Never alone

May 14 2012 Published by under Careers, Life

Life's been busy here the last few weeks. I've been working my butt off organizing various things on top of running the lab etc. All good stuff. As a result of the last couple of weeks, plus some anecdata from some bloggy friends, I've been reflecting on what it takes and means to be successful in academic science.* We have a tendency to talk about how we - as in the singular I - have been/are successful. From the graduate students "I successfully completed this experiment..." to the PI's "I landed the following grants and published the following papers". I tend to say I earned tenure (I did!).

But the truth is there is almost no room for the singular I in academic science, or science in general, anymore. Hasn't been for a long time. I didn't get to where I am by myself. I landed my TT position, got funding, published papers, earned tenure, and have pushed along post-tenure through the efforts of myself and many others. Did I play a central role? Sure. I earned tenure. But there is no way I could be where I am without the help of others.

I am where I am because of the efforts of my postdoc mentor, colleagues in my department and institution, collaborators, trainees, professional and non-professional staff. Even the housekeeping staff.** I'm not so special. Nor am I unique. PI's like to boast about how they made it despite the odds/admin/poor funding rates etc. But they would never "make it" without a large network of support.

And yet there are those in similar positions to mine who feel anyone who is not faculty at a research intensive institution is somehow inferior. Not worthy of consideration. Simple peons to be used and abused. Oft times abused.

People like that make my blood boil. They are delusional douchebags who should not be tolerated.

Recognize that you cannot do what you do without the help of those around you.


* Or successful anywhere really. The above applies to pretty much all walks of life.
** Try running a successful research program when your lab and office is piled high with trash.

7 responses so far

  • DrugMonkey says:

    There is no such thing as "Just a Tech" in my lab....

  • gerty-z says:

    So true, Od! It always surprises me when I run across some asshole that doesn't recognize that they are being held up by the students, staff, and infrastructure around them. These are also the people that wonder why the janitorial staff never seem to do as nice a job cleaning their space as other labs. Gee, I wonder why?

  • Dr Becca says:

    Spot-on, Od, and yes, is true in pretty much any field, business, ANYTHING. Reminded me immediately of that Elizabeth Warren quote that was going around last year:

    There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you!

    But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea — God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.

    But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

    • odyssey says:

      But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

      This. So very much this.

  • Where's the damn 'like' button on this frickin blog?

  • Dr 27 says:

    Amen! As a staff scientist, I say thanks.