Archive for the 'a day in the life' category

A day in the life of – a senior postdoc

Bananaroots is in her second postdoctoral position at a research institute in the UK, after completing her first postdoc at a major university in the Netherlands. She has a long-standing interest in plant diseases and a soft spot for bananas. She is curious about everything related to communication and is active in student mentoring, science outreach, science policy and science communication. In her free time, she enjoys Tai Chi, water sports cooking and traveling. Check out her short video about her project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMS0L7Y56K4

 

I am not yet a group leader, but almost. All the signs point in the right direction. I have secured my own funding – a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship from the European Union. I have independently established my research line: Engineering resistance against Fusarium wilt in banana. I work in one of the world’s leading institutes on plant microbe interactions – The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) in the UK. I write grant proposal and papers and I supervise a fantastic, small team of MSc students. My group leader is very supportive. He gives me all the freedom I need to conduct research, establish collaborations and lead my projects. Sometimes people want to do a PhD or postdoc with me. Unfortunately, I cannot accept any postdocs or PhDs until I have secured more funding and a more permanent position. So, that’s where I am at the moment. On the verge of my own research group.

So, what does a typical day in the life of a senior postdoc?

6 am I wake up, get into my running outfit and do a quick run in the park followed by a bit of stretching and Tai Chi. It’s quiet in the park at this time and the morning sun blinks lazily through the big, white clouds.

7.30 am Scrolling through Twitter at breakfast. I am active in science outreach and Twitter is my preferred medium. Get dressed and cycle to work.

9 am Checking my emails. Oh no! My banana shipment did not pass clearance at the airport. Working with bananas in the UK is not easy. At the beginning of my postdoc at The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL), I established a collaboration with a nursery in Israel. They provide tissue culture banana plantlets free of charge. It’s a great collaboration, but today something went wrong. A document is missing. The shipment cannot be cleared at the airport’s agricultural inspection. I spend the next two hours emailing and phoning with our biosecurity officer, the courier, clearance at the airport and the nursery in Israel to get the banana plantlets released from the airport.

11 am One of my graduate students has been lurking around my office for a while and finally grasps her chance to get my attention. She is doing a MSc in plant breeding and genetics and wants to discuss her thesis draft with me. Working with students is one of my favourites. It’s like planting a flower and then watching it grow and blossom. Highly rewarding!

12 Time for lunch. I enjoy chatting with the colleagues of my group. They work on a different project together and also sit in another office.

12.30 pm Quick Twitter check. GM activists (both Pro and Con) debate the field trials for a Vitamin A-enriched banana (Golden Banana) in Uganda.

12.45 pm Time for lab work, I am preparing a big banana greenhouse bioassay for tomorrow. I harvest the fungal spores and bacteria and transport the banana plants from the clean chamber into the infection chamber.

2.45 pm On the way from the lab to the office, I run into a postdoc from another research group. We are organising a workshop in communication together for the institute’s postdoc and quickly discuss catering and location.

3 pm Telephone conference with the steering committee members of the World Banana Forum (WBF). The WBF is a permanent platform for stakeholders of the global banana supply chain, housed by the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation. Policy work is very different from the fact-based research environment. The goal of today’s call with representatives of labour unions, NGOs, governments, producer organisations and retailers is to organize the third global banana conference in Switzerland this year. The call is scheduled for one hour, but, as usual, overruns and lasts almost two hours.

5 pm Catching up with emails. I answer questions of my grad students, order materials for experiments, update collaborators and ask for biological material to be send.

6 pm Finally, make it to the new emails. Good and bad news: My pre-proposal for a huge grant did not make it to the next round. I am not invited to submit a full proposal. Sad. It took a lot of time to prepare the pre-proposal. The good news: my abstract was selected for a talk at a scientific conference in September.

6.15 pm Admin stuff: I hand in my expenses, book flight tickets for the conference and write up my lab journal. We have recently switched to electronic lab journals. Electronic lab journals are awesome. I can quickly check and sign off my student’s lab journals, add PubMed references and large Excel files, share pages and projects with colleagues and when I leave, I will make a pdf of the journal and take it with me.

7.15 pm I get onto my bike and cycle home.

7.30 pm. Since I moved to England, I got into gardening. Tonight, I pick courgettes from my garden to cook a light dinner.

8 pm Last email check to make sure that the banana plantlets have left the airport and are on their way to TSL.

8.10 pm The rest of the evening is devoted to my project management assignment. The assignment is for a “Leadership and Management” course that runs over two years. Although it is a lot of work next to my postdoc, I enjoy the course a lot, because it provides new perspectives on communication, on managing research projects, motivating people, handling budget and leading a team/research group. The video is the result of my project management module.

 

 Twitter: @BananarootsBlog

Website: https://bananaroots.wordpress.com

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMS0L7Y56K4

 

 

 

 

 

 


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A day in the life – at a conference with an infant

Jun 28 2016 Published by under a day in the life, academia, motherhood, presenting

I’m at my second conference for the year, which is also my 5 month old baby’s second conference! Luckily my partner is in the same field and understands how this works, and we could all come together. Unfortunately though there are a lot of things at this conference we both want to see, or, more often, we want to go to different sessions at the same time, so we try to trade baby duty, which essentially leads to me seeing half as much as I normally would at a conference. This experience will be different for every parent, every baby, and indeed every day, but here’s what today was like for me.

12 – 5am – I’m awoken every hour or so by baby noises – Baby is congested and I think having a harder time than normal sleeping straight through. Most wake-ups we both just go right back to sleep but about every three hours we do a feeding just to make sure hunger isn’t the issue.

5:23am – Baby has been making noises for a few minutes now, so I think this is the real wake-up for the day. I’ve been waking up all night and have my presentation today so I ask my partner to wake up and take care of Baby for now.

5:30-6:30am – Wake periodically to noises from Partner and Baby until my alarm goes off at 6:30, at which time of course they are silent.

7:10am – Wake up, unsure how I fell asleep (if I had to guess I’d say 5 months of sleep deprivation), go to the sitting area of the hotel room to find Baby sleeping on Partner, who is also sleeping on the couch. Get dressed.

7:30-8am – Play ‘pass the baby’ as Partner and I get ready for the day. Nurse and dress Baby, taking care not to get any bodily fluids on my presentation outfit (but I did bring backup clothes, as the 5 months sleep deprivation has not prevented me from learning a thing or two).

8am – We decide to forgo the Plenary session and get breakfast at the conference.

8:30am – I put up my poster and take photos of Baby in adorably nerdy onesie with me at the poster. I walk Baby through my poster, but Baby just likes the scratching noises on the poster material.

8:40am – We wonder why none of our friends showed up for breakfast. (We find out later they were out late drinking. I was in bed at 9:30 and loving it. I am not even a little bit jealous of them.) We plan who will have baby duty when and when to do the hand-off so we can both see the talks we want in the morning sessions.

8:45am – Run into a few people, catch up with a previous mentor who recalls taking her 3 month old to a big conference over 30 years ago!

9am – Partner notices that Baby seems to have an odor and quickly recalls that I’m on baby duty, so passes the baby and I head up to the hotel room.

9:10am – We’re locked out of the hotel room! The door is ajar but I can’t open it! No response to my banging on the door (like the neighbors didn’t already hate us, we have a baby!), no sign of housekeeping anywhere… I go back to the elevator to call the front desk as Baby starts complaining – they transfer me at least 3 times and finally say they’ll send someone up.

9:20am – In the room! Don’t know what was wrong with the door but I just messed with it more and it finally opened. Baby is still upset (it’s naptime) but what should I do? I don’t want to be in the middle of nursing, or diaper change, or putting Baby down for a nap when security comes by about the door… Decide changing first is the best option. Security comes at the perfect time in between events so it’s all good… except Baby, who was so tired a minute ago, now doesn’t want to sleep!

9:50am – Baby is finally asleep – but it’s terrible timing because our hand-off is supposed to be in 25 minutes, so I let Baby sleep on me and just grab my stuff and go.

10:15 – Unsuccessful hand-off wakes Baby up. I have to just get to the one talk I want to see and try not to think that I should be doing something better for Baby – Partner can handle it.

10:20am – I see an interesting talk I thought might be about a method I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to use, but actually it uses other techniques which I was unfamiliar with so now I have more to think about.

10:50am – I meet up with Partner who claims to have successfully taken awake Baby to a talk as well, but I am skeptical since I only had mild success trying that yesterday. Head back up to the hotel room, text friends about lunch plans, get Baby ready to go out.

11:30am – We meet friend from grad school for lunch. Friend has already eaten, so can hold Baby while we eat, ahhhh! We discuss everything I like – science, friends, dogs, baby stuff!

12:30pm – Back at the hotel I nurse Baby, play a little, and make plans for later. We decide to skip the next session of the conference since we weren’t too thrilled with the potential topics and have friends/colleagues to see.

1:30pm – Meet Partner’s friend/collaborator and his wife for drinks and dessert (isn’t lunchtime dessert the best?!) while Baby naps part of the time. I leave Baby with Partner so I can do my poster presentation.

2:45pm – Pump breast milk in hotel room* so Partner can come back and feed Baby during my presentation.

3:10pm – I arrive at my poster session but no one is at my poster and my assigned presentation time is later so I stop by a couple others I wanted to see first. I spend most of the rest of the time at my poster, busy almost the whole time. One researcher made my day when she came by and said she’d been having some of the same problems and could commiserate with me. Mostly it was people I knew coming by my poster but I did get some good feedback and people seemed interested in the general questions I was asking, which is where I want to take my research in the future, so that was good! I also found out that a colleague here is traveling with her 5 month old baby as well, so maybe we can get together tomorrow.

5pm – Partner hands off Baby for me to go to lab dinner with my grad school lab past and present. It’s fun to catch up and get to know the new people a little better. Baby is getting tired and a little shrieky (it’s bedtime!) but one friend who loves babies does the entertaining for me.

7pm – Baby starts scream-crying (luckily a rare occurrence these days) on the way back to the hotel but falls asleep in one minute. Now back at the hotel, how can I wake this precious sleeping baby just to get ready for bed?!

7:30pm – Partner comes back from the evening conference session so I suggest dinner with the friends I ran into on the way into the hotel. Nurse and get Baby ready for bed. I have a small bottle of extra milk from the afternoon pumping so I try to top off Baby but as I remove the cap there is a milk explosion all over me and the rug so I swear and scare Baby and run to the bathroom but I’m holding Baby awkwardly in one arm and the dripping bottle in the other and do the best I can to clean up. Baby doesn’t like this at all and is still mad about the swearing I guess, or being awoken from the nice sleep.

8pm – I put Baby to bed, scarf down my chocolate in case Baby decides to resist sleeping and needs to be put to sleep, and start blogging.

9pm – Debate showering or sleeping, decide on sleeping since Partner is still out and I want to be able to hear Baby. Get ready for tomorrow and I’m in bed around 10 (this never happens at home and feels so good)!

What I notice when I think about this day is that really not a lot of science happened. But a lot of networking happened, mostly through catching up with people I already know. I think this is the most important part of attending a conference, so my distribution of my time seems relatively in line with my priorities – lots of family time, plenty of friend/network/career building time, and a enough science to get me thinking critically about my own work and thinking about new possibilities connected to other work.

So that was my day at a conference with a nursing 5 month old infant!

*When I emailed the conference organizer a couple months ago to inquire about a lactation room, I was told I could book a room in the conference hotel, and if I didn’t have that, I could find someone who did have one who would let me pump there. I haven’t responded to this because I don’t even know what to say. This was in stark contrast to the other conference I was attending of a similar size, which went to great lengths to provide a private space for multiple people, at a location that did not have a facility already set up for such a purpose.


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A day in life of “opt-out mom”

I am afraid this week’s post will have nothing to do with science.  It will be a post that you might read on a mom blog.  I have been dreading to post my version of  “A day in life of…” for this reason.  However, I am rather inspired to write on this topic this week (ok, I am already past the deadline and I could not put my thoughts together on other topics…)

When my first daughter was born I was a project scientist at a university and went back to work when she was three months old.  At that time I so wanted to stay at home and stare at and take care of my beautiful girl all day.  The daily routine at that time was, wake up, get ready, drop her off at day care, work, pick her up, go home, cook and eat dinner, put her to bed, wash bottles, and go to bed myself.  I had at most 2-3 hours a day to spend with my baby.  That seemed eternally too short to me.

When my second daughter was born we moved for my husband’s work and I had left my old job without any prospect in the new city.  With compounding reasons I decided to stay at home.  I was fortunate to get what I wanted.

Depending on how you look at it, I am not the only one or there are not too many who choose this path.

So here goes a day in life of an “opt-out mom”.

7:00am – I wake up on my own.  Some days by this time we have a visitor in our bed.  Not this day, as my 4-year old finally went to sleep around 11:30pm the night before.  She did have almost 3 hour afternoon nap, and she was not tired at night.  It was my fault for letting her sleep for that long, but I just hate to wake up a napping kid.  I do have to wake her up in the morning in time to leave for preschool, and she will not be happy.

7:30am – I get up and get ready.  The girls are still asleep.  I mentally prepare myself for the wrath that is about to ensue when I wake up my 4-year old as I wash my face.

8:00am – Time to wake the girls up.  L (4 year old) opens her eyes as I enter her room and is not happy.  I smile at her but do not approach.  I peek into M’s (2 year old) crib and see her still asleep.  I exit their room once to give them time to wake up.  When I go back in, the girls are cranky.  I pick up M to get her dressed; she is easier.  L is a daddy’s girl – she is nicer to my husband.  He distracts her by telling her he is leaving for work.  L jumps out of her bed and follows him to the door. When she comes back, a long negotiation of what she wears commences.  For a long time now, she refuses to wear nothing but pink and purple dresses.  After failing to convince her to wear a pair of jeans, or a new blue shirt from her grandmother, I at least get her to wear leggings (pink) under her dress.

8:20am – Breakfast.  I want to diversify, but it is always cereal or toast, and fruit.  I prepare L’s preschool lunch.  Sometimes I make an elaborate bento box lunch.  Most days a sandwich, two types of vegetables, and one type of fruit.  I eat scraps of food left by the girls for my breakfast.

9:00am – Time to brush teeth, wash face, and tend hair.  This morning however the girls decide to have an impromptu tin whistle recorder concert. The squeaks are unbearable. I carry one girl at a time to the bathroom and get them ready to go out of the house.

9:20am – Leave for L’s preschool.  We live 6 minute car ride away from preschool.  This week is a Teacher Appreciation Week.  I am a co-class parent in L’s preschool class, and have been organizing and coordinating parent volunteering for this week.  I go in and give potted flowers to the teachers, and turn in documents and submit collected money to the administrative office.  I understand everyone is busy, but sometimes being a class parent is just willing to be ignored (just like when I served as a steering committee member for establishing a postdoctoral association at a university, and no one responded to my emails).

9:40am – I see my friend with three kids whose husband just left for 2-week business trip.  I stop in my track to check in with her.  We decide to check out a new bakery.  I think about all the things I planned on doing that morning, and the most important thing for this day did not even register at the thoughts of chocolate croissants.

10:00am – The new bakery is not open on Mondays so we go to another. They did not make any chocolate croissants this day (@#$%^&*!).  I order a turkey and cheese croissant, cardamom raisin bun, and tea.  My friend and I catch up on our weekends.  Her all three kids had stomach virus and vomited all weekend. She also tells me that whooping cough is going around our school.  I express my anger and lament (mostly anger) at anti-vaxxers.  We both worry about baby siblings of students at school who have not completed vaccinations.  M soon gets bored when she finishes her food, starts walking around and eating crumbs off the floor…

10:40am – I glance at my phone, and it indicates I was supposed to meet a handylady at my house at 10:30.  How could I have forgotten?  I rush out of bakery and back home.  This is unfortunately typical of me, forgetful and/or clueless.  Sometimes even being organized and putting in calendars does not help.

11:00am – Luckily the handyladies waited at my house.  I talk with them what we wanted them to do, and I go inside with M.

11:30am – I check my email and social media as M plays by herself.  She is very good playing by herself, humming songs on her own. Sometimes she asks me to stack blocks, help her with putting diapers on her baby doll, or read a book.  I oblige.  I also try to tidy up a bit, but then resolves why bother when the girls will undo everything I do almost immediately.

12:45pm – Time for lunch.  Most of the time it is leftovers from the night before.  Sometimes I cook pasta or fried rice.  Today we have a sandwich and some vegetables.

1:20pm – Time for preschool pick up.  It is a bright sunny day.  I realize I forgot to put sunscreen (PSA) on L.  The kids are outside for one hour before pick up.  L tells me that she made something for me for Mother’s Day at preschool.  Her teacher tells her it was supposed to be a secret.  At least that’s what I think they said, it was spoken in a foreign language that I don’t speak.

2:00pm – We come home, and the girls are fascinated by what handyladies are doing.  I put M for nap, and let L play around.  I also want to put L to nap, but if I did, I would most likely doze off as well.  So I wanted to wait until the handyladies were done.

3:00pm – The handyladies are done, and I try to put L to sleep.  Since she only had ~8 hours of sleep the night before, she should at least nap for 1 hour.  She insists she is not tired and wants to watch TV.  I tell her no TV unless she takes a nap.  Sometimes I feel that all I do is to bargain with my child.  This does not seem the best way, but I do not know how else to do it.  I do doze off.  L does not.  She asks every 10 minutes if it was 4pm, which is when I told her she should at least sleep until.

4:00pm – Because L did not nap, I tell her she cannot watch TV. She gets upset and wails.  I stand firm.  I was recently told that I am too easy on my kids.  I make threats but do not go through.  I have been try to be stricter since then. I wake up M who slept for 2 hours.  She is clingy for next 20 minutes.

5:15pm – I start on dinner.  The girls are out on the deck spraying water at themselves with spray bottles.  Sukiyaki for dinner tonight.  Quick and easy.  All meals to be made under 20-30 minutes, or the girls will destroy the house or themselves.

6:30pm – Husband comes home, and we have dinner.  No dessert unless they eat everything on their plate. I thinks this one is a good bargain.

7:00pm – L asks to play princesses with me.  An evil mom that I am, I tell her I would only if she plays scientists with me. She says yes because it is worth that much for her, and all of the sudden I am not quite sure how to “play scientist” with a 4-year old in a living room.  Do we pretend to mix stuff?  Look at stuffed animals with a magnifying glass?  I need to be more prepared next time.  When we play princesses, we talk more about being brave and independent.  L asks if what she puts on herself makes her beautiful.  I tell her it is what is in her heart that makes her beautiful.  Poor L.  Do I indulge her in girly dreamland a little bit longer or pound feminist ideas from the very beginning?

8:00pm – Bedtime routine starts.  Kids are not tired while adults are.  Tonight both girls were asleep by 9:30.  Big improvement from the night before.

9:00pm – I wash dishes and tidy up.  The next three hours are usually spent on writing, crafting, processing pictures, playing a board game with my husband, folding laundry, or surfing internet.  I want to go to bed early so that I can go for a run in the morning, but that takes discipline that I do not have.  I try to be in bed by midnight.

When M turns 2.5 year old, we plan to enroll her in preschool.  One question is how hard would it be for me to “opt-back-in”.


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