Attachment and panic

I’ve never been one for attachment to physical things or buildings or houses, but closing the doors on a lab I’m very proud of was tough. I know it was the right move for my family and my research interests, but it was still kind of emotional to close the door for the last time. As we drove the many many many miles to our new home I was nervous the entire time while second- and third-guessing myself. I keep wondering if I only had whatever success I had because the program supported me. And going to a new interdisciplinary program with a lot of young faculty with aggressive research timeline to compete with (even though there are better collaborators) might make it tough to stand-out and get the best students.

I keep focusing on getting the right students because I keep thinking back to when I was taking the last couple years away from the lab for various reasons and my more prolific students were able to run with ideas and I was able to build off their work. More like a working partnership. Whereas my less prolific students were essentially useless without my hand holding. I don’t anticipate being away as much now, so I’m fine with hand-holding but I do prefer to hand-hold with my first and second year students; not my senior students.

On the emotional front, I don’t miss a lot of the school-related stuff since the school and program (and the state overall) were changing in really negative ways. But I just feel nervous almost like starting anew. When I first arrived at my old school I had to build a reputation, build respect, and learn to navigate the BS. I’ll have to do that again, though I’ll have my own large shoes to fill. I’m certain I could do it, but I don’t want to fade into obscurity shortly after rising nicely at the old school. My SO was saying to treat this experience differently. Paraphrasing: don’t try to rise, just be you. I need to learn to panic less.


3 thoughts on “Attachment and panic

  1. Getting the right students is really tough. I was flush with funding a few years ago, but made some bad hires, not terrible students but they required poking and prodding and handholding the whole time. Now it’s grant renewal time and their continuously lackluster productivity has left me in danger of losing the funds. I used to think I could work with anybody, but I have to admit that some students just don’t have what it takes, shouldn’t be getting a PhD, and it’s like pulling teeth to get them through. Yes, they can be gotten through, but at what cost to the advisor and other, more productive group members. They are a net drain of everything: funds, advisor energy and will to live.

    So be afraid. Be very afraid. (I am only half-joking. Scratch that. I am not joking at all.)

    But it’s exciting to start something new. As your sig other says, just relax and be yourself, and things will be great. Good luck!


    • Oh God! Maybe I should divert funding to robotic students? What do you do to find good ones? I try to judge technical knowledge with tests, but I haven’t quite found a way to suss out work ethic! And I’m at a point where I might have to take anyone who wants in

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t have any foolproof words of wisdom, other than there are specific international schools and even whole countries that I’ve recruited from, and all the students have been great. I attribute that to good national selection systems that these students are sifted through over they years before they even go to college. There are other countries where even from the top schools it’s hit or miss, so I don’t recruit from there anymore. Working with American students poses its own challenges.

        But there’s also a lot of luck involved, as with everything. So you can only try your best and keep fingers crossed.


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