Top Secret Mission



Within this packet of papers is your mission, should you choose to accept.  Read the enclosed materials, find the necessary resources, and then report back to me.  The experiment is top secret.  This message is scheduled to self-destruct in 3… 2… 1- BOOM!

While I was a student, my mentor often gave my lab mate little side projects here and there.  He never bothered me with these little projects and at the time, I was so thankful for that.  I was able to focus my energies on my thesis and get things done.  I graduated with one first author paper and one review article.  My lab mate graduated with one first author paper and was included on several others because of all those side projects.

The other day, my postdoc mentor handed me a stack of papers and gave me my first side project – for sh–s and giggles, he said.  I am beyond excited!  First, it’s a project for which there is relatively little published material, making the project idea seem novel and exciting – “no one else is even thinking of doing this!” are the thoughts going around in my little head.  Sure, it may be a total fail, but if its not…

This kind of excitement, while not rare, it not necessarily common.  I love my work, I love what I do, but most days, I come in, I get things done, I check off the list and move closer to completing the aims set forth for my project.  But this,… I have been thinking about this project day in and day out for the last three days.  I leave work and I take papers home with me to read!  I do lit searches on my iPhone while rocking the baby to sleep.  I wake up in the morning with new inspiration.

I do hope it turns out to be a great little project with new interesting information discovered at the end of it.  But even if it doesn’t, its a great reminder of how exciting science and research can and should be.  The feeling that you and your mentor had an idea that no one else had, that you are about to discover something completely new, that you could change the way your colleagues think about a protein, system, etc. is why we enter into research in the first place.  I wish I could tell you more about it, but I’m sworn to secrecy!

top secret


Juggling Act

doing it anyway

As a post-doc, wife, and a mother of two (2.5 years old and 9 months old), I’m often asked “How do you do it?”.

The truthful answer is – barely.

I’m certainly not excelling in any area of my life, whether as a post-doc, wife, or mother.  I’m really just getting by in each area. On top of that, I have no life.  Seriously, if you asked me today what I do for fun, I would have no idea how to answer you.  I used to do lots of things – go out with friends, go running or hiking, read a book, sew, go shopping, go to the movies, etc.  My weekends are now filled with laundry, errands, and wiping bums.

I love it.

You might not have expected that, right?  How could that be fun?  If not fun, it is incredibly fulfilling.  I have a job I love, a supportive husband, two beautiful girls, what more could I ask for?  Ok, maybe more sleep.

towel10 years ago, when I was struggling with the decision to go back to school or not, the lingering doubt in my mind was whether there would ever be a “good” time to have a family and would I be willing to make sacrifices in order to “have it all”.  Luckily, a good friend and colleague of mine had just finished her post-doc, was just starting her family, and wished she hadn’t waited, telling me that grad school was the most flexible time of her life.  I took her advice and experiences to heart and had my first daughter a few months after proposing my thesis research and my second just one month after defending that research.

In order to make it all work, I need support in every aspect of my life.  I need a husband that is willing to step in and assume some of my roles/duties when I need to go to work at midnight for growth curve media collection, and I need a boss that understands that daycare closes at 5:30 and I need to be out of here in time to pick up my littles.  It’s definitely a juggling act and one slip could cause everything to crash.  I live in a constant state of anxiety and guilt, feeling that I’m not living up to expectations.  But those expectations are only imposed by me.  If I stop to listen to the people around me, asking how I do it, it’s because we’re succeeding, somehow.

sleeping children

Somehow, my experiments get done.

Somehow, my children are clean, fed, and well behaved.

Somehow, my husband and I have 30 minutes each night to crash on the couch together and just catch our breath.

I tell myself, over and over, that all things are temporary and this crazy phase of life will soon pass…, only to be replaced by new kinds of crazy (think ballet lessons, grant deadlines, etc.).  But it’s working, and I have so much to be proud of.  So, while I may not be winning prestigious awards or getting nominated for Mommy-of-the-Year anytime soon, I am awarded with happy kids and a husband that love me, and slow-but-steady progression of research.


Also posted on my mummy blog at