i saw this early in the am over at the daily dish, and it put a smile on my face. and might have made my ovaries hurt just a little bit.
i went to my graduate coordinator yesterday and outlined what’s been happening in my lab. and she was appalled. and she believed me – i didn’t realize how used to my concerns being dismissed until she agreed that my work has been sabotaged, and agreed that i shouldn’t feel safe in the lab, and actually understood that what i was telling her was beyond unacceptable.
i almost cried, it was such a relief to be taken seriously.
i’m leaving my lab. i’m staying in the department – but looking for a new home. because there’s a shitstorm brewing, and its directed at my PI. the graduate coordinator is going to wait until i’m settled in my new lab and have informed my PI that i left (he’s out of town on yet another vacation) before the fury is unleashed.
she’s promised that it will not become a department soap opera, but that things will be handled – and that things for me may get worse before they get better, as the postdoc may lose his job (which could lead to him coming completely unhinged and assaulting god only knows who). but she made it very clear that i am not admitting defeat in leaving the lab. that i chose this battle and i chose well.
let’s hope that the lab i’m interested in has the funding to take me.
let’s start with the most basic: my lab sucks. alright, i like most people in my lab (despite their lack of work effort) however i don’t feel safe in my lab. due to an accumulated assortment of issues involving our postdoc sexually harassing three women and physically assaulting two lab technicians.
following said incidents, my PI said he would “take care of it”. part of which included telling two prominent people within the department. in a conversation over dinner the other day, i made a small joke about the incidents to one of these PI’s. who stared at me blankly. what’s unfolded is that nothing has been done – ever – by my PI regarding our postdoc.
i have a meeting next week to discuss with some PI’s in the department about why i don’t feel safe in the lab. because apparently our lab’s level of dysfunction goes beyond what’s acceptable, and requires action.
*deep sigh of relief*
my other grievance is also work centered: our department (at a state-funded university, mind you) sponsors several christmas events, ranging from a secret santa (a week-long extravaganza involving the exchange of cheap gifts) to a christmas party that involves massive amounts of alcohol.
i’m not a christian, and i choose not to celebrate christmas at work. and every year i respectfully decline invitations to participate in christmas festivities within the department. i’m not out there saying these activities should be canceled or eliminated – if people want to celebrate christmas, that’s fine by me. wrong or right, it’s a federal holiday – and i’m not about to go around actively discouraging people’s participation.
but the thing that is hopping up and down on my very last nerve is the level of harassment i’ve received by not only my co-workers, but other people in the department, for declining to be involved with such activities. its gotten to the point that i hear on an hourly basis about how i am a “scrooge” a “grinch” a “spoilsport” and a “bitch” for not participating in a department-sponsored christmas.
(let me highlight, again, that i do not actively discourage others from participating in the holiday! all i said when asked was “i do not celebrate christmas, and will not be participating. i appreciate your respect for my decision”).
and yet the comments continue. and it makes me want to commit atrocious acts of violence out of the sheer frustration of dealing with other people’s stupidity. all i’m asking for is respect for my decision to not participate.
if i were a muslim, and harassing people for not celebrating one of my holidays, legal action would most likely be taken. so why is christmas this big exception?
three weeks ago i asked my PI about applying for two separate travel grants in order to present a poster on my research at a relatively nearby location. he thought that it was a great idea. and so i plowed ahead with the writing of an abstract as well as filling in the grant applications themselves. i’m the only graduate student in the lab, and the PI has the full run-down on what i’ve accomplished to date. its not like i’m hiding any surprise data.
last week i emailed my PI the information regarding reference letters, and verbally confirmed with him that i would need said reference letters because i was planning on going through with the grant applications, and would get him what i hoped to be a final copy of my abstract within the next few days.
i just received an email from him, stating that i should not apply for said travel grants because i do not yet have the data that i need in order to present a successful poster, and that he will not be writing reference letters or signing off on any applications for me, because he feels that i need more substantial data. and while my abstract didn’t overstate its claims, and only gave the data that i have on hand and have already completed – data that my PI felt perfectly satisfied with in terms of progress and presentation – all of a sudden its been nixed.
i’m FINE with my PI’s concern that i do not have substantial enough data in order to present at a conference. what i take issue with is him waiting until after i’ve written the abstract and filled out the proposals and gone to him needing the final signatures in order to tell me that it’s not enough, and that i would not be attending said conference.
on monday i ran through a “practice” version of my seminar with the bossman. and i got the “i am so disappointed in you” talk. which led to tears. tears that i held back, but the voice was quivering and i was turning red and the whole thing was mortifying because i don’t ever cry in front of other people. it did motivate me to get my shit together though, and by the time i gave the actual seminar on thursday, i got a “good job” out of the boss. i hung around a little longer, waiting for more praise. but after 20 minutes i realized everyone else had moved on and to look for more praise would simply be a self-serving fishing expedition. i berated myself as i filled up my congratulatory bag of sour jelly bellys – why would i expect more? i was just doing my job. and i got a “good job” – which is quite possibly the best compliment i could get from my PI – as he never gives compliments. so i took it and ran.
i have come dangerously close to ringing someone’s neck. i was having a pleasant conversation before class with a friend of mine – talking about doctor’s vs. physician assistants vs. nurse practitioners – all relevant as her beau is in PA school. and the conversation was interrupted by someone across the room. who started to talk about the physician i used to go to (i stopped seeing her because she wanted me on massive medications and refused to give me birth control unless it was an IUD) and how she just loves her and how she can’t understand what i didn’t like, and it was all “me me me – listen to me talk about me – i am soooo important” and so i let her finish, and turned back to my friend, and picked up the conversation where we left it.
this same student is the one who announced to the class that she has already finished the final exam (a grant proposal on a topic not related to our research) on the day that the assignment was given to us. think about that. prior to the assignment being given, she had already finished it. and felt that announcing this to the class would what, endear her to us? hardly. surprisingly, the collective response was stony silence.
i used to socialize with this student, but stopped because of the gossip.
i’m hosting turkey day this year. i love cooking. loooooove it. i love entertaining even more. and not only is the manfriend going to be in town, but several good friends from another department will be here. i’m hoping to break out ‘settlers of catan’… but have already told myself not to be disappointed if we never progress past ‘apples to apples’. in an effort to be nice, i invited some people from my department – which turned out to be disastrous. apparently the aforementioned student is hosting thanksgiving at her house. where is the disaster, you ask? well, she asked that i not know about it.
wtf? i mean, i don’t care if i’m invited to your house or not. no love lost there. but to create drama by insisting that the people you’ve invited over to your house not let me know that you’re hosting thanksgiving? gah. i shrugged it off and let it go. what else can you do?
anyway. i’m off to battle through the crowds this morning in an effort to complete all of the shopping i can possibly do in a day. and then come home to clean. and organize. and start cooking. and clean some more. how does such a small space get so trashed?
i have a medical condition. a serious one, really. in that i get earth-stopping, mind-splitting migraine headaches. at the ripe old age of 22 i was actually hospitalized for a short period of time because it was believed that i was actually having a series of small strokes.
i went through a whole battery of hospital tests and conversations with doctors who wanted to prescribe me medications for symptoms i didn’t have. hospitals are the worst. especially if you know even the slightest amount about your own body.
my follow-up appointment with my dr? fantastic. she got migraines, too. and her treatment plan?
drink a cup of coffee every morning. and if i still felt a headache coming on later in the day, to take 4 ibuprofen and have another cup of coffee (or soda, even!). and if for some reason the headaches persisted, we would explore actual pharmaceutical options.
in the last six years, i can count on one hand the number of times i’ve had a migraine – or that start of one that was quickly remedied with ibuprofen. mostly it’s when the weather changes – a major storm front moving in.
and so imagine the distress when, for the past few weeks, the coffeemaker in my apartment has been on the fritz. sometimes not brewing a whole pot, sometimes making a bitter sludge out of some very delicious coffee, sometimes just refusing to work. i have pulled it apart, polished all of it’s plastic, and reassembled the little bastard – all to no avail. it’s not like the bugger is all that old – three years isn’t old for a coffeemaker, is it? what irks me is that i shelled out the money for a $70 coffeemaker. clearly, i could have survived with the $15 version – you see them all the time, covered in coffee spots and hard water stains from decades of use… and so while i slurp down this most awful cup of coffee, laced with hot cocoa in an attempt to hide the sheer disgustingness of it, i’ve resolved myself to head out to the shop and buy another coffeemaker.
and seriously, the person brought here by the search term “death by paperwork”, i hope it turns out ok for you.
daisyfae has a really fantastic post up – a letter written to her 16 year old self. i thought of doing something similar, but 16 years old was one of the roughest patches i’ve been through – i left home, became an emancipated minor, and had to grow up way too fast. and those aren’t the things i want to think about over coffee on a saturday morning. some other time, perhaps. but today i need the motivation to get my act together and get through this god damn PhD while being immersed in an environment of graduate student apathy. so this is more or less the letter i would hope to receive from my 45 year old self on a day like today.
dearest little fish:
first things first: you survive graduate school. not only do you survive, you thrive. it took a little longer than most for you to find your field and your passion and a PI that you legitimately respect (most of the time), but you stop letting that lag be your crutch and instead use it to motivate you. sure, your fellow graduate students, for the most part, feel entitled to leave after 8 hours of work, and can’t be found on the weekends. but that’s ok. you keep adjusting your schedule so that it works for you – coming in at 6 am and leaving as soon as all bench work is done to head to the library – where you can work without distraction. you keep tweaking and adjusting your environment so that you can be the most productive. and you know what? you start bringing in your own funding to supplement your salary as well as go to conferences, and you stop trying to be a people-pleaser, and instead immerse yourself in this period of dedicated self-interest.
and when Q said you were the most likely student out of the current graduate students to go on and become a tenure-track PI at a tier-one school because you’re the only one who had the balls to be a bitch when necessary – he was right. he was also right when he told you to survey your battles before engaging, because sometimes the right thing to do isn’t always the ideal thing. learn these lessons now and start applying them.
you also stop being shy at meetings and conferences – and start introducing yourself to PI’s that you find interesting. even if it means re-introducing yourself at the next meeting. because this is part of the network you’ll build and rely on for the rest of your life. you were always good at socializing (even if you did hate it) and you need to put those skills to work. yesterday. you also stopped worrying about hurting people’s feelings. you never go out of your way to crush someone, but when feelings are hurt you apologize – but stop wasting the effort when that person continues to wallow in their feelings of self-pity. you start to realize what you’re capable of changing, and stop worrying about the rest.
at some point before your comprehensive exam you kill your tv. well, you stop watching hulu – you don’t have a tv. because while it’s ok to crash out on a friday night after a long work week and eat junk food and watch a whole bunch of episodes, the weekly searching for crappy shows instead of reading articles or interesting books starts to really hinder your productivity. you’re going to realize that down-time is important, but that you don’t need three hours of it every single night.
oh, and that fantastic guy you met ten years ago and have kept in touch with and are currently involved in an odd long distance relationship that is working out beautifully? yeah, he proposes and you say ‘yes!’ and you two will raise two beautiful children (one adopted, as planned) and he will support you in your scientific endeavors no matter what, because he believes in you and the work that you do. he is the only one who knows the truth about you – and it dazzles him.
it turns out that running is your sport – especially distance running. the work you started to put in as a graduate student carries you through some stressful times, and you log some serious miles. you’re never a serious competitor, but your dreams of running in boston are eventually achieved – but not until much later than you originally anticipated. as for those mountains – you keep climbing them. you learn the skills necessary to climb them with ease and grace, and relish the adventure. you never really push yourself out of your comfort zone on those peaks – and you know that you will never climb K2 or everest, but you’re ok with that. a few trips to the himalayas just to see those mountains are all that you need.
you turn out more than ok little fish – but you need to start putting in the time and the effort now. you love to procrastinate, and there will come a point where its going to get you into a lot of trouble if you don’t learn to change your ways. but you’ll change and adapt. i have no doubt about that.