Not Loving the Bench Lately

Posted: June 21, 2012 in Academia, Post-Doc

Lately it’s been a bit of a drag at the bench. It’s a bit odd because I got some very exciting data about a month ago and am in the process of following it up. It could be a pretty sweet story too, as it makes use of a novel technique I’ve spent the last year or so working on and the data it has yielded is quite novel. So I should be excited at the prospect of starting to really hammer out a nice story, right? And I am…to an extent.

However, I find the prospect of grinding through all the nitty gritty experimental details I now need to do quite daunting. Should I use an antibody from Cell Signaling that’ll probably kick ass but cost a fortune or a cheaper one that might work just as well? Should I use this buffer or that? Is this primer’s melt curve good enough, is it efficient enough? Should I isolate cells today, or tomorrow? Why are my fucking cells dying? Blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda. Fucking boring technical hoopla is what it is. I just want to get on with it! Better yet, I want to tell someone else to get on with it! If only I had another postdoc, PhD student, technician to share the burden with.

But this brings me to my bigger question: is this a good thing? In other words, is it good that I’m getting bored with working at the bench?  I would like to be a PI one day and the vast majority of PIs I’ve seen are never in the lab. So it seems that it’s a good thing not to love being at the bench since the job I aspire to consists of no bench work. I still love the science, reading articles, reviewing papers, going to conferences, presenting work etc. But the prospect of actually pipetting all day and grinding out the boring details for the next 5+ years is quite daunting. As Edison said, it is truly 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration! Don’t get me wrong, I certainly understand the need for technical competency if one is to get a lab up and running, and I have confidence in my mad skillz and the ability to pass ’em on…


So what say you internet? Is being bored with pipetting and technical BS a good sign if one wants to be a PI? Or am I just turning into a lazy ass bastard?

  1. Lab Rat says:

    I started feeling tired of bench-work the summer before my PhD. I left the PhD, left academia, and haven’t looked back yet. There are plenty of career paths that allow you to explore the love of reading, reviewing, thinking and presenting (have you thought of looking at journal/editing work? Or doing technical science writing for an industrial company?) but don’t require the grind of bench work.

    Very few people become PIs. Also the hours are long and the pay is shite. If you are starting to become tired of what you do on a daily basis, maybe start exploring alternatives. If the mere thought of this makes you feel sad, or if you look around and see nothing you fancy by all means stay in science. But you never know, you might find a perfect job out there which keeps you well away from the bench and provides new and stimulating work.

    And on the other hand if you are at post-doc level and can see the beautiful PI light at the end of the tunnel burning brightly at you, don’t let one blog comment put you off your path!

    • funkdoctorx says:

      Thanks for the comment. Indeed I’ve certainly entertained the idea of considering alternatives and wish I had more detailed information about what they are or access to people that are in such positions. At the moment I’m going to push through my current doldrums, try to get a smashing paper and then hit the PI job market in the net 2-3 years. If it doesn’t shake out by then, I don’t see myself becoming a professional bench scientist. But who knows, maybe this is just a temporary lull in motivation…tough to know….

  2. Dr Becca says:

    I was definitely tired of bench work by the time I was a few years into my post-doc. I just wanted to think and write and go to meetings and network and basically anything that didn’t involve handling animals, pipetting, slicing tissue, or sitting in a dark room on a microscope all day.

    Now that I’m the PI, I mostly do exactly all that I dreamed I would, and I have to say it’s pretty sweet. Of course, I had to train everyone on the techniques to start, but luckily they were fast learners. Once in a while, though, I get antsy at my desk and will go mess around with some stuff in lab, and that’s fun, too.

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