Hi! I'm Geeka. I've been a scientist for, I don't know, it seems like forever, I guess since I started college, so, like 15 years? Anyhow, this is where I'm going to give my take on a bunch of stuff. I'm usually a little bit out there (that is, I don't see the obvious at the outset), which means that you are probably going to have to deal with reading such topics as: Interpersonal relationship training for scientists, my lab pet peeves, how to get along in business when you just came straight out of academia, trying to deal with having a life and being a scientist, really odd topics for a paper, random stuff I found on the internet that made me shoot coffee out of my nose, you know, (ab)normal Geeka. Why the title? Because at the very heart of me, I'm a virologist, and while I don't necessarily do that now, it's how I view the scientific world.
My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.
I got together with some good sciencey friends last night to have some fun. The first people to arrive was my former student volunteer (aka the minion) and the tech. My old boss (Tex) actually sent them with old print outs from the cytometer to find out what was wrong. The previous tech showed up next. Then LabBFF and ImageGoddess. We had great fun and spent some time talking about our new jobs. During these conversations, I finally figured out what it was that I really enjoyed about my new job:
I get to finish something and move on.
When I was a student and post-doc, there was always something else. Even when I was 'done' there was always something to do. I like to check things off of a list. I like to feel like I accomplished something. I never got that feeling. In fact, I'm still doing things for Jackass and Tex. I get texts and emails from people in Tex's lab all the time. I actually had to go spend a couple hours a few Saturdays ago to find stuff for Jackass. These are evolving things, they are never done. It drives me nuts.
With the new job, I've completed 2 projects this week. One was something I was working on since I started. One was decided it wasn't worth my time. I'm about 90% done with another project. I was also given a new project recently that I'm only in the 'research' phase in that project. These are all different enough to keep my interest.
But hands down, the best thing is that I have a mapped out plan, I know when I'm finished, and I get to finish something. It's so freeing. I don't have a constant mental ram allocation for the current project. Sure, sometimes things aren't perfect (for instance, project not worth my time), but generally it's pretty fun. And this makes me happy.
I find that I'm happy a little bit more than usual lately.
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That is one of the things I also like about my job :)
I definitely miss that part of industry. Academia is just a continuum of projects that are never finished.
I tend to look at publishing as the end of, well, something. You're right though because before you publish, you've usually started thinking, prioritizing and performing experiments for the next publication.
Ahhhh, to complete a task, a list, a frickin paragraph without being bombarded by an over-zealous PI with the next project! Isn't that the definition of ADHD? I guess that is what makes them successful at their jobs...but for me it is ANNOYING... I shudder at the thought of having lab meeting every Friday when inevitably we (and when I say "we", I really mean "I") will have to do 4 more experiments to clarify the last experiment I did...each of which have nothing to directly with the project at hand. In fact, if we thought of this more carefully instead of chasing 20 different rabbit holes we may have been able to come up with a technique that would have answered all those questions and the initial question we are asking in one fell swoop! But that would require some forethought....
Tell us how you really feel.
I would argue that in the lab something is finished when it is published and that then the next project starts. Sometimes the project doesn't go anywhere and you scrap it. It's quite similar to what you are describing really.
I guess it is how you look at things. Although I do kind of get what you are saying.
Some projects can be published several times as they unfold. I don't think a publication means a project is done.
It probably partly depends on the field that you're in as well. Some fields unfold more slowly than others and projects are more intertwined, in others projects are a little more separated out and it probably feels more like a conclusion of a project when you publish. I agree though that there is always something more that can be done, some unanswered question, I suppose it might depend on the kind of person you are as well as to how much that bothers you, how you feel about 'loose ends'. It surprises me that it's different in industry though, I suppose that's why people often suggest that just because you don't necessarily enjoy academic research you might still thrive in industry, they suit different personalities I guess.
The other side of Industry is that before a project gets going well it is cut off at the knees becz, although it is interesting research, it doesn't result in drug treatment and ultimately $$$. That can also be very frustrating.