Friday, March 14, 2008

In Which I Am Angry At Great Length, 1

I am going to tell you the real reason that I am leaving academia. Eventually. Let me tell you some stories first. [In several parts because I am angry at very great length indeed.]

My advisor has been in science N years where N> my age. His wife stayed home to raise the kids. She packs him lunch. Dinner is on the table at (time here) As a result, my advisor works more than 70 hours per week and is very efficient and very productive. Fabulous; I’m sure he enjoys it.

The result, however, is he thinks everyone should do likewise. If I can work 50 hours a week and still be productive, too bad: I should be working harder, because I could be working more. I know because he’s told me so for six years. I have worked myself to the bone, until I was sick again and again from fatigue and stress, and that counts for nothing.

To make it better, I apparently don’t put on a good enough show. We have another grad student, much younger, who most assuredly works shorter hours. He makes a production of it, and he does what Advisor wants: comes to every journal club, is always on time for lab meeting, emails if he's sick/ five minutes late/ dealing with an embarrassing infestation of mice. I, meanwhile, tell Advisor if I am: 1) very ill and/ or missing lab meeting; or 2) gone for more than three weekdays. And nothing else.

Also I don’t care about certain things, like lab meeting, because they do me no good. No-one has told me anything useful in lab meeting for two years. Did I mention we ALL go every time? EVERY SINGLE terminally boring time.

As a result, in Advisor’s little game of favorites, I always lose. There are certain things we should be learning (Mrs. Whatsit touches on them): grant writing, reviewing, how to write a paper, how to train others. And while I could have asked for them, three things prevented me: 1) when younger, I didn’t know enough to; 2) later, it didn’t occur to me that I was the only person in my lab who would have to ask, as no-one else had to; and 3) oh yes, when I did ask (to review something, go to a conference, have a student) I was repeatedly turned down.

Which is why, when a casual comment revealed to me that a much younger student, who works maybe half as hard as I do, reviewed a big paper last month, as a reward for being a good little scientist- I was reminded of my fury. Don’t get me wrong, she’s smart and a good scientist, but my work counts for nothing because we all know that real labwork only produces publishable results.

I’m not angry with her. I’m angry with my advisor, and with the university for doing absolutely nothing to make sure any of us get training. We're cheap labor. This is not an education (which is the reason we're not employees, and therfore do not have contracts or a union, by the way; we're getting educated, not working), it's servitude, and whatever crumbs we pick up along the way are all we get.