I’ve been meaning to make a lab website for a long time now, but you know how it is: ten million other things intrude, higher priority items forever bumping lower ones down the queue. Even though I don’t yet have anywhere formal to put it, I thought it high time my lab finally had a group photo taken.
To me, there is something deeply symbolic about a formal lab snap. When you first start out in science, such images are the stuff of dreams. You see them projected at the end of seminal talks given by people who have assumed deity-like standing in your field. “These are the people who actually did the work,” the speaker will say casually, perhaps pointing out a few key faces: faces that look as hopeful and idealistic as your own. Faces protected and nurtured by greatness – yet in displaying the photo, that representative of greatness now betrays a human side.
Due to circumstance and an unusual career path that led me out of academia on several occasions, reaching the point of being able to take such a photo myself has been a long time coming. As I approach the most sobering significant birthday this year, I can’t stop pinching myself that I’m now several years into being a bona fide PI.
My current team is source of pride and inspiration to me. We have enough momentum and expertise now that the science carries on when I’m not looking. I can come down from a fortnight of frantic exam marking to find that someone has made an interesting discovery I didn’t even know was on the cards. Catch-up meetings become a source of pleasant surprises: even when things don’t work (which is of course a frequent occurrence), it’s good to witness ingenuity, resilience and stubborn tenacity. And a relief, too, that my input is still required on occasion to nudge the ship back onto the right path.
I’m particularly happy with the undergraduate students, who always seem to have a smile on their faces. Young, smart people impart a vibrant feel to the lab that is only definable by its absence.
Come autumn, three new postdocs will be starting in the lab. This change is sure to be an inflection point in the trajectory of the research, enhancing our scope and standing. I can’t wait to see what we achieve together by the next group snap.