Dear Dr. Petsko:
Your article in the March 2010 issue of ASBMB Today matches my thoughts and experiences.
I had always planned on going to medical school. However, in my senior year at college, I did a research project in biochemistry. In those days, biochemistry was a tiny part of chemistry at Stanford University. I suddenly realized that I really liked dealing with things, rather than with people, which I would be doing as a doctor. I enjoyed research and went on to receive my doctoral degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.
After a few years, however, I soon had students and postdoctoral fellows and no longer spent time in the lab. I was not trained to deal with people and administration. So, as you said, I had to “stumble my way along by trial and error— mostly error.”
A big lab is considered to be a sign of success, but you lose what you originally wanted to do, which was to work in the lab. Now you are a teacher and must take pride in what your students do in the lab. Is the trade-off worth it? Yes, but you have to get used to it, and a little training in administration and dealing with people would have helped.
I think it’s great that there are now courses to train graduate students on how to manage their own laboratories.
Kendric C. Smith