While I was a grad student, I spent all of my time inside the details of my Ph.D. research program, focused almost exclusively on what the problem-of-the week was and trying to solve it. During my time as a post doc, I’ve found that not only do I need to continue solving the problem-of-the-week, but I also have to oversee a number of students and help them to solve their own problems-of-the week and provide projects for them that are appropriate to their skill levels that also challenge them intellectually. In essence, I’ve become middle management for our lab. Continue reading
As a post-doc, I did three things: I did research, analyzed data, and I wrote. I ran behavioral experiments and western blots, I did a lot of data analysis.
There were other things – I worked with students in the lab, and I organized events with the Post-doc Association at the post-doc institution. Later I applied for jobs, a significant time commitment, especially in the second year. It isn’t that I had a lot of free time, but I did have a lot of flexibility. When a grant deadline was coming up, or a set of experiments to (hopefully) finish off a paper, I could clear blocks of time and focus on that one thing. This – and my friends in that town – are the only things that I’m nostalgic about from my postdoc.
That is not what my days look like anymore. Now I have a few other things on my plate. Now there is teaching, routine meetings, and the ongoing administrative work of running a lab, not to mention grant writing and trying to stay on top of the literature. Coming up is graduate admissions season, and a couple of deadlines for training grants for my lab peeps. This increase in the number-of-things wasn’t unexpected, I had watched and spoken with my grad school and post-doc mentors, not to mention other people both IRL and online, enough to know better. And the amount of work is a lot, but it’s not unbearable. What I am finding difficult is the fragmentation of my time.
It was May, my fifth year on the tenure track. At this stage, I should I have been polishing my personal statement and dotting I’s and crossing t’s in my tenure dossier. Instead, I was packing my office, and preparing to move cross-country and start a new job. It wasn’t that I was afraid of being denied tenure in my old job. On the contrary, my university had offered what they could to retain me. Instead, I was taking the opportunity to move somewhere that was a much better fit personally and a very good move professionally. I was starting over. Continue reading
Over the past year, I have settled into my first tenure track position, found my feet in a new town and new department, and I am still setting up a laboratory of my own. There are many fun things and many crazy things about this. Many of them I knew to expect: starting somewhere new is difficult, but it becomes fun when you start meeting wonderful people and making friends. Doing established techniques in a new place is always more, um, interesting than one expects, but when something (anything!) works, it’s a great feeling.
One of my favourite things has been buying shiny, brand new
toys equipment. I have hugged the crate that held the microscope, squealed with excitement over pipettors, and jumped up and down when one piece of equipment I’d been wanting for years came in*. I have even cheered over a box of empty bottles arriving.
What I did not expect was that ordering all the things would be so hard. Continue reading