I was an assistant professor at Rockefeller in the Laboratory of Cell Physiology and Immunology when I left the lab to write At the Bench: A Laboratory Navigator for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. Inspired by frustrated conversations among scientists, At the Bench sought to demystify the culture of the laboratory, so newcomers regardless of background could feel comfortable in asking questions and performing experiments.
But many lab workers pointed that that many of the problems of the lab were caused not by people in the lab, but by the principal investigator (P.I.). And indeed, many new P.I.s admitted to having a hard time in running a lab: most of their training addressed research goals and technical issues, but most of the problems required communication and organizational skills that they had to scramble to learn on the job. At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator, and the updated version, At the Helm: Leading your Lab, addressed the so-called soft skills that are so critical to research and professional success.
I continue to write and give lectures and workshops to address the challenges and opportunities in running a lab. I am currently writing a book on scientists as activists, as many scientists long to use their training to help the world beyond the bench, but are unsure of the tools and techniques of citizen activism.