Postdoc's project-how much the boss should be involved? - (Mar/15/2011 )
This issue has been a long time on my mind. In my former lab, our boss was able to know all details of the project and understood it. She not only listened to results explanation, but was capable of giving ideas and suggest experiments. My current boss only criticizes. Not only she does not understand the area I am breaking through in (synaptic transmission), but she never read a paper on it and when we are at the meetings, the only issues she raises are like: why are you doing this and that, what do you want to do, why do you want to do things etc. Never any constructive suggestion and neither a smart idea. I have to design myself the project and I totally independently have to make an experimental plan, not speaking of learning techniques. Moreover, the area of the project is very new to me and it is difficult to understand (she does not care about it-only criticizes that I don't do enough work). The main question is this supposed to be like that: boss only criticize postdoc, whereas postdoc should do ALL the job by himself? Or after all, the boss should contribute with ideas and some help? Thanks a lot for response and may be telling about YOUR experience with bosses.
My situation is almost identical: I design the project, make own plan, figure out everything myself and was criticized for not doing enough work, no suggest on experiments or giving constructive ideas.
By the way, I'm still doing my master, a master project without significant technical guide from boss. My boss only corrects my paper, poster or research proposal.
A postdoc is expected to be much more independent then a graduate student, however if the project you have been assigned is outside your boss's area of expertise then it may be time to seek out collaborators on your own terms to provide enhanced technical experience to help move the project forward. The flip side, an over-involved and micromanagement-style supervisor would be much more detrimental to your postdoctoral training as you will never learn to work independently.