To say I've hit the ground running would be a massive understatement. It's only my second day, and already I've learned a new surgery, gotten in touch with vendors, stared perplexedly at a box full of ancient apparatus parts, and read about a gazillion papers. Not to mention had my new-hire physical with an EXACT REPLICA of Dr Strangelove (minus the wheelchair), who literally asked me to sit on his "torture table." I almost died from all the win, though I can only imagine what the less cinematically-informed among his patients must think.
Watch as long as you like; it's one of my absolute favorite movies of all time.
Anyway, the new lab is pretty great, and although I'm feeling overwhelmed by all the new stuff I have no experience with and pressure to perform in areas I do, I think this is going to be really good in the long run. I'm very excited about the project, about how different it is from things I've done before, and how much more I'm going to know when it's over. This morning I was chatting with my PI and co-PI (they are totes the Odd Couple and I <3 them!) about the things I'd learned so far (i.e. on day one) and co-PI remarked that "this is sort of like your post-doc sabbatical!" which is pretty spot on, when you think about it.
I'm quickly getting in the mindset that this is not a stop-gap, but an opportunity. And I'm also thinking, what a great fucking idea! Location (and funding) permitting, how awesome would it be for post-docs to get to go spend 6 months or so immersing themselves in a new lab, learning new techniques and broadening their scope of interest and knowledge?
The answer is, very awesome. Look, as the beautiful and talented Candid Engineer recently noted, we post-docs need to diversify our portfolios. Interdisciplinary is in, and I'm pretty positive that a big part of the reason my TT apps fared better this year than last is that in the interim, I started a new collaboration that gave me not only new methods, but new perspective on the research I'd done so far.
With the average time spent in post-doc-land ever increasing, the definition of what one is meant to do during those 5-7 years may need to change. A post-doc sabbatical could not only expand a TT hopeful's repertoire and infuse him or her with fresh ideas and knowledge, but could also be the zap of newness needed to help prevent the burnout many of us feel as we reach our "elder" post-doc years. Post-docs loving science again = better science, I am so sure of it.
Now of course, the $64,000 question: who's going to fund all this?