I am a postdoc in cell biology and I'm considering to change my career path after having spent the last 1.5 years in a lab that has completely destroyed my passion for the academic life.
Background: I was working abroad for a few years and, due to personal reasons, I asked a PI with which I collaborated in the past the possibility to go back to the homeland. I knew this to be a suboptimal solution but I needed to go back. This PI accepted and, to smooth the transition, I wrote a EU grant proposal, which was funded (yay!) to move back to my homeland.
The new lab is mainly a clinically oriented lab run by MD, but it has contributed to the field with nice basic science discoveries, generally with the help of collaborating lab. My tasks were to basically to setup and run the cell biology section of the lab.
For the first year, I was forced to write grants for the two/three PIs in the lab and I (33 y.o.). We got in total 3 grants (~ 2 M€).
My project theoretically started last autumn, but I was "forced" by the PI to give priority to these new projects rather than to mine. Due to severe issues with our collaborators, I got the cell lines I wanted to work on in my project with 6 months of delay, and other issues did not allow me to physically start my project before 8 months of delay. Now, after 1 year into my project, the experiments have still to start, mainly due to:
- the lack of a proper organisation in the lab: there are no lab meetings, there is no supervision on the experiments, the PIs work in a separate premise. There's also a shortage of workforce, as they pretend that 1 person (me) can run the whole cell culture facility AND perform functional experiments AND order reagents AND collect quotations from vendors AND do conference calls AND analyse results AND go to the ethic committee AND write grants.
- a proper lab structure: all the 4 postdocs in the lab are treated as technicians and the PIs do not have skills to understand the basic science we do. The two/three PIs do not understand that these are severe issues and they are constantly asking for results.
- a decent mentoring: as I'm the most expert person in the lab concerning cell biology, I'm not receiving any helpful mentoring tips from my PI on my everyday work. Moreover, being the only one to understand a topic implies that the discussions on my topic are generally between me and myself.
Now, after 1.5 years in this lab I would really like to leave that toxic environment but this will mean to stop my EU-funded project (12 over 24 months left) and will clearly burn all the bridges for future academic position in my city and, probably, in the whole country.
I'm considering whether to switch to industry jobs, but this would mean to start again from scratch and acquire new skills. I've notice I've acquired skills and achievements (papers, h-index, citations, etc..) that are now completely useless in the current job market in my country. I'll do what necessary of course, but it will be a bad hit for both the spirit and the career. Start from scratch in another field in mid-30s isn't often a very successful strategy.
Do you have any tips or suggestion to escape from this toxic situation that is now also significantly affecting my health?