Following my heart…

That must be the most cheesy title I picked for a blog title so far..

I’m at home, with my 1.5 year old peacefully sleeping upstairs and my 6 month foetus kicking around 🙂 I’ve got a stack of old cancer research grants to read, as I asked people for examples so I get a bit better feeling of what should go inside and start making a draft for an application of my own. Exciting times 🙂

But social media are always luring and I decided to read a short piece about the troubles of a lactating mum at a conference, by Rebecca Calisi Rodriguez. You can find it here. She went to a conference, despite a caesarian only 5 weeks earlier!! Here in Germany and also Holland, that isn’t even allowed I think… No work until at least 6 weeks after delivery. It sounds pretty stressful, mostly because of lack of facilities and understanding, although from the piece it looks like she found her way in science and hopefully family perfectly fine in the end.

However when I read something like this, I’m also happy I didn’t make that choice. I stayed at home over a year with my baby (unemployed!) and am planning to stay at home with the next at least 5 months too – official, paid maternity leave this time. I’ll also happily admit that at times during that year with my baby, I was bored, I wanted to do science and not be at home changing diapers! I was wondering whether I was doing the right thing. I think a middle way, staying at home a few months as I’m planning now, would be ideal.

Anyway, that doesn’t matter as it largely depending on personal preferences. Which is the whole point I wanted to make here: I could only wish people would make their choices more with their hearts too. When I left the lab in Oxford after 2.5 years, I knew I wouldn’t publish anything and when I took such long maternity leave, I also knew some people will frown on it. Because of these circumstances, my last first author publication is from 5 years ago… And know what? I don’t care (of course I do – but I can’t change it, can I???). If I had stayed longer in that lab in Oxford, I probably would’ve ended up with a burn-out and in the end in a much worse condition than now. Solely due to a toxic boss. If I hadn’t stayed at home with my baby, I would’ve regretted it all my life. Breastfeeding is such a beautiful thing. Missing out on a potential paper and a year more in science instead of a gap in my CV, is that going to be the thing I regret on the day I die? So many women I talked to in Oxford admitted they regretted some of their choices – especially continuously thinking that that one more experiment will make the difference, and then it’s time for children. Until some of them realised they already passed the point where it’s too late for children and the science is still not coming along as they wished…

It might turn out all right for me, as right now, there’s one last authorship paper in the pipeline, with some of my Oxford data, and another one perhaps towards the end of this year. Smallish ones, but perhaps enough to apply for more funding and build up something. Maybe those two papers can make up for the gap in my CV??

I am hoping that future reviewers will show some understanding… And if they don’t, I will ask myself whether this is really the world I want to be in! What I won’t do, is regret the choice I made for happiness.


First impressions as a junior PI

I don’t even know where to begin!

Perhaps by revealing my location. I’m in Germany. Which in general is good, I like Germany. But. The bureaucracy. Is. Appalling.

I don’t want to know how much time I spent first organising my own stuff, then my postdocs’, then hiring a technician. I never realised how much paperwork would be involved. Justifying why which people are in what salary scale. Writing job descriptions. Guiding them through all the required forms. I even got my own stamp to save time signing things. Imagine that, in the 21st century… Shouldn’t we be able to do most things digitally by now?!

Also, purchasing equipment and consumables. I’ve found out two things so far: for everything you can get a discount ranging from 10 to 30% percent, simply by emailing the company and asking for it. Secondly, I’ve realised that many consumables here are around twice as expensive as they were in Oxford. According to my Croatian companion, money is tighter and the same consumables even more expensive there. I’m determined to find out why. An inverse relationship between money available and pricing – the more money available, the cheaper things get. Shouldn’t that be the other way around?!

Then I also got a master student. Lots of fun, I like teaching! But after a year and a half of maternity leave, this isn’t as easy as it was before. For every little step in a protocol I need to think how I used to do it and only then I can instruct him. So much information seems to have seeped from my brain.. Luckily, it is slowly returning! Once the practical details are sorted out, I need to go once more through my thoughts on how to supervise. As a student, I’ve had both not enough and too much supervision, so I’m trying to find my own way as a supervisor in that…

Ordering computers & getting them connected also slurps up a surprising amount of time. Sorting out the stuff left behind by my predecessors also wasn’t easy – what to keep and what not?? Getting to know people and equipment takes some time.

I started in October and by now, we are able to clone things, do tissue culture & Western Blots, protein purifications & activity tests, microscopy. The available confocal microscope is beautiful, a super resolution microscope will be installed soon. The mass spec facility is up and running. Which is pretty much all the methods I need for the beginning. Slowly, things are starting to run!

Since I’m pregnant again, my plan was to generate the last pieces of data I need to submit a (smallish) paper, which I can then write at home while the NewOne is sleeping. I’ve learned from my last maternity leave that I’m not terribly happy purely as house mum, so I’ll try to write the manuscript & a follow-up grant during my leave. However, for that I first need to find the time to do these few experiments!! Hopefully soon.

So, what’s new?

So. Let me see.

Since last October, I’ve been busy setting up my own lab. I’m a junior PI now. YEAH.

I’ve also become a mum and am pregnant again.

So it is possible to combine science and family =)

However, keeping up a blog suffers. But I decided to try again. So here we go!


Oh yeah. What else happened? My ex-PI decided to repeat some of my experiments in his lab and then publish them without me. Because I didn’t do the work, see?


Very short for now, but I’ll explain all of the above in a bit more detail with time 🙂