Introducing Courtney Long, one of the London Naturejobs Career Expo journalism competition runners-up.
Courtney Long is a native of Texas and is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hamburg, Germany. She received her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA. She enjoys traveling around Europe with her husband Andy, reading, walking her two boxers dogs, mochas, baking, and being an all-around sassy southern belle.
It’s all in the way you handle it. First of all, I take the news with a class not seen since the likes of Grace Kelly or Jackie O.
OK, I lied. For me, part of bouncing back is going through the 6 stages of scientific grief.
Stage one: The initial let down
You anxiously open your email every morning, hoping they have contacted you. Every so often hitting the “Refresh” button (as in every few minutes) because surely something is wrong with the server and you just know the winners should be told by now. Then the fateful day arrives and sitting in your inbox is THE email. You open it with bated breath, your cheeks already starting to arch up in a celebratory smile, you start reading about how many strong applicants there were this year and what a difficult decision it was. Compliment sandwich at its best. Bottom line: You got rejected. The full weight of the rejection hasn’t quite hit and here is where you enter stage two.
Stage two: Justification
This is a relatively short phase because anger is quick on its heels. This second phase is where you tell anybody that will listen, and sometimes your computer screen will suffice, about why you should have been funded. You let them know in your most undignified tone about your never-before-seen technology. About how your model is completely breakthrough and will no doubt be the way of the future. This phase also tends to drip a little of martyrdom. I mean you were only trying to help the children. But saying this only adds fuel to the fire for fading into the next stage.
Stage three: Anger
You try to understand who awarded these people a PhD and how in the world they got to sit on this review committee. While you’re getting yourself all worked up, then stage four creeps in.
Stage four: Pride
This is a dangerous one. With this stage you realise that obviously your ideas were so clever and so cutting-edge, down to every last meticulous detail that the reviewers clearly didn’t understand. A small part of you may even start to feel like maybe you didn’t really even want the funding if it meant being associated with such short-sighted, unimaginative, explicative nincompoops. While you’re riding this wave of adrenaline and self-importance, you shift on over to the peak phase.
Stage five: The temper tantrum
Now, this phase is hard to describe because everything goes black, but this is good because it means you are moving forward. However, you can’t get too comfortable here because any of your sympathisers that lasted through pride will slowly drift off one by one. Not too fast now so as not to become a target as your rant goes full Tasmanian devil on the credence of the entire institution of peer-review. Some spitting and throwing of objects might be involved, so I’m told. Alas, you must loosen the white knuckle grip on this stage, as good as it feels to really let them have it, and return to a normal non-fire breathing person. Your vision will start to clear and now we have reached full circle to the sixth, and final stage of scientific grief, acceptance.
Stage six: Acceptance
Here comes the calm after the storm, and not just because it felt so good to hear glass breaking. Your body releases a natural sedative that gives you a little perspective and maybe, just maybe, you start to see some of their points. And, yea, ok, maybe even agree with a few. You are finally ready to take the three flights of stairs down to retrieve your laptop off the sidewalk, make a nice cup of joe, and rewrite.