Why I love working in a lab – and sometimes not…

… for one thing, I never run out of challenges but always out of time – and due to this, this particularly blog entry had to wait quite a while but finally, here are some of my thoughts:

My favorite aspects of life say it all – I am addicted! Addicted to those precious moments of success for which I worked hard and long (an accepted publication, or sometimes something as small as a PCR that finally worked). Addicted also to neatness, productivity & creativity which are needed to accomplish these milestones of success. And luckily also addicted to life-long learning, though sometimes I shake my head about it and think of how much easier life could be without science.

But I sooooo need that challenge! That constant challenge, with frequent surprises, good or bad… And the joy when a complete new opportunity, direction, question or answer occurs! But let me say a couple words to the few items I listed as my favorite aspects of life:

  • Tidyness/ Neatness: It’s amazing how abundant messy labs are – and how some people really thrive in it, but mostly it can slow down everyone’s progress. Organizing the lab, materials, inventories, protocols and properly introducing and reprimanding new (and sometimes old) lab members can take quite some time, but is – in my experience – truly worth the effort.
  • Productivity: Smooth transition – exactly that can be gained by having an immaculate lab, stocked with all necessary supplies, dedicated work areas and equipment, and detailed protocols! Science is hard enough, why make it even harder? A completely different aspect I experienced related to productivity is the right amount of people in a lab, optimally loving to work together – it is so helpful AND motivating to have somebody else spending late hours at the lab or achieving speedy progress thanks to perfect teamwork.
  • Creativity: Even in the most perfect, super-organized, hyper-funded lab, there is the need for an arts&crafts session every now and then, making unique equipment (stretched-out glass needles, disposable pestles anyone?) or coming up with a complete new technique or use of equipment. Since I always loved arts&crafts, especially with no instructions or template whatsoever, I feel delighted at those occasions. And then, science also wants us to build new circuits in our brain, coming up with new approaches and solutions and connections, never getting boring…
  • Family: Now it’s getting a bit difficult. Work-life-balance naaaahh. I try to at least focus the weekends completely on family, and with two very young children, that requires a lot of energy, so Monday is not totally un-welcome once it arrives. I adore my kids and could not be more fortunate with my dear hubby, but being a stay-at-home-mom would drive me crazy. I am still very grateful to the few female scientist I met whom convinced me to give the whole family-thing a try. Life is so much richer when marveling at your child’s curiousness, cuteness, growth and developing intelligence.
  • Traveling & reading: I definitely DO that at the moment – a lot. I sometimes just wish the reading would pertain more to novels and less to the never-ending flood of related scientific literature. I am still energized whenever I think about our beautiful vacations (before the kids), but I know we will get back to that at some point, and for now I enjoy traveling to conferences to get the adrenaline out of scientific networking.

To sum it up: Working in a lab (or more general: in science) IS a challenge, but a worthy one, at least for me.

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