How Molecular Ecologists Work: Craig Primmer on solving problems on the bike and in the sauna

Location: University of Helsinki, Finland (moved there this May after 12 years at the University of Turku, Finland)

Current Position: Professor of Genomics (on leave of absence whilst holding an Academy of Finland research professorship)

Current mobile device(s): Fairphone, iPad, Suunto Spartan Sport watch

Current computer(s): HP EliteBook

What kind of research do you?

Evolutionary and conservation genomics of salmonid fishes

Can you use one word to describe the way you work?

Semi-organized (hope that’s not cheating!)

What specific strategies do you recommend for running (or establishing) a lab?

Hire people you can trust. Have good procedures for ensuring knowledge transfer between older and newer group members. As a PI, always try and prioritize tasks that assist your own team before other stuff.

What apps/software/language/tools can’t you work without (Python, Dropbox, Geneious, etc.)?

An electronic calendar with a good reminder system (also for coordinating trips & commitments with my partner); Mendeley, BaseCamp (project management & collaboration). At the research group level: R

Where do you work with data (personal computer, lab computers, cluster, etc.)?

Finland has a great, free scientific computing centre (CSC), so much of the group’s data analysis is done there.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

The iPad is very useful for reading papers on the go, and even when riding on my bike trainer.

What part of your job do you wish you had more time for?

Same as many I think: too much reading and writing emails, too little time for analyzing data and writing papers

What is your best time-saving shortcut/lifehack?

Realizing that allocating time for exercise actually helps me get things done faster: I get the same amount of work done in shorter time, and I often get good ideas for writing a hard sentence or solving some other problem whilst on a run/ride/swim.

How do you stay organized (to-do lists, digital reminders, etc.)?

Digital reminders, over-ambitious to do lists

What do you listen to while you’re working (music, kids yelling, the hum of a supercomputer)?

These days, the music of my kids and/or our dog barking. Sometimes all 4 family members sitting around the same table doing work/homework (really nice moments!)

What do you do to recharge outside of science?

Sports: doing (triathlon, running, up until 2016- Australian Rules Football); watching (almost anything, but mostly Australian Rules Football). Fishing and hiking (too rarely).

What are you currently reading?

Too much about the current Australian Rules Football finals series

What is your sleep routine like?

Fairly regular I guess. Ideally I’d sleep from 22-23 until 6-7, but it ends up being an hour or two less too often. If I have an urgent deadline, I used to work late, but these days prefer getting up early instead.

Fill in the blank: I’d like to see _______ answer these questions.

Judith Mank

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

To be honest, I’ve received very little from anyone (although I would have needed some at various times), so my wife has ended up being my sounding board (very often whilst in our sauna).

Thanks Craig! Next Week: Dr. Katy Heath from the University of Illinois.

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About Rob Denton

I'm a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UConn. I'm most interested in understanding the evolutionary/ecological consequences of strange reproduction in salamanders (unisexual Ambystoma). Topics I'm likely to write about: population and landscape genetics, mitonuclear interactions, polyploidy, and reptiles/amphibians.
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