this is it (sort of)

This is it. My last week of work.

Well, sort of.

My boss told me he’s going to go ahead and pay me through May regardless. He said that’s what his postdoc boss did for him, so he figured he’d do the same for me.

And while that’s a pretty damn awesome thing for him to do, there is no way I could take the money without feeling incredibly guilty, so I guess I’ll be working at least part-time through May.

Dammit.

It’s funny though; a thousand dollars isn’t a whole lot compared to my boss’s total budget so I can see why he didn’t feel like it was a big deal, but that’s still a heckova lot of money to me, and I’m definitely pretty appreciative.

Of course, he is getting something for his money. I told him that even after I’m long gone I’ll still always be happy to edit any papers written by him or any of the other research group members. And if this doesn’t seem like a big deal, I’d just like to point out that papers can fail to get published—even if the science is of high quality—if the quality of the English fails to meet the journal’s standards.

I think that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned in my year and a half as a postdoctoral researcher in China; while I’m not actually that great of a researcher, I am a pretty good writer. Specifically, I’m good at taking complicated concepts and explaining them in a simple and straightforward manner.

And if that sounds like bragging, well, yeah it is. But it’s also true. A few months ago, my boss asked me to write a book chapter with him on “How to Benchmark Methods for Virtual Screening”. And if that phrase means absolutely nothing to you, then you know exactly how I felt when he first asked me to write it. Because while technically it’s in my field, it’s way outside my area of expertise (my primary area of expertise mainly consists of video games and porn, but that’s not the point). Regardless, I was able to read all the relevant background material, understand it, and then condense it into a single book chapter that was accepted for publication without the need of subsequent edits.

Yeah, I’m pretty awesome.

But seriously, as a researcher I kinda suck. I hope to submit a paper based on the actual research I’ve done over the past year and a half to a pretty well-respected journal this week, and I’m seriously worried that it’s going to get rejected. I’m proud of the quality of the writing, but slightly embarrassed by the quality of the research I wrote about.

Hopefully I’m just being paranoid.

Still, if nothing else this merely reinforces my feeling that I’m doing the right thing in leaving the field of research. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be leaving science entirely.

A paper written by a good friend of mine was published recently. He listed me as second author despite the fact that I did none of the actual research. What I actually did was some of the writing, a lot of the editing, and I was the one who actually found an appropriate journal that was willing to publish it, and I was the one who jumped through all the hoops to make it happen.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I don’t really enjoy doing research, I do love science, and I particularly enjoy making science accessible to others. What’s more, I’m actually pretty damn good at it. And while I would love to have a lucrative career writing fiction and narrative nonfiction, I suspect I’m far more likely to have a successful career as a writer of scientific articles.

Take this article for example. I actually cringed when I read it. What’s more, I knew for a fact that I could do a lot better job of writing it myself. Because even a great writer can’t explain a scientific concept if they don’t understand the concept in the first place.

As science becomes increasingly complex, I think there’s an ever-increasing need for people with a solid understanding of science and scientific research to explain the work of scientists to everyone else in a clear and comprehensible manner.

And I’m all about satisfying needs, baby.

Or something. Yeah, I should probably go to bed. It’s late and I still have a lot of sciencey stuff I need to do this week…..

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About Critical Awesomeness
I'm a 32-year-old American with a PhD in chemistry and a green hat. Only one of these two things is really important.

3 Responses to this is it (sort of)

  1. Trish C says:

    You may not agree with this, but you are an excellent teacher as well.

  2. Trish C says:

    Your students in Tanzania made significant gains on the national exams when you were their teacher. I saw you present research data in Beijing. Although you were presenting and not teaching it was very impressive.

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