A Day in the Life of a Research Postdoc

5:45am Alarm goes off; time for a run. Whoops, baby is hungry. I feed him, then get a late start on my run.

6:45am Home from my run. Time to shower, eat breakfast, get the kids ready and all three of us out the door and to the streetcar. I get lots of help from my husband.

8am Phew, we made the streetcar in time. Off to daycare and work! The kids go to daycare near work so I can just drop them off on the way. Little peirama tells me he doesn’t want to help drop off his brother today, so it’s preschool first, then the infant class.

9am Kids are dropped off and I’m just getting to lab. Some days I’m the second or third person to lab and other days I’m nearly last even though I arrive at the same time. I prepare for my 10am meeting with my PI.

10am Weekly meeting about my project. Usually the other postdoc working on the project and our collaborator are here as well, but today it is just me and my PI. We go over what didn’t work (everything) and what to do next. I’m relieved to find he wants to pursue one aspect further so it is ok for me to spend money to make it work. My PI sometimes changes his opinion without warning, so it is hard to know how he’ll react to suggestions or experimental results. This makes it difficult to plan ahead.

11am Time to pump. Oh the glamorous life of a working mother of an infant. I’m lucky to have an unused office in my building to use as a lactation room. There are official lactation rooms around campus, but I prefer the convenience of my own building.

11:30am There is enough time after pumping to get a little work done before lunch. I think about how to best get my protein of interest into my cell type of interest.

Noon Lunch time! I eat leftovers at my desk while reading papers on my computer. I know this is not recommended for one’s mental health, but it makes me feel less guilty for the time I spend pumping and for not working any longer than nine to five.

1pm More research planning. I talk to some people in my lab and another lab about my drug solubility issue. They have some good ideas, so I’m feeling hopeful that this will work out. I test a higher DMSO concentration and my drug stays in solution. Yay! Maybe this aspect of the project will work after all. My project is to develop a new method, and in working on it I have had to do a lot of things that are new to me. It is fun to try new things, but it also involves a lot of troubleshooting, and it can get frustrating when nothing seems to be working. It is good to have success, even if it is as small as getting a drug into solution.

3pm Pump again. I read twitter on my phone. I used to try to work while pumping, but I find it very difficult to focus.

3:30pm Back to my desk. I send some emails related to the science outreach project I am organizing. I enjoy having a non-lab related project, even though it can be time consuming.

4pm I fill my last work hour with organizing for my project, arranging from mice from our lab manager, editing the details of my protocol including my new drug dilution, etc.

5pm Time to go. Daycare is open until 6:30, but I am pretty strict about leaving by 5:30 because by the time I get home, there is very little time before the kids bedtimes and I like my kids! I know many people work a lot more hours than me, but I don’t know how they get any time with their kids. I pick up the kids and head home on the streetcar. Little peirama eats a granola bar and tiny peirama plays with a spoon until he falls asleep.

6:30pm I arrive home and my wonderful husband almost has dinner ready. I waffle between laying straight down on the couch and getting started on the evening chores. After dinner I watch a cartoon with little peirama.

7:30pm Kids bedtimes. Each parent takes one child for initial bedtime preparations, but little peirama insists that I do his book and story. Negotiations with a 3 year old are challenging. I need to be firm enough that he has boundaries but flexible enough so that bedtime doesn’t turn into a meltdown.

8:30pm Kids are in bed, if not quite asleep. Some nights I try to get some work done after this before bed, either outreach organizing or writing, but tonight I just do some chores (laundry is never ending!) and watch some TV before bed.

10pm Bedtime. I still get up a couple of times in the night to feed tiny peirama, so I need to go to bed on time to save my sanity.

Note: Similar to SweetScience, most people I see at work are women. However, if I interacted more with faculty instead of postdocs at my institution that would change.

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