In which the forest emerges

The clocks have gone forward, the crocuses wither, the tulips unfurl. The students have dispersed for Easter, full of dread about the immunology exam that will pounce on their return.

Budding life forms

I put one grant application to bed and work on two others. I sketch diagrams for my PhD students, helping them to keep track of the bigger picture, the sweeping narrative arc of their overall research. They panic amidst the trees; I remind them about the forest.

And then I remind myself too. My quest towards academic security seems finally to be reaching a safe haven. As I prepare to move my lab to its new home, I make contact with like-minded researchers, explore possible angles of collaboration, try to see how best to fit my own pieces into the puzzle. Sometimes I feel like a neuron extending my dendrites in all directions in the dark, one moment absurdly confident, the other wondering if it’s all just bluster and bravado and a shimmering of dead-end impulses in the blackness. Maybe everyone feels this way. Or maybe it’s just me, burnt edges after too many years of seeking.

Meanwhile, back in real life, my son is a living, breathing experiment in language acquisition and development. Every day brings some new jaw-dropper: the complicated sequences of gesture and babble that manage to convey perfect meaning. The abstraction of one concept to a wholly unrelated one. The parallel development of vocabulary: one set in English, the other in some mysterious phonetic system that seems to make perfect sense to him, if not to anyone else.

The main thing is that he doesn’t seem to care what people think: he wants everything, right now.

Not a bad life strategy for a scientist trying to make it in academia. I plan to watch and learn.

About Jennifer Rohn

Scientist, novelist, rock chick
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