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Launching Spectrum: Saving yourself a vacation as an early career researcher | Spectrum

Launching Spectrum: Saving yourself a vacation as an early career researcher | Spectrum

The illustration shows a road going into the distance, seen from the driver's point of view.

Illustration by Laurene Boglio

When Oscar C. Gonzalez was in college, he hardly took any time off. He regularly worked weekends, he said, and only took short breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“My own anxiety about finishing graduate school would make me want to check my email” constantly and respond right away, he says. “I would see an email and think, ‘I have to deal with this,’ instead of realizing it can wait until tomorrow.”

Gonzáleznow a postdoctoral researcher in psychiatry and behavioral sciences in Luis de Leceaat Stanford University in California, still isn’t good at shutting off the “work side” of his brain, but he says he’s gotten better. This month, he is going on a week-long trip to Prague with his family. And while he might read an article or two on the plane, he says, that’s the scope of the work he plans to do.

Like Gonzalez, many early-career researchers may find it difficult to disengage from work during the holiday season. Expectations around time off may be unclear in academia, and the need to deal with model organisms or conduct experiments may make it difficult to take breaks.

“There’s this level of guilt if you’re away too many days,” says Catherine Byrnegraduate student in Catherine Lordat the University of California, Los Angeles, even though her adviser encourages vacations.

Early-career researchers can change that mindset — and avoid burnout — by planning ahead and setting clear boundaries, Gonzalez says.

For one thing, early-career researchers should ask their advisor or principal investigator (PI) early on what the leave expectations are, Gonzalez says. Some IPs may help lab members take vacations at different times of the year while work is done, while others may prefer more face-to-face time in the lab, he says.

Setting boundaries outside of holidays also helps, says Gonzalez, who now sets clear work hours for himself and avoids checking his work emails in the evenings.

Therese Del Blanco, a senior postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck, University of London in the UK, went so far as to delete the messaging app from her phone. “My policy is that unless it’s extremely, extremely urgent, please don’t contact me” outside of normal working hours, she says.

These limits are not always easy to maintain. Once, while vacationing in Tuscany, Del Bianco found herself scouring Amazon for a replacement computer cable for her lab, after receiving several text messages from co-workers asking her to fix equipment issues. . But her boundaries usually help keep her mentally healthy, she says.

OOf course, even when early career researchers feel ready to take time off, there can be logistical challenges. Researchers and clinicians working with human participants may be limited by the schedules of their study participants. For example, a scientist’s vacation plans may be derailed because many families prefer sleep studies to be conducted during the holidays when their child is out of school, says Bosi Chenpsychology intern at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

But planning ahead can help make time off possible, Chen says. Many labs have teams of people who can conduct the experiments with sufficient notice.

Researchers working with model organisms have their own constraints: someone has to take care of the animals or the cell cultures, Gonzalez says. Once researchers have planned a trip, they should be sure to give their co-workers ample notice — so it’s easier to plan around the absence, he says. Gonzalez also keeps a detailed schedule so he knows when experiments need to be run and when big deadlines are approaching. This helps him avoid planning a vacation at an inconvenient time for his lab group, he says.

While preparing for a vacation can sometimes feel stressful, taking breaks is important — and perhaps a biological need, Del Bianco says. She plans to travel to her home country of Italy this month to visit family and friends.

“Some birds, if you put them in a cage and force them not to migrate, they get super restless. And they can have a heart attack because their instincts are so strong,” she says. consider as a migratory bird.”

Jobs and funds:

  • The Alan B. Slifka Foundation is accepting applications for $25,000 funding research grant for work that leads to “new treatments and improvements in the quality of life for people with autism, as well as new discoveries regarding the basic science of autism.”
  • Marc Fuccillo, an associate professor of neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, is seeking to hire a postdoctoral researcher to study chromatin and synaptic biology in models of autism. The group is particularly interested in candidates with experience in acute sectional electrophysiology, Fuccillo tweeted.
  • Mirella Dapretto and Shulamite Greenprofessor and assistant professor, respectively, of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, are recruiting a laboratory coordinator to manage recruitment, data collection and data management for multiple MRI studies.
  • Advanced graduate students in neuroscience from underrepresented backgrounds are encouraged to apply for the Emerging Scholars Program. The deadline is February 1.

Recommended Resources:

  • Community outreach is important, but it can also put disproportionate pressure on researchers from underrepresented communities who are expected to do the work, writes Raul A. Ramospostdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, in a eLife article.
  • The success of graduate students should not be measured by the number of scientific papers they publish, writes Brittany Trangscience journalist for STATin a opinion piece for dark. “The amount of publications is not a valid indicator of whether a Ph.D. the student understands how to make scientific judgments.
  • Idea theft happens in academia, but having a lab with clear authorship guidelines and developing a circle of trusted colleagues can help prevent it, writes Ijeoma Oparaassistant professor of public health at Yale University, in a career section for Nature.
  • According to a article in STAT last month.
  • A supportive mentor can help make a first-generation student feel like they belong in a lab, writes Lan Nguyen Chaplinprofessor of integrated marketing communications at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in a article for Science.
  • Young scientists are more innovative than their older peers, according to a new study described in The scientist.
  • According to a 2022 study, at least 35% of students from racial or ethnic minority groups said they had experienced discrimination or harassment during their higher education. Nature investigation.
  • Conference organizers must overcome obstacles that many researchers face when trying to obtain travel visas to present their work in other countries, writes Omid V. Ebrahimigraduate student in psychology at the University of Oslo in Norway, in a article for Science.

Do you have any suggestions for making this newsletter as useful as possible, or any recommendations on what topic we should cover next? Send them to [email protected].

Cite this article: https://doi.org/10.53053/BKTG8939

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