A few more hours left in 2021.

What a year!

It’s easy to see all the bad in 2021. I have talked about struggles enough on this space. Today’s not about struggles. This pandemic sucks. Let’s – for the sake of this post – pretend it doesn’t exist.

How was 2021?

I for one had a pretty good year.

On a personal level, things could not be better. A wonderful wife, and the east son I could wish for, and this year, I became a father for the second time. This year enriched our lives with a beautiful baby girl, Lara. Despite all the bad in the world I have had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy two months of parental leave this summer, during which I have experienced many beautiful moments with my family.

We also bought a camper van. A dream that had been there with us for probably close to a decade, but only this year came to fruition. We may not have had all the possibilities to engage socially, with the many people we appreciate in our lives, but this vehicle allowed us to at least get into the wild and experience nature to its fullest.

I also had a great year at a professional level. My team really started to take shape. Under my supervision, the team of four PhD candidates, a technician and a student helper finished three climate chamber experiments, one greenhouse experiment, and we have also started three longer-term field experiments. We have also made great progress on data analyses and writing from the previous year. Next year will see several exciting experimental works from my time here in Freising published. I am very happy with the way things are going here, and it seems that the people I work with are happy too. This makes a great foundation for future collaborations. Despite lockdowns and me and my wife both spending half the year working in home office without child care, I managed to publish five wonderful papers this year and in very reputable journals. For me, the cherry on the pie was an invited piece about the ecological effects of light pollution on plants, in Basic and Applied Ecology. This was my first solo author piece, which really challenged me, but in a good way. It has not been cited yet, but I have had many positive interactions already as a result. I’m excited to see what the future holds for this line of work (I will open the new year with a climate chamber study on light pollution!). 2021 has been my best year in terms of citations. It might not mean much, but I’m proud and humbled that my work has been cited more than 250 times this year. I remember well when I still had zero citations, and I used to joke about it, that this would be my fate in academia. I’m glad I proved myself wrong on this one.

So, yes. 2021 was an odd year. The pandemic was and still is heavy. But on a positive note, I have received three vaccinations. Fantastic products of science and new vaccine technology that made this possible. These new methods will open doors for tackling countless other challenging diseases, and the first examples are already being published. In a way, these developments are also exciting, and would not have happened without the pandemic speeding them up.

A weird year. But let’s look a bit further than that and see the good, too! We’re all tired, and sick of it. Let’s start the new year on a positive note!

To all of my readers, I wish a happy and healthy New Year. I hope 2022 may treat you well!

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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