Consolidating the lab

I have now reached the stage where I have been fortunate to establish a laboratory with all intellectual and material resources necessary. It is a very exciting time and for at least another two more years the lab is well-funded. Importantly, all projects we set out to do are up and running and two of them submitted for publication and we have two more studies in the pipeline. This has taken some time to accomplish, as for many of us that completed long postdoctoral periods abroad and that joined a new environment as assistant professors upon arrival to Sweden. During 2015, there has been a natural change of trainees and the “2nd generation” of trainees has joined the group. Two new postdocs joined the lab in 2015 and at the same time the first two PhD students graduated and left the lab for postdoctoral work in the US and in Germany. I have learned the importance of recruitment the hard way and the good way. Most of all I have gained increased respect for experience. When I came back from Boston, I had a black and white view of what running a lab meant. I was very sure that I would never make the mistakes I had seen other principal investigators in Boston make in regards to recruitment and leadership. Now after 5 years, I am more humble and I have realized that I am a much better group leader now compared to when I started 5 years ago. Therefore, I am exceedingly happy where my group is today and we are ready to dive into new exciting projects; two of which we started in 2015. Importantly, my energy and enthusiasm for science has never changed.

At about this stage when many of us group leaders have become associate professors and finally obtained permanent positions at the department – something that usually comes very late in academic life – the main issue becomes to seek new funding to consolidate the scientific laboratory we have created. Interestingly enough, at this level, many of the associate professors around me notice a drop in funding. Since a lot of focus now has been on Karolinska Institutet and the consequences of a really bad recruit, least to say, I think the most important outcome should be an evaluation of the initiative to allocate significant funds from the Swedish research council to recruit world-leading scientists to Sweden. The consequence of this strategy has to a large extent drained the funds for individual project grants. In academic life, not all research groups will or should obtain renewed funding when grants run out. However, what has happened now is that many established laboratories are closing down because the cut in funding from the Swedish Research Council. In contrast, there are many positive initiatives from private foundations such as Ragnar Söderberg foundation, Torsten Söderberg foundation, the Swedish Cancer Society, the Wallenberg foundations, the Swedish foundation, and EU-funded ERC grants, to mention a few, that give grants to the individual researcher for great ideas. I am positive that something good can come out of the hurdles Karolinska Institutet has to climb right now and I sincerely hope that the majority of funding will return to the individual researchers for their great ideas! Let the sunshine in!