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I’ve decided that I’ve gone through five stages during my first rotation (kind of like the five stages of grief, except this is the five stages of your lab rotation, and I believe there is a cycle somewhere in there). This post talks about my last two stages.
Sane curiosity -> Overblown realization -> slight disillusionment -> fearful trials -> All is well fort

This is a follow-up to my last post where I wrote about the first three of the five stages that I am going through in my first lab rotation.

Side note: I want to test the hypothesis that I do go through these five steps in every rotation. I have four more rotations to go, so we’ll see! Oh look, i’m already on the way to answering a research question :p
Back to the matter at hand. Now that I had settled into lab and started making a few acquaintances, something else started bothering me. See, I’m rotating in a mid-sized lab, where there are all either staff scientists or post docs. The Investigator is relatively young and starting out. He has only had one other student rotate in his lab, and he has never kept a graduate student (i’ll get back to some of my other issues later). The Investigator therefore placed me under one of his best staff scientists. Now, I was nervous at first, because there are all sorts of teachers out there, especially in research. My worst fear was getting stuck with someone who wouldn’t be willing to teach me anything. My fears were subdued. She has the teaching spirit in her – you know the apt of one who has the sincere desire to impact knowledge on a newbie. I loved it! And, I think she empathized a lot with me especially when I would make mistakes like not being sure if I had put some EDTA in the IP buffer etc, and she would tell me stories of her yore days when she was a graduate student. All was fine and good, especially since I was just starting and didn’t know where anything was. But, three weeks in and I came to the dreadful realization that she was “babying” me. I don’t know if that was part of the reason why some lab members asked me if i was either a) a high school student or b) a summer student. And every time I explained who I was, there was always an Oh! and look of surprise or maybe it’s because I defy stereotypes with my youthful exuberance!

            I mean, I guess I could understand where she was coming from. She hasn’t seen my work aforehand, and isn’t sure of what skills I have. But… I told her before, I’ve spent a year and a half doing PCRs and sequencing – I can genotype these mice, trust me. I spent a summer running nothing but western blots, your samples are safe with me… But then again, seeing is believing. I had to prove myself over and over again. I became scared of making mistakes or worse, appearing inept. And since our expert-novice relationship was still at the “babying” stage for a while, I started to feel stifled. On the one hand, I didn’t want to say: “Look I can do this myself” and have her back off and never provide guidance, and on the other hand I didn’t want to keep being told how to load a western. A Dilemma. I decided on quiet initiative. I basically took what she said to do a step further. For example, if I was prepping samples for a western and she was away on her break, and it was unreasonable to wait when i have all the samples, I went ahead and started loading them. She came back and saw I had gone ahead, she cross-checked that it was correct and she was okay with it. And this week, she was more hands-off compared to last week. I started feeling like a Ph.D candidate at one point. But it was only short-lived. The reality is that I’m still very much at the beginning of the race, and I will have to prove myself capable before i’m trusted to take a jab at things myself. We’ll see how my next rotation goes. It will be hilarious if I get someone totally hands off that expects me to maneuver my way around the lab and I start crying on here about I need close-supervision. The irony of life.

           And now, i’m going into the last two weeks of the rotation. I have an irking that it will be smooth sailing from here on out… I will wrap up, thank the lab for having me and come back with a diabolical plan to make the Investigator offer me a spot in his lab.

*sigh* This is something that I’ve spent quite a couple of moments discussing even with wiser older students. I will talk about my fears about asking to be in his lab, and why I think I want to stay.

Have a great weekend 🙂 It’s really hot today in my part of the U.S.

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