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Lab history: The things you see when you stick around forever (Part 2)

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Lab history: The things you see when you stick around forever (Part 2)

Part 2: The Baby Years

Following on from Part 1, this time it’s all about the babies really. In the past four years, our lab has produced four babies (with another due in December!). This is impressive in some ways, but has brought its own set of challenges.


This year marked the beginning of a new (part time) research assistant and a new Post-Doc. We also went from four PhD students to only two. This really changed the dynamic of the lab. People were newer and still learning. And then I got pregnant and from my perspective, everything changed yet again. I felt sick 24/7 from very early on and really struggled with lab work, desk work, and life the whole time.

Lab composition: Two Post-Docs, two PhD students, two Honours students, one RA

Things I remember: Working with lots of different people in different roles, and learning a lot from that, and one of my favourite review articles (TIBS)!


I helped submit grant applications and then worried about how people would cope while I was on maternity leave – because who else knows where to find that obscure chemical from before time began? And then I had a baby and disappeared for six months and returned (part-time) near the end of the year. It was so good to be back but it was also (again!) a new set of challenges to juggle a baby with work. Something I noticed after returning from maternity leave was a new ability to prioritise what was important and worth devoting time to and what really wasn’t – or could be done quickly and on a “near enough is good enough” basis. I have discussed this with other science parents and they’ve had a similar experience.

Lab composition: Two Post-Docs (one on maternity leave), two PhD students, two Honours students, one RA

Things I remember: Helping with the grant rebuttals while on maternity leave (I do love a good fight!), and lots of baby stuff not relevant to science.


We began planning how to move our whole lab to a new building this year – disposing of old chemicals and clutter that had gradually accumulated over the years. Experimentally, we had an exciting time, with lots of great results. I particularly remember the initial result we got for a project now nearing completion (currently working on the reviewers’ comments). And then a PhD student got pregnant, and then I got pregnant. Baby boom!

Lab composition: Two Post-Docs, three PhD students, two Honours students

Things I remember: Discovering lots of old junk we’d kept for far too long and learning what to do with it when you need to move.


The year of the big move to the new building and the birth of three #brownlabbabies! The move was really time consuming and disruptive and then once we got there we still couldn’t do lab work without jumping through many hoops. I was on maternity leave most of this year so I can’t comment on what happened in the first half, a year into our fancy new building, but I hear it was an interesting experience! Also, this year we sadly “farewelled” the other Post-Doc, a long running lab member, who left to have a baby!

Lab composition: Two Post-Docs (both on maternity leave), three PhD students (one on maternity leave)

Things I remember: The move!! So much packing and unpacking! And everyone working together as a team which was nice.


We’ve made it to this year! The new building is less new, the boss is no longer the big boss, and it feels like everything is heading towards more normal and productive lab function. Phew!

Lab composition: Two Post-Docs (one pregnant), three PhD students, two Honours students

Things I remember: Will have to wait and see what sticks in my memory!

Part 3: The Future


Next year is looking to be a big year for the lab! A number of projects should be completed, submitted, and published throughout the year.

Lab composition: It can be a bit hard to know exactly what the lab composition will be for the following year but this is my current guess: one Post-Doc, five PhD students, one Honours student?

Things I predict: An awesome year for everyone! Continuity of lab members tends to make everything a little bit easier and five hard working PhD students will further boost productivity.

Dr. Laura Sharpe (@laurajsharpey) is a post-doc researching cholesterol regulation at Brown Lab, UNSW. This story was published on October 17, 2018, on Confessions of the Brown Lab Researchers (available here), and has been republished here with permission.

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Published on: Jun 13, 2019


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