Short rant and random question about lab meetings
I went to flip the calendar ahead today to see what is cooking for the next two months, and realized it's time for a new one. Whew!
Looking back over the year, no matter how good my multitasking and planning, I realize I still get a lot more benchwork done during weeks when I don't have meetings or seminars interrupting my workflow. This is probably because nothing is really maintained where I work, so inevitably I have to build in extra time for both macro- and micro- catastrophic failures. My favorites include things like:
1. showing up to use (essential equipment) X, only to find that X
a) will not turn on
b) is lying in pieces on the floor
c) is gone (to another building, with the lab that owned it, or back to the company because we never actually bought it).
2. going to grab a tube of (essential ingredient) Y from the freezer, only to find that
a) we have no Y
b) the freezer is defrosted so the Y we had went bad
c) the brand-new batch of Y I just ordered from when the freezer was broken arrived yesterday but sat out at room temp overnight and went bad because I was in another room when it arrived, nobody told me, and nobody put it away (note that it is supposed to be everyone's responsibility to receive orders and put away shared things like Y, so why do I always feel like I'm the only one who does it?)
3. going to call the repair person for X, or for the freezer, or to order more Y, and finding that
a) it is after hours where the repair people's company is located
b) the fancy ordering system is not working so I can't place an order
c) I can send an email to the fancy ordering system repair office but they are gone for the day.
I'm not making this up. These kinds of things happen ALL THE TIME. I blame the "management" (cough, cough).
So I'm thinking, having meetings really sucks when you need uninterrupted time to put out fires, make phone calls, and yell at people. Those weeks (which is most weeks), I really resent having to stop yelling at someone who broke X just to go to a stupid lab meeting where I tell someone how to get their experiments to work, they ignore me, and then we all go back to our benches.
So here is my question for you: when would you rather have lab meeting?
I've been to labs that met afternoons, or mornings, or only very irregularly, or in sub-groups in addition to the main group meeting, and even if the boss was out of town.
I've known people who worked in labs that met at lunchtime and provided food; ones that met Friday afternoon and provided beer; and others that met - I'm not making this up - Saturday mornings. Early on Saturday mornings. (Personally, I think that's unfair for a variety of reasons, so as far as I'm concerned, that would never get my vote.)
I've heard all kinds of rationales for why people do it when they do it:
Mondays you get it out of the way and everyone is fresh; mid-week doesn't interfere with people's weekend travels; mid-day doesn't interfere with dropping off or picking up kids at daycare; Friday afternoon is most relaxed, you can get away with having alcohol, and the meeting can run later (for those who don't need to pick up kids at daycare or take off for a long weekend!). And then there's always the problem of booking a room if your lab is big enough to require more than a small office worth of space.
So when do you think is most productive and least disruptive? If you've visited various labs, say, for rotations or postdoc interviews, did you care when it was? Or is it just that everyone eventually comes to resent lab meeting no matter what time it's held?
Oh and while we're at it, how do you feel about meeting one-on-one with your advisor? Personally, I met with my thesis advisor weekly during much of grad school, and found it was essential for me to keep him informed of my plans and ask him questions (translation: to justify my needing to buy stuff and get his permission to buy stuff) because we only had whole-group meetings very rarely.
As a postdoc, we have lab meetings regularly, but getting a one-on-one meeting with my never-present advisor is nearly impossible and almost never happens (and I'm almost never allowed to buy the stuff I need to do my project).
I'm thinking there has to be a happy medium. I know some people prefer the group format because they find their advisors are on better behavior (aka nicer, more professional) than when they meet in private. But the drawback there is, you might not really get as much feedback. The unprofessional behavior thing is more way prevalent than I would have predicted when I was a grad student, and much more of a problem for women (I know it has been a big problem for me).
oh and happy new year! I bet you can't wait to go to the first lab meeting of 2010!