Being a new PI can be a bit lonely. You’re no longer in a cohort of postdocs or trainees and you may be one of only a few recent hires within your department or institution. You’re also encountering many new issues regarding career advancement, starting a lab, managing trainees, managing money, negotiating tenure etc. Sometimes there’s an outstanding infrastructure within your institution to provide support for new PIs with all these challenges; sometimes not.
My institution actually does have an excellent support system for new PIs through many different channels, but any individual institution will suffer from the same core problem: other PIs are far too busy to be available to discuss issues, solve problems or provide advice when you need it. To solve this problem, I thought I could leverage a tool I use within my own lab and use it to create a large network of new PIs (at least a few of which would be available when needed): Slack. Slack is a messaging application that many organizations use to keep teams organized and provide a way to communicate. I won’t enumerate all the features of Slack but you can read about them here.
Right now, I’ve set up the following channels (topics): general, grant questions, hacks/tools, personnel issues, resuscitation (to get support on those bad PI days), teaching-related, tenure-related and work-life. I’m finding many of the discussions about career advancement, trainees and teaching issues very helpful. An unexpected perk of this group is that people are taking action to help others beyond providing advice: notifying others of opportunities, passing along CVs of potential trainees and more.
FAQ: Who qualifies as a “new PI?”
A: Most of us have an independent tenure-track research position and are pre-tenure. Update: we’re getting many requests to join from postdocs, but due to the sensitive nature of personnel discussions inside the group (some members are even involved in faculty hiring decisions), please send a request for an invite after officially starting your faculty job.
If you’re a new PI and are interested in being part of this supportive community, please direct message me on Twitter (@PracheeAC) with your email address or send me an email from the address you want me to use for the invite. Any current member of the group can also invite you.