My non-world

With my PI on maternity leave, the definition of my postdoc position as not-student and not-faculty has become obvious. Most of this come from intralab interactions. The students come to me to discuss experiments, get papers, ask questions, etc. instead of constantly emailing Rt-H.I even sign their time sheets! While it is great that I am getting a bit of mentoring experience, the fact that I am not faculty means that the students don't have to listen to me and have on a few occasions ignored my suggestions completely.  Rt-H and I usually have the same suggestions so the students end up doing what I said anyways, but it is frustrating to be pestered by them all the time when they don't trust what I have to say. 

I'm also relied upon by Rt-H for experimental design assistance. Reading over a protocol, I found an error that would result in a fatal flaw in the design. After pointing this out to her and the students, there was a big email flurry to solve the issue. Since I am not the students doing the experiments, or the advisor I was not in on the solution. It took me two days to track down a student and get the story on the outcome.

These things are just small annoyances really, but they make it clear that my position in the lab is very well, un-clear. Defining my place in the lab by all these things that I am not has got me me wondering exactly what I am in the lab...On a related note. Geez, grad students take up a lot of time!


Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

We certainly do take up a lot of time :-) It does seem that a lot of post doc positions exist in no-man's land. At Public U. post-docs aren't students, but they aren't faculty or staff. And I do and don't envy them-- see no man's land!

EthidiumBromide said...

I am glad to know that I am freeing up more of my advisor's time by avoiding him as much as possible and seeking out solutions on the great internets and calling companies rather than talking to him, ever since he screwed me over. And actually, it is paying off; ever since I got pissed enough at him to minimize contact, I'm getting far more done. Funny that.

But wait, students have time sheets that need to be signed?! I mean, my advisor has threatened to institute such a rule to ensure that no graduate student out with less than 70 hours/week in the lab... but labs have really instituted such a policy??

Albatross said...

I should make clear, though, that helping the grad students is one of my favorite parts of my position! Talking science with the new, excitable students is so. much. fun!

EtBr- It was a well known fact in my old lab that avoiding my advisor would result in increased productivity. Your situation is not as pleasant- mine was just a chatter.

The time sheets are just a paperwork formality. You just need to put whatever hours you are supposed to for your TA/RA assignment. No consequences or overtime. We all have to do them and they are a pain.

ScienceGirl said...

I've sort of felt like that, advising junior (to me) students - no real authority and all the questions. It may be as you work with them longer, they will notice that their advisor ends up repeating what you said, and will pay more attention. I think this is the case for our post-doc, although he still feels like non-student and non-prof overall.

As a side note, I noticed that Advisor has tried to give our post-doc more authority by introducing him Dr.Name to undergrads (even though we grad students are on the first-name basis with both the post-doc and Advisor). I wonder if that trick really works :)

Psych Post Doc said...

Welcome to Post-doc world. I was in a very similar situation in my post-doc position. Perhaps asking your advisor to put you on the lab email list will help. Sometimes they just completely forget.

Also suggest to students that if you're not on a lab email that you'd appreciate it if they forward to you. That way everyone will get used to including you.

I think it will get better when you're advisor is back on campus too.

Mad Hatter said...

"...the fact that I am not faculty means that the students don't have to listen to me and have on a few occasions ignored my suggestions completely."I hate to break the news, but I am faculty and students still sometimes completely ignore my suggestions. Frankly, they do that to my boss too, and he's a Super BigWig Professor. The only difference really is that my boss has the authority to order students to do things his way, or else.

But then, in science, you do want students who have the instinct to question instead of just accepting what someone else says, right? I bet once the students have interacted with you a bit more, they'll realize that you give good advice and they'll learn to trust you.

Albatross said...

SG- I think advisor backing me up will help. Or I'll just stop giving answers and start directing them to primary literature that backs me up =)

PPD- good idea about the email lists. It is just odd to be working on all my own stuff but still expected to consult n every one elses'

Mad Hatter- I completely agree that it is good to have students thinking things through for themselves and trying to come up with good answers. Many times, my advice is simply to try to figure out what is best for the question and system and know that they will have to defend their decision.

There has to be some balance between self problem solving and relying on what has been done/others advice. Learning that balance might be tricky for both the students and myself! In the case that really bothered me, it was particularly frustrating because it combined a simple, very standard statistical issue with first year who has yet to take a stats class...