succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I can't keep up this pace. My new favorite bookstore (where I'll be seeing Christopher Moore next weekend!) has dubbed this month Sleepless in September, and it really is like some weird karmic confluence of events or something. I swear 12 months of events are happening in these 30 short little days. Since Sunday evening I've only spent enough time at my house to catch a reasonable night's sleep; I've literally only seen my roommate for about 30 minutes out of the past 3.5 days. It's not all work (though there's plenty of that to go around too), and much of it is fun and interesting (Barbara Kingsolver tonight, the aforementioned Moore next weekend), but it seems everyone moved into a new house or is moving away from the state this month, so every evening and weekend is jam-packed with dinners and parties. I know, I know, oh woe is me. But I need some quality time on my couch in my pajamas!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Happy Constitution Day!
(oops. almost forgot)

Two hundred and twenty years ago today, 30 men put their lives, and their honor, on the line to sign one very important piece of paper. Did you know that there's a federal law requiring all high schools, colleges, and universities that receive federal dollars to celebrate this day? I have no memory of any activities, ever, at my high school. Anyone else?

Meanwhile, love it while you got it. And while you're at it, re-read the Bill of Rights. Personally, I've always been a fan of that pesky fourth amendment - "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Though I'd say six has been taking a beating lately too - "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."

Because I cannot yet face running my program again, and all the cool kids are doing it...

1. Go to
2. Put in Username: nycareers, Password: landmark.
3. Take their "Career Matchmaker" questions.
4. Post the top ten results

Very interesting...


Computer Engineer


Operations Research Analyst






Industrial Engineering Tech


ESL Teacher


Foreign Language Instructor




Music Teacher / Instructor



I'm actually more entertained by some of the lower rankings - # 11. lobbyist (perhaps my brother and I have something in common after all!), #13. tour guide, # 32. mathematician, #38. activist, #40. critic (that's a career?? I can just criticize whatever I want?)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Life Choices (subtitled: EIS back on the table?)

It finally sank in sometime today that there's no way I'm graduating in May. I've been sort of plunking along, freaking out slightly about trying to get a proposal out before Christmas, but thinking that if I can make that I can keep to my perpetually vague answer of, I should be done in about a year. Which may still be a true statement, since I'm now saying it in September (I started saying it in the spring). If I were shooting for a May graduation date (something I sort of let go of a while ago) I would need to get my dissertation to the graduate school by March. Just thinking about that makes my chest hurt. So now the earliest possible graduation date is August, with December also on the table. All of these are fine. They are. Seriously. Damnit Megan, start believing they're fine! Anyway. I still don't have enough data to start freaking out about next summer, though the possibility of it becoming increasingly complicated is...increasing. My lease is up in July, and the idea of apartment hunting and job hunting and dissertation defending all during the same few months makes my chest hurt even more than that March idea.

Now, in a somewhat perfect world, I would just slide naturally from graduate student to employee in some local job, thus reducing the number of simultaneous life-altering events to two, maybe even one. But what if the best job isn't here?

Ah, but what if it is? Years ago, when I first started thinking about public health school as my next step, I set my sights on becoming a member of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS). They get billed as the coolest, most exciting scientists who drop into hot zones to investigate the latest ebola outbreak. Although that does happen, it's much more frequent that EIS officers spend their days looking in to things contaminated with poo (spinach. swimming pools.) and doing disease surveillance. Important stuff, certainly, but somewhat less blockbuster-movie-worthy. Anyway, upon joining the public health world I learned how incredibly hard it is for PhDs to get admitted to the EIS, since the vast majority of EIS positions call for MDs (preferably with an MPH). So I let my goals shift, and semester by semester thought up other dream jobs. Then last weekend at a party I ran in to a former student who just joined EIS, doing AIDS surveillance in NYC. We chatted a bit, I reminisced about my dream of being an EIS officer, and he jumped in with just how much they currently wanted/needed PhDs to do research.

I have no idea if his impression is accurate, but it planted the bug back in my brain. On the pro side - 1) really cool and exciting work (even when it might not sound that way to the general public) 2) entry into an incredibly useful and well-connected group of people 3) fits a romantic notion of fulfilling one's civic duty 4) convenient in a post-doc/transition between grad school and real world sort of way 5) even if I got assigned somewhere else, my (limited) understanding is that at least initial training would start here, so I could postpone some of that scary moving-while-defending business. Cons - 1) relatively low pay 2) essentially postponing my career, but hopefully in a way that helps it further down the road 3) not much control over where I'm sent 4) joining the civil service under a...well, somewhat less than ideal political climate.