Oh, lookit at the fresh dramaz on the intertubes. While the topic of PIs flailing to find their footing is scintillating, it is not in my domain of expertise. So I will, in proper d-list fashion, talk about a tangential subject that allows me to tenuously link to the more popular one. Win!
Today, I shall discuss the issue of Time Spent being a Proper Slave in the lab. This is a divisive topic; from PIs who think their students don’t work enough to students who say they haven’t seen the inside of their eyeballs since 1933, and vice versa. I will already declare my potential bias as I instituted a ‘cut yourself more than 3 times and you’re going straight off to bed’ rule for myself years ago. Make hardass/carebear judgments as you will.
Indeed, in one of my most favoritest of labs, we came oozing in around noon, spent two hours lunching at our benches arguing about science and papers, harassed each other about experimental setups while we were working, and generally were noisy delinquents until we all dispersed for the evening to do it again. It was the best shit ever, and we did fucking creative and interesting science that got published in Bread & Butter Weekly as well as GlamourMagz.
Which is why at recruitment weekends I ran like hell from the uptight pretentious Fuckwads that started rhapsodizing about minimum 70 hour work weeks, mandatory working hours, or this ‘as long as I’m working, you’re working’ bullshit.. Some people take this pressure (Fuckwad) + carbon (lazy MFing PhD student) = diamond (Golden Child) analogy way to goddamn seriously. IMO, all this results in is a lab stocked with a bunch of zombies that are relying mostly on muscle memory to get them to the end of every day because their synapses were fried away long ago. Or you get a lab roiling with mutinous rage that said Fuckwad is totally oblivious too, or is under the delusion is normal for running a good lab
Because, as stated in many places round the blogosphere, not all students are created equal. I will spend two weeks troubleshooting a nuanced problem a labmate can theorycraft the solution to if given an hour and a latte. I can look at two data sets and zero in on a malfunction whereas someone without good hands might spend a month thinking they’re the problem. Making us show up at 8am on Saturday to put on a good face isn’t going to make results appear from the nether. Hell, I have no extra neurons to devote to basic human decency at 8am, so you’d be forcing the lab to interact with a sociopath for at least 2 hours a morning.
I am not saying that we should all work strictly 9-5 and visit the unicorn park afterwards.
Figure 1: I mean, have you seen the state of unicorn parks lately? By the way you totally need to be reading Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell
But I am saying people need to no get so hung up on absolute hours and more on shit produced. If you’re putting together your progress report and you feel a little queasy at the lack of data/progress, get thine ass to the lab. And if you’re their PI feel free to thine ass to the lab’d them. But if they’re busting their ass and getting shit done there is no point in getting all pissy when you can’t find them to ask a question at 2am*. To return to prior trite analogy, sometimes your carbonz ain’t going to turn to diamonds, ok? But it’s still totally useful for many applications and you should learn to appreciate that, because if everyone were a diamond you probably wouldn’t have a job.
I’m just sayin’.
*Yes, this is real life.