Happy Birthday GERMS!
What a difference a year makes! We started out as a solo adventure, to two postdocs, to two graduate students (1 MS/1 PhD), to another postdoc, and its continued. Currently, GERMS is comprised of a solid active team of 3 postdocs and 3 graduate students (3 PhD) (and one ‘me’). We’re all VERY different but its been surprising how valuable these differences have been integral into shaping the dynamics of both this team and our values.
I wanted to spend some time reflecting on the past year.
I’ve been comparing the faculty gig to what I imagine (with no experience) running a start-up would feel like. The most important goal of my year was to find the people that would make this job easy, fun, and rewarding. I am very committed to our team, and I have high expectations in each of our members to elevate everyone in our group. Of the accomplishments of the year, I am most proud of our team and how we are working together, even in challenging circumstances – it’s not all been cake.
Given my total disinterest in micromanagement, I’m glad that everyone is starting to find their groove in the science, administration, and projects. I think everyone has switched projects at least a couple times this year (especially if they were with me from the beginning). Certain projects that I thought were the most promising have not gained any traction while others have really taken off. One postdoc learned so much that he was recruited out – a bittersweet success and its rewarding to know that the skills we’re training are useful to others.
The postdocs have undergone major transitions this year – they rapidly outgrow much of the mentorship I can provide and have started to really ‘own’ their projects. They’ve pretty much set up (and are continuing to run) the entire lab for me, soooo grateful. Most of my interaction with the graduate students have been with training and the experience of graduate school more broadly (e.g., what classes to take, what skills to learn, what research one can do). I can tell that the students are on the cusp of really accelerating and the summer is going to be a productive time. They are already exceeding my expectations regularly. Honestly, the hardest part of the job is keeping up and not being a clog in the stream. By far, the most rewarding part of the year has been the team and the excitement of the things to come (weekly). We’ve finally hit our groove in individual and group meetings – alternating between hackathon computational training with research talks weekly. This took me longer than I thought it would to find the right rhythm of meetings. The other great thing about this group is that they are “givers”. If there is an adjective that would describe all of them, it’d be either “giving” or “driven” – to find both of these in individuals in my opinion is a strange thing. I don’t know how it happened honestly but it worked!
Besides GERMS, one of the things I didn’t value enough coming in to this job was the power of awesome collaborators, both pre-award and post-award. Our team benefits from very close relationships with our collaborators, so much so that many of my team are or will be co-advised by one of my collaborators. One of the opportunities missed in my PhD was the benefits of a “committee” that was truly “committed” in my projects. Our current collaboration is like a perfect committee for me. My collaborators make sure that I am on track, actively make my job easier, bring deep and unique expertise, and are really invested in the commitment of the science we can do together. On top of all these I-swear-I’m-not-exaggerating-awesomeness, they are really fun people to work with! Honestly, I’ve never worked in a group of more invested senior scientists. Finding them this year has taken nearly all stress of the “research” expectations of young faculty off my shoulders.
If I’m having fun and not stressed, things usually work themselves out just fine.
The growth of the group has been a bit stressful on me, but its been a really positive change. Though, I hope when I’m writing this review at the end of year 2, we haven’t grown much more (one more graduate student, that’s it!). I’m very content with the size and productivity of our current group and have a real fear that changing things much more will ruin a great thing.
Its been a fantastic year. And I have no doubt that this will continue next year. Going forward, I’d like to make sure that I stay accessible to my teams and projects. My goals next year will try to have creative energy within projects that I already have rather than creating new projects. I want to make sure its a big year of growth for the graduate students, and a good year of finishing things while still creating enthusiasm for new projects for the postdocs.
So Happy Birthday GERMS! Glad you made it to year 1 - its like you’re real now! :)