Treading Water

Tomorrow will mark the completion of the first two (academic) weeks of my employment at Iowa State University as an assistant professor. One word summary: “WHEW!” I have been so busy that I haven’t taken some much needed time to sit down and reflect on how things are going and send an update out to friends and family…and so here it is!

After two weeks in the job I’ve been working towards for 12 years…here I am.

So far, I am going through these five emotions every day, to different degrees, and pretty much in this order.


Let’s go nuts! There is nothing like a start-up fund. Its like winning a lottery that you can only spend on the Fisher catalog. I’m given a large sum of money and told to go make the world a better place in whatever way I can imagine. And so it begins….

It is really fun to be released to do this, on my terms, with my own vision. Since I am in an engineering department, it has been a terrific change of pace to think of applying much of my training and experience (mainly from a microbiology department) towards applied solutions. I’ve got a lot of ideas and its nice to have a piggy bank to put them into action immediately!

Also, my postdocs have been wonderful! I am really confident in the team I am building and can’t wait to see what the future holds.


There is a ton to do. My lab is completely bare. Trivial things, like needing a printer, a white board, even a ball point pen, have taken up enormous chunks of time in my day. I want to meet EVERYONE in my department, which may take til 2018 if I meet two a week. And of course, I want them all to adore me. I already have too many deadlines for grants, papers, and projects. I now have two postdocs under my management – they are fantastic and more importantly, smarter than I am in many ways. And they can’t find printers and ball point pens! I have to attend training, make adult decisions, not get lost driving to work, and fill an empty house with happy things (especially hard with the husband so far away - til May). It’s a lot! I’ll note that I somehow managed to get two proposals out the door (that I’m proud of) in the first two weeks I was here – if this happened, I can make it through anything right?


Friends (old and new) and family have been incredible. My department is fantastic, and even Bob who takes out my office trash stops by daily to check on me. Don’t ever join a department without adminstrative support - there is no way I could’ve sanely transitioned without them. My postdocs, my new collaborators, and my old collaborators make the excitement reign over any sense of being overwhelmed (thanks for all the support!).


Who writes two grants in their first two weeks? I am happy to say that I spent the whole weekend recovering and am now an expert on the first season of Downton Abbey. If I ever have another first two weeks, I’ll plan this better. All the ambition that I put into my research talks and cover letters doesn’t have to happen RIGHT now!

Tired and Out of Balance

See all of the above. Thank you for all of you who told me to negotiate a break from teaching! I am working really hard on finding an improved balance. I think the last two weeks was necessary but don’t expect it to continue at the same pace moving forward. I am loving the job but it is a huge change! I feel good about the next couple weeks bringing better balance and settledness. I’m not here to burn out!

blog comments powered by Disqus