Returning from the reality holiday

20 Aug

I’ve been on a break from reality for … well, it depends on how you measure it… three years? nine years? 

In 2002 I got laid off from a biotech company where I had been making monoclonal antibodies that we used for delivering vaccines to the cells that kick-start the strongest immune response. Antibodies are the proteins that some immune cells (B cell) make to clog up, block and make tasty meals out of any foreign substance that gets into your body. The idea was that we could make antibodies that would home in on just the right cells, stick to them, and deliver a ‘package’ of vaccine target protein to these cells just as they were cranking up. It’s an idea that works fairly well and is being used by a company called Celldex to make vaccines against a variety of undesirable ailments (this trick is most suited for cancer, because that’s a condition that develops from your own cells, and the body has a tough time seeing it as a bad, foreign entity)

Anyway, I left that company and got a job at the university. This was a good move for me because I wanted to go back to school anyway and it gave me the opportunity to meet and talk with the people who would make the decision about admissions. About 9 months later I was starting grad school and working towards a PhD. That was the longest, most grueling process of my life. The only way to handle it is to focus on what’s in front of you and not get too distracted by all the years of your life you just signed away or talks and presentations that you might dread giving. Nevertheless, by late 2009, I was free and clear. The whole thing was over and I knew more about immunology and B cells than I ever thought I’d want to.

I’ve whined a lot about how this was a terrible time to come out of grad school – people were getting laid off again, not hired! I’d spent an entire economic cycle locked in the ivory tower and missed the good years in between. But, one door closes… right?

After school, and in a mighty difficult transition, our family moved to the midwest for a great opportunity my wife had. I also took the opportunity to re-invent myself and started teaching. I simply love teaching, it’s a great way to keep learning and (for blabbermouths like me) talk all day to a captive audience. I’ve been teaching as an adjunct for three years now and I feel like I’ve got things pretty much in hand, but adjunct means part time. And part-time means crappy salary and no real job you can sink your full-time working teeth into (you see, if nothing else, grad school teaches you that you can only be happy if you are working hard all the time). So, to speak plainly, it’s not enough work for me.

So, problem solved: start a company. Did that, produced a couple diddly little apps for the iPhone, but I have the creative ideas, not the programming talent. After almost a year of chasing that dream and not finding any partners to put as much into it as I have, my company has been morphing. That’s actually the story that this blog is supposed to be following, but often that’s not the case…

My latest idea has been to make iBooks – I’ve written about some of those ideas here too. And, to be fair, I think it’s come along really well. I have one and 3/4 books finished and only waiting on illustration before they will be published and a couple more on the way.

But, in the course of making this change and getting to the start of another school year, my wife and I had the talk. The talk that includes such phrases as “is this really what you want to do?” and “I think it’s great, but it’s not a job”. And, you know what, that’s spot on.  It’s about time that I take the bull by the horns and stop trying to ‘creative’ my way out of under-employment and start finding an honest 9-5 (or more).

Please cross your fingers for me. I’m hoping to be able to keep up with everything, but I know how that goes. And, if any of you know some good work for a motivated immunologist / teacher / writer / game designer in the Kansas City area (or anywhere, honestly), then point them my way.




Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Uncategorized


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2 responses to “Returning from the reality holiday

  1. Main Street Musings Blog

    August 20, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I think furthering your education was a good start. Follow your passion and hopefully the paycheck will follow that!

  2. downhousesoftware

    August 20, 2012 at 10:02 am

    I wouldn’t undo grad school for the world – it was such a great experience (that I actually hated every minute of at the time) and I feel like I learned more in that time than the rest of my life combined.
    Here’s to hoping the rest of that comes true – he says, raising a symbolic (but empty) NPR coffee cup.


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