Fighting One Too Many Battles

Just a warning- this post has a high likelihood of turning into a rant. A whiny rant. Consider yourself warned.

There are some things I just expect to work. Really. I don’t want to think twice about them, I don’t want to waste time on them,  I want to do my job – and if other people do their job correctly, these things should be invisible to me. Autoclaves, the physical plant, steam generation, care taking for experimental models, facilities approval for biosafety.

I’m doing my job the best I know how. I’ve been a grant writing machine, I’ve put out a whole mess of papers, I’ve graduated a student, I assemble and deliver the lecture material I’m assigned, I mentored a whole slew of undergraduates that are now in various professional schools (of which I’m exceedingly proud, but consider a smaller part of my job description)…  a colleague remarked to me today that when he’s leaving late, my car is the only one left in the parking lot. In the last three years I’ve continuously felt like I’m fighting an uphill battle- especially in the grant writing department- but I haven’t complained- I’ve just put my head down and gotten it done.

But I’m tired. I just don’t have the energy right now to fight the stupid little battles for things that should just WORK. Period. I mean, it’s totally awesome when one has an Illumina Solexa… but it’s just shameful when one spends a ton of money on that deal, yet doesn’t have reliable steam generation or autoclaves.  Yes, totally awesome that you’ve got that IVIS-200 in the animal facility, …but kinda sad that they can’t keep rodent chow off the floor of the holding rooms though. … And… ensuring that the physical plant is suitable for the biosafety level that is proposed to be used in said facility… who should that responsibility fall on??? It sure as shit shouldn’t fall on the PI.

Seems to me that if you want to be a major research university… don’t get carried away with the technology before you take care of the basics. I’m doin’ my job, now let’s get some people over there doin’ their jobs. Please.

That concludes today’s rant.

12 thoughts on “Fighting One Too Many Battles

  1. There’s something harmonious about this post and your last one.

    I was thinking how great the R21 score is, and how positive you sounded (at various times I’ve been struck by your ability to focus on the good stuff, or at least the things that can be changed of the not-so-good stuff). But I tend to assume it’s not realistic to expect this kind of stuff to happen to me. Some people are just lucky/resilant/upbeat/able to churn out an insaneo number of grants?
    Somehow seeing the downs as well as the ups makes it more real.
    So yeah. Rant away.

  2. Basic physical plant/animal care stuff is that awful mixture of (a) critically important to our daily functioning, and (b) nearly entirely out of our control. Of course I say “nearly” because you can always kvetch, get on infrastructure committees, blah blah–but the time put in is never recouped. It’s unbearably frustrating.

    For example, when I lose a cage of mice (“lose” = they all die) because the animal facility uses old decrepit water bottles that sometimes leak and cause a cage flood? Disruption to my life = huge. Ability for me to prevent this from happening = very, very small. So, I’m right there with you. Things like this make one really value the few well-run physical plants etc that do exist.

  3. I hear you. Where I was a post-doc, all this shit sucked. Where I am now, it is simply magnificent. In addition to physical infrastructure, another huge factor in life ease is administrative support for grant applications, IACUC and IRB protocols, and business/grant administration. Again, where I was a post-doc, this shit sucked, and where I am now it is wonderful.

  4. becca-

    There are downs, for sure. This little nonsense makes me insane, and outside of writing grants I haven’t been able to focus on it… which is possibly a blessing… now though, I have to deal with it and it sucks up time like nothing else.

  5. Yes, this is all stuff that should be completely under you radar, and it’s a bummer when it’s not. Rant away. I think having money helps — some of this stuff only gets fixed when there’s some danger that NIH will pull it’s money, or AALAS will pull it’s accreditation. So, if that’s hanging over they’re heads, they’re more likely to do something about it.

  6. In my husband’s postdoc lab, the AC sucked so bad it affected their chemical reaction rates. His multi-million-dollar-NIH-funded PI threatened to write tot he NIH and return all his grant money since the facilities were insufficient to perform his experiments. They showed up with ladders and a workteam to renovate the HVAC system the next day.

    I know that’s not always practical/possible, but losing their cash cows does put the fear into them.

  7. That sucks out loud. I feel the same way when I spend tons of time troubleshooting experiments (something I don’t mind) to get them to work only to end up having to figure out why all of the sudden nothing will grow. I don’t want to spend time trying to figure this out. It’s LB and a flask. Bacteria should grow in that. It’s what they do.
    It turns out that the dishwasher wasn’t working properly and all the flasks were coated in a combination of soap and god knows what.

  8. Yes guys- I’m seriously hacked off about this. Its unfortunately not a minor thing, but can hopefully be overcome. Its such a shame, we have a facility that doesn’t exist almost anywhere else in the country… it sucks when people can’t give up some pocket change and invest in the human resources to make it run properly.

  9. Wow, it’s really comforting to see other people annoyed once in a while. Thanks for sharing your rant! I am TOTALLY with you on this.

    @CPP, who said: Where I was a post-doc, all this shit sucked. Where I am now, it is simply magnificent. In addition to physical infrastructure, another huge factor in life ease is administrative support for grant applications, IACUC and IRB protocols, and business/grant administration. Again, where I was a post-doc, this shit sucked, and where I am now it is wonderful.

    And then you wonder why I’m ALWAYS in a bad mood. Maybe you just need to remember what it was REALLY like to be a postdoc, and then imagine doubling how long you were a postdoc for? And then maybe you’ll understand why I have a blog where I am always ranting.

  10. msphd- It SUCKS when stuff we should take for granted is not working. I’m on the ‘I’m loudly complaining about this until you make it so I don’t even have to think about it’ bandwagon, at the moment.

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