Monday, March 7, 2011

The agony and the ecstacy of traveling

Now that I actually have some results from my new lab to talk about, I have been planning more academic and conference travel. I have a love/hate relationship to traveling. I always come back bursting with research ideas and excited about my work, but as an introvert, I find it HUGELY draining to network and socialize with strangers. The work piles up while I am gone, but I also find out about the things that no one publishes (like all the things that didn't work in a recent publication). It is both really fun and really exhausting to talk science all day long. I actually find small meetings much less initimidating than large ones, even though they can sometimes be cliquish. Now that I am starting up my own lab, I am attending meetings that are new to me, and I don't know many people there. This is a blessing and a curse, because I can't hide out with friends and colleagues.

I was talking to a grad student recently (not one of mine), and I mentioned that I needed to go out and spread the word. The student was really surprised, and said "Can't you just publish it and only go if you really want to?" I was like "No, I need to actually talk to other people who are potential collaborators and more importantly, get people to see how cool my stuff is so they have context when they review my proposals and they think of me when it comes time to invite speakers." I understand where that student was coming from, though, because I used to think the same way. It never occurred to me until I had to recommend seminar speakers myself that people make these lists out of who comes to mind when they are preparing the speaker list, not from looking at journal tables of content.


Anthea said...

Mmmmm interesting to hear what you have to say. It's made me thinking more about why I like conferences and what thrills me about traveling and attending conferences.

prodigal academic said...

Thanks for the comment!

Odyssey said...

Too many faculty on the TT simply don't realize just how important this is. It is absolutely vital to get out and promote yourself.

I've also been traveling. Perhaps to the same meeting.

xombie said...

Did you do this in your postdoc years at the NL too? How much of this is good work vs funding concerns (not in a cynical way, in case it sounds rude)? Also, related to this is the question of how you balance work that you really care about versus stuff you need to do in order to bring food onto the plate.

prodigal academic said...

Yes--travel is important as a postdoc so you can make contacts, get leads on your next position (you should look around in case things don't work out at your National Lab) and to publicize your work.

In terms of work that puts food on the table vs work that you really love, that is a whole post--I'll comment on that in a day or so. GMP has some nice posts on this issue at her blog.