Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 in review on The New PI

Many people have been posting on Twitter about their accomplishments in 2017. My biggest one is that I have survived with the mental health almost intact because of an effort I started late last year. Coming to the end of yet another year on the tenure track, I feel like I made no significant progress: I still do not have an R01, I am still single, I am still trying to steady myself in my personal and prefessional life. Yet, I have fought as hard as it was humanly possible for me to keep going while safeguarding my physical and psychological sanity. I have given this year truly everything I had. Things have happened to continue to destabilize me, but I weathered and navigated the changes. Every grant I sent out was scored, every pre-proposal invited. I have worked hard to build a stonger community and support network around me. My mental stamina has paralleled my running one, where I trained and conditioned so that for the first time in a few years I didn't get an overuse injury at the end of the summer. The plan for 2018 is to train harder and run further than I ever have. Hopefully, the lab will follow.

In building the annual 'Year in Review' post where I go through the first post of every month, I realized that the theme of resilience was combined with philosophical musings about why we do this job. It's a good summary of what happened. The first couple of months in 2018 will decide what happens next...

January: Going big for the New Year: sticking to my resolutions. Sitting in the back of an Uber in London between Christmas and New Year's, I was listening to whatever was on the radio. The newscaster announced that a new study had shown that to lose weight after the holidays you have to set unrealistic expectations.

February: In the belly of the beast. NIH Early Career Review Part I: review. Last year I applied to the NIH Early Career Reviewer program, which was developed by the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) to train scientist with no previous NIH experience to review grants.
#3 2017 greatest hits

April: 4 years on the tenure track. The lab is turning 4 today! This year has been a heck of a ride.

May: Is the pre-tenure job search a thing? I recently posted a pool on Twitter about when to apply for a new faculty position when you already have one.

June: Is resilience the name of the game in academia? As I was going through one of the hardest days in my tenure-track experience, struggling to get grants and to keep projects staffed, a friend advised me: "Resilience is the name of the game in academia. Just keep going."
#1 2017 greatest hit

August: Hiring is hard, but firing is harder. Letting people go is one of the hardest decisions I had to make as an academic.

September: How much time should a new PI spend at the bench? Some time ago I saw Huda Zoghbi give a talk describing her career path and mentoring philosophy.

October: Are academic scientists cogs in the machine of education corporations? Are we as academic scientists running a small business renting space from a larger corporation (the university)? And if yes, is this attitude damaging how we train our students and postdocs?

December: How do you keep going on the tenure track? The blog just turned 5 in November. I missed the actual birthday because it was a crazy month, but I've been thinking about this milestone.

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