Sunday, June 22, 2008

Momentums lost.

Not so long ago, I wrote briefly that I had made some progress with my advisor. I knew it was a fragile momentum, but I thought it was at least a step in the right direction.

But as often happens with these things, before I could gain sufficient momentum in that way, we hit a roadblock and the momentum got lost.

It's frustrating because the roadblock is also a wake-up call for my advisor.

In a way, this was exactly what I needed: an outside Voice of Reason to say

"Hey, MsPhD wanted to do THIS and you told her to do THAT and she did because you're the PI, but you know what?

She should have followed her own instincts, and done THIS instead.

You should have listened to her."

[Those of you who have been reading this blog know that the subtext is

Since PI accused her of ignoring all PI's suggestions, MsPhD had to do THAT to show she can go with the flow (or whatever)]

The trouble now is, this wake-up call has already had a variety of undesirable consequences.

(1) PI feels doubtful.

1a. PI is self-doubtful (because THAT was not as good as THIS would have been)
1b. PI feels guilty about feeling doubtful.
1c. PI feels doubtful of MsPhD (even if that might be unfair, PI is human and that is how PI feels, and it shows)

(2) MsPhD is doubtful too.

2a. MsPhD is questioning her abilities and desire to keep on this path
2b. MsPhD is questioning whether she really has sufficient spine to stand up to PI as much as necessary
2c. MsPhD is doubtful of PI for pushing THAT when it wasn't the right thing
2d. MsPhD is also pissed off because she KNEW it wasn't the right thing but felt like she had to do it anyway, for the reason mentioned above (and previously on this blog*).
2e. MsPhD is doubtful that she can figure out how to get past this roadblock, and that it won't happen again, and that if it does it won't eventually push PI to conclude that MsPhD is not worth it.

*[The damned-if-you-do-or-don't reason, which has all along seemed like something of a sexist problem to begin with. The male postdocs who ignore everyone's suggestions somehow still manage to get jobs. A guy can be a Troubled Child and get away with it. They get to be Mavericks. When women do it, we're difficult, we're Bitch.

Yes, I am Bitch. But lately I am just Tired. It takes a lot of energy and confidence to be Bitch. Right now I am 'haggard', as someone said in a comment. I love that word. Somehow I always pictured haggard as a tall, skinny guy with stubble. See? I'm sexist! Can I be haggard too?]

So because of what should have been only a momentary loss of momentum, although we have a plan for what to do next, PI's current response, despite agreeing to this plan, is to stall everything.

In other words, PI has chosen to procrastinate.

Procrastinating is the WORST possible thing we could be doing right now.

But what can I do. PI is out of town again.

In the meantime I am trying to think.

Lately I have felt like I can't. Think.

The last couple of weeks I've been trying hard to clear my head enough to figure out what I want to do next. It hasn't been working. I make seemingly endless, nested lists of things I want to do... but lately there are too many things, and I can't prioritize them by the main criterion of Things I CAN and absolutely SHOULD do HERE AND NOW.

My favorite organization tool, Omnifocus, isn't helping, because the whole point of scheduling things is that you have to know how long things are going to take, and be able to break them down into predictable units of time. So it's kind of a joke for research anyway, but it can be helpful...

I guess I need to spend some time figuring out how many units and how long each one would take in the perfect world (multiplying by factors of 3-10x for conversion to the research world)...

At one point I was thinking of things I should do to get preliminary data for grant application(s). Then I was thinking maybe I should focus on things I can do while PI is paying for it (as most of the other postdocs who got jobs did before they left). Maybe some of those things are the same?

Maybe instead of making lists, I should be making Venn diagrams?

The wake-up call just reinforced once again how important it is for me to have my own agenda and push it hard, even if it means risking pissing off PI because really, what's the worst that could happen? I need to buy something to do the experiments I decide on, and PI says no? Not that that's ever stopped me, I can always go do it in someone else's lab...

Meanwhile, I've tried soliciting feedback from numerous people on the work I've done so far, and all the questions everyone would like to see answered. To try to figure out what to do first.

But beware this approach. Although it has helped in the past, this time it has not helped. The suggestions I've gotten are range from boring to bizarre to bewildering.

Most people, I've realized, only suggest what they know best, which tends to be whatever model organism or techniques they use in their own research.

I guess because I have so far been somewhat fearless about trying new things, people seem to assume they can suggest anything and I will try it. Which might be true, but, um, this is really not the kind of suggestion I'm looking for right now.

So the suggestions I've gotten range from testing my models in 3 different organisms (none of which I have worked with before, and all of which have their own set of methods and problems I only know about from a distance) .... to learning really cutting-edge new techniques, some of which can't be done at my university or even in my town ... to backtracking to methods I've used in the past but with a new twist ... to doing experiments completely in vitro with only purified components.

And it's not clear that any of these will work faster, be easier, or more informative than any of the others.

Or that any of these would be guaranteed crowd pleasers (where crowd = search committee and/or paper referees and/or study section).

So you can see how I'm feeling like gee, maybe input is not what I needed after all?

Maybe what I need is some time to decide for myself what I think is most interesting, and then do that.

Trouble is, I don't have a lot of time. Time is the one thing I do not have.

Here we are, it's almost July, and despite my gently reminding PI (which doesn't seem to be helping since guilt seems to feed the procrastination response)... for me to apply for jobs this year, we are already several months behind. Maybe already too far behind.

So I guess that's what I should be doing.

To do:

1. Build Time Machine.
2. Make all new mistakes this time around.

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At 4:09 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Have to say I just went through something similar with my Advisor. I finialy sat down with my mother and we hashed out various options, no holds barred flat out ugly truth. Afer everything I agreed I was not in a healthy place and needed to step back for a semester. I joined a gym and grew out my hair for Locks of Love, and worked on myself for a bit. Now I have a job offer (fingers crossed) which I would not have been able to take if I had continued on the path my advisor set me on.

Hope you get it all straight. Take a week to think and breathe, then chart out your options, up to ten years out. I love doing 10 minutes, ten hours, ten months, ten years, to put everything in perspective.

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It will be easier to help provide some perspective with a clearer understanding of your situation.

1) is this your first post-doc?
2) how many years have you been with this advisor?
3) how many first author papers have come out of this post-doc?
4) how many non-first author papers have come out of this post-doc?
5) what is the impact factor of the journals in which the first-author papers were published?
6) are there any first-author manuscripts you are writing right now?

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous philipj said...

As you've said yourself, you are now a senior postdoc, and you think of yourself as being closer to a junior PI than a grad student. To me, this means one thing: you need to trust yourself more than you seem to. This results in a fairly clear behavioral consequence: reason with your PI on why/how things should be done a little better! You should never just shut up and take a long time to do measurements you don't think are going to work for reasons xyz, particularly if xyz are _good_ reasons. If you really knew what you were doing was a waste of time (and not that you had a hunch that it was a waste of time!), you shouldn't have done it.

Alternatively, shouldn't a senior postdoc be mentoring students? You could have tried your way and your PIs way (with their blessing) if you had more hands, even if they aren't your own.

If your relationship with your PI is so screwy that something like this isn't possible, maybe it is long overdue to get out of that lab, two-body problem or not.

At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I generally pursue a two-pronged approach. After all, ultimately things rest on the facts, so... I always agree with PI and do whatever they say, and meantime I also do what *I* think is best, sort of on the sly. I've done this for years through several bosses and I would say on average it's about 50-50 in terms of who was right.

It's useful because 1. I've always done what they said, so there's no fighting over why not, and 2. in the case where my own idea works out better, I just present it casually like I just thought I would give it a try etc. On the whole I usually end up with more results overall.

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Unbalanced Reaction said...

I find that a factor of pi nearly always helps me manage time better.

The Boss says that our meeting is delayed ten minutes? Please. More like a 30+ minute delay.

I think training Coworker will take 1 hour? Please. I'd better schedule at least 3.5 h.

And don't even get me started on how long writing takes me....

At 2:08 AM, Anonymous ancient physics postdoc said...

"Somehow I always pictured haggard as a tall, skinny guy with stubble."

LOL! That's a spot on description for the guy I mentioned in the previous comment. Being in need of a haircut and a good night's sleep is also part of the look, I think.

"Can I be haggard too?"

Sure! The main requirement is ever-present tiredness, and since you have that in spades I think we can make an exception about the stubble ;)

"A guy can be a Troubled Child and get away with it."

Not all of us. In my brief T.C. phase I quit my PhD studies at an early point, and neither my advisor nor anyone else in the dept gave much of a damn. When I wanted to resume it a few months later they told me to get lost. (Without their help I found another, not very good uni to do a PhD at later on.) But when another guy in that dept quit his PhD at the same stage a year later it was a completely different story. He was later welcomed back, and, being a real T.C., went on to quit a second time and was welcomed back again! By all objective measures (exam grades etc) that guy was no better than me, but the faculty there (and one influential prof in particular) decided that he was *special* and went out of their way to help him. He is now junior faculty at Kansas State U. So far, his specialness is not reflected in his decidedly unspecial publication record.

I've seen and heard of many other things like this. Those with the `specialness' (personality, aura, or whatever it is) can get away with being T.C.'s, while others can't, even though they are just as good (or sometimes better) academically by any objective measure. And yes, having the specialness definitely is correlated with being a guy from what I've seen. Not all of us guys are blessed with it though; quite a few of us aren't.

Good luck with the other things (projects, PI etc). There's nothing I can say that you wouldn't have thought of already, so I'm reduced to cliches: Trust your judgements and be self-sufficient as much as possible. To hell with PI, just be selfish and do your science the way you think is best and find most satisfying. In the end it is all about making progress in science, and when your projects produce this then chances are everyone including PI will be happy and smiling at the end. (That has been my experience at any rate.)

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


Glad things are working out for you.

I was brought up with the 5-year plan mentality, and frankly I think it leads to misery, not happiness. Very few people find their 5-year plan works out as expected. But hey, whatever works for you.

Anon 4:43,

New here, huh? I'm not going to waste my time rewriting everything this blog is about, if you're not going to bother to read the archive.

But I find your questions telling, nonetheless. This is what people equate with measures of productivity and success.


No, see, I know exactly what you mean and you're totally right, but it's not that simple in this situation.

There is DEFINITELY a sexist factor (and maybe a lack of 'specialness', see APP's comment below) that comes into whether reasoning with the PI yields the desired results. It's not that I haven't tried.

I will say that when PI's suggestions are totally stupid, I say so and I usually win those arguments.

This was not that cut-and-dried. In this case, what PI and I agreed to focus on was not a waste of time in some ways, it basically worked and was informative.

The problem is that I'm doing very interdisciplinary work, which means you can never please everybody all the time.

In this case what I did pleases PI and addresses about one half (? exact amount is debatable) of the big science questions; the other half got put off because I can't do everything at once.

It's always a judgment call when it comes to priorities... in this case, hindsight is 20-20, and what I was interested in doing would have been, I think, more interesting. Maybe more informative.

Let's put it this way- it was important to rule out some possibilities, which I knew would be boring but necessary. So I did it. Unfortunately it tells us what's NOT going on, but it doesn't tell us what IS going on.

So it makes what I have more believable, but it doesn't raise the WOW factor.

But I could also argue that it's wow enough already. At least to some people. So maybe it will all be fine, I don't know.

It doesn't mean I'm not going to do what I want anyway, it's just a question of when. And maybe sooner, in this case, would have been better. It's hard to know for sure how that would have worked out.

No, I don't have any students right now. Long story, but that's a good point. I could really use some help. Have had some in the past, would like to have some again. I think PI mistakenly has been assuming I would be leaving any minute now, and this has gone on for the last year or two, so has been reluctant to have me be somebody's mentor.

But that's just a theory, we haven't discussed it lately, and in the past I've recruited my own helpers. So it's also my own fault for not recruiting.

Anon 6:38,

Yes, I have always done the 50-50 (or 70-30, whatever split) in the past too.

But as I mentioned there is no way I can do everything at once.

And actually I've come to the realization, again (because I knew this already), that doing what everybody else wants me to do tends to just slow me down.

Unfortunately, everything I am doing now requires my full attention. So trying to keep up appearances just ends up derailing me.


Yeah, I remember seeing you mention that on your blog. Pi is the magic number...


Check on the perpetual need of a better haircut; and check on more sleep.

Maybe not skinny enough, but if I stay this stressed out, I'm sure I'll get there! Come to think of it, MrPhD is looking pretty haggard these days...

I'm mystified by these stories of specialness. I know it exists, but most of the ones I've seen with the magic X-factor (or should I say pi-factor?) were Perfect Students, not TC's.

But yes, you're absolutely right that if I produce results, then PI will get over whose idea it was, because ultimately PI looks good when I succeed.

What I need to figure out now is what, scientifically, will be most satisfying to me. I think I will be spending today brainstorming and scribbling! And that, in many ways, is one of my favorite things about calling this kind of a work my career. If I can just keep up the delusion that it will all turn out okay...!

At 10:37 AM, Blogger JaneB said...

'Specialness' is definitely only a property of the few. There are two 'special' people who work in closely related areas to me whose 'specialness', and the kudos it gives them, I find particularly annoying, and one's male and one;s female. But in the wider field and in my department guys definitely have it more often, even allowing for there being more guys around.

But that aside - yes, I've been there (or at least in a very similar situation). Not sure if that's any help but, I hear you.

My advice would be the same as other commentators - first off can you take a break? Even if just a long weekend or a total chillout day at home? You need one, you earned one, you'll burn out without one. Second, whenever possible, do both the dumb-advisor-suggestion and your own - then show the pilot data to your advisor (if possible, at a lab meeting or similar where other people are around) and explain what you're doing next and why. If DAS is going to take too long, then maybe it's time to trust your instincts? As ancient physics postdoc says, progress and papers are the goal, once you get there your advisor will have forgotten the route (or be claiming that's the route he/she told you to take all along).

Collecting pilot data/test data without telling your advisor (in advance, or at all) makes a lot of sense - as long as you are making progress on your main project as well (at least in the traditional definition of progresss, that is, making lots of glassware dirty/binning lots of pipettes/writing down lots of numbers). As you've argued before, you weren't hired to be a well-qualified technician but as a skilled scientist.

My last post-doc advisor used to mutter constantly about how sick he was of having 'bloody bolshie postdocs' and how much he was looking forward to having some new grad students who would actually listen to him and have more respect for him - then he got a PhD student who was petite, feminine, pretty, doe-eyed, and apparently hung on his every word. It took him a year to notice that she was quietly going her own way and had effectively embarked on a different PhD project to the one she was funded to do (same methods, different field sample strategy)... that was funny. For the audience anyway.

In terms of what to do next - my advice would be, go with something you're passionate about, that passion will come across in applications for grants etc., and following your well-informed instincts (instinct in science actually has a large component of unconcious reaction to all the reading, talk-attending, experimenting you've been doing - just because it's filtered by the gut and endocrine system rather than the rational brain doesn't mean it's wrong - or even that it's less valuable. It's worth thinking that that gut-endocrine system has evolved over a longer time period than the rational bits, and may well be at least equally fit for purpose).

At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 4:43's point is valid, though. ultimately you will be judged/funded by people who don't know you, don't have the time to get to know you, and by and large would rather find one easy excuse not to get to know you than get personally invested in you. so it is how you look on paper that matters. the superficial crap is what matters.

I don't want it to be this way either, but you have to go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had.

At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But I find your questions telling, nonetheless. This is what people equate with measures of productivity and success.

Yes. If you fail to succeed by these metrics, you fail in academic research science. If this is your situation, you should bail.

At 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 9:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a long-time reader, honest. I was wondering if you had a realistic plan for ending your postdoc. At some point, the honeymoon period (my sarcasm) has to end!

I am guessing your plan for now is to stay in the same lab and finish some projects while waiting for the call. I know your main goal is to find a TT job, but what if you can't land that right away? Would you find another postdoc?

What did your PI say about your next step? I mean, does s/he give a shit or not? Even the very worst mentors have some sort of guilt mechanism about where their people will go next.

At 10:19 PM, Blogger Gibbiex said...

I have no answers for you. I have been postdocing for 3 years. Wonderful boss. My previous PhD advisor was horrid, took me off a Cell paper and didn't tell me. I continued that project in the new lab and got a publication out of it finally (which wouldn't of happened in PhD lab). That pub. led to a fellowship and 2 poster awards. No first authors yet.

Boss wanted me to do two separate and very long term things. One of which I am trying my damnest to be done. The other won't be done for 2-3 years (mouse model). My wife's residency expires in August. We spent alot of time looking around, me moreso than her, because i was looking at other careers. Finally i found a postdoc doing a hopefully useful line of research (industry oriented). So i'm moving there in a few months. I may take the project with me and try to finish it up. I see this project being done very soon really, due to having done everything i can do on it. Sometimes you have to give up i guess. Science isn't easy.

The transition will be hard, I'm not sure if i can take the fellowship, i have only talked to new boss for total of 10 minutes, i dont' even know my salary. It has the makings of a disaster but i'm kinda stuck and i think the experience would be fruitful, if i can just survive for a few years.

Anyway like i said no answers here but sometimes lines of investigation come to a dead end without the benefit of any sort of wonderful paper at the end. If i'm lucky it will be in a impact factor 3 journal. I'll try to publish but i haven't found anything really *new* since last paper, just some obvious extension work. That makes for boring, hard science in my opin.

At 1:44 AM, Anonymous ancient physics postdoc said...

Yeah, the skinniness criterion is a tough one. I like to think I might still be able to squeeze by on that, but my wife would disagree.. Might have to settle for semi-haggardness at this point.

Rereading your post I realized that the thing I suggested - to say to hell with PI and do what you want - is precisely what you say women can't get away with in this business. Sorry for being a bit slow to get the point. Well, one good consequence of your blogging is that those of us who wouldn't have been aware of these gender-specific issues now are.

My experience of this, as a guy who regularly pisses off his bosses ("mentors") by ignoring them etc, is that, while they find it annoying and probably mention it to others, it has very small effect relative to other things, some of which have to do with objective evaluations of my science and some which are much less objective and tangible. If it had greater effect I would pay more attention to it. It sucks that women have to worry more about this.

As for being able to get away with being a Troubled Child, and the `specialness' factor, that's something different I think. Not necessary to be spectacularly good; being pretty good (e.g., good enough to get a postdoc job) can be enough from what i've seen.

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


I took the weekend off... didn't really help that much.

Again, I would do a lot more experiments if I had the resources. Unfortunately I don't have or can't easily get everything I need to do just any experiment I can dream up.

But yeah, thanks for the advice about the gut. You know there's a huge nerve center in your abdomen...

NOTE ADDED IN PROOF: Last night I got a fortune cookie that said

Do what you can with what you have, where you are.

Now I just have to figure out exactly what I think that means.

Anon 1:11,

Well put. My army is small and tired (haggard).

Do armies get to go on vacation?

Anon 9:56,

Advisor does feel guilty. Did you read the post? Guilt is not necessarily helping and might actually be compounding the problem.

I'm not sure what I can do about alleviating the guilt besides magically succeeding.

I am doing the best I can to radiate forgiveness, patience, and avoid projecting blame. It's hard though because I think everyone realizes I'm pretty depressed! And the ones who don't know that, can't figure out why/how I'm still even here!

I get lots of points for persistence, supposedly...

I'd like to think PI knows how much blame to take. And it's a lot, if you're the sort of person who cares to see someone who works hard and has good ideas move on to the next step.

What bugs me is, there's basically no consequences for PI if I fail, besides the guilt.

(Unless I quit and come out of the closet and write a book about my experiences? Go on talk shows?)


I love this line, because it's so universally the story of a postdoc:

It has the makings of a disaster but i'm kinda stuck and i think the experience would be fruitful, if i can just survive for a few years.



Well I am glad if anyone has a better idea, after reading this blog, how dangerous these seemingly subtle gender biases can be. That makes it seem worthwhile.

Even if it doesn't help me and I end up in industry.... ha ha ha, I suspect that will never happen. I would rather go work in a bakery.

Mmmm, donuts.

Seriously though, maybe it will help educate the Powers That Be to consider changing some things, and help prepare the next generation?

Sometimes I think blogging is the only useful thing I do anymore, and the usefuless of this blog is debatable. So, thanks for that. I'm happy if it helps anyone.

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those damn fortune cookies are ALWAYS RIGHT.

Here's my personal story:
PhD Advisor #1 - say one thing, do another. It became say one thing, do the exact opposite. Then it became Sabbatical 1, 2, 3. Well, I jumped ship.
PhD Advisor #2 - FANTASTIC. I trusted my gut - I knew the minute I met him that I liked him. He does everything and anything for me - he bends over backwards when I am stuck in a crap hole. He's been honest with me from minute 1 and I've been honest with him from minute 1 and he doesn't yell at me for my brutally honest opinions and I'm not afraid to tell him what I really think. We are very much alike but we have different ways of handling things so I've learned alot from him. We are colleagues for life.
Postdoc Advisor 1: HELL. He did the bait and switch. I signed up to do one project, and it basically got taken away from me. I jumped ship (and it was quicker than the first ship jump).
Postdoc Advisor 2: So, so. He's not really an advisor. He has a lab and he fills it with people. Not a bad dude, just not my idea of advisor.

I often wonder why I went down the path I did - I do this work because I truly love it. PhD advisor whackjob 1 and postdoc advisor whackjob 1 kept me from loving what I do. If I were independently wealthy from the death of a relative or something, I would build my own lab and fund my own research. I really would.

I've learned that the people I surround myself with are what makes the difference between if I love what I am doing or not. If they make my life hell and I'm unproductive because of their issues, then I go into self-preservation mode (usually after bouncing off walls, going nuts, and then shutting down) and high tail it out of that situation. It's my career I'm saving. and my sanity. I've learned to pay attention to the little voices in my head, those gut check moments of "what the hell was that?", and all the subtle cues - I swear I have hawk like senses sometimes. I can just feel something waiting to happen. And I used to get paranoid waiting to bang yet another nail into the already buried coffin. It hurts to move on... it feels like failure. I hated leaving my first PhD program, but I couldn't see my career surviving the nonsense. and sure enough, the other grad students didn't rocket to superstardom. They all fizzled and are at small schools teaching. ugh. I hated leaving my first postdoc, but I hated staying more than leaving. It was awful from day 1, but literally 2 weeks into it, I applied for other jobs. I had already let go of my expectations - the writing on the wall wasn't in greek because I learned to read it from PhD advisor 1 - crystal clear - it said HELL.
I have plenty of top shelf papers with my fantastic PhD advisor 2 and I am competent at what I do. And I have the social skills that are lacking with most brainy sorts which makes me feel good - I've had students tell me that they could talk to me comfortably and they were scared of other profs or didn't think other profs gave a crap. I've learned that many profs don't give a crap, they have no social skills, can't relate to women, tenure = laziness, etc. It was really hard to find someone who "fits" my needs as a mentor and advisor. And I have gone through what many students have gone through in terms of hell - I was aware of it, I was emotionally drained many times, and I made decisions that changed the outcomes rather than being my typical stubborn self to stay the course (continued suffering, ugh).
I think your frustrations scream to me at least that there is a MUCH better place for you, and that you are scared to make that leap to possible greener pastures. banging head against wall repeatedly = doesn't work. I was scared out of my mind to move yet again (and admit "failure") and then move again, and then again ("failure" again), etc. I can tell you that I don't regret one bit jumping ship either time. I did exactly what was best for me. I learned something about myself each time. I'm productive because I learned to kick toxic people to the curb so fast their heads spin and they don't even know it. It's not worth it to stay in a situation where you are berated constantly (I know, I've been there) - it really does wear on you and suck the life out of you. No weekend or month vacation will help. Delusional people can "tell themselves" all will be ok if you do A, B, C.... you're well beyond AA, BB, CC. I really do think to save your sanity you need to jump ship.
The relationship you have with your advisor is THE MOST IMPORTANT relationship for your career. Your "advisor" SUCKS to put it mildly. There's no investment in YOUR success. Don't you be afraid to take the reins of your career - you know you better than any advisor schmuck. and once you find your happy place, you will know you belong there. You will take off.

I truly believe you love your work - you hate the people. It's the people that suck the life out of you, not the work. I relate to SOOO much of what you write. You need to find a better fit for you so you can run like the wind and be happy doing your research. There are fantastic advisors out there - you need to find the needle in the haystack. You are passionate about your work and don't you dare let some ass**** take that away from you. You worked too damn hard to give it away. And you care too much about your work to just walk away from it. I have NO idea what exactly you do, but I think the world would lose a great mind if you threw your hands up in the air for a job in telemarketing.

I'll translate the fortune cookie to academic english: Get the &*^% out of there! I think it will backfire on you if you say "screw it" to your "advisor" and do your own thing. Others get away with it, but not you (been there, done that). I do think it would haunt you in reference letters, which by the way probably SUCK anyway from your "advisor" who has nothing nice to say about anything.

If you do approach another possible advisor, don't blame the current boss for your unhappiness. Just say you want to do X, Y, Z and the projects you are working on now just aren't floating your boat. You want to go in a direction that your current lab isn't going and doesn't have the resouces for. Your excitement for new work needs to be greater than frustration of old work. If you need to talk to current advisor whacko about leaving, talk about in terms of building up your skills. You want to finish these projects elsewhere and make them better. Cover it with sugar. and smile.

Many hugs..... this is really hard for you. You're not going crazy. trust your gut. Don't fight harder... fight smarter girlfriend.


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