Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Jackass was my PhD advisor. He and I had a very strange relationship. He has this weird British self-deprecating sense of humor. He contributes nothing to discussions. He's generally an asshole. He and I have had screaming matches down hallways. He's a great scientist. He has awesome ideas. He just has no idea how to deal with funding sources, people, or management. I once tried to explain the 'catch more flies with honey' concept to him, and he genuinely didn't get it. His philosophy for students when something like this: "I give you a place, money, and a chance, what you make with it is up to you." He and I got on famously.
You had to earn Jackass's respect. He gave everyone a bullshit project, and when you finally got so ridiculously pissed off and went to scream at him in his office, you got respect back. Some students never earned it.
I still talk to him. In fact, I still have emails in my inbox from the last week I was his student, because I was pissed he didn't say goodbye/good luck/get the hell out of here. We still talk science. We talk about life. We still, on occasion, get really drunk, and I have to make sure that he can leave the bar without being asked to leave.
Tex was my Post-doc advisor. He rescued me when I thought that I wasn't going to get a job. He took a chance on me. He's always treated me like I knew what I was doing. Tex knew how to be on a committee, how to talk nicely with your competitors, and how to speak up. He also was a good scientist, he just always had his fingers in too many jam jars.
At the beginning I didn't know where I stood with Tex. I had known him the better part of a decade through different classes and classmates, but he was really hard to read. He claimed he was simple, and that if something was wrong I'd know. It wasn't until I was leaving that I finally figured out where I stood.
I learned conflicting things from both of them. Jackass told me not to go into science. Tex made me love the lab. Jackass told me to not stay in academia. Tex made me seriously consider staying. Jackass taught me to find something you love. Tex taught me to keep on trying. Jackass taught me how to be independent. Tex taught me how to be part of a lab.
Here's the kicker: They know each other, and don't care for each other. Tex actually asked Jackass if I could join his lab. I couldn't have had more polar opposite mentors. I wouldn't trade either of them in.
(I only let one of them know about this blog.) :)