So this is it. I never thought I'd say this, but I miss the bench. I've been managing my own tiny little but ever so expanding lab for seven months (heavens, has it really been more than half a year already?) and it's come to the point where I already do not know how to program the latest PCR machine. Or the latest gossip. I used to be the one in the lab you would go to if you needed to know anything. As a postdoc, the lab had no secrets from me.
Now, I am out of the loop. Hungry for other people's data. It's not that I want them to work harder and produce more. But let's face it. That Western blot? That PCR gel? That's all the real science I am going to see in a day. The rest of the day is spent... doing what, exactly?
On a typical day I find myself on the phone (I used to dread making phone calls, boy, did I get over that pet peeve quickly) to fix all sorts of shit. Equipment that is not delivered on time. Equipment of which half the boxes gets delivered. Equipment that breaks down after a week of use. Computers that take six weeks to arrive (six weeks! it's enough to make you pull out all of your hair and then some). How is that even possible in this day and age? Purchasing departments that pretend to think with you, but which sometimes give of the impression they are thinking for you and than forget the thinking part while they are at it. Orders that are placed, but that then disappear into thin air. It's a never-ending struggle to just get things running smoothly. There are days where I've been really busy, only to go home at 9 pm to find that I have done nothing, apart from talking, calling and e-mailing about crap.
This must be what the president of the United States must feel like. You can come in with all sorts of ambitious goals and lofty ideas. You can make all sorts of promises on the campaign trail. When it comes down to it, you have to work within the budget and without getting into fights with other parties. In the end, your political agenda is controlled by outside forces and whatever te different agencies put on your plate.
Luckily however, I have come to the realisation that this is it. I am the wrinkle remover. I am responsible for making things in the lab run smoothly, if not for me, than for everybody working in the lab to produce those Western blots and PCR images I so yearn for to look at. I am solving problems, such that others can work without encountering them. I am the troubleshooter. Too bad that there isn't more time in a day to actually troubleshoot science, instead of the smudgy layers of 'processes' that seem to stand in the way of my lab advancing scientific knowledge. I have the feeling I'd better get used to this.