Graphic Fridays: Lab Productivity

May 11 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

If you are like me, you either walked into your new lab as a PI, or plan to do so, ready to roll. There is a lot that needs to get done, but how long could it take, right?

Chances are, if you got a PI job, that you did a postdoc in a lab that was running full steam. I did both previous stops in labs of assistant professors who made tenure while I was there. In both cases, the labs were established enough to be just gaining a reputation for themselves, but hadn't fully broken through yet. By the time I left each, the story was different and each one had expanded significantly.

At the time it never occurred to me to consider the early days of each lab, but thinking back, each took some time to get established. However, walking into my own lab I assumed that in a year or two I would be DOING ALL TEH SCIENCE!!!!

Hhahahaha, yeaaahhhh. About that....

I'm sure there are people who do magic in a year or two and crap nature papers like they have some sort of scientific dysentery. Good for them. But for the rest of us, a lab is built in small steps with the occasional home run and the more than occasional strike out. It is torturous at times and progress seems glacial because you always feel like you are behind. But at some point (different for everyone) you can look back and surprise yourself at the progress you have made.

14 responses so far

  • Dr. O says:

    My new favorite phrase is scientific dysentery.

  • NatC says:

    I am going to print this out and put it on the wall where I can see it EVERY DAY

  • JaneB says:

    I love that phrase! Scientific dysentry, indeed, I knows some afflicted souls and v. annoying they are too!

  • Shell says:

    You give me hope. As someone who is at the end of year 2 (just off my first semester of owning my own class, thought the month of April would NEVER end....) I need to see that there may light at the end of the tunnel.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    There is always light at the end of the tunnel, you just get better at figuring out if it is the other end or the headlight of a freight train.

  • Anon says:

    I've recently begun traveling for pre-tenure seminars and was pleasantly surprised when I sat down to put together my talks and realized how much good data I had to cut out of the story.

  • Chebag says:

    Where is "Hey, we should have a kid now that we're rolling in the big bucks."?

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I couldn't include everything....

  • Neuro Polarbear says:

    My motto has been something I learned from my graduate advisor: Everything in science takes pi times as long as you expect. It's been pretty accurate so far.

  • anon says:

    This blog sucks ass.

  • Drugmonkey says:

    This blog kicks ass.

  • Did you really expect to plateau at 4 years? IME it takes much longer than that...

  • My experience was that it was around the eighth year when productivity started to accelerate.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    No, I didn't expect to be flying by year four, but I did have visions of being further along than we are now. That's not to say we aren't doing well, but projection and reality aren't totally synced.

    Year 8?!?! Fuck. Excuse me while I go vomit. But in reality, getting things cooking just takes time. I'm sure that once it's really rolling it's a great thing to watch.

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