Blog Post

Blog-Three Years…

I started my faculty position on July 1, 2015.  Three years…  That’s both a long and short time!

I’ve been thinking about how this has gone, both for my sake and because I was reminded that I had told some of my postdoc cohort that I’d try to list some of the crazy things to pay attention to when getting a job.

Things I’ve learned/wish I knew before:

  • The grass is always greener.  Seriously, there’s plenty of good things wherever you go.
  • Pick your projects.  Productivity is key, so pick a few projects that you can publish quickly.  I’m struggling because some of my projects were not well defined.
    • This is especially important for your trainees.  I spent two years “playing” with projects that my trainees tried to do.  I should have given them short defined projects and I would have had better papers.
  • Collaboration is hard.
    • Don’t over commit.  If you get to many collaborators, you don’t have enough time to do your own projects (or finish analyzing theirs).
    • Collaborators who have teaching commitments (e.g. research is not their primary role/%effort) will not have a lot of time to work.  Be ready for delays.
  • Get great mentors.  Great mentors will read your proposals and give you advice.  If you don’t have mentors assigned to you (or even if you do!), find someone who is successful (publications, grants, teaching, etc) and talk to them about how they did it.  Ask them to read proposals for you.
  • Budgeting is hard.  Pay attention to what is being bought- especially the big ticket items.  (Do you really need it, and can you really afford it in the long run?)  Get good help to look for best prices.  (Seriously, Amazon sometimes has better prices than Fisher Scientific.  (Sometimes, Fisher contracts are great!).
    • Corollary 1:  Negotiate.  Make big purchases at once and ask for discounts.  If you have a salesperson, they might give you something.
    • Corollary 2:  Know when “end of year” clearances come.  Microscope companies have demo units at the end of summer.  You can often ask for “4th quarter” savings.
  • Invest in people as much as (or more than) you do equipment.  My lab is filled with excellent scientific toys; I just wish I had time to play with them all!  I wish I had invested more in more experienced researchers (postdocs, grad students, etc).  I have a great team that does great work.  But it is hard to get the productivity I need by relying on undergraduates to do complicated experiments.  I spend more time than I have training and troubleshooting the toys.

There are probably many more things to think about.  I’ll try to write more in the future.


In the mean time, here’s what my lab looked like 3 years ago:

And here are two pictures of what it looks like today:

…lots of change!


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