Engage is the command Captain Picard gives when a course is laid in and things are ready to go. Usually at warp speed. Warp speed is what I’m thinking I need to get to to get all of my things done that I want to, work wise. Of course, that won’t really happen. A guy can dream.

I’ve talked before about how this blog is in part what not to do as a postdoc. Which is as much for myself as for any Ph.D./postdoc I can help not hit the floor (or if they do, how to bounce back quickly & be resilient). 

And something that’s been on my mind lately is being engaged with your work. 

Feeling like your’e doing something that matters. Feeling like you’re advancing something greater than yourself. 

It seems particularly important in a time when postdocs are having a hard time finding work. Academic jobs particularly. 

Being truly engaged and passionate about what we do is more important than ever. The postdoc who finds what they love will more likely be successful. 

I haven’t been nearly engaged enough in my postdoc and besides getting depressed about my work and my life, I think lack of engagement has been a big issue for me. 

Choose your field/project well. And carefully. Based on what you love in science.

I love science. But I haven’t found my thing or so it seems anyhow. Is it too late? It appears so some days. 

You also have to carve out time for things outside the lab that you enjoy. It will make being engaged with your work that much easier.

I’m starting to do this. Finally. Enjoy the present. Getting some space is good. Other people is good. Being an adult (and a scientist) shouldn’t mean ‘I don’t spend time with friends, family and significant others’ (I don’t have a significant other, but do have friends and family).

I’m reading @ShaneMac’s book ‘Stop With the BS’ which is focused on the business world, but has a lot of good things for scientists in academic labs to keep in mind too. Work beyond your title, network, pitch ideas w/o fear, push your comfort zone. 

I have been struck by the parallels between business, art, and science worlds; sometimes jobs are 9 to 5, but if you’re creating new things, it’s very similar (science and business cross all the time. Art and Science are starting to more and more- which is why STEAM (Science, technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) ought to be the acronym; we have a lot to learn from one another. 

Learning is of course the key to success. Never stop. Learn by research, learn from others, learn from your errors. It can be uncomfortable, but one good thing about being a scientist. We experiment, try things and see if they fit a hypothesis. Bring that ehtos to your life as well. Try, see if it fits or works. Change your mind if the evidence suggests the opposite of what you thought (like me w/ Twitter for a long time- I didn’t see the point. Now I think it’s amazing). 

I want to be in a place where instead of answering ‘how am I doing?’ with ‘I’m OK’ I say ‘I’m f*cking great!’ (a phrase from the documentary ‘I’m Fine, Thanks’).

Work hard. Know yourself. Accept yourself. Don’t beat yourself up too much. And don’t give up. You’ll land somewhere (even if it’s not a TT position at Awesome U.).

Things I’m trying to keep in mind.


Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

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