Hello there bloggies!

Happy May and welcome to a rousing edition of my Trainee Thoughts!

The other day I had a conversation with my sister-in-law (who weirdly enough is also a geneticist). She mentioned that the grad students, fellows, and other trainees in her new lab almost competed in spending the most time in lab. I say ‘spend the most time in lab’ purposefully as this time is for sure not efficiently spent.

Not only does spending so much time in lab ineffective, it also is taxing professionally and personally. You burn out, get depressed, and your work suffers. No one wins. And no one gets hurt more than yourself. Here is a part entry where I discuss working hours for trainees. (Click here)

But saying you need balance lab life with real life is the easy part. How can you actually try to find that balance as a trainee? That requires a lot more.

First, work-life balance takes conscious effort from you and those in your life. Plan out your experiments, analyses, writing times, classes, and meetings. In those schedules, carve out sacred time for that dinner with your significant other, make plans to see that old friend, or even go to that exercise class. The more regular these plans are the better. Treat these times as seriously as you would a set of experiments.They’ll force you out of the lab until of staying there until 11pm.

Not only do you have to consciously work at this, but your family and friends do as well. The life of a scientist is unpredictable and can require very weird hours. The people in your life have to be sensitive to this and flexible enough to work around these difficulties. Like all relationships and friendships, it is a two-way street.

Surprisingly, the ever-powerful PI bears responsibility for instilling a value for work-life balance within the lab group. Content, well-balanced grad students and fellows are productive and fun to work with. They are key drivers behind scientific advance and research. Over-worked, anxious, and depressed trainees are the bastions for apathy, misconduct, and stagnation. Remember that PIs!

Trainees need to discuss expectations and maintain proper dialogues with their PIs. Take that long weekend when you can. Enroll in that 7pm jujitsu class. It is your life. You are in control of it. In that vein, exercise judgment when choosing labs and departments to join. What do the fellows and grad students say? How does the PI interact with others? Logic and intuition are great things.

Work-life balance is ridiculously hard to find for anyone, but especially for trainees. But trying to find some semblance of one is important. Cultivate your interests and live life!

Thanks for stopping by this round of Trainee Thoughts! As ever, feel free to comment below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts.

Catch up on past Trainee topics here.

Until next time!

-Dr. F

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