A day in the life of a newish PI: 1 October

Following in the footsteps of the New PI over at thenewpi.blogspot.com, I decided to track my whereabouts today so that others (or wannabe PI's) can get a glimpse of what it's really like. I missed the first opportunity on 17 September, because I was too busy running around and I didn't keep track of my time. But better late than never, and so here I present: my October 1st.

I guess today was a good day. I actually spent time on science.

I woke up at 8:30. That is not typical at all, but I was completely exhausted after an intense stretch of teaching. I taught three 9 am classes on Monday (3 hours), Tuesday (3 hours)  and Wednesday (1 hour) and spent each of the evenings before preparing until well past 1 am. On Tuesday night I also gave a public outreach lecture and on top of everything I was teaching the Wednesday morning class in another city, which meant that I had to leave home at 7 am. I don't know how US presidents do it, but I tend to function less well after a couple of nights with only 5 hours of sleep.

8:30 - 9:00 I made coffee and checked my calendar (I switched from paper to iCal last year) and to do lists (it had a bit of a learning curve, but now I would be nothing without "Things") over breakfast (leftover pancakes - sad, I know). I then did what you are supposedly not to do at the start of your day, which is check e-mail (some say this will distract you from doing what you had actually planned to do). However, I had been postponing answering some e-mails because I was busy and there were also just a few small ones to get out of the way, including some teaching correspondence which mostly had to do with me not having access to a database I was supposed to be able to get into and the teaching administration people blaming it on "the system".

9:00 - 11:00 I went over the slides for the lecture I had to teach in the afternoon. Unlike the course I was teaching on Monday and Tuesday (which isI new and therefore takes forever to prepare because I have to generate all of the material from scratch), I did teach this class before. So I dug up my slides from last year and checked if any of them needed updating (I try to incorporate a bit of my own research and/or new findings from the literature into each class as much as possible) or whether I wanted to change the order. I didn't make all that many changes, but it still took me two hours for a two hour class. I don't think that is too uncommon.

11:00 - 11:30 I took a shower and got dressed, because I had to be at journal club at noon. I wasted ten precious minutes looking for clean underwear and two matching socks. While searching, I transferred my lecture from the iMac to the MacBook. Thank goodness for Wifi and Dropbox. Unfortunately, my laundry quest meant I was going to be late, because it takes more than half an hour to get to work.

11:30 - 12:10 I biked to work and ran to journal club.

12:10 - 14:00 Nice journal club session. We tore apart a Nature paper. As a PhD student and postdoc I never was super fond of journal clubs, although I could see their value. It just felt like they took me away from my 'real work'. These days, they are a welcome interruption and they actually count as "doing science". It also never ceases to amaze me how much more you get out of a paper when you read it with a whole group of people with different backgrounds.

14:10 - 14:55 I ran down, bought lunch and a coffee, ate it on the way back to my room, checked in with my people to see how everyone was doing and to inquire about the mice we operated on last night until 8 pm. Everyone was doing fine. Yay. Then I had a few discussion with different people about political issues (not the Hillary/Trump ones but the University/Career kind). I kicked everyone out of my office five minutes before my class started.

14:55 - 15:00 I ran down the stairs and set up my laptop. I am a pro now. Getting into the room early to make sure everything is working is for sissies. I can bluff my way through any audiovisual system. Although this room had a smart board and I didn't know how to combine beaming and writing so I ended up explaining Cre/lox technology using the old-fashioned whiteboard on the side wall. I opened the windows to let oxygen into the room, because I didn't want everyone to fall asleep.

15:00 - 17:00 I taught my class (to a small group of MSc students). It went well, they seemed to like it enough and I taught them new stuff (I regularly check to see how it connects to what they already know) and they stayed awake. What more can you wish for.

17:00 - 19:00 I read a manuscript that I had to review. The deadline was the day before yesterday. It's hard to believe that only two to three years ago I was one of those people who aways had everything finished in time, preferably a couple of days before a deadline. Now I am constantly chasing them, it seems. I was reviewing this manuscript with my postdoc (after asking permission from the editor) as part of the postdoc's academic training. Plus it's nice to exchange thoughts and talk about science, even if it is someone else's. This was the first review for this postdoc, so I needed to evaluate the review draft as well as the manuscript. Big papers (Cell, Nature and the like) still take me at least a day to review (usually with at least a night's sleep in between sessions), but this was a smaller one and I was able to evaluate everything in two hours.

19:00 - 20:30 My postdoc and I went over the manuscript, edited the first draft of the review, finalised it and uploaded it to the journal online review system. When we were done I had a new invitation for another review waiting in my mailbox.

20:30 - 21:30 I biked home and stopped along the way at a supermarket to buy food. Dinner was some battered fish from the oven with a bit of cucumber and a glass of wine. My mom is right. I should take better care of myself.

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