Friday, February 24, 2012

Learning from (Negative) Examples

My advisor is a brilliant scientist, but he's not such a brilliant manager. So I'm trying to figure out what I can learn *not* to do from his example, in addition to all the things I'm learning to do as a graduate student.  Here are some of my initial thoughts:

1) Don't take more than 6 months to give any feedback on a paper. Students would rather get a paper with angry red ink demanding we re-write entire sections than wait while you polish the language.

2) Don't assume students know what they're supposed to be working on if you don't tell them directly. Corollary: don't assume students know about deadline just because they happened at the same time last year. A year ago is a much longer time to a graduate student than you, and we don't get emails reminding us of upcoming grant reviews unless *you* send them.

3) Announce when positive things happen. Land a grant? Announce it! A paper got accepted, even if the student graduated? Announce it! A big celebration isn't needed, but let us know.

4) When disasters happen, make time to meet with the affected students, or else they get really jittery.

5) If you're going to be super busy or traveling, let students know so they don't spend all day trying to hunt you down when you're out of town. We shouldn't be asking undergrads for copies of their syllabi to know when you have scheduled absences.

6) Never, ever submit conference abstracts with a student as a co-author (i.e, the person expected to generate the data) unless a)the data already exists or b) you warn the student that they need to produce this data *at the time of abstract submission* (not 4 weeks before the presentation...)

What have you learned by bad example?


  1. Let's see, so many experiences to choose from:

    Tell your students when you plan to move your lab to another university.

    Don't send threatening emails to your students that you will cut their stipend if they don't publish a paper every year.

    Don't give new undergrads unsupervised independent research projects to work on.

  2. That's a great idea that I can use in my job! The biggest one I can learn from my boss is your attitude affects the attitudes of those you work with, so be positive. Maybe I should start keeping a list!