Thursday, May 19, 2011

Leaving the Game

So I've seen blogs from people that have left academia at the Ph.D. and postdoc stages. Any TT people out there that left voluntarily? Not jumped off a sinking ship or asked to leave. I've also read about successful tenured professors that left, or really took extended leaves of absence to be program managers or consultants. I only remember reading about one or two that completely shut down a lab and these were not double digit sized labs.
I ask because even though the lab is humming along, often I don't feel that the hours and the effort are worth it. I love the research, but get to spend only a small portion of my time on it. One of the things keeping me in is that I have several students that are working in the lab that would be hung out to dry if I leave. It would also be more rewarding if tenure actually meant something. I tell more senior colleagues that I'm excited to be working towards tenure, but most of them reply that tenure is meaningless. If the administration doesn't like you, they will make your life miserable, especially if you don't continue the rat race of constantly growing your research group and promising crazy pie in the sky hyped-up results.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ok. Time to write something

I haven't been blogging much recently. There are a few reasons for this.

One. I got tired of complaining.
I am beginning to accept that you cannot avoid Murphy's Law. Even the things you don't expect to go wrong in a thousand million years, do go wrong, and a big part of my job is dealing with these things. That is the reality of what I will be doing for the next few years and probably the rest of my career. That is life and it is especially true when you are the CEO, CTO, and CFO of a research group working within the constraints of the beauracratic juggernaut that is a research university.

Two. Not much has been happening that is worthy of writing about.
I'm waiting to hear back on grant proposals. One of my grants went through a panel review about a week ago. I called up the program officer to see if they could share any inforation about where my grant placed or what the panel thought, but they refused to give a single comment and said that I would get the reviews in a month or two.
The group is inching its way to new results at a glacially slow pace, but fortunately still moving forward. We are burning through start-up funds and expanding the group at a fairly constant rate. The one nice thing is that I have undergrad and grad students constantly contacting me to work in the lab. If only their enthusiasm and interest for my research were to translate over to program managers and reviewers.

Three. I started taking some awesome happy pills.
I've been suffering from depression for years, but never had good healthcare nor could I afford visits to psychiatrists and/or the prescriptions they wrote out. Over the years had I tried the all the cheap options, changing my diet, routine, exercise with very limited success. Now that I have a somewhat permanent job that includes pretty good health insurance, I decided to take advantage of it. My doctor referred me to a shrink, who confirmed what I already knew, since as a scientist, I've read up on reasons why I was always feeling miserable physically and mentally. They put me on some meds as there is really nothing in my life that needs fixing, other than a lower calorie diet. The meds work. I was told not to expect any sudden results, but in my case they have been very noticeable and welcome. I no longer absolutely dread getting out of bed every morning and the constant haze and dull pain that were in my head have mostly gone away. This leads to a more productive, less miserable me that in turn leads to fewer posts.