Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hump Day

So I have two, totally unrelated topics to write about (so far) today. Look for the ***'s if this one bores you.

One of the grad students in our lab had a committee meeting yesterday. She's been doing a gene chip array, bioinformatics type of project, coupled with verifying some of the hits by hand. She has a tremendous amount of data but seems timid about really analyzing most of it. I have been hinting for a while that she needs to spend some more time on that.

Her committee is supposed to be 6 people, but two of them flaked at the last minute. I thought it was weird that the grad office here didn't just reschedule her meeting- that's what they would have done where I went to school. If you make them know that they will have to go sooner or later, they learn to modify their behavior!

Anyway our advisor apparently said, in front of the other committee members who showed up, that in order to graduate, she really should verify *all* the hits from her array data. We're talking ~ 200 genes: she would have to design and order primers and do individual real-time PCR reactions for all of them.

This is completely ridiculous, since the whole point of arrays is to save you the pain of having to do these things one at a time. Nevermind all the time and money it would waste. Nevermind that grad students shouldn't be doing endlessly repetitive work. Nevermind that they already have all this data and haven't really even looked at it. Nevermind that it wouldn't tell them much of anything new. Other people have established that the array technology works, more or less, and she has done multiple repeats... and she has already validated nearly 10% of the hits by hand, with only about 1% conflict between the arrays and the PCR. I think that's good enough, personally, since nobody in their right mind would depend solely on array data for drawing a conclusion anyway. But what do I know. I haven't done any array experiments myself (yet?).

I told the student I would help try to come up with a creative way to follow up on the data she has, and told her AGAIN that she really needs to do some more reading & analysis on her own. I think our advisor will go along with us if we come up with something really insightful for her to do, but I'm kind of disgusted that

a) she didn't have any better suggestions for the student-she's usually more creative than that
b) she didn't try to brainstorm with the student- isn't that what grad school is about? learning how to THINK?
c) she actually implied that graduate students should be doing technician's work (see b, above on LEARNING HOW TO THINK).

Exploitation, anyone?

In other news, there was a rejection letter under my door this morning. I'm not sure why it wasn't just in my mailbox, but whatever.

It was from a school I'm pretty sure I applied to sometime last year. The letter said they looked ~230 applications and interviewed ~15 people.

Thing is, I'm pretty sure they sent me a rejection letter already!

I don't think the other letter had this many details in it, but I think it said I didn't make the short list, so I assumed that was the end of that.

Anyway my complete senility in the face of this event has prompted me to finally start a spreadsheet, since with more than 30 applications, I already can't remember which ones acknowledged my stuff arriving, which ones sent affirmative action forms, etc.

Last year I stopped doing it because I either wasn't hearing anything, or they were all a categorical 'no.' Hopefully this year will be more promising. Doesn't bode too well for Wednesday, though.


At 12:55 PM, Blogger Adam Solomon said...

Affirmative action forms. Because minority status makes you a better researcher. ~groans~

That being said, it's definitely BS what that grad student has to go through. Hopefully that doesn't affect her too much in her career because you can only go to grad school once and if you don't get a good advisor once there...well, that isn't good, to say the least. Hope things work out!

At 3:28 PM, Blogger ScienceWoman said...

re: spreadsheet - good idea and I'm going to copy you. For now mine will mostly have the list of schools and their deadlines.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger BotanicalGirl said...

Both labs I've worked in thus far have had extensive microarray projects. She absolutely does NOT need to hand-verify everything. I would say 10% is fine, maybe go with 20% to be really certain. And I would pick genes that are sure to be of interest, not just random ones.

Yes, grad school is supposed to be about learning how to think. Something I was missing out on in my old lab, big time.

At 10:19 PM, Blogger angrygrad said...

Grad students doing technician's work - the story of my life. In fact, some of the technician's work has been assigned to me because it is too 'complicated' for the technician - she has been doing this for over 3 years now and she(the technician) decided she did not want to do this anymore.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Joolya said...

Dude, tell her not to do it. Verifying 200 gene hits is a ridiculous waste of everybody's time and resources. She should pick a couple of "safe" genes and a couple of "interesting" genes, verify them, do some biology, and write up. Not cool.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Adam Solomon said...

And yeah, the spreadsheet idea is very good. I'm trying that for my undergrad admissions on my blog's sidebar and on my Wikipedia page (lol), but with more information to record and less of a desire to be public, spreadsheet sounds best for you ;)


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