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Author: Lab Mom | Views: 1282 | Comments: 6
Last by biochem belle on Aug 10, 2010, 3:47pm
I recently stumbled upon this Scientific American Article about advice Nobel Laureates gave to young scientists about how to succeed in science and in light of the recent work-life balance series I can't resist commenting on it.

Some of the advice in the article was obvious: Know when to throw in the towel, be a good collaborator, be able to tell a good story.. Okay, duh. That is just common sense.

What I was more interested in was the less obvious, something I hadn't heard before, advice that was a little outside-the-box.

From the article:
Make Time for Your Family. “You can’t exist as a scientist without some sort of relationship with other people and family is the most important,” said Smithies. [Oliver Smithies, winner of a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2007] A particular challenge for experimental scientists is the need to keep their research chugging along without consuming entire weekends. “Maybe pick two hours each day on Saturday and Sunday” to balance the needs of science and home life.

It is refreshing to get the perspective of someone who is considered a success in science (Yes I am defining a Nobel P . . . More
Author: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 1553 | Comments: 11
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Feb 07, 2011, 10:01am
When I started graduate school at Iowa, I went in there with a chip on my shoulder.  They didn’t choose me, I chose them.  They weren’t a highly ranked “elite” institution, so to make my mark I had to work for the biggest and the best that Iowa had to offer, or so I thought.  I sought out the highest profile researchers at Iowa and picked the one that best aligned with my interests.  No matter what school you look at, there’s always, “That Professor.”  You know who I’m talking about.  The professor who publishes the most papers, who has the most respect.

I did my homework on my mentor.  I read a bunch of old papers, I understood the direction and the goals of the lab.  I remember our first lab meeting vividly, well, I remember how I felt after the lab meeting.  I was exhausted.  My brain physically hurt.  I thought I knew it all going into that meeting and I realized I didn’t know anything.  It was a wake up call, but I think I liked that feeling.  It was fresh and challenging.

During my rotation, I put in ungodly long hours, not because I thought it was expected of me, but because I wanted to.  At this point in time I was enamored with the science.  It’s funny how this changed for me as I look back on my four and a half years in t . . . More
Author: JaniceF | Views: 1369 | Comments: 5
Last by Alchemystress on Aug 01, 2011, 11:12am
While I'm traveling I've decided to repost a series of old blogposts on the academic trajectory. In part because I'm lazy (give me a break traveling is tiring) but also because lately my career choices have been on my mind.

I've had some interesting conversations with some sr faculty, which when things settle down I will write about. So for now, peeps, you will have to be content with some oldies but goodies. This first one is from April 2010.

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Author: Thomas Joseph | Views: 1341 | Comments: 11
Last by JaySeeDub on Jan 25, 2011, 3:05pm
These are tough times. Everywhere you look money is tight, budgets are stagnant or shrinking, we're being asked to cut costs, and incorporating money saving methods to keep those costs down are becoming commonplace. I started out 2011 (actually ended 2010) intent on doing my part in not only cutting costs in the operation of my lab/office, but greening them up as well.

As I looked about my office there was one thing that jumped out at me. The volume of paper which was cluttering my desk and shelves (I actually have a set of metal shelves I purchased two years ago to hold all the scientific papers I've printed out in the past several years).

Paper, paper, everywhere,

Until all the trees were dead.

Paper, paper, everywhere,

Nothing interesting to be read.

Coleridge, if he had ever seen my office.

Between the cost of paper and the price of ink, I imagine that I have spent a lot of institutional money printing out versions of my manuscripts, other peoples scientific papers, progress reports, and other assorted stuff. It all adds up over time.

I'm not sure how much my institution pays in paper and ink costs each year (though I'm going to ask), but I'm sure it's significant. As such, it seemed like an . . . More
Author: JaniceF | Views: 1227 | Comments: 1
Last by Suzy on Sep 07, 2011, 5:41pm
This about sums it up. Wouldn't you say?

Thanks to brilliantly smart-ass responses to completely well-meaning signs.

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Author: JaniceF | Views: 1201 | Comments: 5
Last by JaniceF on Jul 29, 2011, 3:18pm
These past few days, I've had a chance to hang out with my sisters Fortune and Wisdom. Fortune recently got a new job and Wisdom had just returned from travels of her own in far far away lands. We had an amazing home-cooked Indian dinner, cooked by Wisdom, and then the three of us just sat around in her family room talking over tea, just being family. Our relationship has evolved over the years in ways that I could not have imagined. There were times when Fortune and I didn't talk for what seemed like years,now our relationship is like Summertime, a Mary Cassatt painting, the women don't always look directly at each other, but their shared experience brings a sweetness into the moment. Wisdom and I on the other hand, are very close. With her, there is an ease to the relationship. I feel like Wisdom is a warm blanket, a cup of cocoa, and an engaging book on a cold night. But its the combination of both of them that is calming and invigorating, like it reminds you of the things that are important. You know, priorities. On that note, here is a post from May 11 2010.

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Author: Disgruntled Julie | Views: 1046 | Comments: 13
Last by Odyssey on Aug 05, 2010, 8:17pm
A female physician with a successful career and family once tried to explain the work-family balance to me as: "You can have it all; you just can't have it all when you want it." In other words, she went for the whole good things come to those who wait cliche -- in other words, eventually, someday, you'll retire and then you'll get the family life you craved while you were working. I tend to think of it more like "You can have your cake and eat it too, but your cake will be triple wrapped in the freezer taunting you for years before you get to take the first bite." Whatever it is that you want, it's right there waiting for you... but if you want it all, patience is key. Sure, you can jump right in and sink your teeth into the cakey goodness (assuming you like cake; I do not), but then the cake will be all gone too soon and you'll spend the rest of your life wondering if you should have waited. On the other hand, you can not-so-patiently wait, hold your hands over your ears while everyone else talks about how great their cake is, and then, when the time is right... unwrap that (slightly stale) cake and enjoy a life of bites.

So why has my life philosophy been reduced to pastries? Well, you see, I have my cake, and I am in the long, slow, pain . . . More
Author: JaniceF | Views: 1154 | Comments: 4
Last by Bill Feger on Sep 22, 2011, 3:38pm
Made it back home safe.  Got my fellowship application in on time - 2 hrs to spare.  Yeah me! 

Went into the lab today and saw RedBull for the first time in two months. Our conversation went like this"

"Hey RedBull. Just came by to say, hello and I'm back!"

"Oh okay.  Your priority over the next two months is to get that analysis on the Alphabetum done and turned into a manuscript." 

Not even a 'hello how are you' or 'welcome back'. Seriously? Well, at least it's not forever.  In fact, if I have it my way, I could be doing something else next year.

. . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 1255 | Comments: 17
Last by Alena on Jan 06, 2012, 12:34pm
Alchemystress is a graduate student working on her PhD in Chemistry. She works on instrumentation, biotech, microfab and nanotech. She is in her first year of a PhD program but second year of graduate school. Alchemystress started out as a biochemistry student and did a BS in biology and has worked in the proteomics field of cancer research for about 2.5 years before starting her work in chemistry.


I am super feminine, but not girly, I dress classic like Audrey Hepburn but have tattoos, and skulls on my keychain, working on a quarter sleeve in fact. I am a chemist that does engineering and biology. I drive a truck and wear high heels almost everyday. I model, I do runways, I build mass specs and nanodevices. I spin fire, and am an honorary part of a fire circus and I teach organic chemistry. I did Burning Man, I did research on a boat in Hawaii. I have a horrid curiosity to the point where I want to know everything even, when I am not interested. I hike and love the outdoors, camping and getting dirty but enjoy a good dance club as well. I drink whiskey and smoke cigars sometimes, and I also like to run long distances.

I think people forget that to be successful doesn’t m . . . More
Author: JaniceF | Views: 1124 | Comments: 3
Last by Amanda on Oct 14, 2011, 12:51pm
Well I did it.  I wrote the crappiest piece of shiza manuscript I have in a long time.  But the reason I made myself do this is I have a perfectionism problem.   This was an experiment to see if I could find a way to overcome that challenge. 

Now I have what I like to call the pseudocode for a manuscript.  All I have to do is work on it just 1 paragraph or 1 figure a day (and/or 1hr a day) and pretty soon I'll have a manuscript worth sending to RedBull.  We'll see how it goes.....

So peeps did anyone else do a #madwriting fest?  Do they find it helps or hinders their writing (of any kind!)?

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Author: Lab Mom | Views: 993 | Comments: 7
Last by Lady Scientist on Aug 03, 2010, 7:39pm
In conjunction with many of the other bloggers on Lab Spaces today, I am going to share my perspective on work:life balance, a topic I am familiar blogging about. *grins*

My perspective is that of a working mom. As a lab manager I am fortunate to have a much more consistent work schedule than many other mothers in science, but that does not mean it is is easy by any stretch of the imagination. There are so many things that make it nearly impossible for find true, consistent balance when you are a mother and a career scientist:

The extra financial burden
Finding good affordable childcare
The extra time required when you are responsible for another person/people
The lack of accommodations for things like breastfeeding, sick days, emergency back-up childcare
The fact that science isn't always a Monday-Friday 9-5 job
The constant self-doubt that you aren't doing a good job at home or at work
The feeling that you just don't have it together

And that is only the tip of the iceberg.
But what would I say is the biggest problem I face when it comes to balancing motherhood and a science career?

That is easy: THE GUILT.

Guilt is a common thread that runs though all of those situations. Guilt is the emoti . . . More
Author: JaniceF | Views: 1151 | Comments: 2
Last by JaniceF on Oct 14, 2011, 3:16pm

Good grief.

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Author: Alchemystress | Views: 1011 | Comments: 5
Last by David Manly on Mar 09, 2011, 9:50am
So the question posed today is “What would I be doing if I weren’t in science?” For me this is a loaded question. I had no intentions of ever being a scientist, though maybe I should have read the signs. When in second grade I told my teacher I wanted to be a paleontologist or an archeologist, and I wasn’t sure which one, because I didn’t know whether I wanted to focus more on people or on dinosaurs. I had dinosaur books, historical paleontology books, etc. Oh, and did I mention – in 3rd or 4th grade I tried to write my own anatomy and physiology book. Tried to illustrate it, too, and discovered I cannot draw to save my life. I wanted to be an artist so badly…

I wanted to sing and dance and act when I was a kid. I took dance classes and drawing classes, joined the drama club, and tried joining the school choir. Let’s just say the only things I could even do at all were dance and act (better for my ego that way, listening to me sing is better done by the deaf). And the dancing is frankly questionable; flexible I am not, not even a little.

I wasn’t a bad actor. Not a good one either, but damn did I have (and I suppose I still do) a clear and precise speaking voice. I went to a Catholic school (yeah, I know), and would always be chosen to read for Mas . . . More
Author: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 1167 | Comments: 14
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Apr 10, 2011, 6:49am
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 c . . . More
Author: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 1057 | Comments: 10
Last by biochem belle on Oct 10, 2010, 6:30pm
Today is: "What I'd be doing if I wasn't doing science" blog post theme day. The goal of this post theme is to let our readers get to know who we are and what our non-scientific interests are.

1. DamnGoodTechnician says that she'd probably have majored in sociology and become an administrative assistant if it wasn't for her high school sweetheart and his penchant for genetics.

2. Dr. O was involved with every group and club under the sun in high school and really wanted to become a broadway performer and until recently she had her heart set on teaching high school science but research sucked her in.

3. Evie would be everything. First she'd be a ninja kung fu master, then she'd learn how to talk to dolphins, create world peace and turn earth into an atheist utopia. Evie needs to lay off the caffeine pills

4. . . . More
Author: JaniceF | Views: 936 | Comments: 3
Last by jhill on Aug 27, 2011, 7:34am
I realize that I haven't mentioned anything about why I'm chosing certain blogposts to repost here. There isn't any particular chronological order, but more whether these posts relate to some event that happened to me in the day. And no I'm not schizophrenic and I haven't made the decision to switch to industry (really the decision isn't made until there is a job in hand). This post has more to do with the bad decisions that I made during this day.

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Author: Lab Mom | Views: 823 | Comments: 6
Last by Evie on Aug 03, 2010, 9:38am
Helllllll-ooooo Lab Spaces! (I've always wanted to shout that.. Makes me feel like such a rock star!)

Like many of the other newest bloggers over here I too have taken the jump from my personal blog to this new home. (I will confess to being on the fence for a while, but finally gave into the peer pressure.) I recognize so many familiar faces over here, I feel like I need no introduction, since I've been harassing most of you for a while now, but just in case you don't know me, here is my spiel:

I'm LabMom, former Lab Manager in a biological science lab at a large public research university. I have recently relocated to a new city and have temporarily off-ramped from my science career in order to stay at home with my kids. That doesn't stop me from blogging about work-life balance, the role of women in science, scientists as role models for our children, and of course, the importance of being nice to your friendly neighborhood lab manager.

I'm thrilled to be a part of this community and look forward to blogging along side the rest of you amazing folks.

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Author: JaniceF | Views: 890 | Comments: 6
Last by Amanda on Oct 21, 2011, 8:05pm
My officemate knowing of last week's hulabaloo left a piece of yummy German chocolate on my desk. Think hard because it may be as small as a stranger smiling at you, what act of generosity have you been the reciepient of today? 

You know I'll just keep asking until I get something resembling a response....

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Author: Cynthia McKelvey | Views: 831 | Comments: 0
Hey everyone! I just wanted to write this to explain my absence.

In the last few weeks I left my job at the lab and decided to move back home to Ohio. I did this because I wanted more time to focus on what I really want to do, which is to write about science. The first step in that process, after the move, was to attend the science writer's workshop in Santa Fe, NM. I learned a lot there and came home feeling renewed and inspired. If you are reading this and are interested in getting into science writing yourself, I highly recommend you click that link above and apply to go to the workshop next year.

Over the next year I would like to write a lot more, but hopefully write for publications as well as here on this blog. So I'll be coming back with actual stories and new posts soon! I'm hoping to revise some of my older posts to make them better, too. If you want to stay up to date with me, follow me on twitter @NotesOfRanvier. I'll also be making a page on Facebook soon, too. So be on the look out!

Here are some photos from Santa Fe:

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Author: JaniceF | Views: 727 | Comments: 1
Last by Suzy on Sep 09, 2011, 8:16pm
In a culture where women are already experiencing devasting effects because of the sex ratio bias, the Chinese government goes ahead and does this.

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