Thursday, April 26, 2012

Message in a bottle

Wow, it has been such a long time that Blogger has completely changed the way everything looks since last time I logged in. Very disorienting!

Just wanted to check in and say hi, since I had a handful of genuine comments waiting for me (the rest were spam).

I'm in a very strange position, which I can't describe here on conditions of anonymity. So don't send me a flurry of comments asking about it, mmkay?

With that disclaimer, I will say that lately the best part of my job is mentoring grad students. It's so much fun watching them get excited about having their experiments work. Sometimes that's the only thing that gets me through the week. I've given up caring whether I get any credit for it. I'm overjoyed if they say thank you or, even better, acknowledge me in their presentations.

I admit I'm somewhat conflicted about encouraging them, but I figure they're in now, they might as well try to make the most of it. I do tell them to consider leaving without a PhD, since it will only make them less employable. And by all means, I tell them, DO NOT DO A POSTDOC.

Of course I can't help it that most of them don't listen.

The worst part of my job is working with postdocs. A close second is working with sexist PIs.

Yes, you heard me. In that order.

The postdocs span all the extremes: the clueless one who did a 3-year PhD abroad and is way behind the 4th year grad students; the miserable one who nevertheless got a prestigious fellowship; the hopeless one who happens to be a minority and might manage to finagle a job that way; the one who works way too hard burning her candle at both ends all the time, who reminds me of myself and for whom I fear deeply.

And so on and so forth. There are SO MANY postdocs. And so many of them think they are special. They are going to be the exception. They are going to work harder and it's going to be okay. Or so they think.

While the grad students are generally really appreciative of advice, most of the postdocs don't listen to much of anything I say.

Perhaps more infuriatingly, they still ask for my protocols, etc. Which is, I guess, an improvement over my postdoc lab, where everyone wanted to complain about their stuff not working, but nobody wanted to try my protocols at all.

So these postdocs still don't really respect me much, but they do want to use me. Or at least waste my time.

The sexist PIs are just hilarious. They absolutely refuse to take my suggestions, and then when eventually it turns out that I was right, they either don't remember arguing with me, or pretend not to remember that I said so. They always think it was their idea all along.

In the meantime I have to pretend like I don't mind that they ignore me, invalidate me, and give me zero credit.

But at least I only see them occasionally in meetings. They're not usually pestering me on a daily basis.

So it's funny because it's the same as ever, except now I have the luxury of not caring so much, because I know there's no future for me in this business. So it's not like I'm trying to earn anyone's respect. (It's very funny to me to think I ever bothered trying?).

Why bother?

I have two rules:

1. Lower Expectations. No, lower. I said LOWER!

2.  Try not to burn too many bridges.

Let's just say some days are better than others.