This is Maria, yesterday - 30 minutes or so after her committee gave her the thumbs up (gotta love the smile), referred to her as 'Dr', after she drank a bit of champagne - and after she signed the ceremonial bottle with her name and the date. Ahhh... tradition. She did a great job - and there was a great turnout for her defense seminar. She had some of her extended family attend - including an incredibly cute 4th grader (Maria's nephew) who I gave a question to (on a piece of paper) - and who at the end of her talk, raised his hand and asked the question: "How many antibiotics do Doctors use that came from the marine environment?" There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your student give a solid seminar that gets lots of interesting questions afterwards - and to hear the compliments fly during the defense itself.
This is the third doctoral student that I've graduated (in 18 months) since my non-renewal of contract from the University I was affiliated with for 16 years. First there was Ben, then Nikole, and now Maria. There was no thank you from anyone affiliated with the University regarding my commitment to mentoring these students (without any financial compensation from the University) for the past 18 months. I didn't expect it. I haven't expected decency from them in years.
Truthfully, yesterday was bittersweet for me. I awoke this morning, realizing that it is the first time in 16 years that I haven't had a graduate student in my laboratory. And because of the uncertainty in my own work life right now, I'm also not in communication with prospective students. I'm definitely burned out, but it isn't the science or the lab that has caused it - but instead it's the result of keeping the lab together despite the hostile environment created by a few key individuals. Individuals that are now in my past. It is now time for reconstruction, time to move forward - I've honored my commitments, seen them through to a successful conclusion. I wouldn't have done it any other way, and I'm proud of what we all have accomplished despite the obstacles. This week The List will be updated, a proposal for developing a distance-ed course on marine infectious diseases will be written, grant due-dates will be reviewed - and possibly, quite possibly, microbial community DNA from deep sub-sea samples from the Gulf of Mexico will be sent off by the Microbial Lab's postdoctoral fellow for sequencing (please send positive vibes to the Gods of DNA Extraction). And perhaps I'll even finish unpacking my new office. I still need a salary, but we have a small, equipped lab, and offices - and we're affiliated with a new place that is supportive.
So... the Microbial Lab lives! And another one of it's PhDs is roaming the streets... with a big smile on her face.