There and Back Again

I am renewing my efforts to blog and tweet after about a 9 month hiatus aka “starting my tenure-track gig.” I thought I’d write up some of the activities that I have been up to.

Moving to the awesome Ames, Iowa

Despite our trepidation, my husband and I have really enjoyed Ames so far (note that I have been here over a winter, which there are no kind words for). We’ve found good food, sufficient beer, a lot of green space, and super nice people. There is hardly any traffic. We’re about a 20 minute walk to Iowa State campus. Our house, thank goodness, is finally out of cardboard boxes, and we’re buying adult furniture to fill it. All that being said, we really really really hate moving and both agree that never moving again would be a great decision.

Building the GERMS

Over the summer, I spent the large part of my time recruiting. Counting up the hours, I think I was spending greater than 10 hours a week thinking of how / who/ when to recruit my team. Fortunately, my first decision was to hire two great postdocs, Ryan Williams and Jin Choi, who helped me evaluate a number of candidates. I reached out to friends and colleagues to identify students and then I made phone calls and in-person meetings (lots of them). Notably, both Jin and Ryan came to me through previous collaborators/friends. This approach seems to have worked out well for me. You can see my team here. I now spend 10 hours a week worry about their happiness, training, and career. I love it. They’re great, and I can’t imagine starting this adventure without one of them.

Deciding to also start a wet lab

I have a background in both microbiology (Environmental Engineering) and bioinformatics, opening up the possibility to go with a much more affordable route of a data analysis dry lab. I just couldn’t fathom graduating students without them running a PCR, growing cultures, or seeing the challenges of performing an experiment. I also couldn’t see them being successful without knowing how to program, perform statistics, and using version control. So I’m doing both – and I often wonder if this is a good decision. At any rate, my postdocs, Fan Yang and Jin Choi, are both leading the efforts of building our Biosafety 2 lab with capabilities for DNA extraction and cell culturing.

Writing proposals

I did not teach for the first 8 months at ISU and had some time to think about proposals (especially compared to now when I’m co-teaching). I wrote 6 full proposals and 2 pre-prosals this summer. Before you yell at me (as you likely should), I really enjoyed writing these and many of them shared similar themes. More importantly, it helped me engage with local problems and collaborators, which have grown into very fruitful relationships. You can see what I’ve been thinking on in my updated CV. I am happy to report that I already have a healthy rejection to acceptance ratio.


There are moments in your adult life where you reflect on your parents and admire them for all they had to deal with when you were a kid. I find myself thinking about my advisors with this reflective spirit now that I am advising, teaching, researching, and generally treading water. You know its ridiculous when you see a sharknado commercial and get reminded of your calendar. Mike gave me advice to schedule time for myself on my calendar. I have been doing this for about two weeks, I schedule 2 two hour Adina sessions and its been working really well. I also schedule teaching prep time to make sure I don’t put meetings over the time. Honestly, my week’s pretty straight forward, I just do whatever is on my calendar and don’t have to think too much. The days of writing tons of proposals have perhaps passed until the summer. I’ve found that I really enjoy teaching – and spend immense amounts of time thinking about it.

Training / Paying it forward

I have benefited so much from being trained in data sciences and am committed to making sure I train others as a result. I am happy to say that as a group, my GERMS team is equally as committed. Together, we have hosted a Data Carpentry, mini NGS workshops, and taught at both EDAMAME and ANGUS. New tutorials are being developed, and all are workflows are on Github.

Being happy

Honestly, finding balance has been a bit rough. I went from working 50-60 hour weeks (when my hubby wasn’t around) to a more balanced less than 50 now regularly. If I weren’t doing physical therapy for hours a day for my torn ACL, I’d be hitting the gym or doing things I enjoy. I’m getting caught up on smut TV, football season has started, and our keg now has a counter to predict when we’ll run out.

In our lab, we’ve implemented the Swedish practice of Fika, where we meet for coffee for half an hour every day for no particularly reason but to hang out. I’ve really enjoyed this, it brings us together and makes sure we find balance at work as well as at home.

Iowa State, and particularly my department, is a wonderful place to work. I literally have no complaints. I’m so grateful for all the support they’ve given me and appreciate them tenderly letting me do my own thing while checking in every once in awhile. I’m one lucky duck….a busy happy lucky duck.

Hope all your semesters are starting off well! And hope to be back in touch on the web more often going forward,


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