Monday, January 5, 2009

Back to Work

Well, the kids went back to school today, and I went back to my normal schedule, full-time in the lab. The break has been much needed, and I was feeling ready to get my nose to the grindstone bright and early this morning. I was also inspired by Jane and ScienceWoman to choose a theme for this year. I had some vague ideas about what I want to accomplish this year, but I have only just now come up with a succinct way of expressing them.

I intend to make this year all about "putting myself out there".

I discovered last year that I need to build my skills (and confidence) in presenting myself and my science. I also discovered that I am ready to take more control of where my research project will go. Both of those important steps in becoming a real, grown-up scientist will require me to speak up, make decisions, and take risks. In short, it is time for me to step forward and out of the shadows. All last year, I kept hearing people referring to me as a nearly "senior" graduate student. My PI has been nudging me (okay, sometimes shoving me) in this direction. I just didn't feel ready until now. So, I've been dragging my heels.

But it is time for that to end. I've got a nearly completed manuscript on my desk. And just before Christmas, I got the nearly impossible experiment that would really improve the paper to work. Yippee! The only work I did over the holidays was to analyze the hell out of that data to see if I could get anything usable. Not-so-festive, but it's actually looking pretty good! So now it's time to send it out into the world.

It's also time to move forward with new things. Almost two years ago, I messed around with a new way to look at something that I thought could be developed into a new technique. At the time, PI wasn't all that impressed. But I kept coming back to it in my mind. When we were discussing potential follow up work, I brought it up again. This time, I had better reasons for why to work up my idea, and a clearer plan for how to do it. And this time, PI bit the hook - we are moving forward with the plan I laid out, virtually unchanged.

So I'm stepping out on a limb and doing the science that I want to do. That means that if it doesn't work out, then I've got nobody to blame for making me go this route but myself. I'm hoping that my PI's new-found enthusiasm is a good indicator that I have a good shot at making this work. But if not, c'est la vie, non?


Comrade PhysioProf said...

That sounds great! And one thing to keep in mind is that as a grad student, you can afford to take more risks than as a post-doc, especially now that you have what sounds like a solid manuscript in the bag. So immerse yourself fearlessly in your new idea. Even if it doesn't work out, you will have no trouble graduating with the work that went into the other manuscript as the basis for your dissertation, which can also contain unpublished--and even unpublishable--experiments. Regardless, if you trained in a respected lab, you will have no trouble getting an excellent post-doc.

ScienceWoman said...

What a great theme! Perfect for a nearly senior grad student. :) But I think it should also apply to networking-like-hell at conferences.

flickamawa said...

It sounds like things are going well and you are taking the steps you need to to get where you want to go. Well done!