Enthusiasm returns


It's amazing the difference a new job makes. For the past few months — when I had no immediate prospect of a job, and it looked like I might have to leave academia — I was completely unenthusiastic about work, and I found it really hard to motivate myself. Now that I know I have a permanent job and I'm starting a new project, I'm fizzing with ideas and enthusiasm. Lately I've been waking up early — not with the feeling of dread and worry that I experienced before, but bubbling over with ideas for experiments1, which forces me to get up and write them down.

It has made me realise what destructive things short-term contracts are (in any field, but particularly in academia). Projects require quite a lot of personal investment in terms of passion, motivation and drive, and often only really pay off in the longer term. If you know that you will probably be out of a job in two to three years, it's really difficult to have the same level of commitment to a project. Let's face it — no-one is in academia for the money (if you are, someone has seriously mislead you), so it's vital to be excited about what you're doing. Instead of worrying about what you can possibly get done in two years, you can think about the questions that you are burning to answer. You still have to have things that will produce results in two to three years to get grants to fund the research, but you can at least have a bigger, longer-term strategy running through the shorter projects. I'm really looking forward to it.

1 For example, this morning I woke up wondering whether it would be possible to build my smaller bits of experimental apparatus out of Lego :-)

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