February was a good month! In the month of February, my podcast went live and I got, not one, but two papers published from my first postdoc (oh if only I could keep that pace up). There is a third and fourth out for review, and one more in the cue to get out the door. This is occurring while trying to adjust in a new laboratory. It is my second postdoc, in immunology this time. There are many exciting projects I am trying to get off the ground. Then there is also applying/waiting to hear from now funding (Ford Fellowship, UNCF/MERCK, NIH supplement) and later funding (K awards). Plus, I am starting to do a heavy job search, as I would love to start an academia faculty position by next fall. Did I mention that I also would like to see my family and sleep?
Scientifically, I am very fortunate. I can’t complain at all. ‘Tis better to have something to write about/work on/work towards then to have nothing at all. But, yes, this is overwhelming, very overwhelming. I feel like I have three jobs, get old papers out, get new projects working, and look for a job. With that, I just wanted to share three things I do to keep things out in front of me.
1. Creating the Project Master – Keep track of your projects, new and old.
In my first postdoc, I kept a list of every project I had in the lab. Try it! Make a list of all the distinct things that you are working on right now. By distinct, I mean what would make a paper on its own. Keep that document planted on your desktop. Here are some rules for doing it, but feel free to experiment to see what works for you.
a. Don’t delete anything off this list! You need to see what you have done in the past. If it didn’t work, then cross it out, but don’t delete it.
b. Add to it. This one is pretty self-explanatory. New project or paper theme, new bullet point.
c. Reword. This is to be more consistent with where things are going with the projects. The focus of a paper can change, and so should the title heading if needed.
d. Reorder. Prioritize which project is on the front burner and the back burner.
e. Combine/separate. Ideas merge and diverge. List accordingly!
I would look at your project master every month or so to help focus you. It can also serve as a nice cheat sheet to show the boss when they wonder what you have been doing in lab. Next, look at themes. Are there certain types of projects there that you enjoy more? That work better? That are b-b-bad projects.
2. Expand on the projects that are working and then diagram the paper.
Write down bullet points on what you have, and what you think you need. Write down the end game or what you think you will get from the line of experiments. It isn’t written in stone, the data is the data of course, but at least you will have a direction. Then, put all the data into PowerPoint. If you don’t have the data, then make a “to be added later” slide. This will make making talks and lab meeting easier too.
3. PubMed alerts. I have roughly 30 PubMed alerts on prominent scientist in the field, topics, journals, and even one on an entire university. I find these alerts serve as headlines to keep easy tabs of what is going on in the scientific community. Try to make a few and see how it works out.
Hopefully these tips will help you as much has they have helped me.
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image credit http://scienceofjuggling.com/howtojuggle.html#