Thursday, January 24, 2013

Applying for Post Docs

Applying for Post Docs is strange because one is supposed to take on the whole "Look at me. You want me!" mentality which is kind of awkward and absurd but I guess, needs to be done so people know who they are hiring. I am actually attempting the opposite approach, which is "Hey look at me, I am strange and awkward." haha. It actually takes alot of the pressure off and because I am strange and awkward I don't feel bad about it. I figure people need to know what they are going into with me as much as I do with them. Anyways, on to the story.

So yesterday I sent out a Post Doc email to someone at Haaavaaadd, it was the opposite of professionality but again, that's me.
It went something like this with names and identifying information removed:

Subject: Fun Science == Foo + Josiah

Hey Foo,
Hah, Sorry about the cheesy subject line I was just excited to write you. My name is Josiah Zayner, I am a Ph.D. student in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics in Tobin Sosnick’s lab at the University of Chicago and I plan to graduate sometime before the summer. I was wondering if you were looking for Post Docs to work in your lab? Actually, to be honest I have been a fan of your work for a while. I study LOV(Light-Oxygen-Voltage) domains and one of the properties is that upon light absorption there is an intersystem crossing from a singlet state to excited triplet state. I was trying to figure out how to use electrostatic interactions from amino acid substitutions or metal ions to modify the photocycle and read about you using those nano magnetic fields. Thought it was super cool. Then I met Bar at the Photosensory Gordon Conference and I just recently saw X give a talk on his work here at UofC for a faculty interview and! I was talking to Bozhi Tian yesterday(do you know him?) and he said I should definitely email you. I have always been a little intimidated by your lab but have decided that I might as well write you. Honestly, I like how your research combines so much, engineering, programing, biochemistry, biology, physics. That is kind of how I approach my research. I like to find a cool idea and run with it, not limiting myself to specific techniques.
As I mentioned, I work on light activated LOV domains. I have been studying them using lots of spectroscopy (UV, CD, NMR, FTIR) and even more protein engineering and mutational analysis, to determine how the light activation chemistry and thermodynamics work and how to make other proteins light activated. In a relative short period of time I have been able to uncover the mechanisms and chemistry of how LOV domains function and apply this to novel optogenetic tools. My skills however are not limited to Biochemistry and Biophysics, I can program in multiple languages (C, Perl, PHP and smatterings of others including ASM) and for multiple microprocessors including TI and AVR. I am author of IP Sorcery an open source network engineering program of tens of thousands of lines of code written in C and part of a number of Linux distributions. I have autodidactic electrical engineering skills and have experience reverse engineering electronics and have accomplished projects such as building an accelerometer based computer mouse (see or if you're really bored and also inventing a wireless cell density spectrometer that sits in the cell culture. I built a prototype and tried to patent it through UChicago Tech though I was unsuccessful; they said the IP space was too small, HAH. However, the thing I am most proud of is the Chromochord, a biosensor that functions as a musical instrument. The protein functions as a kind of pulse width modulated digital output. Using light one modulates the absorbance of the engineered LOV domain and determines the note played. I recently received $2500 fellowship from the University of Chicago to work on further development of this device. I know lots of this isn't directly related to your work but I guess I am just trying to give you knowledge about my skills and loves and hopefully in the process impress you ever so slightly if I may.
Overall I think we both would gain alot from working together. With my biophysics/biochemistry, engineering and programming skills I imagine we could execute some pretty amazing projects. Attached is my CV with one caveat, I am days? away from submitting another first author paper to PNAS (waiting for a collaborator to send me a supplementary figure AGG!) and a month or two? from submitting two more, one from a collaboration that was just finished when I was a visiting researcher in Amsterdam over the summer and the other, an almost finished manuscript from a project I worked on alone in the lab.

Sorry for the longish email. Josiah Zayner
 Yeah, yeah I know The email is a little over the top. Maybe? I was actually just trying to be honest and myself. The guy on his website portrays himself as this fun guy. This was his response:

Dear Josiah,
    Thank you for your interest in my laboratory.  Unfortunately I do
not have any positions available.  I wish you the best of success in
your search for a research position and in your future research
Best wishes, 
I mean maybe he receives 20 of these emails a day and copies and pastes a response because maybe he doesn't have any more space in his lab. It was just weird to feel like cattle. All I hear from PIs is that they hate when people send them some copy and pasted email for a Post Doc. But when potential Post Docs spend an hour writing you an email (I probably spent 10 minutes figuring out if the subject should be: Fun Science = Foo + Josiah, Fun Science && Foo + Josiah, Fun Science == Foo + Josiah, hahaha) and receive a copy and pasted response of two sentences? what do people expect me to do? Spend even more time on an email I know someone won't read?

It makes one even more jaded about scientists. Not much one can do but keep trying harder. Wheew the good thing is I was going to make the email also be an interactive Perl script, HAHAHA. What a cool email that would have been for such a shitty response.