Two posts ago, Dr. Feelg00d writes:Actually, I mean smarter than you as it relates to the technical aspects of getting your experiment to work. Not the actual idea. I am plenty smart for that, and I am sure you are too. But I hate re-inventing the wheel for technical hurdles. Often when you find someone who doesnt help, you just need to find someone better. Its tough, but its worth the legwork. Of course, you have to know enough to know what you dont know (that make sense?).
Yes, that's what I mean when I say I can sometimes get useful information from other people for technical aspects.
But usually it's a bit of a stretch, e.g. something they use for a totally different application.
It often takes explaining from me, for them to understand why I want to try what they're doing, because they can't see how I'm going to apply it.
It's pretty tiring. But I try to be patient about it.
The truth is, they don't need to know, and I don't really care if they understand. But sometimes they have a little extra insight that they wouldn't share unless I share what I'm doing...
But yes, I think the trick is to figure out where your weak spots are, figure out whose strength that is, and then get them to help you.
I'm reasonably good at that, but one of my biggest problems lately is taking no for an answer when I shouldn't.
This is a bit of a tangent but I swear it's relevant.
I have run into some problems where our lab has published things that I need. (That was part of why I joined the lab, natch.)
But when I ask for these things, I'm told someone has to help me find them (in the freezer, or the basement, or wherever).
And when I find that person who supposedly knows, they say yeah, it doesn't really exist anymore
or worse (and never on the record): yeah, that never really worked the way we said it did.
It's not clear to me whether PI really knows this and wants to remain in denial, or just thinks I'm making it up, or both...
PI doesn't want to know.
I've tried confrontation, I've tried hinting and reminding, but mostly I just get disapproving looks from PI and the world, when I'm not doing the obvious experiments that our lab has published before.
Am I supposed to reinvent that particular wheel? (What if it can't ever exist and I already know that?)
So when the answer is some kind of hand-waving, I don't want to know, because PI doesn't want to know.
My strategy of late has been to avoid, wherever possible, wasting my time on these kinds of things.
For better or worse, I've also adopted this strategy with other people (outside our lab). If they don't respond, or send me something that doesn't work and THEN don't respond, I don't want to know
Because the obvious corollary is, they've done all their experiments this way, and don't see anything wrong with it
Oh, god. I really didn't want to know that!
I never used to think this way, so I'm trying to get over it and go back to my Innocent Hopeful act: ask dumb questions when things don't work (e.g. pretend I'm screwing it up even when I'm pretty sure I'm not).
This is a double-edged sword for everyone, but especially for women. But it often works (at least in the short term).
But one of the most popular methods (maybe even the Official University Policy?) is to just avoid answering questions, or blame someone above you for making equipment or facilities inaccessible because of security concerns, or whatever. Yeah, we can't give you a key, because then we'd have to give everyone a key, so even though it's sitting unused all weekend and you know how to use it, we can't let you use it so you'll have to wait until during the week, when it's booked solid for months, because someone has to be here when you're here and everyone has to wait and make an appointment...
Yeah, I love this. Science at its fastest and most efficient! Let's cure cancer and HIV and Alzheimer's and MS! But not yet. Maybe next week.
Other times they don't tell you this up front, they just stall by not returning email or phone calls.
I don't remember having this problem when I was a grad student. Maybe I was just more intrepid and wouldn't take no for an answer? I was pretty good at getting keys back then.
I think what sets the Successful (note that I didn't say "the best") apart from The Rest is the ability to get anyone and everyone to help you and be happy about it.
Where I did my PhD, most people were reasonably helpful when that was their job (and often, even when it wasn't).
I think it's fair to say I wasn't any cuter or nicer than I am now. So I doubt that's the main difference in why I got so much help then and have so much trouble getting help now.
Admittedly, my project now is a lot harder, so maybe I need more than I did then? Maybe not, since I also know a lot more now-?
Where I've been doing my postdoc, most people are resentful when I ask them, no matter how nicely, to do their jobs.
I often find myself getting told nastily you're the only one who wants that
and EVERYONE ELSE is content with the [inferior product, service or equipment]
I am SO tired of this.
I'm as cheap as the next person, but I've tried the cheapest thing and found it didn't work, and I've worked my way up the quality ladder until I found something that works consistently. I'd rather not waste my time.
Oddly, very few people seem to know this.
There is nothing for which I'd say "Let's just get the most expensive thing just because it's expensive!"
But I'd also NEVER say "Let's get the cheapest thing even though we know it only works half the time!"
I am so tired of getting punished for having high standards.
One of my biggest fears lately is that I'm just working in a place that is not good enough in that regard.
I'd prefer to be the dumbest one in the room and just soak up information constantly.
Lately I feel like maybe I've gotten all I can out of my current situation, and at this point I'm just sucking air.
Labels: being a postdoc sucks, no wonder the system is so broken, sanity or lack thereof, scary