May 2010

Letter for Plus the Secret Handshake

HandshakeDear 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
Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.

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