Conferencing It Up!

I’m at a conference on the east coast of our dear country right now. I’m smoozzing with the big-wigs in my field and learning all kinds of stuff. My research has been a pretty big hit so far.

The thing I LOVE about conferences is how excited they make me about my work. For 2-3 months after I get back from a conference all I want to do is work. All I think about it new ideas and I’m motivated as hell to get stuff done. Sure, it costs my boss around $1,200 for me to come to this conference. But you know what? In the long run he gets far more out of it than the money that he puts in.

I’d say that my productivity goes up about 300% for about two weeks after I get back from a conference. Also, the best ideas I get come from talking about and explaining my science to others in the field who know enough to understand what I do and ask good questions, but don’t know *everything*. Those conversations lead me to realize what experiments I really should do next, motivate me to do them and get me excited about the peripheral literature again.

All in all, I’d say that it is $1,200 well spent on his part.

And thus the old adage is true: It takes money to make money.

Getting people in science is actually a huge money risk. It takes at least 3-4 years to train a graduate student so that they can do SOMETHING proficiently on their own. Then you get about 1-2 years of decent work out of them before they leave you to go be a money drain on someone else. And you just hope during that time that you get enough papers and decent work out of their time to justify the initial expense and get you data enough to put in a grant so that you can get money to fund the next 3-4 years of ridiculously pathetic graduate students.

As a post-doc I haven’t decided if I’m more or less of a risk. Typically post-docs take less time to train (I took a little more because I had a huge field shift). But it took me about 8 months to feel comfortable in the lab and then another 4 after that to start getting shit done. I’m not sure if that is average or what, but I was able to start contributing significantly within a year of joining the lab.

And then I’ll be pushed out on my own into an assistant professor position. And then it will be sink or swim – and that is terribly intimidating because at that point you have no one to blame but yourself. I’m still at least a year out before I have to start applying for the “next step” – and I’m debating whether I want to do a second postdoc or just go straight into an academic position.

It is scary and intimidating knowing that this is looming in front of me. And then I have the whole tenure issue to figure out.

But as I was sitting at the meeting and thinking of the conversations that I was having with people I realized that the only thing that was stopping me from a kick ass academic career was my own self doubt. It is obvious when I talk to people at meetings that they think I’d be a good faculty member, my CV shows that I’ve been preparing for such a career, I’ve gotten the grants and the papers to make it happen. The only thing I need is some good ideas to get me going. The community has supported me and I’ve been told quite a few times on different occasions by faculty members that they hope I’ll consider their school when I start applying for positions. That seems like the path I’m headed down, but it still scares the crap out of me. I just don’t think I’m good enough to do it.

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One Response to Conferencing It Up!

  1. BALLS!

    You’re totally good enough to do it. You just need to get stuff “on paper” that proves you can do it. But I think that everyone out there (and pretty much all of your friends) know that you can do it. Now, you just need to do it, which of course, requires more data, papers, blah blah etc. =)

    I ❤ YOU! You're awesome!

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