Category Archives: research

In a rut

First let me start by apologizing.  I had a demoralizing day so that will likely be the undercurrent of this post.  I hope to report something very positive in the near future and that hope is what gets me out of bed each morning.  Today is the 104th day of my “sabbatical”.  I decided soon after the sabbatical started that it wasn’t a sabbatical at all and understood crystally clear why the administrative documentation on the matter states that it is a “leave”.  Sabbaticals are filled with sleep in days and spending time catching up with the family you’ve ignored for the 7 years prior and doing those projects you would never even dream (or have time) to pursue during the school year.  What I am doing is NOT that.  I am working harder than I did in graduate school or my postdoc.  I am at work  Yes, even weekends with kids in tow.  You might think that this level of mojo has something really great to show for it, but alas it does not.  I just read through my blog entries and it’s been 352 days since last summer with my fresh inspiration of accountability and research plans and I am in the same damn place.  I am sad. I am tired.  I know no more than I did a year ago, literally, and I feel like a fool.  I also keep thinking how can I keep the “sabbatical” spirit going when I return to school as usual?  If I was giving advice to me starting out, what would I say to do differently so that I was productive and organized in my lab life?  I feel like I got nothing.  I am sure I am working harder not smarter.  I make stupid mistakes and feel lost.  I’ve wasted much time and money and poor animals.  There are days I just stare at my calendar and wonder how it’s all going to go down.  September 1 is D-Day–I turn in all my materials to my tenure external reviewers.  Among other things, these materials include 1 accepted publication, 1 submitted publication, and a grant.  The 2 publications and grant don’t exist right now, May 20 2015.  What’s the status?

Publication #1

  • I mentioned this one last summer; it was the one I was so proud to have finished the draft by my self-imposed deadline.  Well whooptee do, it was rejected 4 times.  The last rejection included a statement after the reviewers comments that the journal hoped I would “accept the challenge of resubmission”.  I decided I would since it was as close as I was getting and basically set out to redo all the experiments in that paper (looong story, not going to talk about it).  As of now, I am at that point where I will have tissue from the animals for those experiments at the end of this week.  Then the race begins to process that tissue and do analysis and update the manuscript so that it is accepted by Sept 1.  I have fears that the data is going to be a completely different story and then I’ll have some ‘splaining to do…

Publication #2

  • I thought up this idea one night when I was tossing and turning trying to figure out a small publishable unit I could manage this summer.  So far it seems like a great idea.  There is data, there are significant differences, yay!  I need to write the thing, but I feel that since Pub #1 and the grant are absolutely priority (P&T knows nothing of Pub #2, that’s just my safety net) I need to table it until those are done.  The only thing standing in my way is that damned assay (yes the one I said I got to work a year ago, and I thought I got it to work again in March, but alas that was lies all lies, unbeknownst to me).  I actually had an appointment with a Chemist today to figure it out, but then I couldn’t get a chemical to go into solution so I had to postpone.  Yes, seriously!  The chemical comes in premade solution, which I ordered today, so here’s hoping next week is rainbows.


  • I posted about that last time.  Trying all new things.  Bad idea jeans.  The reason my day was so bad today is because I was supposed to get slides to stain.  Doing something old that I know how to do and might actually get some data that will override the need to do all these new things AND get some closure on what the heck is going on between my controls and experimentals (so I could finally sleep at night knowing my hypotheses have merits and aren’t just pie in the sky ideas), but the place I sent them to be processed destroyed the tissue. Oh yes, I couldn’t make this stuff up (did I mention they took longer than usual getting it back to me and I still had to pay half price for it?).  So tomorrow I will be redoing that.  The sooner I can get tissue stained and see the reality, the better.  I’ve got the spec aims of the grant all written up as if what I think will be true is.  I don’t have a backup plan if it isn’t.  But I have to submit the grant anyway because I promised P&T I would before I went up for tenure and my colleague that was denied tenure didn’t so something he promised and that was why. (Just in case you’re wondering, that is all good now, the appeal process worked in his favor)

I’ve written a lot (I guess to make up for lost time), probably too much so I will end it there.

What about you?  Ever had a “Groundhog Day movie” experience in your research?  How did you snap out of it?  Let us know in the comments.

my $0.02

You probably already know this, but in case you’re a boob like me, don’t ever try anything new for a grant.  That’s what I’ve been trying to do since September 1 to no avail.  I’m now trying to find easier ways to accomplish what I want, but I am not sure there is an easier way.  What I need is a collaborator to teach me how to do this technique.  I was confident that I could do it because I had dabbled in something similar during my postdoc, but what I am trying to do is more technically challenging than that.  I am sure if I apprenticed with a pro, I’d pick it up like that.  Alas, sorry not to have a more upbeat post after my 4 month hiatus, but it is what it is.

What about you?  How long has it taken you to be successful at a new technique in the lab?  Have you ever given up or turned it over to someone more knowledgeable?  Let us know about your experiences in the comments.