Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Project pre-doc post-doc: The real story

I’m supposed to be writing up a two page status report on project pre-doc post-doc (PPP) that summarizes my original hypotheses, the experimental realities, analyses and expected products, and opportunities for collaboration. I’m struggling with getting into the writing groove – in part because this project has not really been organized or executed in an orderly fashion. So maybe it will help, before writing the real status report, to get the straight scoop off my chest.

April 2006 – I beg my advisor for a post-doc; he asks me what I’m interested in; I mention PPP as a possibility. Two weeks later I’m on the plane to a planning meeting – joining in the discussion when much of the experimental design for this large, interdisciplinary project has already been completed. In our original formulation, data from PPP were to serve as a pilot study for further experiments to be conducted this winter.

June 2006 – I travel to the research site where I find the project to be behind schedule and not ready for my instruments to be installed. Every day there are meetings debating/hand-wringing how to proceed. Usually these meetings accomplish nothing. I am absolutely exhausted (6 weeks pregnant) and manage to miss the one meeting where a plan is decided. I stay for a week and have to leave before my instruments can be installed.

August 2006 – I am informed that the original positions of my instruments were not properly recorded when installed, negating the first month of my data collection. It becomes obvious to all involved that additional experiments will not be conducted this winter, because they require me to have extended travel around my due date.

October 2006-Experiments conclude. I arrange to pick up my instruments in person when I am in the area in November.

November 2006- Instruments are retrieved; possibility for additional data extraction is considered; “incident” occurs; additional possibility is lost; data are jeopardized; chaos ensues.

December 2006 – Data are retrieved. I take an initial look at the data and I realize that in order to make sense of my data, I’m going to need a lot of other data from the other people working on the experiments. Data coordinator avoids my calls and emails.

January 2007 – I get in touch with data coordinator who agrees to arrange for auxillary datasets to be transferred to me. First such dataset arrives. I realize that there is a hell of a lot of number crunching to be done before I’ll have any results. Status report due at end of month. So is Mini.


post-doc said...

I could write pages and pages about how interdisciplinary work is so important and so frustrating. Yay for finally getting the data you need, but boo for there being so much work when it's obviously time for Mini to make an appearance. :)

Lab Lemming said...

Um, excuse the question if it is too specific, but was this study related to gay sheep or some such thing?

Seems like there was an awful lot of excitement. An incident, even.

Just askin'

iLikeRocks said...

I know of a woman who had to defend her thesis very VERY pregnant (I think she was 8 mos along) because her advisor kept putting it off. It just seems like these things happen (especially with deadlines in science, the ones that are fluid will be at least in my experience) and when you have a very stern deadline it meets all kinds of issues. I hope your wee one comes along without a hitch and you're both healthy afterwards ;).

Mark C Reid said...

I sincerely hope you're (and your lab is) making sure you're protected from possible teratogens.

Just be careful anyway...

If in doubt - get someone to handle the stuff for you!

Best wishes for the pregnancy.

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