Monday, January 22, 2007

When D affects......

This afternoon I read Scott’s latest post about the negative feelings that D can impose upon us. While I was planning to post about the below-mentioned anyway, Scott’s post somehow inspired me to add a D-twist to my current report.

Last week I had a very long awaited meeting with my current supervisor and a German scientist, W, who contacted my supervisor last summer with the hope of setting up collaboration with our group, and if possible acquire a talented candidate for a PhD-position that he had funds to pay for. My supervisor found the request from W attractive, and he asked me if I might be interested in this possible PhD-position. I said that I might be, but that I would like to hear more about the project before I made my decision. This was also of interest to my supervisor, and as W had mentioned that he would be willing to meet us here in Odense to discus the possibilities, the two tried to set up such a meeting. My supervisor generally has a very busy schedule, and it took several months until they finally found a date. A meeting was set up for November 7. However, a week before this meeting W had to cancel his trip to Odense, because he had to go to a job interview elsewhere. He still wished to arrange a meeting, though, but at the time my supervisor didn’t have any openings in his calendar until January. A new meeting was then scheduled to January 17. I was a bit annoyed with this delay, which also caused a clash with my supervisor regarding an alternative PhD-position that I applied for. The fact that a possible supervisor for a PhD-project was looking for other work didn’t ease my mind either.

Maybe it was because of all these bumps on the road that my expectations to the meeting weren’t too high. When I was introduced to W, my first impression of him was good, though. He seemed very calm and relaxed. My supervisor had asked him to give a talk about his research, but only 6 people showed for the presentation! It was a shame, the talk was actually pretty interesting, but I think that the fact that we had already had a group meeting in the morning and this talk was scheduled at 3:00 PM, caused many people to opt it out in order to get just a little work done that day.

After the talk my supervisor, W, and I continued with a meeting regarding the possible PhD-project. My supervisor went to fetch some coffee, and while he was gone, W told me that he hoped that we would be able to establish the cooperation despite the fact that he would be moving his research group to Scotland in August! I was a bit surprised about this, as all that I had heard was that some of the work of course would have to be performed in W’s research lab in Hamburg. It turned out, though, that the institute, at which W is currently employed, had decided to focus on research into another parasite, sort of excluding W’s research. Therefore, he had been looking for other possibilities, and one had shown to be at University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. Thus, he would be moving there together with his research group, and if I was to become his new PhD-student, I too would of course have to go there for some of the work. W assured me, however, that he would actually imagine that most of the work could be done here in Denmark, with only shorter stays in Hamburg and Glasgow, respectively, because the reason that he wished to establish this collaboration with us was our instruments for protein analyses (the project will focus on protein analyses).

We discussed the anticipated aim of the project, and I actually found it appealing. The funds that should pay my salary would come from the German Research Counsil, which posed some issues to be sorted out. W had funds for 2 years of salary, but he would only be allowed to bring them along when he moved to Scotland if the PhD-student had been employed at the institute in Hamburg prior to the departure. That shouldn’t be too problematic, at least not if there is no required time frame for the employment in Hamburg. W imagined that we could set it up so that I would be employed there from May to August, which would be okay with me. Now, a Danish PhD-education is 3 years, so we were missing funds to pay for the third year. In the light of this we discussed where I should be registered as a PhD-student: At the University of Southern Denmark here in Odense, at the institute in Hamburg, or at the University of Strathclyde. This also caused the discussion to turn to any advantages, tax-wise, for me moving my address out of the country.

For most people moving your address out of the country may not be that big a deal. I don’t know if it is to me either, yet I have some reservations about it. First of all Jimmi and I have not shared our current address for 2 years until October this year. Because it is a rental house, this means that if I move my address out of the country, Jimmi will not be allowed to stay in the house by himself, even though I may be here living there with him for up to 2/3 of the 3 years of my PhD-education. Second, moving my address out of the country also leads to some considerations regarding my health (D, asthma and allergies) and the cost of the needed meds and supplies. The taxes in DK are quite high (40-60 % of your salary, depending on your income, are paid as taxes), but this also means that we have rather low costs when it comes to meds and supplies. I pay for my medicine myself, but great deals of the costs are covered by grant aids. My diabetes supplies (test strips, needles and the like) are free of cost for me. The home-municipality pays for that. When it comes to insulin pumps and supplies for these, the costs are covered by the hospital treating the patient.

I had a note from W today, stating the answer about funding and registration that he had gotten from his future employer. Apparently PhD-salaries are free of tax in the UK, and thus W’s coming manager would recommend that I’d be registered at Strathclyde. That would imply a registration fee that we needed to find coverage for, and of course it would require my stay at Strathclyde at least for part of my PhD. I like the idea of avoiding tax by being registered and receiving my salary in another country. However, I need to find out whether it will be advantageous, if I need to stay in Glasgow for an extended period of time, not being able to bring all the supplies and meds that I need with me from DK. If I would have to pay it all out of my own pocket, it seems questionable whether it will actually be advantageous to arrange it this was (the tax saving might be eaten by the costs of meds and supplies).

I have an appointment with my wonderful diabetes nurse on Thursday, so I will discuss these medical issues with her. It annoys me, however, that my decision about the PhD- and address registration has to be affected by the D in such a way. I am not going to let the D get in the way of this position, but I still wish that it wouldn’t have to take up so many thoughts in the decision making and arrangement of the course.

D actually also plays another part in this. Jimmi was okay with the fact that I would be staying in Hamburg and Glasgow occasionally - as long as these stays wouldn’t be too long – but he did have one mandatory condition to accept it: I should make some arrangement for other people to be able to keep an eye with me, to make sure that I got up in the morning, and be able gain access to my accommodation in case of an emergency. It is actually a fair condition to make, but I am annoyed by the fact that it should be necessary. Why does the D have to play these games with us, causing us to sometime need the assistance of our love ones to handle scary or night time lows, and causing our love ones to be worried about our well being? Why does the D has to affect us and our love ones in this way?


Chrissie in Belgium said...


I am sure you will figure out a way to make all the different components jive! Terribly exciting and interesting position. D always has to stick its finger in everywhere., but that is no surprise.

Scott K. Johnson said...

Hi Heidi,

Yes, it does stink that we have to make so many considerations in these big decisions and opportunities around our diabetes. We should not have to choose one or the other, or compromised care or cost.

I'm sure it will all work out somehow - it always does.