Last night [June 6th 2007], I accessed my Emory e-mail for the first time, and changed my status on Facebook to "Emory grad student, class of 2012." Two thousand and twelve seems like a long way off. It's still a couple months until I leave for Atlanta but I've already started to check out.
Knowing I'm leaving makes everything easier. If something annoys me, I know I won't have to deal with it, come August. So I know I wouldn't feel the same if I was staying indefinitely, but I just feel like writing about what a great job I have.
When I graduated, my biggest regret was not having found a mentor. I had spent a lot of time in the same lab and, while I liked and respected the professor I worked for, she never even came close to filling the role of mentor.
Even though I think the research of my former professor is invaluable, I know that if I ended up with an academic position doing ecological modeling I would feel like I had failed. It's difficult to ask, and take, advise from someone who is what you don't want to be.
And then there was the social aspect. I felt, through the fault of nobody, excluded. I was not an integrative biology major and for the three years that I worked in the department, I squashed the tiny voice in the back of my head that shouted "so what?!" at yet another seminar on speciation (again, insert a "not that it's not important but it makes me want to shoot myself in the face" disclaimer here.)
Then, last summer I was in Brazil checking my e-mail on a hotel computer and there was an e-mail sent out through a listserv for my now-former working group. The e-mail advertised a job that seemed perfect for me but my resume was stuck on my laptop and I wouldn't be able to send it for another two weeks.
I debated for a day, then figured what the hell and sent an e-mail to the woman advertising the position (Dr. M), explaining that I was interested but that I was currently out of the country. She wrote back that I sounded like a good candidate, would I please send in an application as soon as possible?
I did, and then I went in for an interview on a whim, not even sure that I wanted to switch jobs. I got the job, and after some reflection, I decided to accept the position. This is one of the best decisions I have made in my life.
In Dr. M, I have found a mentor. I don't know that an outsider would recognize the relationship as one of mentor and mentored but I hope Dr. M does. If I was to describe Dr. M, I would describe her as straightforward, businesslike, capable. Nurturing is not obviously one of her fortes however looking back over the past year, I deeply appreciate how much I have grown as a scientist under her supervision.
Today [June 13th 2007] I pulled out the legal pad where I plotted out my first scientific poster and I began to put down the seeds for my first paper. This is literally the only thing that can bring me back 100%; as I started to order my thoughts, my mind was not in Atlanta but entirely present here in California.
There is one loose end that requires tying still. I hope that before I leave, I can find a way to express to Dr. M, my mentor, what I've just told you.