Laboratory Confessions

Medicated Lab Chief

I confess that I like my lab chief better on painkillers. I’m not entirely sure what he’s taking. I think it is Vicodin or some hydrocodone-based drug to relieve his periodic back pain. He’s lucid, of course, and in fact as sharp as ever. Under his leadership, our lab still continues to pump out papers in high-quality journals, including those coveted journals with single-word titles. Nothing at all changes in terms of productivity, and we certainly aren’t publishing papers with psychedelic titles along the lines of “Lucy in the Lab with c-Jun N-Terminal Kinases.” It’s just that being in the lab is more pleasant when he is medicated.

For example, his aggressive personality—which some here euphemize as gregarious—has mellowed considerably. Questions such as “How’s the assay coming along?” might now be heard only once a day, as opposed to once every eight minutes. I don’t feel his aggressive, excuse me, gregarious presence hovering over my back like a boulder just a raindrop away from crashing down the slope. And I can take lunch without fear of 20 “friendly e-mail reminders” from him about a pending publication deadline.

I’d never wish back pain on anyone and certainly not on my lab chief, whom I truly love dearly, medicated or not. I can only urge other lab chiefs to treat their trainees and staff lovingly with trust. The work will get done without nagging. Trust your skills in recruitment and take a “chill pill”. . . or do yoga or meditation or maybe drink just two fewer cups of coffee each day.

Editor’s Note: Have a late-night laboratory confession? We might print it if it is indecent enough.