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Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
New York NY USA

Brian Krueger is the owner, creator and coder of LabSpaces by night and Next Generation Sequencer by day. He is currently the Director of Genomic Analysis and Technical Operations for the Institute for Genomic Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. In his blog you will find articles about technology, molecular biology, and editorial comments on the current state of science on the internet.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I thought about this question probably everyday of my graduate school career.  My days usually went like this:

1. Get to lab at 7am
2. Start 12hr experiment
3. 7pm, experiment failed
4. 7:15pm set it all up again for tomorrow

Eventually I got everything to work but that 12hr period in the middle was filled with:

"I bet me engineer friends don't have to deal with this shit, and they're getting paid 6 times as much as me."
"I should have just become a web designer. I have fun doing that AND things usually work the first time."
"I want to run away to the cirus and become a Barker."

My PhD mentor once told me that I was the weirdest person he'd ever met because I have too many hobbies.  He didn't think I could be successful in lab if I ran a website, went to the gym for two hours in the middle of the day, maintained my saltwater fish tank etc.  I think he saw all of these things as distractions, or more like, "If he spent that energy in lab, he'd have a billion papers by now."  Well, Honestly I can only take so much science and I need all of these hobbies to keep me sane.  Further, I think I could turn any of my hobbies into careers.

In middle school, my mom worked for a computer training company and I took my first webdesign class there for free using Microsoft FrontPage (what a piece of shit).  I was excited about computer programming after that and one of the first classes I took in high school was a C++ class.  It was the driest most boring class I had ever experienced.  I dropped it after the first test because it just couldn't catch my interest.  It wasn't taught from a practical use perspective.  It was like theory and math and...ZZZZZzzzzzZZZZZZ.  So I switched to a science track and just kept web programming in my spare time.  Today of course all of that hobby time programming websites has birthed LabSpaces, but what a lot of people don't know is that I also code webpages for a good friend of mine back in Iowa City who runs a photography business.  He's always joked about stealing me away from science to help him full time, but I'm not sure it'd be as much fun if this was my JOB.

My old boss was right.  I did spend a lot of my time at the gym back in graduate school, but it was mostly to get away from the lab to clear my brain.  That lab was exceedingly stressful and to stay my mellow and unstressed self I had to find a release and that came in the form of a 2 hour or so trip to the gym everyday.  I almost always had a massive gel or a PCR reaction to run, so I timed them so that I could use that incubation/gel run as my gym break.  The system worked out really well.  I've always been an active person.  I enjoy wieghtlifting, running, and mountain biking.  If I ever became independently wealthy, I might toy with the idea of opening a gym or becoming a personal trainer.  Then my job would be at the gym, and I could kill two birds with one stone!


Credit: Brain coral and
Fathead Sunburst Anthias

Finally, if I wasn't having so much fun being a scientist, I'd love to open a saltwater fish store.  I'm sure you have seen me gushing over my fish or posting pictures of my lab tank on twitter.  I think everyone should own a saltwater fish tank because they're both beautiful and challenging.  The thing that I really hate about the trade though is that it's full of stupidity and misinformation.  I have yet to find a truly honest vendor who cares about the customers they service or the livestock they sell.  Fish shops will prescribe the wrong medication for diseases or suggest anecdotal remedies when there is a know cure.  I'd love to bring simple, easy to understand solutions to people without just trying to sell everything in the store to them.

I guess I'm still relatively young and haven't found my "Real" career yet.  These are all potential possibilites for the future.  I keep telling my Fianceé that I want to be a stay at home dad ;)  I could certainly do programming from a home office...

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Blog Comments

Genomic Repairman
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So if you weren't doing science you'd be a programmer who codes physical fitness software for fish in a saltwater conservancy?  Not bad, you need a hobby.


Evie
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Haha.. that would be awesome! I can totally see you as a stay at home dad, of course you'd be prez of the PTO and bake sale committee too :)


Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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Lol, or maybe I'd turn out totally jaded like that dude on "Parenthood" who has to stay at home to take care of his daughter because he can't find work as a building contractor Tongue out


baker
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I'd offer to switch jobs with you but CSS3, media queries, etc. are too much fun right now.  It's refreshing finally getting to be smart and creative again. :P  If you move back here someday, your kid is welcome to sit on my couch and watch me play games anytime.

 

If I wasn't doing this, I'd like to be doing the following (in order of how close I was in real life):

1) Lead singer of a metal band

2) Forensic pathologist

3) Paleontologist

4) Lottery winner living on a deserted island


Jason Goldman
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You should blog more about your fish! I've always wanted an aquarium, but have *no* idea where to even start.


Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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@Matt, Haha, CSS3? Only two browser support that!  What are you doing screwing around with that stuff :P  You should start a tech blog.  I know someone that might be able to give you some space for that...

@Jason, I plan on doing a, "How to start a lab saltwater fish tank" series once I'm done quarantining and stocking my big tank in lab.  My quarantine tank is a 20gallon Oceanic Biocube and I'm going to be putting it in my Fiancee's office.  So I'll do a step by step guide on how to setup a small fish only saltwater tank.  Stay tuned!


Evie
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@Matt - You can join my band, if you want. But you'd have to be back up vocals, since I'm already lead singer. Tideliar said he'd play drums. We'll be practicing and performing at my treehouse village. http://www.labspaces.net/blog/632/What_would_I_be_doing_if_I_weren_t_doing_rocket_science___

So you gonna join the blogigng party here? It's kinda cool.. Overlord treats us pretty good.. but I don't wanna see any special treatment or anything.. no pulling any bro in law shit on us!


Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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Matt actually codes REAL websites for a living.  I don't know how I feel about having someone that actually knows what they're doing messing around on my website :P

Matt, don't click "View Source" it'll make your eyes bleed.


Evie
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If it's running ok, there's no reason to look under the hood..

I know how you feel, I was always scared someone from the software dept would get a hold of my code, laugh and point and revoke my coding privileges. But, that hasn't happened yet :) I think it's mostly cause they are too busy to give a damn.


JanedeLartigue
UC Davis
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I know what you mean about being a stay at home Dad, my husband and I are fighting it out since he found out my brother, who stays at home with his daughter, plays X-box and has afternoon naps in between work!


27 and a PhD
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OMG .. I thought I was the only one. I can usually do most of my lab work (except if I'm working with evil-nasty-nazi protein) during the morning, then I use the rest of the day to catch up on my favourite blogs, or learn about crafts, or photography or go to the gym. While doing this I published over 5 papers at my old institution ... and I was still perceived as a lazy-ass for not spending my every waking second doing lab stuff. Needless to say, the same thing is happening in my postdoc lab. There is only so much focus I can keep on lab work before I get bored and give up on reading papers and need to get on my feet and be productive with my time. Cheers for us, renaissance peeps living in 2010!


JanedeLartigue
UC Davis
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@28andaPhD I often find that those people who put in a lot of 'face time' in the lab are actually the least productive and doing the least amount of work when they are actually there.  Who cares what hours you work as long as you're doing good work and producing lots of good data and publishing plenty, which it sounds like you do.  Good on you!  My husband is very lucky to have found one of those bosses who is of this opinion, I on the other hand am one of those unlucky people for whom no matter how much time I spend in the lab, stuff always still goes wrong, so I end up being in the lab until late repeating stuff!


never ever TT Gal
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OMG! Its nice to know that you dont have to be in the lab 24 hours a day to be a good scientist and it is OK to be bored of science when you have worked ur ass off 12 hours a day in the lab and just need a break... My collegues are soooooooooo into science, it kills me. All I want to do at 7Pm is run home, take a nice shower and watch something utterly dumb and brainless on Telly....I dont want to think or talk about anything related to the lab...Is that so wrong???? And here are my lab mates still thinking about why the band on the gel was 1kbps lower than it should be, at freaking 7Pm...I dont bloody care about that stupid band at 7pm...Ill think about it tomorrow when I come to lab before 'normal ppl' even make their morning coffee....


Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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LOL, It's ok!!  You don't have to LOVE science so much that it encompasses your entire life to be a scientist.  You're totally normal :)

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