Got a full plate

…but I don’t mind. After my most recent meeting with my adviser, I now have four ongoing projects with which I will be thoroughly involved. This might be overwhelming, but mostly I see it as a good thing. All four of them have potential to churn out at least one paper, and I’m glad that my adviser trusts me and my work enough and has enough confidence in me to give me so many projects at once. From what I can tell, most of the other people in the lab group are working on 1 to 2 different projects, but the two elder members should be winding down to start their theses soon, so that may be why.

Talking about academic papers reminded me to check if my paper (which has been published online in the “article in press – corrected proof” stage) is in any of the major databases yet, and I found it on Pub Med and Science Direct! (It’s not yet on Web of Science; they seem to be a littler slower.) My first article! I’m so proud…I’m only about to finish my first year of grad school with the end of this summer, and I’m already a first author on a paper in a respected, peer-reviewed journal. I feel like this is a pretty good way to start off my academic career! Woohoo!

So these current projects of mine should lead to papers soon. They are loosely connected by various themes of my lab group and adviser’s previous work. One of them, the newest assignment, should follow in the footsteps of a lab group alumni who got most of the slow, tedious work of setting up a new experiment out of the way; we will just be varying a new parameter, taking data over a few days, and then analyzing that data. So this will be a focus of mine during the month of August, and then we will write our part of the paper. I will be the only grad student in my advisor’s group on the project, but it will be a collaboration with a team that does computer simulations, so one of the members of the other team might be first author. Still, it will be another paper with my name on it, and seems like it should go relatively smoothly, so I was happy to take this on.

Another project is to be done in collaboration with a company, and is in the very early stages. That may or may not pan out into a paper, but it’s a good lead for now, and the company may provide some funding for the group, which my adviser needs.
Then there are the two I’m already working on. One, I will definitely be lead author on any papers that come from it – it is following from the paper that is being published now. But as we are developing quite a new stage of this research project, it could take a while before we are ready to publish this, as there’s no way to know how many snags we’ll hit or how many tries it will take to get good data. We should be making our first honest stab at an experimental run that would actually be data for a paper (rather than just preliminary studies) later this summer though, so that’s moving along nicely.

And finally, there is a project that I helped begin last summer (when the grant was funded), but then handed off to an elder grad student when classes began in the fall. I have expressed much interest in this project as it is really interesting to me, and my adviser tells me it will be passed to me soon. I have begun to get training in what’s been going on while I was in classes all year. The other student who had it during this past school year is working on two papers out of it right now, but there are more areas for study which particularly interest me so I expect we will be working towards a paper with me as lead author in around a year or so.

I have often worried that I am not working hard enough, because when I feel in the slumps of depression I tend to get very little done. Adding to that is the fact that it’s still only been 3 months since I failed my qualifying exam and it is definitely still a sore spot for my emotions and confidence. So knowing that my adviser thinks well enough of me to give me all of these projects really makes me feel better. When I take a look at all that I am doing, at what I have accomplished so far and am working on now even in this first year of grad school, the feelings of shame, worry, and low self-worth are swiped away in favor of happiness and even, gasp, some pride.

I have read that a researcher should have multiple projects in different stages, particularly the head of a research group. I don’t really know how common it is to have this many projects when you are only a member of the group and not the PI, and I am only a first year grad student too. But I don’t think I could be asking for more and this is a pretty strong start. This would mean another 2-4 papers within say the next 2 years, so by the end of my third year of grad school, I could have 3-5 papers already published. From what I can tell, that’s damn good.

Oh, and did I mention in addition to all this I’ve been babysitting about 12-15 hours a week or so usually on 3-4 different days each week? It seems a bit like a lot, but I am thrilled by it; I had forgotten how much I feed off a full schedule.

But balance is crucial to me. I spend oodles of time with my husband each week; I barely ever do grad school work on weekends unless I slacked during the week; I see friends regularly for board games and dinners and other things; and although I’m not always eager to get out of bed for a morning babysitting time, I love the time I spend with the baby and toddler that I watch. I am growing closer to them all the time and I adore watching them grow and develop.


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