The continued adventures of Dr. PhD

Today, in the continued adventures of Superhero Dr. PhD

From high in her ivory tower, Dr. PhD senses something ominous and dreadful. Something is hanging in the foggy fall air. Death.* No it’s Deadlines! Just after coming down from post-summer meeting euphoria and getting into the routine of the new semester, there they are. Deadlines looming every other week.

The most obvious of deadlines this time of year in academia (and beyond) are job application deadlines. Fortunately, Dr. PhD has a few finely honed superpowers essential for this process. She can update her CV and research plan in a flash. She can tailor cover letters for any position. She provides her references with meticulously curated lists of requirements and submission dates for letters, and then relentlessly hounds them until all letters have been e-mailed away. Each week more applications are due. Her fingers fly across the keyboard to finalize submissions to online systems. PDFs of application materials are compiled in a snap. Her entire professional persona is neatly and persuasively bundled in tidy electronic packages and clicked away into the oblivion of the internet. Goodbye, hope to hear from you soon.

Speaking of hearing back- the reviews are in on Dr. PhD’s latest manuscript. While not completely dead, more experiments are needed to bring it to life in the reviewers’ eyes. The clock is ticking on the resubmission timeline. With Dr. PhD’s prescient super-sense for this kind of response, precious samples are already waiting in the freezer. More antisera will have to be ordered, but alas, one critical antiserum is not commercially available. Superhero PhD will have to send out a signal to the international community for help. (OK, really it’s just an e-mail to the only other person that has used this antiserum in a publication a number of years ago.)

While Dr. PhD spends her days experimenting to revive her manuscript, her labmates have their own deadlines. She’s only seen glimpses of Undergrad Minion since midterms- his time in the lab waning in the face of other deadlines in his last semester of classes. Dr. PhD-β is leaving the country at the end of the year and is a flurry of activity to finish up critical projects. Graduate Assistant has a handful of key presentations to give this semester to fulfill her degree requirements. However, she is still cultivating her superpower of putting together Powerpoint presentations. Dr. PhD, Dr. PhD-β, Tenured PI and Research Associate painstakingly pore over her slides offering mountains of editorial corrections until every typo, inconsistent capitalization and un-credited figure are refined by fire into pure presentation gold.**

This deadline season has also been hectic for Tenured PI as well. There’s a grant submission deadline looming on the horizon, and the lab only speaks of it in hushed whispers. Before we can worry about any new money, Tenured PI must give his own presentation for our current funding overlords. It is not a meeting one can miss. Slides are put together. Additional data is analyzed. More slides are put together. The margin is slim on this timeline and Research Associate doesn’t get to use her scrutinizing superpower on all of them. Nevertheless, Tenured PI gives an entertaining performance with captivating data and a joke about a dual colored laser pointer that only biophysicists will get. It went over well and let’s just say that’s one deadline he killed- in a good way.

Of course, the absence of Tenured PI on a weekday in the semester means that Superhero PhD must come to the rescue as a substitute teacher. Slides are quickly transferred to Dr. PhD. She looks through them. Ugh. Tenured PI always sticks me with lectures that involve some kind of ∆G calculation. It takes all of her superpowers to create a stimulating lecture on the Na/K Pump and Bacteriorhodopsin.*** The students are hung over from their recent exam (No, I did not have those results.), but they are especially attentive during the explanations of enzyme mechanisms (Yes, you have to be able to explain those from memory.). Of course, not all deadlines are met perfectly. The lecture went well, but 36 hrs later Dr. PhD thinks of an awesome active learning exercise to do for the Bacteriorhodopsin mechanism. Next time Biochemistry I, next time.

View from inside a gorge, Turkey Run State Par...

View from inside a gorge, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana, 6-2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The final deadline of the season is our annual regional meeting on photosynthesis- The Midwest**** Photosynthesis Conference at Turkey Run State Park Indiana. Yes, it is as exciting as it sounds and an annual culinary experience that will test any scientist’s digestive superpowers. This means more lab presentations must be churned out. Travel accommodations and associated departmental forms must be filled out. Accounting paperwork is another one of Dr. PhD’s superpowers. Yes, Graduate Assistant you will need to fill out this form if you have never used that card for travel before or it will be denied. Don’t listen to what the other coordinators tell you! But also this year, Tenured PI is Co-Chair of coordinating this meeting. Abstracts must be catalogued. Registrations must be done. A program must be scheduled. A program booklet must be assembled, printed and shipped to the meeting location. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Don’t worry, we made all of them. The program looks to be interesting, so stay tuned for upcoming posts with breaking photosynthesis research from the meeting.

But what will become of the other deadlines? What about all those applications? Will the reviewers appreciate the additional experiments and give life to Dr. PhD’s manuscript? Will the lab get additional funding? Stay tuned for the continuing saga of Superhero PhD.


*No, that’s just the unfortunate feral kitten that met an untimely end under the hood of the PhD mobile. Alas, feline detection is not one of Dr. PhD’s superpowers. Bang on your hoods on cold mornings for God’s sake people!

**She did an awesome job on her talk and will again soon.

***That one is basically primitive photosynthesis, so it’s fine.


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