Saturday, May 11, 2013

For longevity's sake

I am no longer a American postdoc in Canada, but this blog will remain up as a tool to help other future postdocs, scientists, or heck, just anyone deciding to uproot and settle down in Canada.  A word of advice if you're coming here looking for immigration guidelines: I was a temporary resident only, on a temporary resident visa, and never applied for permanent residency (PR).  I hope this blog is of some help to you, because I certainly had fun writing it!


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Getting the car back to the United States from Canada

a.k.a., realizing that no one importing/exporting cars from the U.S. to Canada and v/v knows what the hell they are doing.

You may have remembered me writing some helpful posts about bringing my car to Canada and what documents that entails, and also finishing off the whole long process.  I paid my overpriced insurance and my overpriced registration, but that was ok, and I just dealt with it.

And then it was time to bring the car back to the United States.  And literally, the guards at the border in Detroit thought I stole my own car because I was an American citizen moving back to the United States, and I had Ontario plates.

Jean-Luc, you're so applicable.
Really.  I got hit with "failure to import a vehicle," after I showed them my title, which is still Pennsylvania-based (remember how they stamped "REGISTERED IN ONTARIO" to my title and then gave it back to me because I was only taking it temporarily to Canada?).  They did not like that at all, even after I explained the situation.  Sir, I have a Ph.D.  Sir, this car is 12 years old.  Sir, my family and I have owned this car since it was first driven off the lot in 1999.

"Well where is it originally from?"


Oh my goodness, it's like people don't understand that some people have moved states at least once in their lifetime.

After demanding to see the title, the registration, my passport, and my Pennsylvania plate (which was on the moving truck and not with me), they asked how much cash I was carrying on me and directed me to go inside their little hut.  I wasn't allowed to take anything.  I was to leave my keys on the dashboard and take only my wallet inside.  Windows were to be completely rolled down.  As I went inside, I saw 2 guards converging on my car.  I thought that was it.  I was going to come back to all my stuff stolen.

Inside the importation office, I explained the situation to the guard who eventually laughed it off, told me I had done nothing wrong, but to get a Michigan title, plates, and insurance, which I was of course going to do anyway, as that's what you do when you move states.  I got out of there really fast before they changed their minds.  

The thing is, I still don't even know what it was the border guy wanted me to do, especially since I had a bunch of wordly goods with me in the car and was obviously moving.  How can you have a license plate already for the country in which you're not yet a resident?

Fast forward to the Michigan Secretary of State office, where you get everything changed over.  This place is... an interesting place to people-watch.

I brought everything.  Michigan no-fault insurance.  My passport.  Both work visas.  My lease.  2 bills. My title.  My registration.  Everything was ok, until she looked at that problematic title.

"You need an import form for this car."

Even though it was never exported from the United States?  "Yes.  It's registered in Ontario."

But it's titled in Pennsylvania.  You're telling me I have to drive to Detroit, hop the border, then hop the border BACK again, pick up the import form, and pay $10 in bridge fees?  "Well.... we MIGHT be able to look at your border crossing record.  Take a number."

The lady who helped me next blinked not a single eye at the Ontario registration, but ran through the transfer of license, registration, title and plates efficiently with no questions.  So now I'm 100% Michigan, and the only remnants I have of Ontario are the plates, which are now hanging up on my wall along with the GA and PA ones.

A common thing I've done every time I've had to do something with international nonsense and the car: If they give you what you want, get out of there before they realize they've messed up, if they have.  Just goes to show you how little faith I have in people who do vehicle imports/exports between the U.S. and Canada.

The times, they are a-changin'.

So.  I know it's been 3 months (eek).  There is an important reason for my absence, however.  It was called The Job Search.

Postdocs don't last forever, and I was at a good stopping point with mine.  A major point of me doing a postdoc was to branch out from what I did from my Ph.D. and try some new techniques.  I felt I had the training I needed, so I set out on the job hunt.  In this economy, you probably know what this meant.

I applied for 36 jobs and kept track of them with an Excel spreadsheet.  That meant 36 tailored resumes/CVs and cover letters.  From the start of the job application process to the start of my new position was almost 3 months, and I consider that pretty fast.  Most positions to which I applied, I did not hear anything back.  About 7-10 gave me rejections.  Luckily, I got 2 of them and chose one to go with.  So where am I now?

Well, gentle reader, I am actually now in Michigan.  I am an American scientist in the United States, and this hardly makes for an interesting blog title.  So after a couple more advice posts, I'm going to put this blog to bed.  It has served its purpose well, but now its purpose is done.  I hope you have enjoyed reading and have gained some insight (if you are in the U.S.) into our neighbo(u)rs to the north!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Welcome, visitors from Nature Publishing Group!

If you are from the Nature Publishing Group, I welcome you to my blog and urge you to have a look around.  This blog was created to share current issues in science/research groups/life from the perspective of a young Ph.D. in chemistry who moved to Canada for her postdoc.  I urge you to visit the following links to posts of particular relevance:

Communication, core to every scientist:

Thoughts on nanotechnology:

The beauty of interdisciplinary science:

Choosing to do a Ph.D. and following it with a postdoc:

Thank you for visiting!

Kristin, a.k.a. the American postdoc in Canada

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Academics and starting a family later, if at all

I was a graduate student for 5+ years.  Most of my friends are graduate students and have been for at least 3+ years.  Also, almost all of my good friends who are also currently graduate students are male.  And today, because of this, I came to an amazing revelation:

In one week, I will be going to my first baby shower.  In two and a half weeks, I will turn 29.  I made it to almost 29 without attending a single baby shower.

I may be highly educated, but I have almost NO idea what to do here. (picture from
We can back up and analyze this six ways from Sunday.  A large part of it is that I just do not have that many close friends who have had children.  And a large part of THAT is because my close friends are eternally in school and not financially ready for kids.  And going deeper into the rabbit-hole, a large part of THAT is that my friends are largely male.  Venn diagram, anyone?  Let's be safe and assume U.S. friends only.
Pardonnez pour le Open Office illustration.
My female friends are not less-educated.  I just have less of them (and that's what I'm trying to illustrate).  I would say that by and large, people who are graduate-level educated make up the majority of my friend base.  Because I am in a STEM field, and so are many of my friends, the population of males is just going to be larger.

There have been many, many science bloggers that have exhaustively discussed the prevalence of children in Ph.D.-parent relationships, the average age of Ph.D.-parents at first child, the dearth of women in tenure-track professor jobs because of the difficulties (or not?) of balancing work/life, or because of the general environment, etc.  The general trends are what you would expect: those with more education wait to have children and typically have fewer children than those who are less-educated.

But hold on.  Then there is something else.  The average age for EVERYONE (highly educated or not) having children is increasing.  So perhaps I, at almost 29, and my friends, who are typically younger than I am, just haven't hit the baby boom yet, and those blue circles will increase in size as time goes on.

And here I sit making graphs and analyzing instead of thinking of how to prepare/shop for a baby gift.  In light of the above graphs, it's not too surprising, eh?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dredging up the French, part 2 (turbo mode!)

Allons enfants de la patrie, le jour de gloire est arrive!

I talked about how my French is coming back to me a year ago, but since then, it's been on the accelerated path.  On the one hand, I've got a province where French isn't REALLY spoken a lot, but you can definitely find it.  On the second hand, I've got the boyfriend who was in Ontario French immersion school (and his father and sister will banter back and forth with him on occasion).  And on the third hand, and likely the most prevalent in my everyday life, we've got our new Quebecois postdoc and new Iranian postdoc, who both speak French.  They speak French to each other and to anyone else who admits they know a bit of French and would be willing to speak it occasionally.  The Ontario-native grad students and I are included.  It's super cool.

That's three hands of French, people.  French is launching a triple-pronged and multi-accented attack at me.  It sounds dumb of me to say "I know it's an official language and all, but I didn't know it would be so prominent," but that's kind of how I felt moving to Ontario, land of English-speakers.

I find myself falling into the trap that I always do with all of the (bits and shreds of) foreign languages I know.  People talk to me in the foreign language.  I understand, but knee-jerk answer in English.  My comprehension is solid and immediate, but so desiring am I to convey information back quickly, that I answer in the most expedient way possible.  I have to convince the postdocs to stop letting me do this.

Has anyone else moved to Ontario and noticed an unusual influx of French into their life?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Retraction Watch

Insert a mind-numbingly and excuse-laden list of reasons why I haven't posted.  There are many reasons.  Let's just chalk it up to a) being busy, and b) mental stress.

However, I have something fantastic that is above and beyond worth its own post.  In fact, it's worth its own blog.  And that's where there is a blog dedicated to it.

Retraction Watch is a wonderful blog run by science writers Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus and chronicles various and sundry recent retractions from scientific journals.  I find this blog and its content so important that it gets a special place in my RSS feed right alongside the journals I follow.  And believe me.... follow it, I do.  Some retractions are relatively harmless, and while not completely excusable, they are forgiveable.  Then, however, there are the retractions that involve doctoring of images, cutting/pasting of photos or text, and downright irreproducibility of data.  These lead to, likely, more retractions, and then firings (Zhiguo Wang), and then possible stripping (Bengu Sezen) of Ph.D.s (Diederik Stapel).

Friends, I'm scared of getting scooped just as much as the next guy.  However, I'm even more scared of scientific fraud.  This makes me want to do things right in order to avoid having my name associated with retracted work.  I imagine that after you retract (or your work is retracted FOR you), you feel much like this:

Found guilty of scientific misconduct?  This will be a statue-y, nude version of you afterwards.
Career over, job prospects ruined, scientific cross to bear?  It sounds awfully threatening and also awfully scary.  I really don't fancy that being me.  I think I and many other budding scientists can greatly learn from the stories of the falls from grace that other researchers have taken.

Really.  Go check out Retraction Watch if you haven't yet.