James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

November 25, 2011

Look! It’s another reason to dispair ;-)

Filed under: Uncategorized — James @ 7:25 pm

Not that grad school isn’t loaded with plenty to begin with, but here’s one I hadn’t considered before:

Yes, for many people, a college town is a rather idyllic place. There is a specific subpopulation in these college towns, however, for whom the experience becomes utterly hopeless. This subpopulation: those who move to college towns, are not college-aged, and arrive without a significant other. Meet those requirements, and you’re basically hosed until you escape. It is the bog of eternal singlehood.

Well, at least as a consolation, you will find great friends, for whom your sad, lonely, single self will serve as a reminder of why they need to stay committed to their own relationships.

Yikes! I would say another big part of the puzzle is that grad student lifestyle (regardless of where you live) isn’t friendly to attempts to get out and meet new people. Take the fact that I’m sitting in the office updating my blog while waiting for one last genome to finish loading into CoGe (pigeonpea!) at seven-thirty on a Friday night.*

And that means even if you did happen to come into grad school with a significant other, things can get messy (as explained by the Genomic Repairman):

So when work builds up, I tend to act less human and more like a robot and just grind away. And unfortunately I take on a sort of tunnel vision when I’m grinding. … If its not directly related to whats happening now it gets place on the backburner, which is fine if its mundane paperwork or BS emails that need to be sent out. Its not good if its your relationship and its going to cause tension.

I think its hard for a significant other who doesn’t do science to appreciate what we do. We can’t check out of work at 5pm and not worry about it to the other day. The stakes are too high in the game we play and you must be invested in your work. I am. I wake up at night with ideas, fears, and concerns. Did I do the transfection right? Am I being scooped?

Emphasis mine.

*Just to be clear no one MADE me work late on the friday after thanksgiving. It is just really easy to get engrossed in science — at least when your research is going well — lose track of time, and ignore the rest of your life.


  1. Scientists do seem to work long hours (one of the few reasons I’m glad not to be one) but that doesn’t mean they have to forgo human interaction. I’m married to a scientist. When I get home from work, I have plenty of time to cook, write blogs, and get riled up about people who want to “occupy” New Mexican chile and “protect” it from being genetically modified. When he does get home after ten or eleven hours at the lab, we talk a lot of science. I can definitely see relationship trouble happening between a grad student/scientist whose partner doesn’t share that interest, but then, isn’t that true of all major interests? I think the fact that folks working in the sciences work long, hard hours on often fascinating and important research gives them a lot more conversation starters than your average Joe in a cubicle. it’s only too bad that the long hours mean fewer opportunities to start them.

    Comment by KosherCorvid — December 2, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

  2. Thank you KC! I’ve actually written up a post on the chili pepper protests (it gave me a chance to mention some random trivia about the chili genome I’ve wanted to bring up for a while) for monday.

    And it definitely is a perk of working in research that the answer to “so what do you do for a living” doesn’t instantly put people to sleep. Now, mind you, living in northern california, answering with “I study the genetics of corn” doesn’t always get a POSITIVE reaction, but even those cases can be kind of fun when I have the energy to tackle them properly!

    Comment by James — December 3, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

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