Saturday, June 02, 2018

A little Stardom

Few things make me proud these days. This has*:

https://witdc.org/people/rai-sen/

*more than getting a PhD

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Hell 2.0

I walked into Tata Medical Center today with ma. Never thought I would need to return. They found a tumor in ma's lung.

We can all agree that this is quite ridiculous. What's happening in my life.

With what was happening a few days ago, I was meant to celebrate with wine in a balcony and joke about the chaos that's life. Because neither the NIH thing, nor the WIT thing, nor the upcoming interview thing in this big-profile lab made any logical sense. It all felt like life's a joke and this was all very funny.

Only that, it's all a joke, and it's not funny. It's pretty darn sad.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dear Dad

People die in weird ways

Dad, when you were reading
war stories in death bed,
were you preparing to die?

How does it feel
to know that the world
will dissolve suddenly?
How much did your
heart break?

I am thinking of you
Thoughts come to people in weird times

I am thinking of you
In a coffee shop
Because I read about children dying in Syria
And then I thought of the book you read
Which I read after you had died

The book you read?
That I read after you had died?
I read it very tenderly
I touched and smelled it
more than I usually do
I talked to myself about it
I remembered the little things
the bits you had shared with me,
pages you had re-read.

I just miss you way too much now
perhaps only because they are playing
jazz in the coffee shop

perhaps because I am generally sad these days
knowing that
life is meaningless and strange.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Hanging in the balance

Saturday, June 17: Her interview in NYC is fast approaching (in less than a week). She is just back from India, where she has spent most of her time in cancer hospitals comtemplating life and death and what it means to be alive. Her thoughts have had little to do with anything remotely close to science. Obviously therefore, she is very, very nervous. She is going to NY next weekend.  She suddenly realizes that she is going to NY again, the weekend after. She is performing with her improv troupe, ‘Bombay Vindaloo’, at the Del Close Marathon. (Bombay Vindaloo performs fully improvised bollywood movies, usually at random shoddy places in DC, and, occasionally on structures that look like stages). In fact, they are performing on MAINSTAGE (!), Upright Citizen’s Brigade. She has double-checked to be sure that they are indeed performing on the mainstage (wtf?!?). This is, by far, the coolest thing that has happened to her in a while. Poking around in the UCB website she discovers their ‘Diversity Scholarship’ page. She tells herself that she will apply for this if she ever makes it to NY for a post-doc. She has so many dreams.

Saturday, June 02: Let's say life has not been very easy for her of late. So she wants to write about this in second person, and this is a sacrilege in a blog named 'in First Person'. So she tags irrelevant additions to this post, though this stream of consciousness has nothing to do with her postdoc hunt. Anyways, life has not been very easy for her of late. Her mother was diagnosed with a lung tumor, then the doctors changed their minds about it and calls it now an infection. She hopes the latter is correct but she is paranoid. She got this news on May 09, the day she got the NIH job, after she had returned home for her celebratory long-distant toast with Mum. She took the next flight out and is in India since May 10. She has been pretending that everything is fine but rarely anything is. Her mother has to do a CT scan after 3 months to conclusively prove one thing over the other. How will she spend these 3 months without constantly worrying? She doesn't know. She, after all, doesn't really like uncertainties.

Wednesday, May 16: She gets a Skype interview call from the only woman she has written to, whose lab is in MIT, and whom she admires exceedingly. She has written to 10 scientists. 9 out of the 10 scientists were men. Why? She is troubled by this. She tells herself that this is just a coincidence. After all, there are so few female scientists and even fewer who work on what she is interested in. That's a valid point, she thinks. She realises that she has only written to tier-one institutes and mostly to tenured professors, and almost everyone meeting those criteria working on what she is interested in were males. Why are there so few female scientists in tier-one institutes? She is suddenly depressed. She tells herself that she can work in tier-three institutes, that will still be okay. She loves science and all what matters is that she gets to do this with love. She cheers up briefly. She looks up statistics on women in academia. Now she gets irreversibly depressed.

Wednesday, May 09: She gets the job at NIH (see Tuesday, April 03). She interviews, they give her the job right away, at the end of the day. They tell her that they are thrilled about her, about her work, and that she can join anytime she fancies. 'Hmmm.... fishy', she catches herself thinking.

Later, April sometime: As part of the plan, she writes to two new labs. One of them gets back immediately, saying that he is considering multiple other people and cannot commit to anything. Her heart breaks into a few hundred pieces. Thereafter, in a moment of panic, she signs up for a big talk to present her work in the institute. Her rationale being that she will get many influential scientists interested in her work, who then can help her find a postdoc. She regrets this immediately but can do nothing about it anymore.

Thursday, April sometime: She got an interview call in the lab of a Nobel laureate in New York City. The lab of her dreams. The city of her dreams. She cannot believe it. She decides to not tell anyone except her mother. Then she writes a blog post about it. The blog is her only friend who listens, what can she do. She tells herself that nobody reads her blog anyways, so what does it matter. She is certain that the interview will go horribly and she will come back crying. She decides to have many back-up plans, write to other labs, etc. Suddenly, she catches herself thinking 'What if it happens? What if it happens?' and aggressively shuts her thoughts down. She is wise and knows that wishful thinking only brings heartaches.

Saturday, April 15: Perturbed by the thought that only 1 out of the 9 labs she applied to actually gave her an interview invite, she has several questions. She changes the title of the post from 'Postdoc Hunt' to 'Hanging in the balance'. The latter, she feels, is a more appropriate title. She also switches from first person to third person, in an attempt to sound less whiny. She wonders why 2 out of the 9 people never replied. She wonders what happened to 2 out of the 9 who said they would get back to her soon, a month ago. She wonders whether the 4 people who had said that their labs were full were (in fact) politely brushing her off. She looks up inspirational quotes in the interwebs and finds these: 'You can do everything right and still lose. You can do everything wrong and still win.' She decides to persist.

Tuesday, April 03: She got her first interview call. She wonders how and why. She reminds herself that this is because she is doing good work and had written a compelling postdoc application cover letter.

Saturday, March 31: She has been writing to labs for a postdoc position and she is nearing the end of her wish-list with very little success. Her dream lab is full. This really crushed her heart. She is sitting at a cafe in the heart of DC, feeling impossible. 
x

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Serious questions

I just can't carry on, baby
Every task seems like an ordeal
The getting out of bed
The drinking the coffee
The walking to work

How does one
Get out of the bed?
Drink the coffee?
Walk to the work?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Cheesy Notes to Myself - Day # 8

9:18 AM: Stun yourself by finishing Discussions, Chapter 3. You pretty little thing.
Failed, and unapolegetically. Drank to my failure. And how.


N.B (Dec 15, 2017): The thesis was a hit! Both reviewers scored it 1 (note 1, excellent, highest possible grade, bow)! Here are some excerpts:

Reviewer 1: 'This work represents an impressive amount of thoroughly assembled data, which contribute significantly to a better understanding of a behavioral circuit and its modulation by sensory input. The thesis is very well written, introductions and discussions are thought stimulating and interesting to read. The result and methods parts are well understandable and documented... Overall this is an excellent thesis, which clearly deserves mark 1. (Note 1, excellent)'.
Reviewer 2: 'Sen’s thesis is a beautifully written account of her PhD research project... Sen has accomplished a substantial amount of high quality work, collaborated with many candidates to enhance her research, and described the work professionally and with clarity. Her PhD was clearly a success and she should be congratulated on the high quality of her research and her writing.'

Needless to say that: therefore, I endorse and highly recommend heavy drinking for any creative endeavor in life. Amen!








Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cheesy Notes to Myself - Day # 7

00:30 AM: Look pretty today. My girl.
9:20 AM (next day): Nailed it. Got hit on by an old man in a jazz concert ;)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cheesy Notes to Myself - Day # 6

00:00 AM: Finish Intro, Chapter 3. Or don't. I would love you either way.
11:45 PM: Finished Intro, Chapter 3, mathafucka!!!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cheesy Notes to Myself - Day #5

11:41 PM: Attempt to finish Intro, Chapter 3, unless, of course, you have menstrual cramps, in which case, take breaks to cry sometimes. It is okay. I call it Sloppy Craftsmanship, too.
11:56 PM: Attempted, but failed. Despite zero menstrual cramps. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Cheesy Notes to Myself - Day #4

00:05 AM: Just have a day. Wake up, feed yourself, speak to a human being, watch Rick and Morty, stay alive.
11.41 PM: Stayed alive.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cheesy Notes to Myself - Day#3

00:25 AM: Really finish Results, Chapter 3. Because, pretty, please.
11:55 PM: Finished my 2nd terrible draft of Results, Chapter 3. Need feedback. Also need my sanity back. Binge-watched Rick and Morty. That helped.