Wednesday, August 11, 2010
I'm pretty new to blogging, and still finding my way around the LabSpaces world. So, I thought that for my first "real" post I would follow the lead of others and introduce myself. Be warned, this got a little long. But now when I say something you know where I'm coming from.
I am smack in the middle of starting my own lab. As in, my faculty appointment is just barely 1 month old. This is an exciting time for me, but also pretty stressful. Walking into a big empty lab is a little intimidating and there are inevitable bumps along the way. I'm in a super department at a fantastic public university, so my support system here is pretty good. But, we are sorely lacking in junior faculty and any faculty that are not white+male. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. My goal with this blog is to keep myself sane while also (hopefully) providing some insight into how the tenure track works from the perspective of a new Assistant Professor. I also want to use this space to highlight science that I think is especially entertaining.
I grew up in a rural part of one of the big square (flyover) states in the middle of the US. As a little girl, I ran around outside playing with the various critters that I could catch. I took apart everything I could to "see how it worked". I was NOT good at putting things back together. I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up as soon as I learned that you could be a "scientist" (age 12) on a visit to DC when we stopped by NIH (a distant relative was a postdoc at the time). I went to a small liberal arts school because I was able to start working in a lab doing research my first year. I started out doing organic chemistry. In my third year, a Biology Prof convinced me to work with him after I took a class with him. All this lab work only convinced me more that I had picked the right career path. So, off to grad school! I went to a Big Name University. At BNU I had a great time-grad school ROCKED! There were smart people all around and lots of fun science. Back then, I did structural biology and biophysics. I went into a WAY different field for my postdoc, mostly because I had gotten interested in more "biological" problems. I worked for a super guy, and had an EXCELLENT postdoc time. Yes, such a thing exists. My postdoc mentor gave me support and free reign to do what I found interesting. Sure, Dr. Mentor had some flaws (don't we all?) but it was a fantastic environment and I learned a lot. So, a couple of years ago I wrote a K99. I didn't really think I was going to be a super candidate. I spent my postdoc time developing new projects and hadn't published as much (or in as fancy places) as some folks I knew. But hey, it totally worked!!
In the middle of my postdoc, my partner and I decided to have a kiddo. Mini-G is AWESOME-super cute, smart and hilarious. I say this as a totally biased observer, of course. So yeah, I've done the baby in the middle of career thing. It is really hard but SO WORTH IT, as far as I'm concerned. The arrival of Mini-G didn't alter my career aspirations at all, but certainly changed some of my behavior patterns. For the better, I think. But I'll save my musings on this for another time.
The New Job
With K99 money rolling in, I started up a job search. I applied *almost* everywhere. I think I sent out ~100 applications. I got my first two interviews really early in the season, both at places I was really excited about. The first interview was AWESOME at a place that I REALLY wanted to go. So, when I got the offer (before I had done any other interviews-they were on fast-track!) it was all I could do not to yell YES YES YES !!!. I was warned this is bad negotiating. I did, however, run around Postdoc Inst. like a crazy person. I held off accepting the offer until after my 3rd interview, when it was obvious that I really did like the first place and wasn't just feeling desperate. The offer I got was good. I got them to add a couple of minor things and then I signed on the line. I was sitting in my new office long before most other folks on the market had finished second interviews. So now, I'm in the throws of starting up a research group. I have the lab stocked and a small group up and walking, if not running. I've started to learn on-the-job accounting, politics, management and mentoring. No matter how much you think that you trained for this as a post-doc, actually being the PI is totally different. So far, things seem to be going well, but really what I need now is to have some grant-writing success.
What I'm doing here
Who the fuck knows. I guess that I hope that writing this blog will help keep me sane as I launch into my tenure-track world. In a more selfish sense, I will benefit from outside perspective (it is damn easy to get caught staring at the end of your nose in this business) and, hopefully, become a better writer. I do hope that sharing what I'm going through will be useful for others who are following this same path. I would also like to start talking more about science, especially the value of model organisms and basic science. And also shit that is just cool. Because why else would I be doing science if it weren't so much fun?
In conclusion: I *heart* science. WOO HOO!
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