Thursday, May 9, 2013


I finished my first year! Teaching was fun, and advising people is even better. I don't have as much time as I want to think through things in detail, but at least there's lots of help from others in my group. The kids are getting less needy at home, so there's a bit of downtime at home to think through things (though I usually don't have the time to really sit down and do hours of work while at home). I have 3 proposals in review right now, and because they are mostly for new people, the competition should not be as bad as for other proposals. Hopefully I'll get one of them. Now I'm writing one of the two I plan to submit in summer, and I'm planning to submit at least two in fall. I'm just starting to feel more comfortable about writing these so hopefully the next ones will be easier to write and be more compelling.

A tough problem for me recently (grant writing is the most important thing for me to do right now, and is something I need to do faster and better, but I think of this as my job, not a problem per se) is how good my postdoc is. I hired this person because of their technical skills that really nicely complement mine, and I already thought it was great that I could get someone so good to work for me (being new). I was pleasantly surprised that the postdoc is very independent and insightful even in learning new methods, and is a great resource for me to bounce ideas off of (if only I had more time to really discuss more ideas...). But it's also become apparent that there is no major deficiency in the postdoc's technical or communication skills that I need to help with. Sounds great, right? It definitely is, really, in every way. The problem is that I feel bad to have this person who should have been able to get a much nicer position with a more established person, and for my part as mentor I can't even help fill a major (technical/communication) gap in their skills. I mean, the postdoc is learning new methods and skills, and they are getting my general advising, but all of those things may have been better in a more established group. At least I can help with career planning and related advice. I feel I've been helpful in that area, maybe especially so because I have just been through the same career stage. 

My father had an interesting comment about this; he said maybe I'll do so well in the future that it'll be the case that actually it was a good career move for this postdoc to come work for me now. I suppose in any case it's the career move that was actually made, and now my job is to help us both profit from it. I think I can do this, maybe even make it worth the postdoc's while to come work with me versus someone famous. My current strategy is to be awesome myself, using the postdoc in whatever ways I can that are also helpful to the postdoc (such as for grant writing), and to give the postdoc lots of choices so that they can best move forward with their career.

In kid news, ELP learned to write her name (she wanted to be just like LP), and I think she now knows how to write every letter in the alphabet (in capital letters). LP is learning to communicate and plan better with her without getting too frustrated, so they can do interesting activities (usually made up by themselves) on their own for long times.

In more detailed news, today was awesome. I got a shout-out at a talk by a senior professor (he told someone who had asked a general question that I would know about [my field], and advised them to talk to me). Also, my chair was happy with me, just for a minor thing I did, but it's always good to make the chair happy. Separately, I fixed a minor problem related to my group with just a few minutes of effort--delegating is fun, and I think the group likes helping me to fix problems! But even though it's fun, it's still strange to be in charge of all these really interesting people.

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