17 June 2009

Hands on

On the lab whiteboardI’ve been in the lab the last few weeks, working on a couple of my own little projects as well as supervising my students. In the course of talking to others and reading blogs, there’s occasionally discussion about whether senior researcher running their own labs (“PIs,” if you must &ndash hate that term) should be at the bench, gathering their own data.

At big research institutions, the answer to that is often, “No,” and an emphatic “No” at that. It’s the researchers job to generate dollars, not data. Often, other people’s jobs, their food on the table, literally depends on it.

At an institution with more modest research aspiration, like here, I actually have the luxury to spend some time in the lab. I often try to have one or two projects that are all my own, rather than farming them out to students. I don’t get a chance to be in the lab a lot, but it feels nice when I do.

So when you’re thinking about careers and where you can do the most research, ask if it’s important to you to do any yourself.

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