Trusting others

One thing that’s been hard for me in the first month or so of setting up a lab is letting go of being directly involved in all of my research. As a grad student and post-doc, I had my hands in everything that happened with my projects: I designed them (with input, but I designed them), I collected at least some of the data and directly trained any research assistants who were going to help collect the rest of the data, I analyzed the results, I wrote the papers (with input, but I wrote them). Now I need to trust other people to do these things, and it’s a challenge.

A lot of my peers felt this challenge first when they moved from being research assistants themselves to being grad students and post-docs. They talked about how hard it was to trust someone else to collect their data for them. This part was easy for me, though. I interviewed potential RAs and picked ones that I thought would do well, I trained them, I observed them collect data until I felt comfortable that they could do it themselves, and I checked in with them on a regular basis. I felt like I was still deeply involved and like I knew everything that was happening.

But running a lab isn’t like that. I haven’t even had to deal with this on a grad student/post-doc level yet, because I don’t have any of those. But I do have an awesome lab manager who is being awesome at doing things like acquiring things that the lab needs and finding ways that we can collect data at our new institution. On the one hand, it’s a big relief to be able to put those things on her plate and then not deal with them again. But on the other hand, they’re still rattling around in my brain, making me nervous. What if something falls through the cracks? What if something ends up being more expensive than I thought it would be and I don’t find out about it until after the money has been spent? (Side-note: I have neuroses around spending money, which I think I wrote about before. It’s not like my lab manager is just deciding to buy random things on her own without checking with me, just, it makes me nervous not to be doing all the money-related stuff myself.) I’m so used to needing to do everything for myself, it’s hard to really trust another person to do everything well, even another person who is very competent and has done a wonderful job with everything so far.

If others are reading and feel like commenting, how did you handle this part of the transition to faculty life?

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Author: Happy Balloon

I am a new assistant professor in a STEM field at a research university. If you think you've figured out my actual name (which, sadly, is not Happy Balloon), please refrain from posting it anywhere here. But please do feel free to post all manner of other comments!