Author Topic: When someone you are mentoring quits after two hours...talked to PI, post 22  (Read 9208 times)

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Thuringwethyl

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Re: When someone you are mentoring quits after two hours...
« Reply #15 on: August 07, 2012, 05:02:42 PM »
Adding my voice to the chorus: you did nothing wrong.

When I was an undergrad I volunteered/worked in two different labs (my initial PI got a better offer at a different university and his students were offered up to the department). I've seen other undergrads come and go - believe me, you dodged a bullet. This person would have been a weight around your neck and expected you to do everything.
Every time we got someone like this (you can tell as their attitude is just, ugh) the entire lab united and forced them out. You can't depend on their work and they steal your time.

VorFemme

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Re: When someone you are mentoring quits after two hours...
« Reply #16 on: August 07, 2012, 05:26:14 PM »
You did nothing wrong.

I was getting married and offered to teach my brothers how to make cookies (Lil Sis was going off to college - Mom worked - they'd have to take over some of the chores).  Despite eating cookies for a decade or more, he had no time to learn to make them.

So the first time he went into the kitchen and there were NO COOKIES  :-[ but plenty of flour, eggs, chocolate chips, and such.....he got out the recipe (on the back of the bag of chocolate chips), looked at it, couldn't figure out why you mixed these ingredients, added those, mixed again, then added more stuff to stir in, and finally (about four steps later) added the chocolate chips to stir in last.   :o

He dumped EVERYTHING in the bowl at once and started stirring so he could get those cookies made faster.  >:D

Which did not work very well. 

Thirty minutes later, people started coming over (including VorGuy and the former family baker).  He was still stirring.....I don't know if he gave up and ate the mess (it didn't look like cookie dough) or tossed it and started another batch - but he listened when we told him how to reduce the four steps on the recipe to three steps (fat, eggs, flavorings, salt, & baking soda - mix well) then add the flour & stir it in, last - add the chocolate chips and any nuts.  Baking was kind of optional around that house in the 1970s......maybe a third of the dough got eaten raw, as a "quality check" - wouldn't want to bake bad cookie dough, after all!

He cooks better NOW - but it took a while to convince him that the boring parts of anything were worth the time that they took.

Your UG hasn't learned that lesson yet and I would be willing to bet that he doesn't want to do the boring parts of any job - just the fun ones or stand up in front of the group to get the congratulations on a job well done (no matter who did the good work, he wants the congratulations part).
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ShanghaiJill

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Re: When someone you are mentoring quits after two hours...
« Reply #17 on: August 08, 2012, 01:27:13 AM »
You did nothing wrong.

I was getting married and offered to teach my brothers how to make cookies (Lil Sis was going off to college - Mom worked - they'd have to take over some of the chores).  Despite eating cookies for a decade or more, he had no time to learn to make them.

So the first time he went into the kitchen and there were NO COOKIES  :-[ but plenty of flour, eggs, chocolate chips, and such.....he got out the recipe (on the back of the bag of chocolate chips), looked at it, couldn't figure out why you mixed these ingredients, added those, mixed again, then added more stuff to stir in, and finally (about four steps later) added the chocolate chips to stir in last.   :o

He dumped EVERYTHING in the bowl at once and started stirring so he could get those cookies made faster.  >:D

Which did not work very well. 

Thirty minutes later, people started coming over (including VorGuy and the former family baker).  He was still stirring.....I don't know if he gave up and ate the mess (it didn't look like cookie dough) or tossed it and started another batch - but he listened when we told him how to reduce the four steps on the recipe to three steps (fat, eggs, flavorings, salt, & baking soda - mix well) then add the flour & stir it in, last - add the chocolate chips and any nuts.  Baking was kind of optional around that house in the 1970s......maybe a third of the dough got eaten raw, as a "quality check" - wouldn't want to bake bad cookie dough, after all!

He cooks better NOW - but it took a while to convince him that the boring parts of anything were worth the time that they took.

Your UG hasn't learned that lesson yet and I would be willing to bet that he doesn't want to do the boring parts of any job - just the fun ones or stand up in front of the group to get the congratulations on a job well done (no matter who did the good work, he wants the congratulations part).

I worked at a place where they taught job skills to handicapped people.   One guy in the culinary course didn't want to wash dishes.   He wanted to do the interesting stuff.    Everyone in that course started out washing dishes.  He ended up quitting.

If you want to be the top banana

You gotta start at the bottom of the bunch. 8)

kglory

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Re: When someone you are mentoring quits after two hours...
« Reply #18 on: August 08, 2012, 02:01:30 AM »
It sounds like he just wanted to do some Cool Science Stuff!! and not the background work that goes along with it.

Ditto this completely!  It's like from watching CSI and similar shows, he has the pop culture belief that he will just be making exciting discoveries all day long. 

What he needs to realize, if he is interested in honors research or grad work in any science related field, is that so much more time goes into the researching and writing than the actual experimenting.   Plus, once you get advanced in your field, you can pay someone (a research assistant) to do the experimenting, but you still have to do the research and writing!  So if he's not interested in that, it's a poor career choice for him.

Honestly, I think you are lucky that he quit.  If he stuck around, complaining at every assignment and demanding you help him write his papers and do every single task with him, imagine how awful it would be for you.  You can't force him to be interested if he doesn't want to -- and he clearly lacks the business courtesy to treat you politely and tell you he's leaving as opposed to just going AWOL and burning that bridge -- which is his problem and only a reflection on him.

Shopaholic

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Re: When someone you are mentoring quits after two hours...
« Reply #19 on: August 08, 2012, 02:21:33 AM »
Thanks everybody for your support.
My husband, who is normally my #1 critic and not an academic researcher,  said that the guy sounds more like a 5-year old than a college student.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that quitting after two hours says much more about him than it does about me. It's not like I hit him or yelled at him.

Winterlight

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Re: When someone you are mentoring quits after two hours...
« Reply #20 on: August 08, 2012, 09:59:30 AM »
The more I think about it, the more I realize that quitting after two hours says much more about him than it does about me. It's not like I hit him or yelled at him.

Actually, I think it says everything about him. I'd just be relieved that he's gone and won't demand to be babysat through the internship.
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Thipu1

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Re: When someone you are mentoring quits after two hours...
« Reply #21 on: August 08, 2012, 10:48:18 AM »
Every discipline that's worth learning involves lots of 'scut work'.  Students who really want to learn will do the boring stuff with good grace.

At the Museum, we had interns who expected to curate their own gallery show.  when they learned that their first job would be cataloging slides, they didn't last long.

We reminded them that, in Ancient Egypt, scribal students began their education by learning how to make ink.  This involved going from house to house in the village and scraping the soot from cooking pots.  Compared to that, sorting slides or reading scholarly papers doesn't sound so bad.

No matter what the subject, knowing the relevant literature is vital.  At the beginning, it may seem like a sure- fire insomnia killer but serious students will do it and learn from it. 

I wouldn't worry about any repercussions.  PI has probably encountered students like this before.  From Shopaholic's post, it sounds like no one who cares about the subject could be a successful Mentor to this student. 

Stick to your guns and keep the faith. 

Shopaholic

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Re: When someone you are mentoring quits after two hours...
« Reply #22 on: August 08, 2012, 11:12:20 AM »
My PI spoke to UG today and filled me in.

PI said that he has my back, as I am part of the team, but to see if we can learn something from all this.
UG was apparently very apologetic, and takes it upon himself for "having different expectations."
PI said UG didn't harbor any hard feelings against me, or the lab but said something about "not expecting to come in at 7:30 to read papers when he could have done that at home."
(Clarification: I explained to him that I worked 7:30-17:30, that I don't expect him to work my hours, but that he can't expect me to stay later just to work with him. I asked him if 7:30 was problematic for him, he said no.)
PI says that UG's account of things matches mine, and that he thinks I did everything properly.

PI says that in the future he will make sure to be clearer on the fact that reading is a requirement, as is ambition and the ability to work independently. He suggested that I work on being warmer and maybe more supportive (??) and that we all should learn to treat project students with kid gloves.
I pointed out that I can teach a student many things, but I cannot teach him to READ. I agreed that I am not the nicest person, but this isn't the first student I've been working with and I treat them all the same.
I also said that if he quit after 2 hours it is very possible that some other things are going on that we are not aware of.

I suggested to PI that in the future the screening process for project students would be to give them a reading assignment and have them spend a day at the lab to see what it's like. He agreed that it was a good idea.

The concensus in the lab is good riddance, and my BFF thinks that I did him a big favor by helping him understand that he may be studying the wrong profession.

Jones

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Wait, you are supposed to treat the students with kid gloves? As in, shelter and be nice to them? What happens when they hit the real world, with coworkers and bosses who are watching out for themselves? They will be totally unprepared.

It sounds like things are all worked out, and for the positive. I'm glad you don't have to mentor UG, it sounds like it would have been a pain.

siamesecat2965

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Wait, you are supposed to treat the students with kid gloves? As in, shelter and be nice to them? What happens when they hit the real world, with coworkers and bosses who are watching out for themselves? They will be totally unprepared.

It sounds like things are all worked out, and for the positive. I'm glad you don't have to mentor UG, it sounds like it would have been a pain.

I know, really?  That attitude, I hate to say it, is why so many kids are coddled, pampered, and completely unprepared for school and the "real world"  Reminds me of the "You're not special" HS commencement speech - where the teacher basically told the grads they weren't special, etc.. Certainly not doing them any favors. I think what you did was perfectly fine; and if he didn't like it, well, maybe its better he's gone.

Ms_Cellany

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I know, really?  That attitude, I hate to say it, is why so many kids are coddled, pampered, and completely unprepared for school and the "real world"  Reminds me of the "You're not special" HS commencement speech - where the teacher basically told the grads they weren't special, etc.. Certainly not doing them any favors.

30 years later, I vividly remember one moment from my freshman welcoming picnic. (I went to MIT.)  The speaker said, "All of you come from the top 5 percent of your classes. Many of you were the top in your class. As of this moment, half of you are in the bottom 50 percent."
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GreenEyedHawk

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Back when I was TeenageHawk, I decided that my career field was going to involve working with animals.  I didn't want to be a vet, so after careful consideration, I decided that grooming dogs was a good blend of art and animals for me.  I Got my foot in the door at a local grooming salon and was hired on as a bather.  The salon owner was straightforward with me, telling me that anyone wanting to learn to groom has to start from the bottom.  I spent six months doing nothing but bathing and blow-drying and smelling like a wet dog (and occasionally like cat pee).  After six months, I was allowed to start brushing and doing prep work like trimming nails and plucking ears.  I did that for about six or eight months, in addition to my bathing and drying duties (along with the shop maintenance stuff like sweeping, vacuuming and cleaning kennels).

After that, I was allowed to learn to do bath-and-tidy type dogs, like shelties and golden retrievers, where all you do is bathe, brush and trim feet, hocks and backsides.  I did all that for another year.  And so on and so on.  All in all, it took me several years of learning (and perfecting my skills in) every step of the process.  It was long, hard, hot and messy, but it was worth it. 

The bottom is the best place to start, as far as I'm concerned.  The more skills you have, the more marketable you are, and the better you can ultimately do your job.
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taffywduck

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That guy wasn't cut out for research! Especially if he thinks there's any money to be made there... ask me how I know!

When I was doing my M.Sc. I met tons of potential interns/grad student applicants who just assumed research was this fun and exciting career choice, especially in my field (fundamental animal behavior biology). At first they were quite taken aback by the fact that it's actually quite tedious work and not the money making miracle they first believed it to be.

I've met a few who decided they were not cut out for it, especially when I stressed that our lab was doing fundamental work, not applied field studies with pretty animals. Nope, 10-12 hour days (sometimes longer) in a tiny concrete lab.

For the pleasure of yielding results that would probably NOT be Nobel prize worthy... if you got any results at all ;).

My advisor was always very nice and warm with the potential interns, stressing how FUN and NICE the work always was, which is why the actual work (with the actual people supervising them) was taking them by surprise.

I never understood what the point was, you're not going to get very good work from students who were basically decieved into thinking they were getting into a fun ride...

AlephReish

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Re: When someone you are mentoring quits after two hours...
« Reply #28 on: August 09, 2012, 09:10:11 PM »
I suggested to PI that in the future the screening process for project students would be to give them a reading assignment and have them spend a day at the lab to see what it's like. He agreed that it was a good idea.

Great outcome, Shopaholic. And good job on coming up with a concrete suggestion for the future. Helping the lab move forward and refine your procedures is awesome.

Funny enough, I always loved doing my reading... seeing what people had discovered, how it fit together with other ideas. I loved knowing stuff, and I realized that I didn't need to be the one to discover it, but that I wanted to be the way introducing others to the ideas.  Hence, my soon-to-be teaching career.

johelenc1

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I'm not sure it's entirely fair to be so hard on the UG.  He was clearly overwhelmed and discovered the project wasn't what he thought it would be.  There's no shame in realizing that, withdrawing from the program and basically taking all or most of the blame.

OP didn't do anything wrong, but I don't think what UG did was unforgivable either.  He had an expectation, it wasn't met, he was overwhelmed, and he got out.  I don't see the big deal.