Saturday, January 19, 2013

Throwing out a lifeline....

Awhile back I alluded to the fact I'm in a new field. I knew it would be a difficult transition, but it is proving FAR more difficult than I ever imagined. I thought I'd been treading water, but in the past few weeks, I've started to drown. I know the basis of what I want to do, but my knowledge of the basic science is not up to par....

So, with much humility, I ask..... What is the best approach to learning a new field? I've tried hitting the literature and that's helped a bit, but I still am way out of my element, especially when it comes to specifics. Also, I want to go to a meeting to network with in my new field, but at a loss as to where to go. The big society meetings seem to only be helpful after you've established contacts (which I have not), but there seems  to be a lack of sub-specialty meetings (Gordon/Keystone/Cold Spring Harbor) in my field. Are there any alternatives where I can learn and establish myself simultaneously?


  1. huh sounds a little rough. Although, I can't wonder how much of this is in your thoughts and that you're really doing pretty ok with the new field? I'm saying this since I remember my new field expereience and that was vrey frustrating and confusing for about 6 months... or more...

    Then of course, there is always asking someone you know in the new field and see if you can read their R01s and talk to them? As for the going to conferences and not knowing people, I've always just walked up to the people rom different labs and talked to them - regardless of my introvertness - sinc I know that's the way to do it. Not sure how smart it is or the successrate...

    I wish you luck and hope all will be well. Sorry for not having better advice.

    1. First of all, thank you for your advice. I think I'm just too hard on myself or have unrealistic expectations. Part of it is that I'm now on the clock for my new grant (started Jan 1) and I have yet to do a single experiment for the project.

      I'm sure most of this is all in my head, but it doesn't help that I'm not really getting much support from the lab I'm in. In addition to this being a relatively new area for the lab, I'm supposed to manage an undergrad, 2 masters students (1st year) and a PhD student (1st year). Their lack of experience is putting a ton more pressure on me than I had anticipated (4-5 hours a day baby-sitting). Consequently I don't have time to figure stuff out for myself, much less read the literature.

      As for meetings, I usually don't have a problem introducing myself, but I don't want to get into situations that are hard to network. I'm now neuro and SfN seems like a place I'd get lost in.

  2. welll, I think you have to get the trainees to do experiments and then you can figure out the details as you go along? Is there anyone in the Deparment that you feel is in your field? THat you can have as a mentor? Or another dept or something? It does sounds like a mentor would help out with your thoughts and help you with the "start here".... Or twitter? Or blogpeople you like who might be open to email and advice? It's been something I have had some support from during my transitionphases...

    Best of luck

    1. @chall-great advice! It's something I'm trying to do, but I'm having a tough time gauging the ability of the trainees. Most have never run a Western, cultured cells, etc., so I'm investing a lot of time to get them confident and independant. I have also begun giving them specific literature searches on what I think could become a research project as homework assignments (ie. what experiment will you need to do and how have people set it up). Really, it's just an adjustment period that I neeed to get through before I hit my stride, but I still find it frustrating.

      As for mentors, I'm trying to find a good mentor within my new field, but I'm not exactly sure how hard to push. I am also trying to join an institutional mentoring/advising commitee (as a mentee) to increase my exposure and likelyhood of finding a suitable mentor. I have a harder time with blogpeople, mainly because I absolutely hate asking for help, especially from people I don't know well. It's not that I think I'm perfect, it's just that I have a hard time asking for things....