There was a local conference this week that was highly relevant to the research being performed in my new department. And I got to go! It was the first time in a few years that I've been able to attend conference sessions and actually feel like I belong there. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. No more standing at booths trying to keep an eye on the free pens!
One thing that really struck me at the conference is how relevant my new job is to the treatment of real live patients with actual diseases. My PhD and postdoctoral research were in basic science with no immediate application to human health, so this isn't something I'm used to. But my new colleagues are a mix of scientists and physicians, and the group as a whole is involved in several clinical trials.
It might sound strange, but this realisation was quite a revelation for me. I mean, this is why I got into my field in the first place. My grandma died (indirectly) from a tumour when I was 15, and my idealistic teenage self wanted to go into research in order to find a cure for cancer. I ended up working in 2 different cancer research centres, but never on anything clinically relevant. This new job is my first real chance to feel like I'm involved in something that can actually save lives. I may not be doing any research myself, but I think my 15 year old self would be proud.