Evolution of a one-trick pony

Jun 30 2011 Published by under Careers, Life, Things that go beep!

I was originally hired onto the TT at Big State U based on my postdoctoral track record in a particular field using a certain technique. I was pretty much a one-trick pony. Don't get me wrong. This was not a bad thing at the time. It netted me a slew of publications that are to this day reasonably well cited. And it landed me my position. And got my research program here off to a good start.

Although my current research program is in a somewhat related area to my postdoctoral work, I no longer use that original technique. In fact I haven't for 6-7 years now. I can't say I'm an "expert" in any technique now. I, or more correctly my lab peeps, use a whole slew of them. Various spectroscopic techniques (fluorescence, CD etc.), mass spec, nmr etc. We're dabbling with crystallography and collaborating with a computational group. I'm considering trying some SAXS.*

I've evolved from being a one-trick pony into a jack-of-all-trades.**

One-trick pony PI's still exist. Some things are complicated or expensive enough that they may never become routine lab tools (e.g. x-ray crystallography and nmr). But even for those PI's, relying on a single technique has become dangerous. As a crystallographer colleague has said on more than one occasion, "simply" solving structures will not keep you funded.

And that brings me to today's message: One should be willing to go where the research is taking you, and that can often mean learning new approaches and techniques. And/or striking up collaborations with people who can do things you can't.

Flexibility is a good trait to possess.

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* Get your minds out of the gutter. SAXS = small-angle x-ray scattering.
** And master of none?

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