Only a little under 48 hours to ago until the end of May. Now, generally speaking I’m not this nitpicky about a month, but for reasons beyond my own control, May has been largely unwelcome in my book. I don’t hate May, and I can’t remember it to ever have been so frustrating, but 2016 seems to have given a whole new meaning to “annoying”. The advent of May signals the start of another round of lab takeover. MSc projects. Now…last year was great, I really enjoyed projects, I took over the initial session and like to think that I influenced the way the students behaved. And I liked that. A lot. They weren’t too irritating and the majority were keen on learning and self sufficient. And we got on very well, in particular with a few individuals. However, this project season was doomed to be different.
With an ever increasing student intake and loss in the quality of students (though I’m never sure that the majority of students have ever been outwardly intelligent…or inwardly intelligent), and a never changing lab…it becomes ever more difficult to sustain research and teaching side by side. Something which shouldn’t co-exist in any one lab, but rather in a continuum. So, as I was saying…May = annoying. Having started my job in the last week of April, (which I love and don’t regret taking on) I knew that I would certainly be pressed for time, but that only meant a small compromise in sleep. Starting the day earlier in the lab, and then off to work. Sounds perfectly fine to me, certainly tiring, but not in vain. However, this is something that my supervisor has made very clear that he is unhappy with, see he would much rather have me watch his students and supervise them. Basically take on his job. He made his point by giving me the cold shoulder for the first two weeks of the month. His stand offish behaviour was at first intimidating and disheartening, especially when I found that in my absence my reagents had been tampered with…which meant losing out on £500 worth of reagents.
But having work to go to every afternoon made things a sweet relief, and a pleasant change from a toxic environment, where despite all efforts my research was being punished. Not by will…but by violent force. The student force. The dark side of the force. Where a 15 minute incubation/wash of my Westerns easily becomes 2 hours of….”Nazra, Nazra, Nazra” “Help me!” “Do this…” “Do that…” Oh deer! Oh antelope!
But at the same time, I feel very sorry for these students, quite frankly abandoned by their so-called supervisors, there’s only so much that they can do. Mostly clueless about what they ought to be doing, and sitting around moping. I made it very clear that if they showed initiative…I would go the extra mile with them. And so I did. My only day off from work, instead of taking it easy and perhaps focussing on my research…I gave the students a masterclass. A long day…8.30-18.30…10 hours of demonstrating and teaching, incredibly tiring. But certainly well appreciated. I expect a ton of chocolate by the end of this.
So although, I relish the end of May and pray that June starts off a lot better…I hope that the students (the majority of whom I find annoying and rude) can learn something in the remaining weeks they have. At least they realise the torture it is to be in a lab unaided by supervisors who promised to be there. They’re lucky not all PhD students are bitter.