Depending on whether the previous night was spent in the lab or not determines whether the day starts at 6:30 or 8:30 AM. Onmy way to lab, I’m checking email on my smartphone and responding to a few, including accepting journal requests for peer review, fielding requests from colleagues to share resources, and checking updates from ResearchGate.
Once in the lab, I’m collecting samples, treatments, extractions, and attending to and running the Mass-spectrometers (our tireless workhorses). Towards mid-day, the collected data starts running through a host of programs on my laptop as I enjoy my home- cooked, Indian lunch. Phase II of experiments for the day start by running to the growth chambers/greenhouses to see that the plants are well-watered and that cell cultures are maintained before venturing onto phase III of the experiments. In between, a lot of time is spent on experimental planning, design, record-keeping, archiving, and cataloging of the ‘huge-omics data” (Big data!) that are generated. There’s usually some banter with my multicultural lab-mates (read: US, China, India, Brazil, Korea, Egypt…) which keeps me awake and on my toes. Oh, and tea and a bag of chips help with that too.
As the sun sets, a delayed dinner is inevitable as data interpretation and manuscript writing tasks begin. A literature review on Google Scholar keeps me dreaming about the future of‘science, full of immense possibilities’. I just need to keep going! While browsing articles in Scholar, I archive the searches in a Mendeley interface so as to help in future manuscript and review drafting and I keep my phone on silent to avoid distractions. Occasionally, I attend departmental seminars from eminent speakers on topics ranging from: anything-to-do-with-plants, to statistics, to publishing. I also speak at and attend a plant breeding interest group that has formed a Plant breeding Journal Club. As a contributing Editor to the Postdoc Journal (a journal initiated by, of, and for the Postdoc community), I contribute reviews to the journal and help the Editors with reviewing, proposing special issues and coordinating reviews. It’s tricky to keep track of all of these events, and there’s only so much time in one’s life for scientific discovery, so I try to strike a balance.
Later in the evening, I check in on peers and notable colleagues on ResearchGate, both to see what they’ve published and to be inspired by their progress. I frequently have a paper waiting to be reviewed, as I perform peer review for about 25 journalsm averaging three to five every month. While this is a substantial time commitment, (!), I feel it’s worth it to contribute to the development of my peers. Some evenings, it’s worth posting a question at Metastars, the Biostars equivalent for Metabolomics, so as to interact and keep updated with the field. Serving as an Early career Member’s Network (EMN) of the Metabolomics Society also involves someweekly tasks that need to becompletedThis role also helps me to collaborate with the global metabolomics researchers who are the future of metabolomics research. Occasionally, I share research thoughts on Slide Share which also helps me to network and connect with researchers sharing similar interests. Although I do maintain a blog called Science-o-nomics, it is very difficult to find time to update it frequently.
It’s not only crucial to keep updated in biochemistry and plant physiology but I also need to keep current with the newly released tools, software, programs, databases and webservers as well as the latest technology that is being implemented in mass-spectrometry be it TripleQuads, Orbitraps, SWATH, GC-Orbitraps and so on. While I’ve explored a variety of social media platforms to stay connected, Facebook proved to be useless for career building, while Twitterwas overwhelming. ResearchGateturned outto be the best option around. LinkedIn, which never worked for me in obtaining a job opportunity, possibly for reasons other than the opportunities presented by the site itself, is a really good platform for networking with industry professionals, trading recommendations, and taking part in a huge number of interest groups (and discussions). On a weekly basis I also update my Scoops on Scoopt.It for Plant Metabolomics, Plant Genomics and Databases & Softwares.
My current workload leaves very little time for even a weekend away, much less a vacation. I can’t hide from the reality that the global research funding crunch has nurtured a cut-throat competition to obtain a tenured position in both the US and my native county, India. Sometimes the realization that time is not enough and there is not enough time is overwhelming, yet I have the passion that drives me toward my goals. As I elevate in my position and in the labs I’m working for, I feel I’m getting closer to my dream of contributing to science and humanity. This is not merely for philanthropic reasons, but to make sure that the purpose of science ultimately is to make human lives easier.. And yes, plants are central to the development of food, fiber, fuel, fodder, and medicine. Every day the backlog piles, up, and balancing a personal life alongside it is not easy. Therefore, a supportive and calm PI is pivotal, whether they’re advising on funding issues, offering mental support, or nudging you to ‘keep going’. Likewise, lab colleagues form the pillars of a lab’s “mental health”.
Every day begins with the same question as originally stated by Steve Jobs “Do I wanna become what am I going to do today?”, and ends with “How did I fare today?” At my core, my passion for the research is constantly driving me forward,, challenging my current status, fueling my interests, filling me with ambition and, and asking me to RISE, and I do just that the next morning with the intention of doing even better.
Biswapriya isa member of the Wiley Advisors program, a group of early career researchers and professionals who serve as a voice for their communities. For more information, please visit Wiley Advisors online or on twitter@WileyAdvisors.