Monday, February 15, 2010

Starting from scratch

Today my second masters student started. My technician is home with two broken feet and my grad student is drunk in a ditch somewhere wearing a Kermit the Frog costume (it's carnival time in his hometown of Masstricht). Meaning that despite having a prolific group consisting of 6 of us now, I was forced out of my comfy office where for the last year I've been happily staring at Pubmed abstracts and back into the lab to do actual work. So I ran a northern gel. Overloaded it and had to pitch it. Another 2.4g of agarose down the drain.

There really should be some cut off point for group leaders after which they are no longer allowed back in the lab to do real work.

The background goes like this: My postdoc was at MIT, about 20 minutes away from where I grew up. Having boomeranged back to the Boston area more times than I care to count, coupled with a nasty divorce and the fact that no one in the states was hiring group leaders 2 years ago, I got out. As far as I could. The next thing I knew I was living in a country where they fry gravy and serve it with mayo (this would be the Netherlands).

I'm here. I love it. I hate it. I love it more.

The group leader position is by far and away the most difficult job I've every had. As a grad student and postdoc you are driven solely by yourself. No one particularly cares when you graduate, as evidenced by the shocking number of students at Duke (where I did my PhD) who have been mired there for 9 years. (I will always admire the one guy who quit because he won a game show). Now the powers that be want a return on their investment. I have no idea how much cash was spent on me to set the lab up, but my guess is that it is upwards of an amount that could bail out Greece.

So what is the purpose of this, aside from being tired of sharing my witty remarks about culture shock through individual emails. One is that I love to write. Two is that I would like those starting positions like mine to know that it's probably like this for everyone, the sense of intense excitement followed by acute panic (I mentioned this to a colleague of mine who replied that he was still waiting for the intense excitement to kick in). Three is that it's hard to be in close touch with everyone back in the states. So...

here goes.

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