Scenairo discusses issues between postdoc students and technicians in a lab, including favoritism and professoral responsibility.
Students Woe Begone and Flying High are both working in Dr. Means Well's lab. Dr. Well was just promoted to full professor, has made some important recent findings, and has an active and aggressive lab. He is often away at meetings these days, but there are talented postdocs, including Dr. Dead Earnest, and two technicians: Fourth year student, Flying High, has passed all coursework and exams except the thesis defense, and is progressing fabulously on her project. Woe Begone, by contrast, is a third year student who has very successfully completed all the coursework, but has failed to progress well during the year and one-half that he has worked almost full-time on his project. Although the hypothesis is interesting and reasonable, the experiments designed to test the hypothesis are technically very complicated, requiring the development of protocols that are new to the lab and not used in a form that is precisely useful anywhere in the institution.
Although Woe Begone has worked hard, he has only negative results and no clear-cut indication that the project will work. He wants to postpone his second exam. He wishes he had some alternative projects. He knows that Dr. Means Well is thrilled with Flying High's progress and shows much more warmth to that more successful student. He has talked with Dr. Objective, a new assistant professor in the department, and Dr. Objective has provided helpful technical advice. But still, no significant progress occurs. For all Dr. Objective and other faculty members' apparent supportiveness, Woe Begone is sure that these faculty members--if on his Second Level--will be conclude in support of his preceptor that the idea is great but that he, the student, is not good enough.
Dr. Objective, in fact, thinks that the project that Woe Begone has undertaken may not be an appropriate student project, or at least should be bolstered by a different sort of backup project. He is wondering how to broach this with Dr.Well, and whether to do it within the Second Exam context.
by Terry Ann Krulwich, Dean of Graduate School
Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY