So I missed the blogular deadline for discussing my first year of professorhood by a few weeks compared to my cohort. My excuse is that I have been very bogged down in all the things that have piled up from the completion of this year. I won't do a bullet list this time, but instead be more philosophical about where I am at (and where my lab is getting to).
On the upside, I got a very positive review from my chair, who said the primary committee doesn't have any major concerns about me so far and encourage me to go for "the big money" since it looks like my research has been fundable on a national level so far. On the downside, I am getting anxious about our pace: with the amount of money and people we have, we should be producing publishable data a lot faster than we are.
The main thing I feel now is that the log phase of growth is over. We had a banging start, flying out of the gates and getting set up, staffed and producing data within about 2.5-3 months of my start date. We quickly whirlwinded our way to functional and by the end of the first semester things were looking very optimistic. We started writing our first manuscript in about January, and supposedly only had to complete "a few more experiments" to have it submission-ready.
That's when the plateau kicked in. Plagues of variability, experimental snags, reagents that suddenly didn't work anymore (one after another after another), instrument issues, thing after thing. After all that progress, we started spinning our wheels in the dirt churning through repeated experiments that each had some little different problem, never completed all the way through, rarely with all the right controls until finally in the last month and a half. By then, it was time for my first postdoc to move on to her new lab (she was only temporary here while waiting for her future start date) and now the data-generating torch on that project needs to be passed. I'm holding it right now, and it looks like I will be wrapping this up because everyone else has their own project/trajectory/focus and the re-training time would just not be worth it.
Progress on our other projects has been medium/slow. One of them moved quickly at first, but now is suffering from the travails of interdisciplinary collaboration, where rarely is everyone on the same page and a lot of going around in circles usually needs to happen before everybody "gets" it.
So, this semester, which was supposed to be so productive since I was not teaching, has turned out to feel like treading water. Or like being stuck in one of those bad dreams where you need to run but your legs just won't work. The pressure of getting a paper submitted in 2009 and to get our novel idea out there with our name on it is really weighing on me, and we're in the phase of this process where you just have to keep pushing through the crap and struggle to wrangle it into something worthwhile.
I hope our summer is more promising.