Friday, April 26, 2013

What’s in it for me?

My PI got me involved in a collaboration with people who want to do something that I know how to do (and my PI doesn’t really). So I’m helping them as much as I can. Not only do I give them advice, I also help them with practical work because that lab currently consists of only the PI and a technician who works hir ass off for the PI. The PI is pretty pushy and often only asks things at the last minute, so this collaboration has been a good exercise in trying to protect my personal boundaries (read: I’ve been annoyed to no end by all the last-minute requests). 

What I’m not really sure about in these kinds of situations is when you ask what’s in it for you? I asked my PI and he was like:” Yeah of course you’ll be a co-author on their paper.” But so far, we’re gathering preliminary data for a grant, and with the current size of this PI’s lab it might take a while before this turns into a paper.

So how does one go about this? Do you trust that this PI will remember that I helped hir when ze writes the paper years from now? Or do you just ask (or even email so that you have it in writing):”What’s in it for me?”

Friday, April 19, 2013

What is your obligation as a PI?

Say you’re a PI of medium sized lab (or any size, it really doesn’t matter for this question) and you get an offer from a non-academic place to go work there. It’s very tempting because they pay tons of money, and with the difficult time getting grants that sounds like sweet music to your ears. So you take the job, which means your techs, grad students and post-docs don’t have a PI anymore. 

What is your obligation here? The grad students will be taken over by other PIs because the school promised them continuous funding (although it will cost them extra time), but what about the techs and the post-docs? Officially, of course, you probably owe them nothing (or do you?), but in reality what would you do? Do you try to make sure they get somewhere or is that not your problem?

Of course, this is an entirely hypothetical situation. I just wanted to talk about something else than the Boston Marathon bomber for a change.

Monday, April 15, 2013

That tree in the forest

Analogous to that tree in the forest that falls without anyone hearing it: is it worse to have a grant submitted and then rejected or almost completely written and then NOT submitted because my PI decides that is a bad idea for reasons I cannot share here? To me, the second option feels worse.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Incentives to have grad students finish

In the home country, the time to finish your PhD is four years. From the start it is clear that you will need to finish within that time, because then the money has run out. I have to add that you can only start a PhD program when you already have a master’s degree, so there’s a lot less course work than in the US. Also, truth be told, most people take longer, but you have to ask your PI to support you longer, or write your thesis on welfare money. Also, departments usually get money (I don’t know how much) when grad students graduate, so that’s an incentive to get grad students to finish too. 

However, in the US it seems that there are very little incentives for grad students (or their PIs) to finish their thesis and defend. For PIs, keeping a grad student around a bit longer seems only beneficial: it’s a trained person who costs relatively little. Or, what I recently see around me quite a bit, is that PIs just seem too busy to read a grad student’s manuscripts and that keeps them around a lot longer than necessary in my opinion. And from the grad student’s point of view I guess sometimes it’s nice to stick around a bit longer to wait for job opportunities (or the lack thereof).

So what am I missing? What are the incentives to finish your PhD in the US, either for the grad student, the PI or the department?

Monday, April 8, 2013

A post about nothing really

There's a bunch of things going on that I would LOVE to blog about, but for several reasons I have decided not to. For now at least. And whenever people write these things it always annoys me, cause why announce that you cannot write about something? So to not leave you completely empty handed:
A song that has #worklifebalance written al over it.