Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Managing Lab Politics

Update on the lab politics...I have gotten some really good advice over the last few days and it has been extremely helpful. I am facing:

A student wants to leave my group what should I do?

I have a student who wants to do work more extensively in an -ology than we typically do. At first I tried to bend his project to encompass more -ology, but as the project was bent further and further, I realized it no longer fit into our lab.

This is where I got some great advice from others. Your lab is an entity. It has a personality and research focus. The projects that you work on need to make sense within that context. It doesn't make sense for me to let a student work in hard-core -ology if that is not what's best for the group. So I went to the student and said look you are being offered a great project, one that is likely to yield at least one high impact paper, if that is not enough for you, maybe you should leave.

Apart from that specific situation, people don't do good work if they don't want to be there. So if a student wants to leave, they should probably have the opportunity to do so. They won't actually be helping much if they stay and the discord can effect other students as well. Students should follow the course that is best for them and if they believe another group would be better, then they should join it.

I think many students when threatening to leave actually want the adviser to yield in some argument or to recognize the students worth and beg them to stay. That really doesn't help anyone. If you are making a choice because you believe it is the best choice for your group and that particular student, it doesn't make sense to use leaving as a wedge to alter that decision.

Now in this particular case, the student in question has not made up his mind. He was in the lab at an ungodly hour yesterday morning, which is a good sign. I hope that this indicates renewed commitment. Regardless, I have recognized that he needs to work on projects that will best help our group, and if he doesn't like the project that he has been assigned (and agreed to work on over a year ago, no less) then he really *should* look for other options.


At 12:41 PM , Blogger Janus Professor said...

Sooo... Did he make up his mind over the weekend?? Keep us posted!


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