of clothing you could imagine, rugs, cushions, bottles, mugs, banners.  But it's basically all in either red, or grey or black.  Scarlet is the school colour, so that's the colour (sorry color) you get!

I'm guessing I'll get used to these things eventually, and I'll probably find all sorts of other things that are different, but these are the things that seem to be standing out right now.