How to float your boat

Jan 22 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

The last 7 weeks or so have been a fucking bitch. I've spent I think more time in the hospital than out and I find myself appropriately beat up. The rest of the time I've been home, recuperating. But that's not what I'm going to tell you about today. The question today is, what the fuck is happening with my lab in my absence? I am a junior faculty after all. Fortunately, and to my delight, I've found that my peeps are holding out swimmingly. I think every lab reaches a point where it can run itself, at least for a period of time, in the absence of the PI. And it seems like this happens more or less around the time when a PI is eligible for a sabbatical. In a way I feel quite glad to have reached this milestone (although I'd rather be in sabbatical in Spain having a plate of serrano ham and green olives, with some red wine, watching the olive groves sway in the breeze while "working" on my next big project, than getting a blood transfusion) and it makes me proud. Our lab is funded for the next 2-3 years, we just had 2 fancy journal pubs, current projects are promising, folks are working independently, so my immediate attention is not needed. After I got sick, my department's chair was very understanding and offered to teach, with the help of the other faculty, my course, he reassigned temporarily my administrative duties and offered to have my lab attend and participate in his lab meetings. And I am so thankful for that. The other senior faculty have been just as helpful. My lab has a senior grad student who basically is on autopilot to defend this summer, a senior postdoc who can take care of himself, a newish a postdoc who is very independent and has taken to running the lab meetings and sending me detailed weekly reports of what is discussed, a technician who keeps the lab running, two undergrads who are under the wings of more experienced lab members and a new grad student, who in my absence stopped depending on me to fix every little problem with his electrophysiology equipment and figured it out on his own. They've all become more productive and focused. The idea was to meet individually with people weekly, probably at my house or through skype, and have me skype into lab meetings, but I just haven't been feeling well enough to do that. But even without that they seem to be doing OK, with minimal email input from me. I'm looking forward to reengaging in my labs life once I feel a bit better, and telling them how proud I am of all of them.

But...what about tenure!?!?!? My chair pointed out that at this point in the process, whether I'm at work or not, there's not much I could contribute. My dossier is all set, letters are collected and it will soon start making it's way through the chain of committees and administrators involved in the process.

So, I'm not needed for much. And that's a nice feeling, I think. I hear "Clash of the Titans" is on TV tonight...

Free-floating labs, on their merry way...

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