Thomas R. Cox, January 2020
As with any new lab (M&M turned 3 a couple of months ago 🎉), the first few years are typically about building a reliable team to help a new PI lay the foundations for establishing a functioning (and hopefully successful) research laboratory. The actual hiring process is incredibly stressful for new PI’s, often agonising for days over their first few hires. A bad hire when starting out can really set you back when the lab is in a fledgling state. At the same time, the inevitable moving on of good hires can be equally as hard…
The Matrix and Metastasis lab is no different and the last 3 years have been both incredibly exciting, as well as lots of hard work for the whole team. There is no magic formula for starting a lab, and from experience, they tend to grow organically, partly through trial and error, hard work and determination. Hence a new lab depends on those you hire to set the ethos, standards as well as various protocols and systems. Thus, the early days will set the precendence for many generations of researchers to come (i.e. developing and integrating freezer/fridge/vector/antibody/primer/slide cataloguing systems etc.). Much of this hard work goes unrecognised in a formal sense, but is a critical part of a establishing an efficiently functioning laboratory.
However… inevitably researchers move on to take up new positions and further their own research careers. This continual learning is an incredibly important part of academic research and one that should be encouraged and supported.
That said, it is still hard to say goodbye to valuable team members, who you have worked closely with toward a shared vision, often for a number of years. As a New PI, harder still is saying goodbye to those you hire first / early on in establishing your lab.
Joanna (left) joined the lab as our first Research Assistant and was key to much of the hard work that went into establishing the laboratory. After 3 years in the team, Joanna is moving onto a more senior position at the Children’s Cancer Institute at UNSW, to join the Tumour Biology and Targeting Group – headed by Professor Maria Kavallaris.
Gretel (right) joined the lab as a Research Assistant about a year ago, bringing much needed support to our tissue engineering projects, along with an almost boundless amount of energy. Taking that energy and enthusiasm, Gretel is venturing off over the Tasman to undertake a PhD at the University of Otago in the Christchurch Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering (CReaTE) research group under the supervision of Professor Tim Woodfield and Dr Khoon Lim. Her PhD will focus on developing 3D hydrogel matrices with encapsulated adipocytes for fat grafting and in vitro models of breast cancer.
As sad as we all are to see them go, and as much as we will miss both Joanna and Gretel, we wish them both the best of luck for the future.