Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Week getting better.

A couple of you asked if my week is getting better. I guess I'd say yes, but only because I'm trying to have a better attitude.

And yes, those new vitamins (big dose of B!) are really helping a lot. Not being tired all the time is quite an amazing change for me of late.

It's hard to explain my frustrations, partly because of anonymity issues I can't tell as complete of a story here as I would like.

I think this week has been just another bump in the road of interdisciplinary research. I think this has long been the problem with my project, with the labs I've been working in, with my publications, and with my job prospects.

I have been teaching myself, mostly from reading and attending meetings, a 'new' field without having been working in a lab that specializes in it. This means my PI never completely understands everything I'm doing, doesn't have all the reagents I need, and questions any time I need to order something.

[aside: Yes, we have had at least a few examples of the "That won't work, and it's too expensive" followed later by "Why didn't you ever do that experiment?"

You've been there, you know what I mean. UGH. Sigh.]

It means we don't have the Established Track Record one needs to get high-impact papers.

It means departments that might consider me for a job, can't quite figure out where to put me.

And it means that half the people understand half my work all the time, but nobody understands all of it all of the time.

This could mean they are all doubly impressed, right?

But the flip side of it is, they all assume (we all do, right?) that they're smarter than I am. So they say, "Well why doesn't she just do X (seemingly straightforward experiment)?"

And the answer is, because that won't work in my case, for reasons you wouldn't know about because you only understand half of my project.

But these are all rational, well-meaning people, who haven't once considered that yes, I thought of that, in some cases I even tried it, and maybe I just don't bring you every little piece of trash I pick up.*

I do sometimes wonder if I would have these same kinds of problems if I were a better Salesperson, or better yet, a Salesman.

I'm still trying to learn how to communicate all of these nuances clearly and succinctly without making it sound like, as someone pointed out at a meeting recently:

Yeah, your project just sounds REALLY HARD.

(This is not a compliment, by the way, it means you'll never get funded.

Which means you'll never get a faculty position with THAT project)

But when I try to make it look easy, as I'm told we must, I get this other kind of "Well why don't you JUST try X, Y and Z (you idiot)"??**

So I am trying to remain calm, and just be the bigger person that I know I can be. I can remember, understand, and cater to, everyone else's perspective, even if they don't understand mine. I can learn how, with repeated bangings of head-against-wall, to explain what I'm doing so that everyone will understand that

Yes, it's hard, but it's also really important and interesting AND IT'S WORKING. And if you were so smart, you would have HIRED ME BY NOW.

*weak attempt at a Fight Club reference

**My PI told me not to?

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At 3:08 PM, Blogger Becca said...

Multi-purpose response:
Look really excited and say "That's a GREAT idea!!- so, are you offering me funding/regents/armies of undergrad minions/*insert resource here* to let me try your really neat idea?"

Sometimes it's satisfying.

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Yep, I've done that.

Never have yet gotten the stuff I need that way, but it usually does shut them up. =D

No, what sucks is when I find out after the fact, or through the grapevine, that people were saying to themselves/each other (not to me) "They should have just done this other thing... "

Instead of just ASKING. Hey maybe you could do it this way? Is there any reason that wouldn't work?

At 7:00 PM, Anonymous LC said...

I don't regularly read your blog, but I find it pretty interesting. I have a question... is most of the science/academia world all... corrupt as you describe?

I'm a (female...) high school student, and I've worked in two microbiology labs over the past three years (and am currently working in one now). I've learned a lot, really enjoy learning and working there, and I am seriously considering concentrating on this in college/graduate school. I love the people in the lab; they're the kind of people I like being around-- they all seem hardworking, creative, collaborative, honest, agreeable, and seem to enjoy what they do.

I understand that in life, politics seeps into nearly everything else, but in your opinion, are there places/labs in which politics is not so prevalent? Is it something particular to NIH, or just as acute at any other academic institution? I never noticed even the slightest hint of it it at the lab I work at, but maybe that's just because I'm not one of those people worrying about grants and stuff like that. Maybe I'm naive. I'd like to hear your perspective.

Thanks for writing this blog :) It is funny, and informative to somebody like me.

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Femme Biologist said...

"So I am trying to remain calm, and just be the bigger person that I know I can be."
it will be my mantra until finish my monograph!


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