The PhD-dip 2.0

In the lab where I did my PhD, it seemed like almost every grad student had one (or more) episodes when doing science just seemed too hard, when too many experiments failed, when you did too many stupid things that didn’t help in getting those data, when there were too many disappointments and you realized that you had been in the lab for more than 2 years now and you still only had very little data to show for. We called it the PhD-dip, and it usually resolved itself when after the 5th try all of a sudden experiments started working and the data started to poor down on you. It was nice to know that all of us went through this at some point (and usually at about the same time, after 2-3 years in the lab).
Now I’m in the third year of my post-doc, and I’ve tweeted a lot of #disgruntledpostdoc tweets lately. Yesterday I even wondered out loud whether there were other jobs out there that didn’t bring so much disappointment. I don’t like to feel like such a pessimist but I think I’ve discovered what the problem is: I’m having another PhD-dip. As I said, I’ve been in the lab for a little over two years now, and I came here to learn slice electrophysiology, so I spent a couple of months learning to do that well enough. Then I also decided to set up a behavioral paradigm that the lab didn’t have and on top of that I had BlueEyes. All of the papers from my PhD have been accepted, so there’s no happiness from accepted papers, and I’m still waiting to hear back from a fellowship application that was supposed to give notice in March. When I think about it in a rational way, I’m pretty sure that I will start producing data pretty soon. On top of that, I will be 2ndauthor on two papers that will hopefully be submitted soon. But in moments when I get the umpteenth disappointment, and on top of that I’m tired because BlueEyes doesn’t sleep very well, I don’t feel all that happy about science anymore.
Diagnosing that it’s ‘just’ another PhD-dip helps though. It makes me realize that I just have to keep going and that someday I will be showering in data again! I hope that day will be soon though…
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6 Comments

Filed under disgruntled postdoc, life in the lab, publishing papers, science, working mom

6 responses to “The PhD-dip 2.0

  1. Is there anything to be learned from the dip? or is it something you just get through. I had a bit of a dip at the beginning of my postdoc. When I look at my CV and wish that I had a few more pubs I think about that dip and if there was anything I could have done to avoid it. Maybe. Maybe not.

  2. Anonymous

    The PhD dip was my postdoc. I only had 1 paper, and I was 3rd author. But guess what? Life goes on.

  3. I was at my worst mental state when @MrBabby was about 6-8 mos. I felt like I'd been back to lab long enough that I should have more to show for myself. And he was sleeping terribly, partially due to colds and teething. At that age (and now!) there was lots of “isn't he sleeping through the night yet?” from everyone. People stop being sympathetic to the new parents after awhile and start assuming that you must be doing something wrong.

    I'm feeling a lot better now that he's a year old. You just get used to the sleep deprivation. And data helps, of course!

  4. I have the feeling that just recognizing that my unhappiness is because of the current lack of data is enough. I know that I'm doing what I can to get stuff to work, and I also have faith that that will happen.

  5. Thanks for your comment! And yes, that might be a part of it too. BlueEyes has so far never slept longer than a five hour stretch (although I've gotten a lot better at nursing while asleep).
    Also, when I think about how long I have been in the lab I always kind of forget about my maternity leave and the fact that while I was pregnant I only did slice work and haven't done much behavior (first because I didn't want to do surgeries under isofluorane, and later because my belly was too big to get animals in and out of operant boxes).

  6. Eva Scott

    There would really be a bump in the journey every once in a while. But, it would be good to get up again and overcome it. Some thesis topic ideas can really be tricky, and some can be easy. So, it’s up to the person whether or not he or she can handle what he got into.

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