Having hands, and keeping hands

Feb 03 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

Its no secret that I am an old fart scientist. Blue hair. I'm even getting to have a grey beard (though I shave regularly). I don't feel old. But then I can still remember my 60+ year old grandmother, thumping her not inconsiderable chest, saying "in here is a 17 year old girl". At the time (age 13? 15?) I remember being baffled and disbelieving. Now, not so much.

In the past few days three different people, of different ages have commented on how I am running my lab as "an oldie". Ha ha ha ha. Screw that oldie crap. One of the people, one of my oldest friends (as she says, I have to be her friend, she knows where the bodies are buried. Which is to say, by the time you do get to my age, there are a lot of buried bodies), said that I had kept my hands.

Yes, I still "do" science. I still do lab work. My lab is a physiology/biomechanics lab, and I don't run gels, mix reagents, or work with cells. I work with whole, live, pissing and puking (large-ish) animals. No rodents. No treble either. The bottom line: I like science, nay, I love science. I like doing science.

I know there has been some debate about this on DM's blog, and I am too damn lazy to go back and find it. But, its the idea/argument/debate about as you become senior how much time you spend in the lab. I don't do everything any more. I do not pull the night-time shift to feed infant animals. I remember CPP (??) whether you need to be able to do everything that happens in your lab, or whether its ok to have postdocs who know how to do things.

As usual its green - bluish-yellow problem of being in the middle. Totally hands off is bad. Totally hands on is bad. Finding the balance is tough. Could I go into my lab and run an experiment? Yup. Could I do it as well as my post-doc and tech? No fucking way. Do they know this? I hope so.

Meantime, I intend to keep my hands. I have lots of friends (well, maybe not lots, I am too damn difficult to have lots) my age who are sad, tired, or just discouraged. They are 60+, and have to be working. They are doctors, lawyers, even artists and social workers. They want to quit. They are cutting back. Some of these folks don't have the resources to cut back, let alone retire. This is not an opening for the self-diagnosed disenfranchised to yell at me about stepping out of the way so that they can have an R01/job/lab. Yes there are old farts clogging up the system. There are also plenty of older people living on the edge.

I am not going to argue there is a 17-year old inside of me. Hell, my 17-year old self, if not laughing her ass off at me, would be really pissed at the number of important (to her) dreams I've given up on. But I have my hands. I love science.




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