~a mexican sunflower in low evening light~
I suppose this post could be titled 'a lab during wartime' - and while I won't go into the tedious details, the last few weeks have been challenging, and filled with change.
Today was my last day with the university where I have worked for fifteen years.
So I am currently unemployed - that is, unemployed with respect to a guaranteed salary - but my lab still lives, and my three doctoral students, a master's student and the eclair-baking postdoc remain. I now have a research appointment at another local university - but it is a soft-money position that doesn't come with salary. I must generate it - for the eclair-baking postdoc and myself. We will be able to salvage about five months of salary each (actually, four months for me) over the next year from an existing grant - and other grants (with salary) are pending. One of my doctoral students will defend his dissertation in a few months, and the other two are recipients of nationally-competitive fellowships.
We've essentially jumped off a scientific cliff. We're optimistic that good science will soften our landing.
My lab still remains - at least for a year or two - after that, we'll see. It's one of those hard-to-explain academic situations, and tonight I'm too tired to explain it well. Academic institutions are ancient, competitive lands - places where new ideas are tossed around and old ideas are embraced to the end. I'm in a state where 'the good old boy network' is considered a desired management strategy instead of something to avoid.
The most difficult thing about this last day was that a month ago I had to accept the reality that at the present time, I couldn't support/fund the lab's poet laureate. As you know - almost each week these pages are graced by a poem that Katherine chose to share with us. She first came to the lab as a volunteer, and now as she is leaving, she has two manuscripts in preparation based on her contributions to our coral project. They are excellent contributions.
We chosen to call this a 'haitus' - she is not leaving, it is merely 'life during wartime' and she will go off and work in another lab until the war is over. She is leaving us with such grace - and I am determined to find the funds to support her return.
This past week, Katherine told me that what the lab was experiencing right now was analogous to the story of 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas'. The Grinch thought Christmas was about the presents - the toys - and he thought, rather foolishly, that Christmas wouldn't come if he took all of the presents.
But we all know the end to this story: Christmas came anyway. Christmas wasn't about the presents at all.
The Microbial Lab has ten manuscripts that we hope to submit by summer's end. Four are already either in press or in revision or in review. Two more should be submitted next week, and four more - if all goes well - will be submitted by the end of summer. There's another eight to ten manucripts waiting for a fall-winter submission. My goal is to have the lab submit 20 manuscripts during a 12-month period.
That's crazy-productive - and the science is exciting.
Christmas will still come for the Microbial Lab.