A little bit bitch and a little bit buddhist always at the intersection of biology, gender, race, and culture. This blog documents my experience as a Canadian postdoc living and working in the United States. I can't promise to be PG13. In fact I promise not to be PG13.
My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.
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Lately before we go to bed, HippieHusband and I watch Animal Planet's 101 Dog Video's. I think, in part, because we both want to get a dog. But another reason is because we want to watch something that makes us feel happy before we go to bed. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of dogs. Last night, however, I decided to listen to something else - it was what I would call a "wisdom" talk. I needed some advice that I felt went beyond career advice.
The reason for needing the advice was late last evening, RedBull sent another email. Our plan was to meet this morning so her email was a pre-emptive escalation of an unnecessary conflict. It was wrapped in several shades of crazy but the main focus was to reiterate that she felt that in research statement I had not made it clear that my research accomplishments were acheived within her research program. And to that end she attached an edited version of the statement that (despite the fact that I had already acknowledged I was a postdoc in RedBull's lab in one of the first paras) included a paragraph that went like this,
"I am currently a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of RedBull in the Dept of X at UniversityY. I was attracted to this NSF-funded post-doctoral position because it provides me an excellent opportunity to study Z in species 1.2. In addition, during my time in the RedBull's lab I have been able to gain expertise in technique E, F, and G." Furthermore in 6 different places in the research statement, she had made it clear "that this work was done in RedBull's lab" or that it was "NSF funded work." She also, this is quite humorous, put a citation in for her student's Masters thesis where I say in the statement,"previous work in RedBull's lab showed..." The second purpose of this email was to make dang certain that she had a written record saying she had not agreed to share her system in the way I had remembered. Dividing up research, is not an uncommon disagreement between trainee and mentor (though I'm not sure that mentor is a word I would use to describe her). But I'm happy, as I have said to her over and over again, to step away from the system.
So that's why I needed some wisdom. And it helped. After listening to this "wisdom talk," three things occured to me. First this whole stink has occurred because she has no publications (yes, that's right - shock and horror) in the system she is claiming to be established in. This is why she's so worried. She has no street cred. Although her grant was awarded two years ago, she has yet to publish anything (I really know how to pick 'em - sheesh). Then along comes this postdoc, who in the span of 1 and 1/2 years will have 2 papers as first author on this system. She must be worried that I'll be the one attributed to developing the system. A PI who is more sure of themselves and more established is unlikely to have the same insecurities. A second related aspect, is she regularly escalates conflict even if it's really small. Most of the time, when someone escalates a conflict it's hard to have the presence of mind to step back and see the truth of what is happening, but it's even harder to have the space within us to see why. Lastly, it is also an issue of inexperience. I'm her first postdoc. I imagine your first postdoc is kinda like your first boyfriend, you don't really know what to expect. And in the end we make all kinds of mistakes when we're inexperienced. Years down the road, you either look back upon that person fondly or maybe with a little bit of embarassment at all the mistakes you made. All three of these things are causing her to living in anger, greed and conceit. And really don't we all at some point in our lives live in that place?
At this point more than anything, I feel that it's important to be generous. But in our greedy society where we learn to acquire and want, it's hard to reliquinsh. The idea of giving anything up means that we can't cling to things or hold on tight to our ideas of our 'self.' To move in the opposite direction and relinquish is so difficult because we think we are giving up or giving in. For me, I am holding on super tight to the idea that I'm independent, smart, and I want to be respected for my work. Does that sound familiar? Actually, it is. It's just what RedBull, my supervisor desires. That's when I realized - an act of generosity to her is really an act of generosity to myself.
In the end it doesn't hurt me to acknowledge that I'm working as a postdoc in her lab under her grant. And when we met in person this morning and she asked are we okay, I reiterated that this was a job application and not a grant application so I'm fine. I accepted some of the changes to my research statement to make her feel at ease that I've acknowledged her role in beginning to develop species 1.2 and she offered to write a letter of recommendation for my job applications. It's interesting how generosity is so difficult. How we feel so put out to have to relinquish any tiny amount of ourselves. In the end, I feel lighter.
So reader, what generous act have you been the receipient of that touched you?
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Well done. Good job keeping the bridge intact.
"what generous act have you been the receipient that touched you?"
That's a hard question. It seems like there are two types of people in this world- those who choose happiness and peace over being right and those who choose being right over being happy. I am definitely in the former.
@Jade The bridge may be intact but there's a new tollbooth installed at my end. I realize that this may not be generous but generosity doesn't mean welcome mat.
That sounds like a reasonable compromise. At this point it sounds like she might even be intimidated by you. If you left with the system and had two papers under your belt, you'd be the lead, not her. So in this case there might be a little self preservation going on too. I still be afraid of letting her write you a letter of recommendation. I would wonder how good it would be.
I just embarked on an act of kindness I might regret. I hired a freshman with no lab experience to join the lab and make some virus mutants for me. It should be a fun and exciting learning experience for both of us ;)
@Brian That's great. One piece of advice when working with fresh meat. Be explicit and specific.