The Mad Professor

Dec 14 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

When you're a grad student or a post-doc, you might be working on your main project and get a little idea about something. A connection between your work and a talk you just heard, something sticking out in your data that you didn't expect to, so you decide to explore it a little further--an extra western blot, a different angle of analysis. You would probably do this on your own, maybe not even mentioning it to your PI unless something interesting came out of it.

I am now fifteen months into PI-hood and overseeing a cadre of exceptionally adept people who largely don't need me around anymore. Moreover, I am burdened with tasks that mostly tether me to my desk. So when these little ideas occur to me, instead of quietly testing my theories on my own, I have no choice but to burst into the lab, Kramer-style, declaring "I JUST HAD AN IDEA!!!" I then explain my thoughts briefly, give them but the vaguest of information on what they should do to incorporate my brilliant plan into their projects, then retreat back into my office.

I'm pretty sure my grad students and tech think I'm totally bonkers, but I hope that they chalk it up to being a socially inept genius as opposed to, say, someone who simply hasn't the wherewithal to write things down and bring them up at a more appropriate time.


10 responses so far

  • Steve says:

    It sounds like you are OK with your underlings pursuing their own side projects (to an extent), which is great! I only hope for the day when my PI will release me from her demands enough to do the same (end of gripe).

    It's understandable that you don't have time to explore these ideas on your own. However, may I be so bold as to suggest that you take the time to ensure your underlings understand the background of why you're throwing this new idea at them and make sure they are invested in it as well. Otherwise, they go from being an "academic" to a technician who only does what is demanded of them.

    A hard balance to find, I'm sure.

  • Dr24hours says:

    Give yourself more credit! It could be both!

  • Nicky says:

    Wow! I wish my PI during my Ph.D. or postdoctoral training had done that very thing! I would have found it exhilarating.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Do you rub your hands together when you are telling them? Or gesticulate wildly?

  • hennahonu says:

    We had a joke in my old lab about the PI saying, "So I have this idea..." and it leading to ridiculous overtime. Once he has one, it usually leads to entire experiments that end up being support data for a future grant, or an unexpected chapter in someone's thesis.

  • CE says:

    This spastic idea-shouting is undoubtedly aided my the proximity of your office to the lab. A good thing, I think. Conveys passion. 🙂

  • flicker says:

    Do you mind being "burdened with tasks that mostly tether me to my desk"? Do you miss being able to follow up the ideas yourself? I guess leaving the lab is part of being a PI but I didn't know it happened as quickly as 15 months in.

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