Friday, February 26, 2010

Green cards aren't actually green... and the real story about how I got here.

I got my green card in the mail today... It's not green, though I knew that would be the case. It's quite alright with me, because it means I can stay here. I don't have to worry about doing something stupid and being sent home (and we all know I'm capable of stupid!). I can be here with my wife, and that's all I want.

It got me thinking... How did I really end up here? I know some of my audience (probably 2 out of the 4) will think "you flew in a number of large airplanes for a very long time", which is technically correct, but it's not the whole story.

For the whole story, my readers need to hear about a missing professor, a missing vaccination, and a lack of intelligence and organization...

When I completed my undergraduate degree, I knew I wanted to do my honours year under the supervision of Professor HPLC on forensic analysis. We had talked about possible projects at the end of 3rd year, so I was ahead of the game. Come orientation week for us honours students (yes computer, that is how you spell "honours"...), I was feeling good about my plans, and paid only scant attention to the projects being offered by other professors. One professor, who was known for his easy grading but of who I wasn't a huge fan, did offer a forensics project... I took mild interest.

Nearing the end of the second day of talks on the offered projects it became apparent that my chosen professor wasn't due to talk. While this seemed strange, we had 3 students already showing interest in his work (the maximum allowed number), so we figured he was just not bothering to tell the other honours students his research. Still, the 3 of us found him and eventually convinced him to talk to the honours class. He seemed rather uninterested in presenting... At the end of the day, we put in out 3 choices for our honours projects, with the matches being announced at the end of the week.

Friday comes, and I am asked to go talk with the honours coordinator and the head of department... along with the other 2 prospective Professor HPLC students... We were each told that Professor HPLC was leaving the department, and that we had 1 hour to choose a new honours project!!! Of course, we spent the first half of our time tracking down this professor and giving him a piece of our minds (having worked in academia for a while now, I realize that the professor couldn't really tell us before it was official, but it's still frustrating).

With 1/2 hour left to find a lab, I approached the professor with the other forensic project... I announced my presence by slamming open the lab door (yes, you can slam open a door!). I found the professor to be sympathetic to my situation and very enthusiastic about taking me on as a student... While I still felt somewhat unsettled, I had found my lab...

At the end of my honours year, I applied for a PhD scholarship. I didn't get one at first and went looking for a job. I got an interview for a chemist position at a government forensic lab. The interview went well and they were looking for me to start straight away (while it was only a short-term position, I could see it leading to a full time forensic job!). They finally asked if I had my Hepatitis B vaccination... I did not. It requires a course of 3 injections over several weeks, so the job didn't work out (the vaccination was required for the position).

Eventually I managed to get a PhD scholarship and completed a PhD in the lab of my honours professor.

Nearing the end of my PhD, I began a job search. I cast my net fairly wide, not just forensics, but medical science, biochemistry, and even non-scientific jobs. One such job was joining my country's intelligence organization (I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you!). I ended up making it to the 2 round of interviews, which included a 3 day trip to the nation's capital. Despite enjoying the trip, I did not get the position (maybe taking copious photos while I was there and invoking "Indiana Jones" in part of the interview were not great ideas...), and I returned home to a phone interview for a postdoc in a pathology lab.

I got that job, came over here, met a wonderful woman, got my current job, got married, and yesterday my green card came in the mail... Did I mention that it's not actually green?