Monday, May 23, 2011

don't worry, be happy now

Oh Bobby McFerrin, how mesmerizingly you sing my counsel...

I've been abnormally exhausted the last few weeks.  As proof, I slept like a rock until 10am this Sunday.  It's stress, I'm sure, which shows glaringly in my consistently burning and bloodshot eyeballs.  It's stress, I'm sure, from work.

The day of my departure creeps ever closer (yes, with two months to go I'm already panicking), and my colleagues slash successors are not easing my nerves with their competence.  Ever aware of my capacity for excessive worry, I am trying to be the patient observer and not accuse anyone of , well, amateurishness.  This is increasingly difficult for me to do.  The urge to approach my boss and request the authority to tell my protégés that they are doing things totally wrong and that I refuse to pass on my legacy to them unless they change things is throbbing in my brain.


My internal monologue to my inveterate coworker goes something like this:
It is one thing to consistently force the colleagues with whom you share equipment to clean up after you.  That's just disrespectful on a peer level, like the time (last week) I mentioned your error, and witnessed its repeat no less than four hours later.  But when your neglect of expensive and sensitive apparatus results in its corrosion or other damage, you're disrespecting your boss and unnecessarily costing him many monies.  These monies should be on reserve for actual screw-ups.  The equipment is plenty capable of doing this on its own, thanks.   
When I leave, there will not be anyone to clean up after you before IACUC or the VMU folks drop by (or to forget to do so, for which mistake my ass has been burned several times).  Frankly, I've enjoyed that you are prompt with coffees and homemade treats to share in apology, but I urge you to bribe yourself with these things, for I will no longer be around to play the forgiving role, and you will have to take the heat from the higher-ups for your own mistakes.
In addition, I'm sorry to say, consistency of timing does indeed play a crucial role in behavioral data collection.  Specifically, if you begin testing a subject at 9am one day, you cannot then begin testing others in his cohort at 3pm the next round.  Hormones, circadian rhythms and neurotransmitter levels alike are in play here.  It is clear from your conduct that you may have forgotten this, despite your ten years of experience and self-touted expertise in animal research.  So I remind you and beg your to be cognizant of these variables in future.  
Please, please take to heart the things I am teaching you.  This research cannot afford for you to defy my every word to satisfy your ego.  I know you've been in the business much longer than I have, but I have been mastering these things which are new to you, and I will humbly argue that my experience with them gives me seniority.
To my new colleague/trainee:
If I may be so bold, it has come to the point where I can no longer tolerate your arguing with my methodology and telling me that every explanation I give you is wrong.  Lookit, bud; I have spent four years developing my techniques, optimizing and expanding them.  I am no idiot, and as much as it pains me to be arrogant, I do take ownership of this.  Having published five manuscripts based on my research and my techniques, written by my own hand, I'm pretty sure that the scientific world has at least begrudgingly accepted my analyses and interpretations.  I have been respectful of your questions, praising of your intelligence and encouraging of your perspective.  I had hoped that my example would be enough to convince you that it is ideal to respect your mentors and peers and their experience, but it seems that subtlety eludes you and I must take measures to be verbal... but not too verbal. 
Chill.  It'll make you a better scientist.  There are reasons that I do things a certain way, and, similarly, there are reasons that I do not do things certain other ways.  I am open to suggestions -- part of science is constantly optimizing and when I leave you will certainly improve upon what I have developed.  You may contest or challenge my rationale, but you may not blatantly tell me that I am wrong and you refuse to do it my way but that you have no idea why.  Sorry, bud.
Please, please take to heart the things I am teaching you.  This research cannot afford for you to defy my every word to satisfy your ego.  I know that you are fresh out of undergrad and think you know everything and the world is your oyster, but I have been mastering these things which are new to you, and I will humbly argue that my experience with them gives me seniority.
I stress because I worry (perhaps selfishly and egotistically) about my legacy collapsing when I leave --I hope that this is an exaggeration of the circumstances.  Mostly though, I stress about the amount of my work that is being passed on to my boss -- yes, my PI -- because my colleagues are not capable of learning the skillz.  Seriously.  I do not want to leave my boss in a situation where he is too overwhelmed to function.  The man is the reason I have any shot of being a good scientist.  He provided me with every opportunity under the academic sun, and I do not intend to leave his research teetering on a cliff.

Deo volente, I will refine these thoughts and project them in the upcoming weeks... ...


  1. speaking from experience with people that don't take hints, just TELL them. you might cause a fight of some kind, but man. people need to hear things. far too many people are so dense that dropping hints is equivalent to poking a rock with a stick to see if it'll move. GUH! seriously. people!!!

  2. you are so right, my friend. and i will. as soon as i can do so peacefully and give everyone the fair benefit of the doubt :)