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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Junior Kickstart

There were some major happenings in my department last month. All pre-proposal grad students have to meet with a committee to make sure they are moving forward at a timely pace. Usually, one half of the committee doesn't show up. Of those that do, half aren't even paying attention to you, so they give you a lecture to get your proposal done and 5 minutes later you are back to work. Except, this year they are making good on some promises they made recently. Important promises such as how long they will continue providing funding for grad students. So, after these meetings it turns out that one of my office mates is on the chopping block. They are not kicked out, per say, they are welcome to continue working on research but will no longer be funded by the department.

In talking about this, no one is surprised at the lack of progress of this student. People see them at the bar but not in the halls and surely not in our office. When the news passed through labmates and grad students, I did not have much sympathy for the student. Yes, sometimes people take a long time in grad school. Experiments don't work. Techniques are hard to master or difficult in your system. Advisors are crazy. Personal tragedies occur. Anything can happen and it happens to some of the best. The students that continue on through these trials in addition to all the other crap that grad school piles on deserve a lot of respect.
However, those students that don't try, care, or do anything at all for years on end? Including show up? I have no problems with them being called out, losing their funding or even being asked to leave. If someone has no interest in research and does the bare minimum for teaching, and this goes on for years, why support them? It can negatively affect the advisor, lab, other grad students and undergraduates as well (particularly the ones they were supposed to teach!).

Saying out loud (or on the blog) that some grad students shouldn't be funded seems wrong. I feel like a traitor going against the whole supportive spirit of being in the student trenches. On the other hand, I'm sick of people taking advantage of this system that I hold in high esteem due to its importance in the development of my career. So, I sat on this post for a while trying to be a bit clearer in my feelings about it all. In this time, it turns out that the actions of the department may have turned this student around. I saw them everyday for a whole week before Xmas. In the office, computer lab and actual lab and in the halls on the 31st. I assume they are working and hope they can turn it around, get things done and be present in our department. If not, I hope they don't sit, unhappily stagnant in our department for another few years.

Do other departments run a tighter ship or do these types of students lurk in labs (or actually NOT in the labs!) across academia?

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Blogger ScienceGirl said...

My department tries to weed them out, but the smooth talkers get to lurk.

12:47 AM  
Blogger Mad Hatter said...

I think these types of students probably exist everywhere. I haven't come across very many of them in my department. But that probably has to do with the fact that all grad students are required to present their data yearly for the whole department, and the ones who don't give a decent talk tend to end up with several new orifices!

9:06 PM  
Blogger Propter Doc said...

My current lab kicked a student out a while back. She appealed and won but didn't come back. There was no damn reason for it, I'm still angry the student was kicked out. It was mainly because the expectations of the student and the student's knowledge didn't match. It creates a really bad atmosphere in a group for a while.

Some people shouldn't be in grad school, they should be weeded out.

11:14 PM  
Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

I agree that it sucks to admit that you think someone should go, but really some should. But I think this happens in all kinds of jobs. There are crappy workers everywhere. The difference is that not everyone thinks of graduate students as workers, including, sometimes, themselves.

8:36 PM  
Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

BTW, I like your new banner but I'm sad the talking penguins are gone.

8:37 PM  
Blogger DancingFish said...

Thanks for all the thoughts!
mad hatter: We have oppertunities for this but it is not required. Some of my cohort (4th year) have never presented ANY data!

propter doc: Having a difference in expectations seems like a common (and easily fixed) problem. Unfortunate to hear it taken to such extreme that someone has to leave though.

ecogeofemme: Good point- student/worker, school/job there has to be a balance of both points of view! Would it be better if newt man were also talking? he is sassy, and I'm sure would have many choice words!

6:52 PM  
Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

Yes! Make the newt man talk!

9:45 PM  

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