>Whew! I would say that I finished off a crazy week, but I'm afraid that this is the new normal for me. Nevertheless, I actually got some shit done last week. I now have people in my lab! Yes, plural-people! I hired an undergrad assistant that has already started. Orders are being placed, boxes are being opened and drawers are being filled! I also hired a tech to start next week, lined up a rotation student for the fall AND I'm pretty sure that I landed a postdoc. Things are starting to happen and this whole new lab thing is feeling a little more real.
Archive for: June, 2010
>Wow-I can't believe already a week has passed since my last post. I have been dragged through the underworld this last week. I'm referring, of course, to the "New Lab Start Up" programs. NLSU sound awesome, like you will get a super deal on filling up the big, empty, lonely lab that you are now in charge of. On one hand it is super exciting, but it is also a trap. How many beakers do I really need? Do I care what brand of 1.5 mL centrifuge tubes we use? There are and endless number of possibilities, and with NLSU you have to make a lot of small, stupid decisions at the same time. Should I order now? Maybe there is a better deal at Fisher...? Because if you don't submit one giant order on the same PO then you might not get the super deal that will save you several hundred DOLLARS!!!
I hate shopping. I find it tedious and annoying. NLSU shopping is especially onerous. The flood of irrelevant choices, multiple quotes from different vendors, etc. is not what I call fun. Also, it occurs to me that all the time I'm spending on this is not worth it. The DOLLARS I'm saving in the end are a small percentage of the total, and are not offsetting the time I'm not spending writing grants, papers and even doing experiments. I have reached the tipping point. I'm just going to (metaphorically) sack up and just order the things that I need.
>I got an email from a fellow newbie PI asking a good question. I know it is good because I once had the same question and no one seemed to have any information. Here goes:
"I am starting my second year of a K99/R00 this summer at OHSU and have a job offer from a R1, large state university on the East Coast. I realize that you are busy with your own work and transition and life, but was hoping that you could share with me your experience and/or tips on the negotiations and transition between the two phases of the K99/R00. My NIH PO is about as communicative as a sea anemone, my mentors are as helpful as they can be having no expertise with the K99 and I don't know of any other awardees."
I have found that even though K99 awards have been around a while, there haven't been that many that have transitioned to the R00 phase. You can always to to the RePorter to find the folks that have them, which is probably a good idea. I was lucky that my PO is actually pretty awesome and not at all anemone-like. Anywho, this is how my transition (in progress) has gone so far (DISCLAIMER: I'm sure this is different for every institute, etc., I don't work at NIH blah blah, grain of salt, I'm not responsible for lost or stolen items and all that, my experience is n=1 and may not be representative).
I started my transition process by calling my PO after I was starting to get offers. When I had decided where I was going to land, I talk to PO about the offer to make sure it didn't set off any red flags. In the end, the NIH can decline to transition if they feel like you are getting screwed by your new Dept. chair. Apparently it happens, not a problem for me. So, about 3 months before I wanted to start the R00 phase I sent in my packet. Basically, this included a final research progress report from the mentored phase, a final letter of evaluation from the mentor and a description of the R00 phase research plan (NOTE: I basically cut-and-paste this from my original application, based on advice from my PO). The important parts were a letter from my new chair that verified I had been offered and accepted an independent, tenure-track position and demonstrated an institutional commitment to helping my career advancement. This letter was REALLY important (I was led to believe) and it had to document that there was adequate space and resources, minimum 75% protected research time, that the R00 funds were not being used to offset a typical start up, and that the appointment was not contingent on the R00 being activated.
There is some information in Section 4 “Activating the Independent Phase of the Pathway to Independence Award”that is also useful. I think these are the official rules. Just like the original writing, this took me longer than expected. In part because I kept having to find information from a place that I wasn't that familiar with.
If you are not going to wait for your K99 phase to end before transitioning it is even more important that you coordinate with your PO to make sure they have money in the correct fiscal year for you. You will have to submit this entire package through your new Grants office. I had to jump through some extra hoops since they hadn't done this before and also no one is familiar with you yet. Give yourself some extra time though, as PhysioProf noted in earlier comments, if the timeline gets tight the Grants office should be able to get it done. It is overhead for them, after all.
One final thing (if you aren't done negotiating): I know someone that got their new Dept. to NOT take overhead from the R00 (you get total 249K, not 249+indirect!). Especially in some places with >80% F&A that is HUGE.
>Another conference under the belt. This was not what I would consider the most informative, science-wise. In fact, there was very little there that I actually cared about even a little. But, I've learned that the longer I'm in the field the less I actually learn about "teh science" at conferences. I hear about all that by reviewing papers/grants and phone conversations. No, in my opinion, the only reason to go to the conference is for the socializing. I had some quality face-time with some of the Important folks in the field, made some new connections and caught up with friends over beers. There was a lot of comparing notes about lab start-up, which was actually super useful. I did get to give a talk about my work that seemed to go over really well, so maybe something else will fall out of that.
What I have never understood about conferences are the people who go in groups and then only hang out with the people they already know. Why bother going out of town for this? That defeats the whole purpose of the conference, right? This drives me insane! So, when I was asked to sit on a "panel" for students and postdocs that are thinking about what to do next with their life, I felt like it was my duty to tell people to step outside their comfort zone and meet some new people. I actually said that hanging out at the postdoc/student session was a waste of time and that they should be next door drinking beers with the faculty members that might be evaluating their job application. I still think this is good advice. I wonder if the organizer of the postdoc/student session will bother to invite me back again?
>If you didn't see it yet, you should. Go here: http://scienceblogs.com/thusspakezuska/2010/06/an_explanatory_note.php
>Well, I'm sure that this is to be expected, but still I am finding this pretty funny (thus the hilarity tag). I am on the faculty search committee for our department next year! It has been less than a year since I began putting together my own job application packet, and now I will be sitting in judgement (well, 1/3 judgement at least) of others. Note that I have not officially started my appointment yet as an Asst. Prof., but what the hell?
I agreed to be on the committee for a couple of reasons: 1. It will probably be pretty enlightening to see a job search from the other side. 2. I would like to at least have SOME input into shaping the future of the Dept. 3. I figure that if I sit on this committee I can be too busy for any others 4. I'm not sure I was allowed to say no.
In any event, after less 3 months as an Asst. Prof., I will be involved in sorting through the next generation of applicants. Am I insane or is this like the blind leading the blind? Back in the day, when I was a lowly grad student, I once had a jr. faculty tell me that job searches were so random that it came down to someone walking into a room with a stack of applications, throwing them high into the air, and then picking the 5-10 that happen to land on the table. I assumed that was a metaphor. Now I am not so sure. I would say that this should be fun except that I'm pretty sure it will be a shit-ton of work.
Seriously, this shit is cracking me up.
>I don't know if anyone is listening here, but I have a question. How does one go about hiring a lab manager? I have the money and I'd REALLY like to have someone who already knew the ropes step in to be a role where they take care of most lab business (ordering, taking care of rotation students, etc). I have the $ and I don't have a problem with delegating. The problem I'm having is WHERE DO YOU FIND THESE PEOPLE? I'm in a large PacNW city with big biotech, but the only folks that are applying for jobs in my lab as "techs" are kids fresh from college. Is there some secret words that you put in an ad so the real SuperTechs know that you are looking for them? How can I convince someone like this to work with me??