A favorite song of mine from the 90s is a tune called, "Good Things," done by The BoDeans of Waukesha, Wisconsin, on their 1991 disc called "Black and White." The heart of The BoDeans was the duet of Kurt Neumann and Sammy Llanas. Musically, they couldn't seem more far apart. But together, Kurt and Sammy were magical, vocally and instrumentally. As individuals, they never seemed as successful as when together, as though they were missing part of themselves when performing without the other.
In the time leading up to the launch of this blog and in the month of its existence, I have been the beneficiary of Good Things from both ends of the academic spectrum.
First, hearty thanks go to BotanicalGirl at The World of BotanicalGirl for her blogiversary link-love to this site. I stumbled across her blog when doing Blogger and Technorati searches for anyone writing on botanical or herbal medicines because I wanted to be sure I wasn't adding unnecessary bandwidth. I work primarily on medicinally-active compounds from plants, but my lab is far removed from the actual botany of our specimens. What resulted from my initial contact with her was a prolonged e-correspondence where the student became professor and vice versa. I was fortunate to previously have three direct Ph.D. trainees and serve on almost two dozen Ph.D examining committees, many for folks I considered and still consider friends, despite the cautions of colleagues in The Chronicle of Higher Education. However, my current appointment is not associated with a graduate program and I now realize how much working with graduate students contributed to my persona as an investigator and a person. Hence, it is very refreshing to interact with BG.
BotanicalGirl reminds me of the intellectual and philosophical purity with which one enters this business of doctoral training in the life sciences and the personal tribulations of serving under often-dysfunctional P.I.s. More importantly, she exhibits wisdom far beyond her years and her blog is excellent reading for any P.I. who wonders what folks in the lab are thinking, regardless of your discipline. Yes, we get Ph.D.s and become lab directors, but we don't always have the management skills we think we have. Moreover, she serves as a great mentor to fellow graduate students who often experience isolation in their respective programs, only to realize that their issues are quite universal.
BotanicalGirl has become a dear friend and is a great teacher to both her peers and to any of us who lead laboratories. Yes, it's tough for us to write grants and worry about supporting our lab personnel, but it is refreshing to read her blog and be reminded of the daily stresses that we once faced umpteen years ago. She also just got engaged to a great guy (yeah!) and is about to undergo that rite of passage, the oral qualifying examination. Good luck, my friend.
At the other end of the spectrum of Good Things I have received is the advice of Orac at Respectful Insolence. Orac does what I do professionally, but a ton more. I surmise that we are about the same age (me, 16 yrs out from my Ph.D.), but Orac is also an M.D. who keeps an NIH funded cancer research lab on top of being a surgical oncologist at a major academic medical center and still teaches residents and fellows. That is, while I am bargaining with the Invitrogenics Cell Technologies rep for lower prices on antibodies, Orac is operating on someone like my Mom with breast cancer, all while hoping to keep his lab gainfully funded. To do what he does requires great dedication and selflessness, all while being a prolific blogger and husband (well, maybe a husband and a prolific blogger).
Orac is a very thoughtful critic of alternative medicine, the field where my work on therapeutic natural products is often lumped, incorrectly. Nevertheless, he has provided links and off-line advice on how best to be unique yet be myself.
The bottom line is that I have been very pleasantly surprised at how helpful and thoughtful folks have been in the blogosphere. Even with people who don't always agree with me, I have received useful suggestions, usually offline via e-mail. Although I have yet to receive A SINGLE COMMENT on any of my posts, I have had great dialogues with people at both ends of the life science and medical science training spectrum.
BotanicalGirl and Orac collectively remind me not to forget 1) where I came from and 2) to help the next generation get where they want to go.
Many thanks to you both for promoting what we're trying to do over here in our little piece of the ether.