Monday, July 31, 2017

Insults to a Young Professor

Over the past few weeks I have been working vigorously with my students. These are most MS and PhD students and I have guiding them through various levels of academic research and publishing according to their stage of education.

But for some reason I keep on getting insulted. Few are the experts from some of the "insults" that I have had in the past few weeks.

I know youngling can be clueless - and they might do it in ignorance - and they might not mean it.

That does not mean that it is not an insults - or that it is not hurtful - especially since I care about my students a lot.

Observation 1

PhD student 1 is doing a summer research at a prestigious national lab. The lab does the same kind of work in the same subfield. I know the PI's work and have criticized it in the grant proposals. I have a prestigious career award in that subfield now (aka I am known in the sub field and have recived multiple grants in this sub field).

 -- student: I am sure that the PI in that national lab does not know about you or your work but I think we should collaborate with them (which is fine with me but I am sure you got into the national lab summer program just because of my name. Coz you are a PhD student with 1 year of experience and no one knows you).

-- The same student now postponed a tele conference meeting two times telling me that he is busy traveling. Today I got his email saying that I can call him today since he has time today (without actually thinking or acknowledging that I might be tensy bit busy?)

Observation 2

When a new PhD student come in I generally introduce the student to a new subfield; show them the ropes and then give them 1 or 2 problems that they can work on and publish. This helps get the things running for them and keeps them motivated.

After they have worked on 2 or so sub-problems I ask them to come up with a 3rd problem (on their own) and then come up with a solution to such a problem. Meanwhile, I am their sounding board.

Today one of them came and told me she wants to work on a 3rd problem and want me to tell it to her. I told her that I gave you 2 problems (that she has not made any progress on and have not published anything) and you need to show progress. After that you will come up with the 3rd problem and I will help you.

Next thing she tells me is as follows "But I came up with the 2 problems and will come up with their solutions as well that you are referring to...".

She didn't knew...when she started with me that the particular sub-field existed. And ofcourse I had thought about the 2 problems that I "gave" her for a long time before I decided to put in MY "time", MY "resources", MY "money" and MY "energy" in to this.

Observation 3

This PhD students is about to graduate. He just told me: "that your name does not carry any weight when it comes to getting a paper published. You are young and not like other senior people ..."

Yes, I am young and I know that. But I am well accomplished in my field and have at least 10 years of research experience more than any of these PhD students. I have worked very very hard to reach this place.

Yes, I am young but I do deserve respect.

Yes, I am young and I demand respect.


  1. Re: Observation 3 - It's kind of a catch-22. You can choose to be unhelpful in the student acquiring the next steps in his/her career, but if you are young enough and still need to build your connections, it might be better to place him/her well in a colleagues lab or job that directly benefits you. The thing students don't realize about science is that it has become a business model - it's no longer only about what you know, but who you know, and right now they need you.

    Re: Observation 2 - This is easy. The answer is no until she brings you results or at least a plan for getting them.

  2. I get clueless disrespectful shit like this still, and I am a senior woman in the field. You're a dude so I hope these stop for you soon... No help, just sympathy. Young white dudes get respect of the bat as rising star geniuses. Or else elder wise men. The nonwhite and nonmale among us are always flawed.

    What helps is becoming less friendly and more aloof/intimidating. Most of it comes naturally with age and job-induced jadedness. At least it did for me.