27 and a PhD

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Monthly Archives: July 2013

So. Much. Work

Seriously. So much to do. And I’m only one person.

This month has shown me that my poor former supervisor in NYC had it (and still does) tough when trying to get actual research done. This month has been crazy in terms of the amount of work and the amount of admin stuff to do. I’ve had to arrange for a meeting, get the data put together for it, email and call people to make sure they can all attend … all while trying to collect data for 3 projects and  also fixing broken things in the lab. It is a lot of work. I’m having to just say no or book things for other days so I can get some pieces of software functioning. And the days where one of my superiors comes to collect data and calls me a grand total of 15 million times … it’s really exhausting.

But I’m happy in the sense that people (students, postdocs and (hopelly too) their PIs) are seeing what I do and get to see the value of it. Doing some back of the envelope calculations, I’ve managed to increased productivity of one of our toys by more than 50%. And I’ve got a good relationship with the guy who fixes it, so I feel confident in asking him for tips and little things to extend the life of our toys. But I’ve also got two other toys I need to tend to, yet other stuff in the lab seems to be chewing off most of my time. I guess my problem is time management. I feel like sometimes I’m in damage control mode, trying to get the bigger toys to continue churning data day and night, and the poor little guys get neglected. But I’ve got to practice the art of saying no and of saying ‘you know what, today is the little guys turn to get dusted off and have my entire attention … so shush it and let me work on my thing.’ It’s tough though … I feel guilty when I’m not tending to the bigger instruments, then I look at the pile of little things to do and I wonder how can one person do it all.

I did accomplish one great thing today, which will (hopefully) add to the capabilities of our lab. I’m very excited and by the end of the month I’ll have a user meeting to show how this thing works and how can people start using it. It took me a lot of effort and a lot of emails, but I feel confident that we’re in the right direction. And all because of me. Phewww. If I don’t have anything else to feel proud of during the rest of the year, this is the one thing I’m most proud of work-wise.

That’s what’s going on in the life of this lab manager. What’s new with you?

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Four months in

Just realized I’ve been at work for 4 full months. It feels as though a lot longer has gone by. The more time passes, the busier I get. And I can totally understand more and more how my poor former supervisor scheduled one thing and ended up fixing others, usually all unrelated to his original plans. Since July started I’ve been troubleshooting tons of things, from computers going down, to electricity problems to taking care of new samples and broken equipment. And I just added one more thing to my list.

Just as I did at my previous position, I have to call people, follow up on quotes and send along specs to people that know a lot more than I do, so they can make a decision. My bosses also recognize my training, so more often than not the 3 of us brainstorm about how to implement things in the lab or how to tackle one of their problems. I’ve had some success in preparing SOPs for equipment in the lab and I’m working now on user policies and procedures, so we can ensure that if something is broken it’s either to a regular malfunction or to a user’s maverick spirit (which we don’t encourage, this shit is expensive, yo!).

On a personal level, hon and I keep getting things in order in our apartment to make it look less like a grad school pad and more like a grown up place. His parents have helped us immensely, buying things like a microwave and beautiful chairs for our dining area. We’re still missing a comfy couch, a dining table and a couple of minor items, but most of the big ticket items have been acquired. We also recently completed prepping our guest room/hobby room and my inlaws are there while in town for a few days. It’s comforting to have them here, we get along pretty good.

Hon and I hope to go somewhere for the weekend in August, as we haven’t had much of a break to get away since we moved from NYC. I’m looking forward to that.

I was finally able to afford changing the tires on my car. There are a few other things to do, but this is good. They weren’t much more expensive than the previous ones were 5 years ago in the same tire shop (woot woot!!).

Each day I feel like I’m gaining more confidence and standing in the lab. I feel that the students like me and my PIs respect me. But I’ve had a few missteps, which I’m hoping won’t weigh in too much when the time for evaluations comes. I guess it’s all part of the learning curve, figuring out how to navigate things, understanding that there are lots of things I can’t control, putting things in order so that my bosses will understand usage and how time is allocated and also collecting quality data to make their lives (and projects) move forward. It is challenging to be a lab manager … very challenging, and so far I don’t have many role models (other than my previous supervisor), so it’s interesting to navigate these waters and figure things out. I hope to compile a list of things I’ve done throughout my first months here .. in case there are other newbies out there like me. But I’m very happy I decided to steer clear of the tenure track and am now on the managerial route.

July

Oh July, you’ve been one eventful motherlover. I turned 32. Hon is turning 32. Instruments have gone up and down. And even with that, when I was crunching numbers, the lab usage has gone up. I haven’t collected a whole lot of data, as I’ve been doing a lot of troubleshooting. Even managed to do a quick tutorial to a few members of my boss’s lab on how to maintain some pieces of equipment. The boss seems happy, though they can’t wait to have me back on the machine that’s broken so I can churn tons of data for them. I think that’s good.

I’ve been at work for almost 5 months. My time in NYC seems like a long time ago, instead of just 5 months. I still stay in contact with my NY peeps and we’re constantly asking questions about how our different instruments are working (or not). I still have access to the lab database of procedures, so I check every now and then the notes we gathered while I was in NY and relate that info to my current bosses. I had no idea how great my time in NY would be for my current position. I learned so much, in such a short amount of time. I definitely did good when I accepted that job offer. I only wish I could have done more. But my former boss there and I have a good relationship, so I feel free and open to for lab info and specs to compare to my instruments here.

I’m trying to do a good job to keep all of my superiors happy. I need a good evaluation. Otherwise, people will so-so and less than stellar evals are getting the axe. And real fast. There’s no chance to try to prove that you can improve. You’re just cut. And that sucks. And that’s a risk I can’t afford to take.

My in-laws are visiting in a few days. It’s going to be good to have hon’s family in the apartment and we’re both working hard to make the place pretty and comfortable for them. We get along well and are already making plans to celebrate both of our birthdays, plus their 33rd wedding anniversary during their visit.

Lots to do this month … and we’re not even halfway there.

Zombie

That’s how I feel. Days before my period I feel like a zombie. I can sleep as little as 4 hours and as much as 12, yet I feel tired all the time. I feel bloated. I can’t even look at my chest because my breasts feel like they’re going to explode. I look tired, I feel tired. I’m hungry at all hours, and I especially dislike coming to work. The moment my period ends, my life goes back to normal. So does my appetite … and so does my sleep. I’m already on medication, and the symptoms seem to be not as extreme as a few years back, but I still feel like crap. My mood goes to shit. I feel like a blob, just waiting for life to happen around me. This is what PMDD feels like. And I hate it with passion.