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What do I do with this woman? - (Nov/26/2012 )

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Last year a woman (she has PhD, but I seriously don't know what to call her) from Texas sent me a plasmid along with its sequence as a gift. Since this is a rare plasmid and I couldn't find it as a commercial product I was really thankful. The sequence was also not available online at the time and I went ahead and designed my primers according to her sequence. However, my PCR kept failing. I tried to figure out what's wrong with my PCR for a long time and few months ago I discovered that the sequence she sent me has multiple repeats of a part of it. I was really lucky to notice this. So I emailed her several times to ask about it but she ignored me. I had no choice but to double check the plasmid sequence myself so I sent it for sequencing and the results just came today proving that I was right. Since the RE sites are intact the plasmid will work, but I am so angry with this woman that I want to write a letter to the head of their department and complain officially. Do you think it's a good idea?

-Curtis-

Sadly, it's actually very possible this was all intended from start. People send their constructs as "gifts" while they screw up the sequences, or they send you a vector that has recombined the insert out. Since this happend to us from a very renowned lab I kind of refuse to accept the fact they would be so incompetent (plus the fact when we told them, the response was that they are sorry, but that was the very last response we got). I don't think you will help anything by complain, maybe she didn't wanted to give you the right sequence or she was even told to.
So, as we say in czech.. "se stim smiř".

-Trof-

But I can't just sit down and do nothing. I don't know how these people easily get permanent positions at top universities...not fair

-Curtis-

Life is not fair. They just want to make you loose your time for their benefit or just don't want to help you at all, and are just stalling.
If you get anything from someone, never trust it, check everything, find your way to work with it, if it's not completely useless. The quicker you figure it all out, the better feeling you can have that they did't win. Think of yourself as a witty guy who found the truth inspite the balks they put in your way. That's the game. And for now you won. If you get permanent position on top university you can decide yourself if you are going to be a jerk or not.

-Trof-

I think if you do go ahead and complain you will be the one who ends up looking bad. Yes it is bad that she hasn't contacted you, but it could have been a honest mistake. She could be on holiday, maternity leave, moved to a new job, been having IT issues...

And in the end it will be your word against hers, and I think that people would generally believe it to be a mistake over malicious intent.

I know it is frustrating that you have wasted so much time, but chalk it up to experience and in future check everything. I think it is kind of unfair to imply that she isn't deserving of her job over what could very well have been a simple mistake.

Can I just say though, if it was on purpose, I don't think this is a common thing. We have often got reagents, plasmids, viruses,antibodies and mouse strains from other labs over years and have never once had a problem. There are good people out there :)

-leelee-

leelee: Also pretty much depends whether you are going to do research that competes in some way with the other lab, if not they generaly don't have the reason to make you any problems. Or if it's you know a friend, ex-co-worker now working somewhere else, he wouldn't screw with you. But it's more common than I would like.

-Trof-

I can see where you are coming from, Trof. I guess it is just that most researchers I know, and have had dealings with, have integrity and wouldn't do something so sly and sneaky even with a competing lab.

-leelee-

@ leelee, it could be a mistake, true, but people at a position and level like this should take responsibility for their mistakes, and at least admit there was a problem...but she is like she doesn't give a sh@t (excuse my French) maybe because we are from Malaysia and don't even exist on the map to her. Or because we are not first-class biologists...This is what makes me mad...If we were from Cambridge or Oxford or MIT things would have been different.....She could be a great researcher, but she doesn't have the attitude of a scientist.

@ trof, the plasmid she sent to me is not hers. It is made by somebody else but she is the one who keeps it. The plasmid is made by a well-known retired professor. He has helped me so much during the last year although he is totally retired. He introduced me to this woman, and then she sent the plasmid to me. ....I already told the retired professor there could be a problem with the sequence, but I have not told him I sequenced it last week,...if he finds out she sent me a wrong sequence he will be upset, I am sure....I haven't told him yet because I didn't want to make chaos over there. I wanted to find the best approach first....

-Curtis-

Curtis,

I can understand your frustration and the amount of time and energy you must have spent on getting the plasmid to work. But I think you are being too harsh to her. Agreed, she should have replied by now, but like leelee said, she might not just have seen your mail. She is just a caretaker of the plasmid, so its very likely, that she does not know much about the plasmid. She just sent you the sequence, she has on her record (which could have been wrong in the first place). So, she is not really to blame.

And why are you belittling your own work/ lab for such a small thing. You do not really know how things are in Oxford/ Cambridge, unless you are actually there.... (the grass looks greener on the other side)

Besides, if she really wanted you to have the wrong plasmid, she could have sent you one, why go through the whole rigmarole of sending you an carefully edited sequence. Or not send you one at all.

Yes, you have been at the receiving end of all this, and we really do not know what you have gone through, but at least give her one chance of clearing the air on this isssue. Questioning her education qualifications is a bit too harsh.... :)

-Ameya P-

I'm still saying she doesn't have the attitude, and I don't care how much knowledge she has. The retired professor emailed her and asked her to contact me. She didn't.

-Curtis-
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