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unfairness in the lab :( - (Apr/04/2008 )

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QUOTE (Bungalow Boy @ Apr 6 2008, 05:04 PM)
QUOTE (Chemophoto @ Apr 6 2008, 06:00 AM)
Thanks for all the suggestions....

What puts me down is that my supervisor believes what she says. So this has an influence on the way my supervisor thinks about me....

I have thought about talking to my supervisor about this but I fear he would believe her over me. She's been around for a long time, they know each other very well and she's the leader of two important projects in the lab. I am just a PhD student...


All the suggestions were good and I appreciate them a lot. But, all of them are ideal ones. But to do them in real life is different.

The worst part of your problem is what you have realised 'your supervisor believes what the lady says' though it might be completely untrue. Now, for that you can revolt and talk to the supervisor and convince him you are right. For that you need to be extraordinarily convincing. If I were you, I cannot do that.

The person who is in problem is you and yours will be the final decision for sure. All we can do here is tell you what we would do if we were in your place.

The situation you are in has been there for years. Like I said, unless you are extraordinary, super human being, I don't think you can change that and even if you can, it is not your job to make people good or bad nor is it to judge who is good and who is bad. You are a student and all you should do is your experiments and about the environment you are in, the only thing you can do is adapt to the existing environment. U may like it or you may not like it.

And for adapting to the environment. . . remember what we have been taught at school. . 'survival is of fittest' (not the smartest nor the most innocent). So fit yourself in the environment.

You have to do something to be in the good book of the lady and then the supervisor. That will not need you to overdo something nor gossip around with her. May be help her with something (be visible to her when helping) or other or doing something where she gets a feeling that you are with her not against her. You like her techniques, etc etc. . U like her paper. . U need her help.. etc etc.. . (just showing .. need not be true and even if you hate yourself doing that) then once she has faith on you and not against you then you can be a little passive but never make her feel that U don't like her gossiping.

And, someone suggested just minding your own business and doing experiment. That is the best thing a student can do in a good environment but I think the place you are in, doing that might just make you a target of the lady in the lab. U have to be a part of her drama for sometime before you can start being passive. She should never get a feeling that you are doing things to be better than her but make her feel that whatever you are doing would not have been possible without her guidance or something like that.

I am not in your situation and I am sure most of my suggestion looks like fiction . . jut pick up some points and we will be discussing more on this.

Is it not possible to talk directly to her and try to get an agreement you can live with and without annoying her? If she's not really an evil character or dislikes you, it may help.
The suggestion of Bungalow Boy perhaps also helps, but be careful that it is not appearing kind of sycophantic.
Good luck.


I have a another problem, Iam dealing with very jealous people in the lab because the lab supervisor appreciate me very much.
I tried to socialize with them but I failed I hate gossip,any suggestions?


Dear Chemophoto,

I could have written every word of your post myself, and I entirely empathize with your situation. I understand exactly how disturbing it is to see things like that going on and being unable to change them, and I know they end up affecting both our enthusiasm and judgement of our work.

When I used to get along with the gossiper in my lab, my supervisor used to love me. One day she decided she would gossip about me too to my supervisor, and ever since every little data I present or suggestion I give or report I prepare is met with suspicious looks and untrust by my supervisor.

I decided to talk to him, since I couldn't handle it anymore. Of course I did so in a very light way. Guess what, he said he had a hard time believing this "lovely lady" would do such things, that it was probably my impression and that I was making up things to cover up my insecurity (!!!!!). I was SO furious!!!!!

Sorry, I don't have a final answer nor a good advice for you. It's true that slowly ppl around you do start to see who is doing a good job and who is not, but those are usually in the same level as you are, lets say, phd students, technicians, young PIs, so they have no strength when it comes to your supervisor.

I think too that previous suggestions are good, but in an ideal world. However, at least in my situation, the game with the gossiper is lost, so it's useless trying to please her. And it is risky to be quiet and passive, since I know I am doing a good job but I have been humiliated and treated unfairly by my supervisor due to the gossips, therefore the gossips are directly affecting my work and my work outcome.

I don't know what the solution is. But the anger sometimes is a good fuel to study and try harder, which is never bad… and hopefully, get out of that lab as soon as possible…

I wish you all the best, sorry I couldn't help much!

Let's see what other ppl may say...

-Julianne W-

To change them or your supervisor, you will need a miracle to happen. So try to adapt to the place till U find the shortest route to escape.

Till then U can use some of these

-Bungalow Boy-

QUOTE (desertrose @ May 17 2008, 05:13 PM)
I have a another problem, Iam dealing with very jealous people in the lab because the lab supervisor appreciate me very much.
I tried to socialize with them but I failed I hate gossip,any suggestions?

U like yourself, your supervisor likes U .. . leave the rest of the world out then. Be good to them but don't waste your time. Only very few here can actually say their supervisor likes them as confidently as you said. Congratulations!

And for the gossipers

-Bungalow Boy-

Hehehehe, I love the links!

-Julianne W-

hmmmm... sounds familiar to me... familiar because I have been working with a lot of female researchers and there are always gossips and problems with female researchers in my experience, and I'm not being sexist.

I am so sorry for you. I mean, if your PCR doesn't work and your supervisor is not a good scientist because she (is she ?) obvisouly believes unproven things... what else is there to hold on to?


QUOTE (ph3no @ Jul 4 2008, 12:37 PM)
hmmmm... sounds familiar to me... familiar because I have been working with a lot of female researchers and there are always gossips and problems with female researchers in my experience, and I'm not being sexist.

Sorry but you ARE being sexist. It takes 2 to play the 'favourites' game, and seeing the supervisor is usually male, he would usually favour a female person that sucks up to him. (Sorry to be blunt). FWIW, I have also experienced male post-docs who sucked up to male bosses - and got a lot of benefits from that. As for 'problems', I'd say male and female researchers are equally represented there.

Unfortunately this is very common, and I'm not sure that it is only in science - probably exists in most professions. As already mentioned, short of leaving the lab, you just need to survive as best as you can, since you can't change how your supervisor or the post-doc behaves. I usually just 'suffer' the day-to-day behaviours, but what really bugs me at times, is that the favourite will get on almost every single paper, for doing very little.


TAKE THE HIGH ROAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I believe a few of the commentors have already mentioned that you will find this situation is most places, labs included (unfortunately.)

I HAVE HAD the same experience... The post doc that spoke ill of me, was the same post doc whom i trained so that she could run my experiments... This was the same post doc who convincec my advisor that i needed to rerun the experiments from my masters thesis... which i did, and got the same results...

At the end of the day, there's no real cure for people like that. At least, no cure that you could give them. My advice... Take the high road.

1: When she helps, accept her help and (VERY IMPORTANT) thank her for it. I can tell you from vast experience, that one of the biggest problems with helping/training people is that the do not properly thank you or show appreciation for it.

Consider this, she is a post-doc and her job is to do research and bet a publication...NOW!!! When a post-doc or grad student takes time to help someone else, that is time spent that does not go into getting THEM a publication or degree... They give you time, and knowledge which was hard earned, but likely get nothing in return except perhaps a word of thanks... Good ways to say thanks:

- Buy them a cup of coffee (or beverage of their choice) and make it a GOOD cup of coffee...
- Buy them lunch
- Bring them a lunch, or some sort of tasty treat.
- When presenting, even in a simple lab meeting, ACKNOWLEDGE their contribution and thank them in front of people.
- When THEY ask you for help, give it willingly... I honestly have difficulty recounting the number of people who desperately needed my help, but when I asked for theirs in return they helped but only grudgingly so. it seems, I INCONVENIENCED them, even though I salvaged their research at the expense of DAYS of my time... Every time that happens, i'm less motivated to help the next person.

I recently had to be trained by a lab manager on how to use a flow cytometer belonging to a lab other than mine.

Note, that she is paid to run her lab, but was asked by the lab PI to train me. So, she was technically required to train me, but it didn't help her do her own job and in fact made it more difficult.

I had to have three sessions with her. After each, we went to the coffee shop next door where I bought her one of those mocha-choca-lotta frozen coffee like milk shakes...

I've made a great deal of progress with her training and being able to use their flow cytometer so it is worth it to me to show the appreciation. I also will be buying her lunch at this great mexican restruant close by... After that I'lll probably have spent about $25 but it will have been WELL worth it.

2: What your advisor believes is EXTREMELY important, especially when it's wrong.

I have had the experience of people lying to my advisor about me, and him believing it. At the end of the day the proof is in your results!!! your data!!! your publications!!! What you can do...

However, you need to have regular weekly meetings with your advisor and you need to be able to tell him/her what you have done, what results you got, and what your plans for the next week are.
- Ask for their opinion
- Thank them for their help
- Ask them for suggestions...Are then any ways you can improve your work...

Now, I suggest these things not only because it helps you BUT more importantly it lets the advisor know you respect them and their opinion...and as petty as it sounds, it strokes their egos...I am sorry to say the number of advisors I have met who do NOT like to have their egos stroked can be counted on one hand...

When you advisor knows you respect them, and listen to them, they will be more open to listening to you.

When your advisor knows what work you are doing, what goals you are accomplishing, they will be less likely to believe bad gossip about you...

3: You may have been told that your university or college has an open door policy and you may freely discuss grievences you have about your PI with other PI's or deans or what not...

DO NOT BELIEVE IT!!!! It is a very cute ideal...but it isn't real life... it WILL get back to your PI and there WILL be well disguised retributions...

4: One of the unfortunate truths in life is that we often depend on others, so much so that they have some amount of control over us...Your advisor is a perfect example...

You want to graduate with a PhD. THAT is your goal.

Make a plan, Make a list of what must be done, do what must be done, and then graduate.

Your advisor may not like you, but they DO want you to graduate.

I know it's hard having to take it... and as a grad student one is not only required to take it, but they are often required to:

- shovel it
- eat it
- live in it
- sleep in it

and even move it around... Grin and bear it. Take the high road. I promise, you will come out a better person for it.

I hope this helps... If you have specific questions about specific situations and how to deal with them, feel free to contact me...

Good luck to you...



Thank you doc_t for the advice.

-Minnie Mouse-

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