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Monthly Archive for September, 2006

out of town

I’m out of town in the land of no internet again this weekend, so I’ll be back on Monday.

as the (lab) world turns (episode 6)

Super Bored Grad Student is working furiously at compiling all of her experimental data into easy to understand graphs for Dr. Happy Surgery Collaborator.  She hopes that doing so will help him see that the data doesn’t support Dr. Grumpy Old Major Professor’s crazy desire to carry on with the pointless project.  However, she has come upon an interesting trend, one that shows that Dr. Grumpy Old Major Professor’s miracle treatment just may be having an effect, just not on the parameter that matters.  She angrily crunches the numbers again and then one more time because she does not want Dr. Grumpy Old Major Professor to be right for the wrong reason.  But the results do not lie.  Dr. Grumpy Old Major Professor’s miracle treatment was in fact doing something.  And that’s all that can be said—it’s doing something…what, no one knows.  Good or bad?  No one knows.  The fact remains though, that these results mean that it’s not quite time yet to abandon the pointless project.  And Super Bored Grad Student doesn’t mind being wrong.  What she does mind is the fact that Dr. Grumpy Old Major Professor tried to bully her into blindly following him without anything whatsoever to justify why he wanted to continue.  He never saw the data.  And he wasn’t there for the experiment.  So why did he want her to carry on?  Just because he said so.  And it sure sucks for her that her results ended up justifying his desire to carry on, but that’s just the way things are going for her these days…

inspirational music for the graduate student 1.6

I have a habit of coming up with things while I’m sleeping or half asleep, especially in the morning. And this morning (while I was still more than half asleep), I was thinking about how disappointing this whole grad school thing has been for me, what with the one step away from abusive major professor, the lack of direction, the working on a project I can’t stand and don’t give a crap about because it has nothing to do with anything I’m interested in, and the lack of successful experiments in said pointless project. And the song that was playing in my head as I thought all of this was: Radiohead – Let Down. I used to listen to this song in my younger days and loved the line, “Crushed like a bug in the ground…Shell smashed, juices flowing, wings twitch, legs are going…” That’s how I feel here sometimes…crushed like a bug, a literal train wreck, all gory and stuff, but no one notices or cares to try to make it better and as a matter of fact, certain people (ahem—my major professor) work really hard to make it worse.

It’s not like I was a naïve little grad student and made a stupid choice in major professors. I’d worked with mine for over three years as an undergrad. And back then, he was…supportive, he was…a good mentor, he…valued my opinions. But something changed during the two years that I was out of the lab for med school. And when I returned, he had turned into a complete ass. I know that there are a lot of really bad major professors out there, who see their grad students as cheap labor. Mine has become guilty of that, but what’s even worse in my eyes is the fact that he literally yells at me whenever I try to express an opinion that is not in line with his. That, by far, has been the most disappointing thing I have had to learn to accept during this whole experience. I might have a point or he can be flat out wrong, but if I dare try to express myself, I get yelled at, doors get slammed, and he acts like a five year old, which just plain makes for an uncomfortable if not hostile work environment. It’s gotten so bad that I don’t even bother saying anything anymore, which is definitely not good for my growth as a scientist. I’m afraid that I will never speak my mind or try crazy experiments that just might work because I was actually trained NOT to do so during my development. Can I really grow past this in the real world? I sure hope so, but it sucks that I even have to in the first place.

So future grad students beware! Choose your major professors wisely. And don’t be afraid to change major professors at the first sign of trouble. Don’t be dumb like me and hope that things will get better or that you can finish your experiments really fast. Just get out of there!

And of course, if you’re a grad student (or even if you’re not) and you know what it’s like, feel free to send me songs that get you through your grad school days through the contact form.

IT more stressful than medicine?

According to a survey reported here, those working in the IT (information technology) field report more stress on their job than those working in the medical fields. The survey revealed that these were the top two most stressful jobs. And I suppose, if you round up the percentage of respondents that said their life at work is stressful, IT (97%) and medicine (96.8%) would be tied, making both jobs pretty much equally stressful. It may be surprising that IT is a stressful field, but it is not too unlike medicine. We both fix things—my husband just fixes things that have to do with computers and for many of these people, their computers are like a limb or other indispensable body part—they are very personal items and people get embarrassed about their problems and want a quick fix. I’ll try to draw some parallels in the following scenarios:

Scenario #1
Co-worker: My computer’s not working.
Patient: I’m awfully constipated.
Husband: Did you do anything to it? Like change system files?
Physician: What have you been eating lately? Do you have enough fiber in your diet?
Co-worker: No. I didn’t do anything to it.
Patient: Nothing different from what I usually eat…I think I get enough fiber in my diet.
Husband then is forced to spend a good part of his day undoing whatever his co-worker did to his computer, but refused to admit to.
Physician finds foreign object in patient’s rectum upon physical exam.

Scenario #2
Co-worker: I emailed you for help two hours ago. I really need my computer now.
Patient: I waited an hour to see you. Now I’m late for something else.
Husband: I’m working on Bob’s computer right now. I’ll check yours out once I’m done with his.
Physician: I apologize for the wait, but I have a lot of patients I have to see.
What Husband really wants to say: And you’re the only person working at this company, right? Or you’re the CEO and I should drop everything and take care of you first. Forget that other people asked for help before you and have waited longer than you have. And that if you didn’t do stupid things to your computer, you wouldn’t need help in the first place.
In the physician’s case: There are people who genuinely need help immediately (and let’s hope they go to the ER), but there are others (like my mother-in-law) who think doctors exist to serve them whenever they need and who greatly resent that they even have to wait to be seen. In the end, everyone’s problems are a big deal to them even if they aren’t medically life threatening just like everyone needs their computers to work even if they’re not really doing anything with them except for surfing the internet.

So, even though it may not seem apparent on the surface, the medical and IT fields are rather similar in that they both involve caring for “patients” with a very high demand on the caregiver’s time. Patients don’t have the expert medical knowledge that physicians do and can’t treat themselves just as the average computer user can’t operate/fix their computers as well as an IT professional can. And in both fields, the not-so-happy ending involves the “patient” not getting better (e.g., a terminal illness in the medical field and an irreversible hard drive failure with loss of all data in the IT field). What makes both fields rewarding though, is that happy endings are also aplenty.

And just because no post about IT jobs and stress is complete without these, here are two more common scenarios that my husband faces daily that don’t quite have medical parallels.

Scenario #3
Co-worker: Ah! I can’t get into my email. Is the server down?
Husband: The server’s not down. Did you enter the right password?
Co-worker: Of course I did.
Husband: Try it again.
Co-worker: It doesn’t work.
Husband: Okay. I’ll reset your password.
Co-worker: I didn’t forget my password!
Husband (to self): Riiiiiiiiight. (to co-worker): It’s the fastest way to fix the problem.
This type of problem makes up about 90% of the problems he deals with. No one ever admits to forgetting their password. But that’s the only explanation.

Scenario #4
Co-worker: Ah! I turned my computer on and there’s a blue screen and I can’t do anything.
Husband: Did you try restarting?
Co-worker: No. Should I try that?
Husband: Yes.
Co-worker (restarts computer): Oh. Okay, it works now.
Husband: Okay. You might want to try that the next time it happens.

informed consent (season 3, episode 3)

Wow. A very moving episode (minus the annoying underage girl, ugh).

Come on. He’s old, sick, and tiny. We can do whatever we want to him.

Why would you want to wipe your own ass when you can have someone do it for you?

Wow! You guys look like crap!

CAMERON: Who’s that?
HOUSE: Your protégé.

Okay. Next procedure: we sneak in and turn back the clock.

EZRA POWELL: Dr. Chase said that my calcium was normal.
HOUSE: We call him Dr. Idiot.

What’s going to happen here is that someone’s getting a buttload of morphine. I’m not exactly sure who at this point.

He’s unconscious. No more whining.

You do know that you can’t really pierce me with your stares?

CAMERON: I can’t do this. [storms out]
HOUSE: Drama queen.

I hate practicing medicine in high school.

Don’t go towards the light. You’ll fall and break your hip.

Okay! I’m going already. Can’t you see I’m a cripple?

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i am a graduate student researcher

NOT a graduate student secretary, or Powerpoint maker, random data generator, or food fetcher. Especially not when I’m here full time and am only being paid half time. But that’s what my major professor thinks I am. He’s an interesting creature to those who have the good fortune of not working for him. To them, he is a minor annoyance maybe, someone to put up with because of his high rank, but not in any way threatening or abominable. He saves that for his employees and grad student and then has the nerve to say that his lab is his family. In his lab, he does no work. In fact, he surfs ESPN and other such pages all day while his employees and grad student do all the work for him. Then we get bitched at because our results were not what he wanted. Well, so they’re not what you wanted. Live with it. Do you want us to just make up results that fit into what you want? Sorry, but we know all about fudging data and how bad it is for our careers and we don’t need your approval that much.

I am ultra pissed at him today because he’s chairing a PhD qualifying exam committee and had the nerve to tell me to run downstairs whenever someone on the committee calls to be let in to our locked building. Uh, it’s not my qualifying exam, so why should I care? And I can’t exactly efficiently go up and down stairs just yet with my ankle, you inconsiderate ass. Not to mention: how exactly does doing this pertain to my PhD education, let alone play a fundamental role in it? I AM NOT YOUR SECRETARY, GOSHDARNIT!!! YOU ALREADY HAVE ONE! IF YOU THINK OUR POSITIONS ARE INTERCHANGEABLE, THEN I SHOULD BE PAID AS MUCH AS SHE IS!!!

Um…yeah. Can you tell that I’m just a tad angry?

grand rounds 2.52

Grand Rounds is up at Tundra Medicine Dreams.  Don’t forget to check it out!

carnival of GRADual progress (#2)

Cool! A new carnival! And my post was included even though I didn’t submit it! Thanks to the person who submitted it! Check out the latest carnival of GRADual progress, a monthly collection of posts about grad school, here. Go here for more information about the carnival.