Saturday, November 19, 2011

the post-SfN sickness

I don't like to be ill.  Crohn's attacks are negotiable; they are systematic enough that I have learned to function with them.  The cough?  The congestion?  These are symptoms so rare in their expression (kudos to immune system wipe-out) that when they do arise, I am made totally invalid.

I could already feel it on the flight(s) back from DC*, that cold and all-to-open airway.  For days I regarded it as little as possible, but this morning I awoke at sunrise to what can only be described as a "whooping" cough.  Preventative flu shot, vitamins and supplements be damned.  I can admit that when it's real, it's real.  I can also admit to relishing the rare excuse to sit on my couch from sunrise to evening sipping tea, reading and writing.

Cheers to you, post-SfN sickness, for waiting for the weekend so that I could get my surgeries accomplished.

On a side note: jeers to cruel professors with identity crises.  Professors should be allowed to teach graduate courses unless at least one of the students is rotating or staying with them.

*SfN-related posts can be found in How We Are Hungry.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Things I've learned in graduate school

1.  forgetting to eat is a bad habit

2.  forgetting to eat and washing down your day with three beers is a worse habit

3.  spending the evening vomiting bile because you are a Crohn and shouldn't be drinking beer in the first place is not ideal midterm preparation

4.  taking the most convoluted and poorly phrased midterm in the history of academia while hungover (from three beers) and exhausted from vomiting all night (from three beers) is even less ideal

5.   medical offices everywhere fail miserably at communication -- it wasn't just Kaiser.  no sooner did i escape the awful affliction of Mid-term-dom  than i received this call...

"Oh hai, btw: your Remicade appt tomorrow morning [Saturday] that you made with us 2 weeks ago?  Yeah, I'm gonna go ahead and cancel it because we don't know whether you have authorization through your insurance lolz!"

First of all, why did you wait until Friday afternoon before my Saturday a.m. appt to tell me that?  And secondly, my doctor's office was supposed to convey that information to you two weeks ago.  Who dropped the ball, them or you?  So two hours of my life were lost trying to figure that out (still dying of 12-hour-bilemania).  Ten minutes later:

"Oh haai!  Btw: you don't have authorization for your Remicade tomorrow so we have to cancel your appt."

Are you fucking kidding me?  I just spent two hours clearing this up.  You have the information in your system now.  Go ahead and turn your computer on.  Do it now while I'm on the phone so I can guide you through the process.  She's been checking that detail for the last 45 min... apparently their computers are made of bark.  Meanwhile...
"Oh hai there! Btw: your insurance wont be covering your Remicade appt because you were referred by your GI's office and not be the university health center!"
.................. is a referral by the doctor to whom I was referred by the university health center not by proxy a fucking referral?   I'm looking into it.  Because apparently their phones to other offices are also made of bark.  I'm sure I'll find out right after I get the bill.
6.  your PI and lab manager being in disagreement on the critical details of your new rotation project and failing to let you in on their decision 2hrs before your scheduled surgeries to use your mice for some other thing that came up... is just not cool.  serious demerits, y'all.

7.  TGI-take-home-midterm-F!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How to Suvrive in a Disorganized Lab

My first rotation has been in a large, renowned but chaotic lab.  We're about halfway through the term, and I have been mildly successful.

There is but one overarching rule for any student in a lab such as this (or any lab environment, for that matter):  be respectfully assertive.

This is an ubmrella rule that includes but is not limited to the following:

1.  Make sure that you are actually trained before you are sent off to perform experiments and obtain data.  It is a waste of everyone's time and materials (and dangerous if you are working with animals or viruses, etc.) to risk a new lab member collapsing an experiment because they were not properly trained*.  Seriously.  If your lab mentor is not up to the task, find someone who is or talk to your PI.  You can do this respectfully, with the understanding that your lab mentor may be distracted or under an unusual amount of pressure.

2.  Do not be afraid to ask questions and seek communication.  This seems obvious, but in certain labs it is difficult to gauge whose office/bay you can barge into with questions at any time, and with whom you need to set up an appointment by email to drop by for a 5 min discussion.  Find these details out early on in order to facilitate moving projects along.  Anyone in your lab should be happy to help you, or direct you to someone better equipped to do so.

3.  Your lab schedule will be dependent on the schedule of the person/people training you until you are self-sufficient.  And even then, you may have to coordinate sharing space/equipment and assistance on certain procedures.  Be respectful of the demands on the people training you, but do not submit to being trampled all over either.   

In my current lab, not many people typically know what is going on at any given time.  This is problematic as there is an extensive amount of sharing space/equipment, and many people participating in different elements of the same projects.  It's something they're [we're] working on... little by little.  It's something that I'm learning to navigate with mild success.

* experiments go awry often enough on their own without this variable aiding their demise.