How unfortunate it is that the next time I decide to post to my blog it is because I am upset and frustrated. First some background. I am a 5th year graduate student in the biological sciences. For some that's 'nough said. The one major goal I wanted to achieve in graduate school was to join a lab where the PI (principal investigator, i.e. the boss) was a good mentor. I have failed at that miserably. Admittedly I also didn't want to be in a lab where I was micro-managed. So when I joined X's lab I knew that he could be a little hard to focus, but at the time it was possible. However, for the last 2 1/2 years I have been frustrated with the lack of guidance I get from my PI. I think I can sum things up when I say it has been next to none. In a 6 month time period from one committee meeting to the next I met with him exactly once in a one-on-one situation. During that time I presented my data twice at lab meeting, which can itself be an entire other blog entry due to the lack of feedback and extreme waste of time. In these lab meetings my PI would fall asleep, yes asleep, while I would present my data. Now I don't take this personally since he falls asleep when ANYONE is giving a presentation, this includes seminar speakers that he has invited. The one meeting we had I had to force because it was coming up on my yearly seminar to the department. Kind of a big deal and having some input from my "mentor" is not an unusual request or even expectation.
During this rather frustrating time I have been able to gain support and comfort in one lab member and fellow graduate student who we shall call "S". While our projects are different there are some overlapping techniques and basic research understanding. We both work on signaling events that occur inside cells but in response to different compounds. This love of signal transduction events is not shared by the other members of our laboratory. In fact I have heard on MANY occasions how other lab persons "hate signaling work". Not the best environment for discussion, troubleshooting and overall progress. Well this environment has gotten the best of my good friend S. She is leaving the lab and joining another lab to continue her graduate work.
I can't blame her for making this change. In fact if I were in her shoes and a year earlier in my graduate work I think I would do the exact same thing. I truly believe that she is making the right decision. However, this the one person in the lab that I have a true connection with on a scientific and personal level. It isn't like she is leaving the university. We will be in different buildings but can still meet for lunch and I will see her at seminars, etc. But no longer will I be able to turn around and find solace in my conversations with her. I have known for quite a while that she would eventually be leaving, but I think some small part of me never really grasped that it would actually happen. Well, it is and I need to get on with it. She starts the transition to her new lab next week. I am hopeful that some good will come out of this and my PI will recognize that he can no longer be completely hands off, give us no direction, discussion or guidance. This is the third student to leave his lab in the last 10 years and he still hasn't graduated a student yet. I have heard that he made the comment after S told him that she is leaving that he is a terrible mentor. I have had a few conversations with my PI over the last couple of years about his lack of involvement. It started out with a lot of big talk and promises, but fell short. So, I am hopeful that he is recognizing the errors he has made, yet I am cautious not to get my hopes up.