Sunday, May 4, 2008

Yes Masta, Youse a good Masta.

Things I am learning in Graduate School
1. My boss has 100% of the power in our relationship, I have 0%.
There is nothing I can do to change this.
2. My boss will do things that (he thinks) will benefit him.
3. My boss does not care about me (or the other graduate students in our lab.)
4. My boss cannot admit that he is wrong.

I have been told that in graduate school in the sciences, the group is like a family. There is the (Principle Investigator (PI) / boss / professor) who is the parent. The graduate students are the children, and post-docs fill the nanny / babysitter role.

In reality, comparing a research group to a family is total bullshit.
In a family, parents love and look after their children. Because of this love, there is some sharing in the power structure. The parents will listen to their kids and take the children's reasonable and healthy desires into consideration.

There is no LOVE in a research group. A research group is much more like a plantation in the old south. The boss is the plantation owner, and the grad students are the slaves.

If you were a slave in the old south, you might be fortunate enough to end up on a plantation with a kind and moral owner. But you could also be unlucky and end up with an insecure and unethical slave owner. Guess whose plantation I live on?

My theory is that younger professors (read assistant and associate professors) are in general kinder than old professors. Older = more shitty. This could be because power corrupts.

So in this 100:0 power situation, what do you do if you are the slave and your boss is unethical, lazy, and self-centered? You either say "Yes, Master" or you leave. Leaving can mean running away to another plantation, or running away to the North. (North = Quitting Grad School)

How does a first year graduate student find a good group? I tell them that you cannot trust people's opinions, but you can trust numbers. Ask for numbers. Here is an example:

In the Past Four Years:
1) Average number of slaves on plantation: 4
2) Number of runaway slaves: 6
3) Number of slaves earning their freedom (PhD): 1

Does that sound like a family that you want to belong to?


Peacebone said...

hahahahahah. That analogy is hilarious. Favorite part: run away to the north (quit school). I hope my fluffy liberal arts grad program is nothing like that.

kamakula said...

Arrg. I just spent almost ten minutes writing up a response to your questions and it seems to be lost!

I'll get around to doing it later :)

Lynn said...

stumbled on your blog looking for graduate school experiences.

i feel disconcerted at my school and im glad to see im not the only one