Work Diary: A Week In The Life of An Associate Scientist


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A week in the life of an associate scientist: 

  • CURRENT ROLE: I am an associate scientist at the National Institutes of Health.  

  • SALARY: I make $65,000 per year.

  • BENEFITS: Health insurance (vision, medical, dental), Health Savings Account (HSA), Flexible Savings Account (FSA), employer-paid life insurance, employer-paid long-term disability, employer-paid short-term disability, voluntary benefits (pet insurance, ID theft protection, hospital indemnity, etc.), paid time off, employee assistance program (EAP), free or reimbursed gym membership, discount program, commuter benefits, legal aid

  • SCHOOLING: I have a Bachelor's degree.

  • PRIOR EXPERIENCE: I had an internship at The Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard, as well as year-long research positions at the University of Maryland.

  • TYPICAL HOURS: I usually work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • DIVERSITY: There is a TON of diversity in the sciences! I work for the National Institutes of Health, so we're blessed to attract the best and brightest from all over the world. There are women in all levels to an extent, but in my direct department, the managers and senior staff are all male. It's somewhat discouraging. People of color are well represented at all levels in my office, including senior management.

  • FUTURE ASPIRATIONS: I have no idea what my future holds. There are so many directions I could go, and I'm trying to figure out what my next steps are for graduate school. I'm leaning toward an MBA, but it really could be anything at this point.  

I drive to work (about an hour each way, it's brutal.) I check my email first thing when I get to work and pretty much all the time on my phone. I get my day started by saying hello to my boss/coworkers and chatting with them over some coffee. Working for the government, we don't have coffee provided, so we've started a pool to buy coffee for our department. The coffee pot is the hot gathering spot at all times.

We have Groupme, which is our main communication method. Our office is very casual and everyone gets along really well, but sometimes I feel disconnected from them when I need to focus on work and don't have time to chat. Sometimes I wish it was more efficient. We do work happy hours often! We love to go to wineries, laser tag and local restaurants together.

I went to a logistical meeting to coordinate product transfers between departments, but for most of the day I've been working on writing an standard operating procedure. In addition to that, I did a safety walk-through in our labs for the technical services department. Usually my day is more lab-heavy, but my last project just ended, so it's a lot of paperwork!

My planner is the biggest tool I use to plan my workload. I have a physical planner and an Excel spreadsheet for tasks. We go to some workshops, but I definitely could (and will be) doing more now that my project is over. I don't belong to any professional associations. We do a lot of data crunching in JMP and Excel, and use a ton of technology in the lab (various project systems, robots, liquid handling machines, high tech pumps, etc.)

Managing distractions is my BIGGEST challenge. I'm a huge fan of putting in headphones and ignoring everyone to get my work done. The best way for me to manage it is to focus on what I'm doing well and not feeling guilty for taking a break. I try to live by 30 minutes straight of hard work, and then a five-minute break to go get water or coffee or check my phone.