I enjoy doing research directly and this was my motivation for seeking an academic job in the first place. I am aware that many professors at some point cease directly doing research and transition to purely guiding the research of postdocs and graduate students. My PhD advisor, for instance, did not set up and run simulations himself during most of the time that I worked for him. However, I had the impression that this was due to his personal tastes (I saw him as valuing prestige and advancement rather than gaining joy from science itself, which might have been unfair). However, I just spoke to a recently tenured professor in my field who seemed to have a lot of passion for the details of the work (as I do) and was quite shocked when he told me that he hadn't run a simulation himself in several years.
As a tenure-track professor at a North American university with a few years of experience, I am quite aware that the demands of writing proposals, teaching and administrative tasks make it difficult to spend a lot of time "with your hands in the dirt" directly performing research tasks. However, I would like to know: Is it common for successful professors to still directly do significant research themselves? Must I give up all day-to-day research tasks to be a successful professor? Is moving toward a purely managerial role inevitable? Will I grow to gain more satisfaction from directing my students in research than doing it myself? Do many professors miss directly performing research, but feel that they can no longer do it due to other demands?
In my field, doing research directly involves setting up and running simulations, as well as writing code to analyze the results. However, I'd like to also hear about people's experience in experimental fields, where the analog of running simulations would be going into the lab and directly running samples on laboratory equipment.
The following thread covers the reasons why professors don't spend a majority of their time directly doing research, but I'd like to know if successful professors can spend some of their time directly doing research or how they feel about no longer being immersed in the details of their research.