Alice’s ADVANCEing into the fall

i-f875c0b07d9b3cb6229668554781b35a-alice.jpgWhile it is hard to go back to the daily slog of the semester after having a more freewheeling summer, I do like the fact that you can set all kinds of new academic patterns. Like an Academic New Year, as my friend Julie put it. One of my academic new year resolutions: get some data collected on our ADVANCE research projects. I mean, it’s almost been a year, and we’ve been bogged down getting protocols through IRB, and then someone raises some concerns somewhere, and we need to revise the protocols for IRB again. It’s been pretty frustrating.

Not only that, but my time has been taken up with completely not-research-related things for ADVANCE. Helping write the reports, meeting with site visitors, meeting with the administration, trying to make progress on our website and so on — all co-PI related things to do, but not helping me collect any data.

So, I needed to get a new system sorted out. And with some help from some good peer-and-otherwise mentors, I think I have managed it.

Well, before I started on our storied trip, I realized I had to do something different about our ADVANCE project. So I asked a peer mentor for some advice — among other things, she advised me to find myself a good and well-situated advisor. I then called an advisor for help — she gave me some hard but good advice. Three weeks in a car helped the advice marinate a bit, and seem like an increasingly good idea. I am very grateful to both these women.

The jist? I had been doing the work that I thought a co-PI was supposed to do. But I think what everyone really wanted me to be doing was be a co-PI BUT only focus on the research. It took me a long (long, painful) time to figure this out. Did I mention painful? Yes indeed.

So when I got back home, stirred on by some *more* good colleagues who agreed this was the thing to do (and also my mom – thanks Mom) I set up a meeting with my ADVANCE colleagues and laid out my big question to them: is being co-PI incompatible with focusing on the research? Which also meant I also had to figure out what I was going to do if they said that it was indeed incompatible.

Their answer: They thought not. Not incompatible, that is. But I needed to hear them say this so I could know that everyone was on board with me focusing on the research.

The outcome of this stressful meeting: some clarity on my own role, some reassurance I could say “no,” and the prospect of really making some progress on our ADVANCE studies this fall. W00T!

I guess the reason I’m sharing this story is to recognize that having this meeting was terrifying because I had to strengthen my spine in preparation for it, and really practice saying what I wanted. Which meant I had to really figure out what I wanted in the first place.

But after all this reflection, it was pretty reassuring to realize that that what I really wanted was to get some cool research done.

It was REALLY CRITICAL to have colleagues who could tell me, “yes, you’re right, you need to get this clarified” and “you will be great at that meeting,” although those meetings were a little scary too.

On y va, then, mes amis. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Let’s get collecting and sharing some good stories!

Have you had any similar experiences where you had to have some scary (for you) conversations to be able to focus on what you really wanted to do?


  1. #1 SciWo
    September 22, 2009

    I was wondering how this all resolved. I’m so glad that it has worked itself out and you will actually get a chance to retain the co-PI status AND focus on the research. Yay, Alice! and Yay, Alice’s mentors!

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