Everything Breaks

Hmmmm this week I’ve been on a wild goose chase for tiny circular “wave springs”, one seems to have gone missing from my 10-year-old $7000 thermal cycler, and without that spring it seems the heated lid won’t work. Everything breaks eventually, and one of the things that has consistently surprised me over the years - but makes complete sense - is that as a PI, you are really running a small business. If you are a ridiculously wealthy business, then you simply replace things when they break or send them off for repair. You call in a service person. You have it fixed by somebody.

I am not one of those fabulously wealthy PIs. Biodiversity research always operates on a small budget; we aren’t solving so many urgent pressing global problems (though we are documenting a big problem). So I’ve learned to accept that a reasonable portion of every week is just getting things to work again. Not so different from “regular” life, eh? For those of you not yet in a faculty position, the thing to recognize is that to a large extent you are an independent contractor working under the auspices of your university. You are a small business trying to sell ideas to people who can fund them - not unlike selling expensive cars, you will often have people walk on the lot and leave to go ponder elsewhere. (unfortunately, most car sales people can’t work their way towards tenure, so I recognize my good fortune there!)

Anyway, wish me luck. I’m about to take some compression springs that are way too long, try to cut and file them down to size, and shove them into my $7000 gizmo to see if they fix the problem so I don’t have to buy a new gizmo (or go back to the ‘90s and put mineral oil on top of all of my reactions in this machine!). I wish you luck too.