Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Life in Pharmaceutics

It has been nearly a year since I decided to leave Boston and MIT. And what a year it has been! I feel like I've grown a lot since I graduated college and headed off for graduate school. I was very naive when I arrived at MIT, convinced that following my dreams of studying chemistry was the only important thing. Since then I've learned that graduate study is more than science and research. It's chalked full of politics, popularity contests, ethical dilemmas, and anxiety. I experienced things I never imagined: intense competition, discrimination based on gender, race, and PI, and a huge heaping pile of imposter syndrome. I also made powerful allies and a few lifetime friends. It was a bittersweet experience and I still struggle to combat the feelings of failure and the cynicism that can come from disappointment.

When I look back to where I was last year--unfairly forced out of my lab, at odds with an immature and inexperienced boss, at the mercy of an indifferent and bigoted thesis committee, faced with uncertainty... Whew! Talk about stuck between a rock and a hard place! I was under a lot of pressure to do whatever it took to stay at MIT. Many said it would be worth it in the end to hold a degree from a #1 program. But at what cost? The toxic environment there was not allowing me to live my life. Life is too short to be miserable and I honestly believe every person is worthy of a place in life that rewards and celebrates their individuality. MIT was not that place for me and though it was painful- no, excruciating, at times to take steps against the current, I had to let go.

A masters in organic chemistry is sometimes viewed as a black mark- a sign that you failed to get a PhD or a sign that you quit. It's hard to believe that some would look down on any degree from MIT, but believe it! This is the real world we live in and the world of chemistry and science are as brutal as they come. The joke is on them though because when I received my masters diploma I was so relieved. I danced out the door with both middle fingers in the air  because in the end I was being true to myself and I'll be damned if I let anyone else define or belittle my accomplishments.

In the end,  it is not my institution that defines me, it's my drive and ambitions. It's how I handle tough situations and how dearly I hold to my family and friends who helped me get to where I am today.

And today, I'm already well on my way to getting my PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry. It's going to be a long road, at least 4 more years! I'll make it through though. My new boss Shawn Owen is a gem too and I think I've found a good fit in his lab.

This blog is a testament to the fact that I am now living the life I had imagined for myself. Of course as things progress there will be less time for hikes and adventures outside, but to be honest, the adventures in lab will surely be some of the greatest.

Here are some photos of my new life. It's pretty sweet, I won't lie.

My new house complete with kitties

The interior of Skaggs where I work

Fancy schmancy

The lounge area near my desk

This is a goofy picture of me "working"
Skaggs exterior with patio where I eat lunch.

PS. To MITs credit, they have been taking steps to improve the culture of the students there. All of these efforts are spearheaded by the students who must advocate for themselves. I am so proud of my peers there who are some of the best people I've ever met. Some of their goals are more accountability for PIs and higher standards of respect all around. (A good example of this is not requiring students be at lab during emergency campus shutdowns like during the Boston bombers and police shooting incident) I'd really love to see a more collegial and positive atmosphere there because they set an example for accademia worldwide. Why take our top talent and then grind them into the ground and drive them to therapy and/or substance abuse??? It makes no sense. Things have got to change.

No comments:

Post a Comment