Advice given to jr. faculty….

As told to me in various settings… and in no particular order…

1. Hire one solid postdoc or tech, that person will get you tenure.

2. Limit your committee service to the only two important committees: 1.  The space committee, 2.  The promotion and tenure committee. (the giver of this advice particularly disliked curriculum, and curriculum design committees)

3.  With regard to publications… N+1 is better than N.

4.  Don’t win any teaching awards.

5.  Figure out which battles are really important, fight those- and hang back on the rest.

6.  As far as NIH/NSF/your favorite federal agency is concerned, data that ONLY exists in your notebook… doesn’t count.

7.  Don’t monitor people’s hours, monitor their data.

8. Treat people that work with you as you want to be treated.

9. In hiring people to work for you, remember that people don’t come on a 1-10 scale- some can reach negative numbers (actually reduce lab productivity).

Comment, add your own. …

Controlling Laboratory Access

Dr. Isis has a post up this morning about a situation that occurred in her laboratory when student of hers that allowed presumptive members of her institutions IACUC around her laboratory without informing her (as the PI). Dr. Isis fear, in that particular post, is that anyone could enter her lab display some official looking title and get by looking everything over, and not be who they claim to be… I’m sure you can do the math.

I too have had a similar situation happen in my laboratory…. where an official looking person, who announced themselves to be a compliance official, waltzed into my lab and proceeded to rifle through refrigerators, freezers, chemicals etc,  and everything else after chatting briefly with someone who works in my lab. I was VERY upset about this particular incident- but my reaction didn’t have anything to do with animal rights per se- although it could have- it had more to do with basic lab safety in a laboratory where we work with human heath hazards.

Big mistakes made on both sides here:

1.  Despite knowing that I was the PI, said official never came directly to me and asked for access to my laboratory.  Said official was seemingly unaware that access to my laboratory (and indeed all laboratories in my department) is strictly controlled, and is this is the responsibility of the PI. Training for compliance officials should include the knowledge that you don’t just walk into someone’s lab without seeking the permission of the PI- those days are over.

2.  Employees in my laboratory know that access to my laboratory is strictly controlled by me, primarily because we possess human health hazards- some infectious some not. Yet when somebody flashed an official looking badge- they lost all idea that the appropriate thing to do would be to send the official looking person down to my office. Period. In our case, this is done because I control access to the lab- for the safety of everyone, the official looking person included. Yikes.

I can only teach those that work in my laboratory the right thing to do, I can’t control the other side of the equation (although I did make them aware that they won’t be entering my lab without seeing my direct permission again). So I’m firmly with Isis on this one- when in doubt… and there should be healthy scepticim about everyone you don’t recognize that attempts to enter the lab, regardless of official looking credentials… they should be denied access and sent directly to my office to seek my permission to enter the lab…

Mitigating Risk

I want to talk about compliance. I mean, I REALLY want to talk about compliance.  Research compliance, that is. I know you are all wondering WHY… well, I’ve just spent a month in recovery from this particularly delightful aspect of my job.

In all seriousness, research compliance is a very important part of conducting research in an academic setting, that … once again… nobody teaches you before you hit the door of your first faculty job. This includes compliance to all regulations relevant to research involving animals, recombinant DNA, dangerous chemicals, and biohazards. You are not going to believe it when I say this, because everyone thinks AUPs are so onerous, but the AUPs are the easiest part of the whole business for me (that’s Animal Care and Use Protocols to the uninitiated). At my institution, as I assume at most institutions, there is an ‘office of research compliance’ or some such, that handles all these issues in separate sub-domains. There are federal regulations and guidelines for every those areas that we must follow.

The bane of my existence today is compliance in the area of biohazards, I think that I have alluded to this before once or twice. This is an area of my job about which I was totally and utterly clueless as a student and as a post-doc, but that I now need to know a whole lot about. Continue reading

Love-Hate Relationships with Science

This is a officially quickie post, while I’m working on something for real…

Yesterday I saw this awesome post about our tumultous relationships with science over at Ambivalent Academic’s blog… and I about died laughing.

OH MY GOSH- how well do I know this particular roller-coaster… Aren’t all of us academic scientists (at least) in this co-dependent relationship with science?

Should you tell a guy you are a feminist?

Should you tell a guy you are a feminist?

…came up yesterday in the search terms that people came to my blog from… I thought that was kind of interesting since I don’t write too much about feminism. But- since you asked…

OF COURSE you should tell him, or at least show him by your actions. If he objects, you didn’t want him around anyway- if he’s good with it- then he can stay. Seems pretty black or white to me really.

(I’m kinda easing back into this blogging business…)

You’re not on vacation anymore Toto!

I’m back. And you know what, I had all these grand plans for blogging while I was away but I just couldn’t bring myself to write, or even read. My Google reader said 1000+ unread entries, just this morning. Oh, I read just a little bit while I was away, just enough to know that there were blog controversies complete with all the usual shenanigans (science vs. religion). However, once I got electronically uncoupled …even from my watch as it were… it became nearly impossible for me to turn the technology back on. And that’s a good thing, cause it left time for stuff like this:


We had an awesome trip, thanks for asking. But, as I was reflecting this morning at 4:30 am on my way to the grocery store… couldn’t sleep… jet lag… I missed writing, and I missed you people…. WEIRD, I know. 😉

So, tomorrow I’ll spend some time in my office, digging myself out from under piles and piles of email, making a prioritized office/lab to-do list, collecting drafts of those review articles I’m supposed to be supervising, getting ready for the onslaught on Monday… and blogging hopefully. Then, when I get home I’ll start looking for a new piano teacher for LittleA, renting a clarinet for BigA, and organizing whatever sports the kids want to participate in when school starts, I’m going to need a home to-do list as well, I can see that now. Life goes on. Yikes!

The coming months will be busy and they will bring some exciting new challenges and responsibilities. I’m rested and ready- and I wouldn’t be doing it like this, or writing about it…if I didn’t really enjoy it.

Who are you… and what are you doing here (repost)

Oh, what the hell. I’ll play again on this meme going around at various places including scienceblogs. … and I’m on vacation with little time to write a real long meaty post…

So, it’s up to you people…

1) Tell me about you. Who are you? Do you have a background in science? If so, what draws you here as opposed to meatier, more academic fare? And if not, what brought you here and why have you stayed? Let loose with those comments.

2) Tell someone else about this blog and in particular, try and choose someone who’s not a scientist but who you think might be interested in the type of stuff found in this blog. Ever had family members or groups of friends who’ve been giving you strange, pitying looks when you try to wax scientific on them? Send ’em here and let’s see what they say.

… give me some beach reading material…

Big-Shot Fright

I’ve got this tendency that’s absolutely crippling at the wrong moments.

I can perform (give talks, speak coherently about my research-subject-of interest) pretty well in front of a friendly or friendliness-status-unknown audience. But, I have huge trouble with the big-shot audience- if I KNOW they are a big-shot audience, or performing (either on a test or in one of the above situations) in situations that I’ve built up a bunch of internal pressure about.

I first realized this when I was in college I took a class I really loved, I mean REALLY loved- it was called comparative vertebrate anatomy or something like that- taught by a very well known professor. I loved the class,  I found the evolution of vertebrates and seeing how structures changed from stage to stage quite fascinating. And it was the first time I took a course that taught embryology, anatomy, and palentology,… so it really opened my eyes to an integrated view of biology. The professor was awesome- and I think it safe to say that that class is big part of what put me on a path to where I am in my career and interests today. It should be clear by now that I loved this course, and I was very motivated to do well. But God- did I choke on the tests. Not because I didn’t study for them, I studied like mad,  I worshipped the professor- I just put a ton of internal pressure on myself and totally flipped myself out at the wrong moments.

This same thing happens to me when I’ve got (for example) a national academy member in my office. I just choke, I can not make a sentence that is even moderately intelligent. Or maybe I can, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. All of the outgoing, self-confident parts of me just seem to melt away. This is NOT what you want to happen when you are chatting with a national academy member!! If I don’t look at their CV first, and I don’t let their CV intimidate me- I’m ok.

I know all of you that know me in person can’t believe that I’m saying this right now, but it is true- even I get stage big-shot fright.