(Having written 289 words (2 paragraphs) of my paper in toto today, I can now allow myself to write a post. But now I've forgotten my earlier good ideas to blog. I know, it's quality not quantity that counts for both the thesis and the blog. But here goes anyways...)
I'm alone in my research group these days. NewGirl hasn't been seen in Utopia since classes let out; she's got a massive field project. S left last Wednesday for two weeks with her folks and then a week of teaching. My advisor (needs a nickname), left on Friday for 3 weeks...his usual whirlwind of professional activities and family fun. And that's it. There's no other grad students or post-docs in our group. My undergrad was around briefly last week, but this week he's helping NewGirl in the field and then he's off for a month of field work with another research group (oh, to be an undergrad interested in everything...).
Which kind of brings me to Dr. Mom's question about the appropriate size of a research group. I think my advisor's current group size is too small (although he's got good reasons for this). When I arrived, I was one of 4 Ph.D. students in residence in our group. My third year, I was the only student (but we had a 3 month post-doc). Starting out with lab group "elders" was great. I had people who could tell me how things really worked, how to prepare for my orals, what professors to take/avoid. I work on a very different research area than they did, so I was never able to benefit much from their technical expertise. I've always thought it would be nice to have at least one other student working on a similar project, just so I would have someone to bounce ideas off of. S serves somewhat in this role, but she is involved in all our group's projects (she's sort of a lab manager), so on many topics related to my research, my knowledge soon exceeded hers. If my advisor was more hands-on, accessible, or simply in the same state more often, maybe my interactions with him would have quelled some of the sense of being alone in this research topic.
So, let's pretend I were a professor at a graduate-degree-granting institution. What would my ideal research group look like? Let's even pretend that funding, recruitement, productivity, and tenure aren't issues. I think I would want <3 M.S. students, because they require a lot of hands-on attention throughout. I would also want 2-3 PhD students, because they can work more independently much of the time and may produce more innovative research. I might sometimes want a post-doc to collaborate with. A technician/lab manager would be really handy for just making things run. And I'd want to provide some opportunities for undergraduates to work as assistants and maybe even take on their own projects. Hopefully, my senior PhD students would help mentor the undergraduates. All of sudden that seems to add up to a lot of people. If there were another professor in the department/uni who worked in a closely-related field, I might be tempted to down-size my lab group aspirations, as long as we could function somewhat as a larger cohesive unit.
What would your ideal research group look like?
(P.S. Bonus points to anyone who can identify the inspiration from the post title?)
(P.P.S. Crap! This post is almost exactly 2x as many words as I produced in the rest of the day. Why does this writing come so much more easily?)