Tag Archive for 'graduate school'

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as the match nears, shadiness abounds

So, as you all know, Teacher’s Pet has been the bane of my existence in the lab for awhile now. I mistakenly thought that she had quit medicine because she cared too much about her patients or some other BS like that, but it turns out that she just quit her internal medicine residency and instead wants to get into another specialty. That’s why she hooked up with my major professor–because he’s in the department of her specialty of choice and she wanted an in.

Well, she applied this year and Match Day is tomorrow. She already knows that she matched and is waiting to find out where. And in the two days that I’ve been at the lab, all I keep hearing is, “If you match here…” or “Who knows…you might end up in Timbuktu…” or “Well, we don’t know yet if you’ll be here…” which is normal I suppose, but for some reason, has been sounding ultra sketchy coming out of my major professor’s mouth, the chair of the department’s mouth, and the chair’s minion’s mouth. They just all sound like they’re saying, “Duuuuuh. Of course you matched here. We made sure of it.” They might as well be wink-wink-nudge-nudge-ing when they say these things because it’s just that obvious. And that just makes me angry. I understand that these shady things happen and I probably can’t do anything about it but play the game. But does it really have to be so blatant? Bad enough that they’re screwing other people (who might have gone about the whole thing in an honest way…that would be novel, wouldn’t it?) over, but do they really have to broadcast it too?

Well, maybe I’m reading too much into things and I’m wrong. But I would be very surprised if she doesn’t match here. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

awkward encounters of the ex-semi-boyfriend kind

I had a pretty tiring weekend and an extra tossy-and-turny-sleeping husband the last couple of nights, so I wasn’t quite 100% today. Even though I woke up early enough to primp myself up nicely, I chose to stay in bed a little longer and sleep in a bit. Who’s going to be at lab that I give a crap about anyway, right?

And since I was running around trying to get my immunization records all straightened out (since it seems the med school has magically lost all such information), I was kind of frazzled. As I turned into the hallway to my lab bench, I saw my major professor with someone, but didn’t really pay attention to who it was because I didn’t care and had better things to do. And he usually doesn’t introduce me to his visitors anymore–that spot’s been filled by Teacher’s Pet. So imagine my surprise when he calls out my name and makes me stop dead in my tracks, asking me if I remember his visitor. I take a look, and of course I do. It’s my ex-lab mate and his wife. Fun, I think to myself. And why, oh why didn’t I wake up early and pretty myself up? But then, I take solace in the fact that his wife looks scrubbier than me despite probably knowing full well that she would probably run into me, the chick who probably scarred her husband for life.* Awkward conversation follows and I beat a hasty retreat, glad that I didn’t stick with this guy because he got kind of chubby and still looks like a supernerd. Though I did feel kind of sorry for him because his wife looks and sounds like a bitch and he got chubby…

Even though things ended badly and I probably could have been nicer about “dumping” him, I’m good friends with his sister. We get along so well that I sometimes wish she was my sister-in-law instead of the bitch that I’m stuck with. Though seeing as to how they always come visit my major professor every time they’re in town even though he’s a narcissistic ass probably because his parents make them, I’m pretty glad I don’t have his parents as my in-laws. Ah, tradeoffs. Well, I’d much rather have my husband anyway, even if all of the in-law drama almost negates it. Guess that encounter triggered some introspection on my part, awkward as it was.

*DISCLAIMER: I didn’t purposely scar this guy for life. We were never even a couple. He’s just fragile. And took things way too seriously. And didn’t know when to back off. And never had a real girlfriend until he met and married his wife. So yeah. I’m no cold heartbreaker. Really. And no, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking getting involved with such a dork. We were all young and stupid at some point, right?

a taste of things to come

The grant that partially funds my salary includes several MDs as co-investigators. These MDs somehow find time in their oh-so-busy schedules to attend our marathon monthly meetings. I try to stay away from them because they seem kind of…mean. Especially this one peds guy who looks like he has a stick perpetually stuck up his ass. It doesn’t help that he seems to have something against my major professor and his work. Could it be perhaps that he knows that he’s a fraud?

Well, at one of these said meetings, I show up early because I want a seat far away from the chair of the department and as close to the door as possible. Mean Peds Guy is also early as well as a coworker of mine, Teacher’s Pet, and my major professor. Of course, I choose to converse with my coworker rather than talk to and feed my major professor’s narcissism. Being the narcissist that he is, he can’t stand sitting there unnoticed, so he opens his big mouth and starts talking to Mean Peds Guy.

MAJOR PROFESSOR: You know, she’s starting her rotations soon. [obviously referring to me]

MEAN PEDS GUY [looking like he could care less]: Oh really.

I give a sheepish half smile.

MAJOR PROFESSOR: Yes. So you’re going to be nice of her when she’s on peds, right?

MEAN PEDS GUY doesn’t say anything and just kind of looks pissy. And I really want to hide. But my major professor is not one to be ignored.

MAJOR PROFESSOR: You have to protect her.

MEAN PEDS GUY [barely able to pretend that he's joking when he says]: Well, we’re not nice to anybody in peds.

You see, I’m not like my major professor. I do not expect nor want special treatment. In fact, if I could ban all special treatment, I would. But now, because he opened his big fat mouth, Mean Peds Guy thinks that I think that I deserve special treatment. Peds is a hard enough rotation without having pissed off an attending, which is exactly what my stupid ass major professor just did to me. I’m thinking that I should change my identity and get some plastic surgery before peds so that he won’t recognize me and totally screw me over.

do you have what it takes?

Really? Do you have what it takes to be an MD/PhD? Before you rattle off your sky high GPA and MCAT scores at me, let me tell you about the requirements they don’t tell you about or sugarcoat because they know you’ll go running for your life.

1. Have an inquisitive mind. Sounds like a good skill to have, right? Something that’s really indispensable if you’re planning to pursue research? Well, yeah, it is. But what they neglect to tell you is that no one is going to listen to your ideas. No one at all. You might even get yelled at. Because you’re just a peon and how dare you think you have anything new to add that some seasoned PI hasn’t already thought of.

2. Work well with others. Research is all about collaboration. Nobody gets anything done by doing everything themselves. You just can’t possibly know everything there is to know about everything. What they don’t tell you is that collaboration as a grad student means checking your ego at the door and groveling at the feet of collaborators who hold your already tenuous fate in their hands. Oh, so sorry, I’m not available the entire month of April for your studies.

3. Be able to think on your feet. A good skill to have that applies to many aspects in life in general besides research. But when it comes to research, this skill takes on a whole new level. You need to be able to think on your feet while being bombarded with questions designed to destroy any credibility your study may have had and humiliate you until you have not a shred of ego left by know-it-alls who have nothing better to do than to destroy you just because they can and not because they’re interested in teaching you some far-reaching lesson about research.

4. Creativity, ingenuity, perseverance are musts. Because shit just doesn’t work in research. And you’re going to have to spend many sleepless nights figuring out why your shit doesn’t work and how to make it work if you ever want to finish your PhD. There’s no such thing as dropping your doomed project and moving on to something that just might work. Nope. You’re going to spend 3-4 years (or more!) chasing the same pointless project because your PI doesn’t want to admit that his idea was wrong.

5. Be prepared to be wrong. Because you often are. But you’re often not as well. But even then, you still are because you’re just a lowly grad student and even the lab tech knows more than you. So yeah, be prepared to be wrong, even though you very well may be right. And don’t even think about defending yourself because doing so is just going to get you yelled at.

So there you have it from the inside. Do you still think you have what it takes? If so, then good for you! We need more people like you in research. If not, just stick with med school. You’ll get enough abuse there.

i’m still alive…barely

So I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t finish my thesis by two days ago. I was making progress last week. Not fast enough, of course, because who really can write 20 pages of scientific stuff a day? But last Wednesday, I made it to page 25 and I was proud. I was done with Materials & Methods and I was proud (well except for the fact that my thesis was going to be woefully short). So then I set about starting the results section. And realized that the data my major professor wanted me to use didn’t exist. So then I got stuck because the major professor was out of the country. Then I got all despondent because it was feeling like I was never going to finish my thesis and be done with grad school. But I couldn’t stay despondent for long because I had to make that pesky poster for my little conference thing tomorrow. Which I only managed to barely finish last night just in time to get it printed at Kinko’s for a handsome sum. And now I really hate Microsoft because it really shouldn’t have taken that long. And I’m also far too lazy to start working on my thesis again. So I’m lounging around enjoying the nice weather and silently freaking out about my thesis inside. But, yes, I’m still alive.

me? i’m kinda screwed

Two months ago, I was supposed to start writing my dissertation. Or at least that’s when my major professor thinks I started writing my dissertation. At first, I put it off for a week. I just needed one more week to slack off before I got serious, I swore. Then one week became two. Then I decided to wait until Christmas break. Surely, I would get so bored that I would just have to start writing. But my lovely brother got me Rock Band (awesome game, by the way) for Christmas. And my brothers and I just had to beat the game. Then, New Year’s came and went and not a single word was written. Of course, I was just starting to be all hardcore about starting my writing when I was struck down by a cold. Not only was I sick, but my husband was too, so my brief moments of consciousness were spent taking care of him and making sure we didn’t starve. Then I had to slack off to make off for my sick days and swore I would start writing soon after. Well, that didn’t happen either. I woke up on Chinese New Year freaking out about the fact that I had yet to write a single word of my dissertation, but convinced myself that it was bad luck to freak out about such things on such a day and went back to sleep. For the whole day. After swearing that I would start writing the next day. Which I didn’t. Then my major professor went out of the country and I’m really down to the wire because he requested a draft be ready when he returns. Which is next Monday. But even though that happened last Monday, I did not start writing until today. That’s right. Your eyes do not deceive you. I only started writing today. And given that it’s now the end of the day and I’ve only written one page, I’m realizing that I am so totally screwed that it’s not even funny. I’m kind of hating myself right now. Yet, at the same time, I’m amazed at the slacker I’ve become. Did I also mention that I have to make a poster presentation on the 28th and that my poster does not yet exist? Yeah, I’ve definitely backed myself up into a major corner at this point. So I really hope you understand if I disappear for a little awhile…

they have obviously forgotten what it’s like to be a med student

I’ve mentioned in other posts that part of my meager grad student salary comes from a grant that has nothing to do with my project. And that I’m required to attend these marathon monthly meetings about the project’s (lack of) progress. Well, in the last one, there were some, let’s say…issues…with my major professor’s methodology for our part of the study. Instead of actually addressing them like a normal person would, my super narcissistic major professor danced around these issues for so long that the people asking these questions of him were about ready to physically knock some sense into him.

So suffice it to say, because of what happened last time, there were some residual hard feelings going into the meeting that happened today. Of course, my major professor happens to conveniently be out of the country for this meeting, leaving only myself and teacher’s pet to fend for ourselves (which, by the way, did not go over too well the last time this happened). Apparently, these people know that we don’t do a little song and dance around issues they bring up, so they take the opportunity to put us on the spot and screw us over. Even though I was expecting trouble, I had no idea what I was in store for. Obviously, I’m leaving the lab in two months to go back to my clinical rotations. And teacher’s pet will be leaving in six months. So that leaves no one to do the legwork for their study in our lab. The logical next step would be to hire a replacement for me before I leave so that said replacement can be trained during my remaining time here. But of course, they’re resentful of my major professor’s power plays and he’s not there to dance around their questions, so they decide that it would be a brilliant idea to make me forever an indentured servant to their project by requesting that I “moonlight” for them while I’m back in school. Are you kidding me? These guys are MDs here. They’ve been through all of this. Don’t they know that a third year med student has no time to sleep, let alone work on pointless research projects that they’re not in any way interested in?

Obviously not, because when I tried to diplomatically point out that I may not have the time to do the data analysis in a timely manner, the retort I got was that medical student work hours are limited such that I cannot spend more time in the hospital than is allowed…therefore, I should have all the time in the world to do their data analysis. I seriously could not believe what I was hearing. We all know that those work hour regulations are a joke. Even though they cannot require us to be in the hospital for more than 80 hours a week, we can voluntarily stay longer and we usually should in order to not look lazy and to impress people. Not only that, but just because I may not be in the hospital does not mean I’m going to be lying in the grass watching the clouds float across the sky. More likely than not, I’ll be furiously studying or writing up my presentations for the next day. Or maybe, if I’m really lucky, sleeping. How can they possibly expect me to spend what little precious spare time I’m going to have doing their gruntwork for them?

My plan once I’m done with my dissertation is to leave the lab and never look back. That’s not going to change and I am just appalled that these people even think for a second that I’m willing to risk my clerkship grades for this pointless project. I’m just hoping that my major professor won’t hang me out to dry on this issue.

how long before teacher’s pet breaks?

On the one hand, I kind of hate Teacher’s Pet.  I can’t walk past her without muttering “bitch” under my breath.  I figure that I can get away with it because I’ve clearly portrayed myself as the absolute opposite of her: anti-social, un-empathetic, socially awkward…so yes, I can’t help being rude.

But on the other hand, a very small part of me (0.5%) feels sorry for her.  Maybe she’s naively believing all of the empty promises my major professor is making.  Maybe she doesn’t know that she’s becoming his bitch to get something that she could have gotten on her own anyway (turns out she really wants to get into the residency program here).  Maybe she thinks she can break her ties with him once she gets what she wants.  Whatever it is that’s motivating her, she is very quickly becoming his utter and complete bitch. He started her off on just one pointless project.  That was the price she had to pay to be able to work on her pet project. One pointless project turned into two.  And now he’s adding on yet another one. Not to mention all of the administrative stuff she has to do now (like answering his phone like he I used to when I didn’t know any better).  I thought she liked having her nose so far up his ass that she can’t see the sun, but a colleague of mine who has watched their interactions and witnessed her reaction to him telling her that she was to take on yet another pointless project tells me that she might be close to having enough.  Wow.  I’m shocked.  I almost feel sorry for her.  Almost.  But not quite.  Because her existence and her being such an ass-kisser has screwed me over even worse just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse.  So I really hope she does break and that I get to witness it.