Archive for: May, 2010

>underpants gnomes

May 30 2010 Published by under jr faculty, lab management

>My favorite South Park episode of all time, bar none, is the one featuring the underpants gnomes in season 2. There are many reasons that this episode appeals to me, but right now I'm thinking about the business management aspect. For those that haven't seen/don't remember this episode, the boys end up learning about running a business from some gnomes that steal underpants (phase 1: steal underpants, phase 2: ?, phase 3: profit!).

I'm writing grants again tonight, and it has been sinking in that, as a new PI, I am going to be running a business. Phase 1: get money, phase 2: make "science", phase 3: profit! (get more $). I need to get WAY more organized with my accounting. I have some really great spreadsheets that a friend of mine put together to manage lab finances (this person was in business before heading off to grad school). But somehow, keeping these up to date always gets knocked off the priority list.

I really have to get better at this. I'm spending money to get the lab functional, but I need to get on top of things before they are out of control. I really don't want to be that PI that ends up firing a tech because all of the sudden I get a call that our money is gone. Not only that, but better managing of phase 1 will only help with phase 2 and 3, right? Obviously you are not trained to run a lab when you are a postdoc-but it is really clear that right now I need to reorganize my priority list, stat!

2 responses so far

>huh? what?

May 24 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

>I started writing tonight this afternoon with every intention of writing a good post. Just as soon as I finished putting together my application to transition the K99 to the R00 Phase. Unfortunately, it took forever. And now I'm exhausted. Especially since I got up early this morning to go for a run with the Divas. Now I have no idea what I was going to write about.

On the plus side, I should be able to get my grant into the BigU pipeline with enough time to hit the deadline my PO set in order to transition this fiscal year. Woo Hoo! Now I'm going to bed.

2 responses so far

>who should you hire?

May 21 2010 Published by under hiring, lab management

> This is NOT a post about the postdoc vs. tech debate, which I've run across a lot (so many places that I'm not going to try to find all the links. Sorry).

I'm in a kind of weird place. I know that starting up a lab is basically like starting a business. But my "training" to date is how to do science. Benchwork. But now, I have run a lab. That means I need to hire people, motivate them to do good work, get money (always), manage a budget, etc, etc, etc.  Not to mention navigate the politics of my new department without any of the backstory. I know this everyone that has started up a lab has been in this same place. But that doesn't make it less weird for me.

Today, I am thinking about hiring. I need to hire people. Good people. Fast. This has been on my mind for a while, as I try to figure out how I'm going to do everything that I'm getting money to do. I'm lucky to already have cash, but I've started to realize that there is no way that I can turn that cash into science (papers, talks, etc.) that will leverage more cash unless there are some peeps in the lab. Right now, my lab space is empty, save for a few dust bunnies. Holy crap.

Today, I got an email from someone that wants to join the lab. This would be my first lab peep! But I'm conflicted. I've heard over and over about how important the first person is to get your lab group going in the right direction. I know the person that contacted me. We have friends in common and have hung out some. This person got a PhD from someone that I really respect and worked on a pretty difficult problem. All great so far, right? Here's the hitch: this person has NO INTEREST  in staying in science. A gig in my lab is a 1-2 year job to get some cash while searching for a "real" career.

Am I insane for considering taking this person on? I mean, of course I will have a frank (off the record) conversation with the former grad advisor. But if it goes how I think it will this is going to be a really tough decision. On one hand, this could be a super opportunity for me to take advantage of someone with skills that would be AWESOME to have in the lab. But, the whole situation could go to shit. Then I will have to fire the first person that I hired, which, in addition to being a sort of sucky thing to have to do will also end up messing with my relationships with our shared friend.

I am going to have to talk this out with a lot of people. But seriously, if there is anyone listening here I would hearing your views/comments.

7 responses so far

>Well, crap. There it is.

May 19 2010 Published by under gender

>OK, now I get it. I have been lucky, as a women in science, to not be personally affected (that I know of) by the gender discrimination. I was thinking of how lucky I was recently, reading the posts by Dr. Isis and drdrA. I was always willing to accept that gender discrimination happened in science...but since I never saw it I figured that it must be somewhere else. Somewhere less, well, "enlightened". But last night I was introduced full-steam to what I had been missing.

Backdrop: I am in a somewhat unique situation, as I have recently landed a tt asst prof job in the same city that I did (am doing) my postdoc. Postdoc Institute is a fantastic place to learn science. The atmosphere is collegial and collaborative, and I did pretty well. I was really excited to land a job at BigU down the street, in a great dept. with some super people. Many of the folks that I have known for many years as a postdoc are now prof-level colleagues. Some even have affiliate positions in my new Dept. So, I guess that the relationships I have with these people is changing some as a transition into my new independent place.

Which brings me, finally, to last night. I was at a dinner for an invited speaker. I had felt pretty good that the faculty that was arranging the event had thought to invite me. So, I'm sitting in this room full of older (all white) men, including my postdoc mentor, when all of the sudden a conversation about selecting students/postdocs starts up. All of the sudden I (the only female in the room, and maybe the only jr faculty) am sitting in the middle of a conversation about how women from families with divorced parents (actually the words used were "broken homes") are likely to have "daddy issues" and can be a real drag to have in the lab. The whole conversation was a big joke for them.

WTF? Are you kidding me? Seriously? I just sat there, silence. To his credit, my postdoc mentor looked pretty uncomfortable. But he didn't say anything, either.


2 responses so far

>Good Sportsmanship

May 16 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

>I was struck by the post a couple of days ago from Candid Engineer. About her "friends" reactions to her good news. Now, I'm a super-competitive person. Even so, when my friends get good news, I am genuinely happy for them. Now, to be honest, sometimes I am not 100% happy. If it is an award that I was also in the running for, it can be hard to lose. In those cases, maybe I'm only 80% happy for my friend. But I will always buy a round of beers for celebration. Because, seriously, how do you NOT be happy for your friends when something good happens for them?

In academics for sure, most of the time things don't go your way. Everyone gets papers rejected, writes grants 
that are not funded, or does experiments that don't turn out how they "should". I accept that this is how the business works. So I don't get too upset when things don't go my way and I don't think too much of myself when things work out.

I guess what I'm saying is that I agree with CE that envy is a waste of time. But I would go further. I think it is bad sportsmanship. I've played organized sports most of my life. What I learned from sports is that sometimes others are better or luckier than you. Losing sucks. But at the end of the game, you go out and shake everyone's hand. Because playing is about testing yourself. And you can't do that without the other team. So be a good winner AND a good loser.

I think the same is true in science. Pick an interesting problem and have fun. Work hard and be competitive. But be a good sport. Because really, as a community we can do better work and learn more if we are all working together. Also, it is more fun.

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>fun times in Bethesda

May 07 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

>I just got back from a little meeting at NIH for new investigators. The whole idea is that the newly funded investigators would get a chance to network with POs and such, hopefully improving our subsequent success in securing continued funding. I think that this was a reasonable idea, and it was a fun little meeting with only 17 investigators. There was a lot of talking about paylines (8%!) and next year's budget (not good), which was a little depressing. This is certainly not going to make starting up a new lab any easier. But really, two things were most obvious at this meeting: First, there should always be liquor provided at scientific meetings. Especially "networking" events. Second, based on the sample at this meeting, most people give bad talks. Apparently, the average NIH investigator uses about 30 slides for a 15 min talk. Even after being told that this should be a "big picture" presentation of your work, and the instructions include the phrase "no data" at least 3 times. Seriously, people. What the fuck about "no data" makes you feel like you should put 25 data slides into a 15 m talk? These were people with R01s!

on a totally unrelated note, I just saw a fly escape a spider web outside my window, only to fly right into the glass and fall down. I giggled a little. Now, I'm wondering if that had some symbolic meaning...

2 responses so far


May 03 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

>So, I finished my second marathon yesterday!! It went well, I think. I feel good about my time (17 min faster than first marathon!), even though it was slower than what I was aiming at when I started the training. Considering I was fighting off a severe lack of time and a nagging hamstring injury, I'm happy.

Now I just have to mentally prepare for a cross-country airplane ride tomorrow. One in which I will put together slides for my talk the next day. Yikes! I'm feeling a little under-prepared for this "workshop". At least I can settle in an enjoy the evening socializing without worrying about getting up early for a training run!

The best part of my trip is that I just realized I get back Thursday instead of Friday. But I haven't told anyone else that so no one expects me to show up in lab! A whole day to get myself organized! This will greatly enhance my ability to put together an application for a pilot grant due early in June. Woo hoo!

One response so far