Becoming a Manager

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

A day in the life…

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.

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Starting over on the tenure-track

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

The Decider

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