My Jr. PI Landscape

I’m stuck somewhere between the ‘Mountains of Despair’ and the ‘Oceans of Publications’ – in which I am nearly drowning (many thanks to Bugdoc for the cartoon!).  I suppose that’s a good thing, I’ve managed to turn out 3 papers for review in the last month and I have two more that will go out this month with any luck.  Now, how I manage to do that while turning out an R21 AND an R01 for the October deadline- I honestly have no idea.

In the meantime I have to let my postdoc go for lack of funds in a couple of months- this is PAINFUL for me because she is the rock of the lab in many ways.  She trains everyone, she is fabulously productive, she is a prime role model- and all while being a mom and working essentially 9-5. I had to let my student worker go already (who has been with me since she was a freshman and is really excellent) for the same reason. I feel heartened by the fact that I was able to help her find a position in a setting that will help her career goals, and she is still right across the street. Something tells me that I will be the one doing the additional experiments that need to be done when papers come back from review…

I graduated a master’s student this summer, and my two Ph.D. candidate students are covered for the moment, but this is going to be a tough tough time for us, no question about it. I’m confident that one of my Ph.D. candidates will finish up within the next year- so I’ll have some serious turnover in the lab. I won’t be without students though- I will pick up an M.D./Ph.D. student next year in June or July…

But here’s the thing, the projects have never been going better- we have tons of data- so although I am working on two papers these are just two that are imminent- I actually have a big back up of data. And, I’m pleased to be writing two new grants- and not resubmitting something for this deadline.  I do get bored reading and editing the same text over and over.

I’m thankful that the kids are back in school, this lends some predictability to our family schedule. We are trying out a new schedule this fall- instead of putting the children in organized after school programs we have hired a college student to pick them up from school, take them home, monitor homework and instrument practice… and just let them PLAY.  In addition, she takes them to a couple of activities BEFORE we get home- this way we are actually able, for the first time, to sit down and have dinner together.  Well, not all together- because both parents are not usually at home, but at least one adult can sit down and eat at the table with the kids (not in a car somewhere on the way to some activity, hurry hurry hurry). I’m still on the fence about how this will work out- we need to establish some rules with the kids so that this will work – but I am hopeful that this semester will be less crazy than last, and I’m thankful that the kids won’t have a 12 hour day away from home. A 12 hour day is tough for me, I can’t imagine doing this at 6 years old.

This is real life. Things will get back in balance… sometime… like maybe in 5 or 6 years!


9 thoughts on “My Jr. PI Landscape

  1. I suppose that’s a good thing, I’ve managed to turn out 3 papers for review in the last month and I have two more that will go out this month with any luck.

    That kicks total fucking ass!!

    Now, how I manage to do that while turning out an R21 AND an R01 for the October deadline- I honestly have no idea.

    Turn that motherfucking R21 into an R01. Seriously. It is fucking WACKALOON to write an R21.

  2. I hope you’ve gone to your Chair and said, “look, I’ve submitted 3 papers this month and have two more ready to go out the door, and I’ve applied for all these grants and I REALLY NEED YOU TO PICK UP THE TAB FOR MY FABULOUS POST-DOC FOR ANOTHER YEAR“. Did you try that? What happened?

  3. Whimple-

    No as a matter of fact I didn’t try that but it’s an awesome AWESOME thought. I can’t believe I was so brainless. Perhaps I was stressing over the fact that I still worrying about the supplies….

  4. Whimple- I tried it- and I’m waiting for an answer. Thanks for suggesting it because it reminds me to stop feeling like I have to fend for myself on everything.

    PP- not enough preliminary data for an R01- and very expensive to get this preliminary data. Secondly- the R21s submitted in my area go to their own study section, separate from the R01s and have a better funding rate… I know your feelings about R21s… but this is how it has to be for this one unfortunately.

  5. and, see if there’s anywhere else you can scruffle up some money. Some universities have a slush fund for the advancement of women (the NIH ADVANCE program funds) that might be able to squeeze some money out for you. I don’t know where your post-doc is going, but if she could stay if you can keep her paid for shorter periods of time, it’s worthy trying for.

  6. First, you are totally rocking! Kudos for you for going to your department chair. Your department should want to see you succeed and it sounds like you’ve got a good case for why a little investment in you now would pay off big in the long-run.

    At my relatively poor university we have an amazing array of weird pots of university money to fund preliminary research needed for submitting grants. Try checking with your VPR office (that’s who runs most of ours, but also we have Centers on campus that also have funds if you promise to run the resulting grant through them).

    Last but not least, could you please keep me posted about your experiment with having the college student watch the kids? I would never have thought about it and it sounds like a great idea!

  7. Bugdoc- Thanks!

    Neurolover- I’ll find money under any rock I can- I just had to have permission to ask. I know that sounds weird but it wasn’t my first thought.

    River Tam- Thanks for the nice comment. I have tried to be very proactive about many things- but there are just things that you don’t think of (that are so bloody obvious) until someone kicks you in the backside (so thanks for that whimple, and I mean that most sincerely).

    As for the college student babysitting scheme. This is actually our second try at this. This summer the girls did not want to go to day camp- so we hired a really excellent college student who is an education major to stay at home with them, take them to activities, and do a little tutoring for us (not remedial, but ahead of grade level). It was AWESOME. Sadly she is student teaching this semester and doesn’t get off in time to pick my younger daughter up from school- so we had to try a new person for the school year. So far it is working out well. It is going to take some time for the new babysitter to figure out my younger daughter- who can be a bit of a challenge- and the family schedule, which can also be a bit of a challenge. I am hopeful that they will figure each other out and that the school year will be less hectic than last year. I just couldn’t do that again!

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