Friday, May 14, 2010

Oatmeal Brain

Regular readers know, I love my teaching-heavy job. I like the instant rewards, the social interaction, the broadening of my knowledge base, the excessive salary. I'm kidding about the salary. I feel as though with my "gifts" and propensity, this is a perfect career match for me.

But what I was *trained* for in research science- reading and parsing primary literature, identifying the most important research questions, creating alternative hypotheses, critical evaluation of experimental design, creation of elegant experimental design, troubleshooting, etc.- are NOT a major part of my current daily life. I was trained at a pretty high level for these things which did not come naturally to me, and from my graduation college to the end of my post doc was a *steep* learning curve.

And now it feels like despite all the progress I made on this steep learning curve, I am mentally sliiiiding, sliiiding back downhill from disuse of my training. Yes, we do some of these things in my research lab, and I try to teach my students at the highest level they can handle. So I try to impart on them some of the benefits of my training. That doesn't keep me very sharp. Working in my lab with undergrads is certainly not like interacting daily with highly successful scientists. No one is pulling ME up.

I have started working full time with my research student this summer, and we are currently having journal club every day, to really understand the background of our project (ok, I should say he/ his...). In the first hours of this exersize, I felt very sluggish mentally, as if I were thinking with an oatmeal brain. It's getting better, but ah, I miss the days in which I feel sharp... like the days leading up to my defense, or how I feel going to meetings and intensively learning a lot of new information and applying it to my research.

See here (in the comments) for more.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I so know how you are feeling!

    Do you have a mentor at your school? While it seems fairly common to have teaching mentors at PUIs, it seems like we often don't have research mentors to guide us. At my school, those who are most successful in the classroom are not typically those who have the most productive undergrad research labs.