Thursday, July 3, 2008

Still struggling to find a direction

Every day more and more information keeps coming out. One of the reasons I'm having such a hard time with this decision is trying to figure out how to not repeat the same situation, which I feel like I have. Although current PI is way better at the personal stuff than MSc PI, he has, I've discovered, some of the same traits that I abhor - passive-aggressive and inappropriate language. Extremely inappropriate, but also some that I have never experienced, unethical behaviour and poor standards.
I thought I put alot work into talking to others about current PI before entering the lab. I spoke to current students, past students, and outside observers. All had nothing but good things to say about him. Of the current students I had spoken to, only one said he was unhappy, but the other 3 had only good things to say about him. I found out that one of those 3 lied because they had been "spoken to" for suggesting to another applicant that they look somewhere else. Does that mean the other 2 may of been less than forth coming. The way I interpret the information is that the students did not say how they really felt because of a fear of being found out. Now what? I'm early enough that I can leave without effecting my graduation time-line. I'm not stuck on the research. I mean I love science, and am happy learning about any ol protein. So, if I leave (FPD1 is leaving asap) how do I assess the next space. What different questions am I supposed to ask? How do I know that students are not telling the truth? The issues I'm bringing up are not new in the lab, they've been festering for awhile - I have tried to stick my head down and not get involved. The hear no evil see no evil mentality. To be completely truthful, I am not being effected by most of this stuff just yet, but I will be in the future. His scientific standards are poor and he knows it. He pesters students to do the data collection his way, but when they present the data and get shit on, he does nothing to protect them. He lets it look like it was their idea. Student that are finishing, post-docs and technicians are telling me to leave....not a good sign.
Melanie hit on the nail in her comments. It comes down to fear. Not fear of staying. I fully know what I am stuck with for the next 5 years if I stay. A difficult absentee PI that claims he wants to mentor but doesn't put in the time or effort. One that will let hang me and then say its because I didn't work hard enough. I would be teaching my self as I did in my MSc. I am scared to leave. Scared of thinking I'm moving to better situation (which I thought I did with this move) only to be in just as crappy but for different reasons situation. Everybody has their faults. Many many student have pointed out my PI's issues, but he doesn't seem to want to change or cares to change. What to do? What to do?

6 comments:

Nicky said...

Seriously -- he censored what his students were allowed to tell you about him? And it worked?!? That's absurd. At my university, all new students are encouraged to speak with current students when picking a lab, and those conversations always happen behind closed doors, with 100% expectation of honesty and privacy. People tend to explain both the good and the bad, without any fear of reprisal. To be in an environment other than that... wow.

Given that, and the fact that you're early in your program, and the fact that others who personally know the situation all think you should move, I say run. Start talking to other PIs. Good luck!

Melanie said...

If he's being called to table for inappropriate comments, that might smooth over the politics of changing labs. I too am disgusted about the student being censored, but not surprised. Things get around. There's an expectation of honesty and privacy ... but where there are extra ears and other-student egos and politics involved, things get said.

Remember your own statement. Never make a decision based on fear. I'm not saying that leaving must be right because you're afraid, but just that you need to really investigate the possibility of leaving and think about the reasonable consequences to know how reasonable your fear is.

drdrA said...

Golly- I should have read this sooner. I guess it all depends on the situation -but the bottom line is you have to look out for yourself, not your PI, not your labmates- you and your family. Period.

If switching labs is best for you, then you should do it. No ifs ands or buts...

As for choosing the next PI- you are going to have to be direct and ask some tough questions of the people that work for your next potential advisor- then you have to have a bit of radar about their responses. Lots of things don't get said directly, but you can pick up the gist. Make it clear to next advisor the things that are important to you in a working relationship...

CAE said...

If he's bad enough that people are leaving in numbers, then other faculty in your department will know his reputation (or will very soon). Is there anyone in your department or on your committee that you trust who you could approach for advice?

A friend of mine left a bad lab situation about 6 months into her PhD (remember that a UK PhD is 3 years). She was told that she would never find another lab to take her. But she did - by explaining the situation honestly to her PI, who knew the other PI's reputation - and went on to a couple of very successful postdocs and eventually an industry position. If you're honest with people, and if you have what it takes to succeed in science, then leaving this lab will not hold you back.

CAE said...

p.s. you might have already seen this post by Female Science Professor about students who switch adviser.

Dr. MCR said...

I suffered through a heinous first PhD advisor and a totally dysfunctional post-doc advisor, and made the really tough decision, both times, to get out rather than let my family and sanity suffer. If you have options, use them and free yourself- it will work out in the long run. Hang in there, and be strong!! BTW, I have a couple of entries about these entries on my own blog, which I hope you'll check out: http://professorandparent.blogspot.com/