OP, maybe you can clarify, but when you say "not the nicest person", I read that as you saying you're task-oriented and don't coddle your undergrads, is that right? If so, good for you! Not being "the nicest" isn't the same as being mean or rude; not by a long shot.
This is part of it. I know how to separate the professional from the social, even in a very casual work environment like we have in the lab.
I'm not on the best of terms with everybody - I can get impatient, I can be cynical and when someone annoys me I can find it very hard to hide.
But UG did not experience any of it. I didn't invite him to my house for coffee, but I did invite him to join the lab members for lunch, and in our initial conversation I tried to keep it light, adding a few details about myself. I asked him some run of the mill personal questions about himself (do you live nearby?) but he wasn't interested in that line of conversation, and he didn't respond to my attempts at making jokes. So I let it go, not everyone has the same sense of humor.
I kept reassuring him that it's normal to feel overhelmed at this point, that I remember when I was at that point in my career and offered him a lot of advice to make his work easier.
There is a saying in Hebrew that I haven't encountered in English, and it's called "having a small/big head". Someone who has a small head only does what he needs do, shows no initiative and takes on no extra responsibilities. Someone with a big head is someone who shows commitment, goes beyond what is expected of him, doesn't fear taking on additional work or responsibilities and tries to see beyond the exact requirements of his job.
If you want to be a researcher, you need to have "a big head". You need to show initiative, you need to expand your interests and think outside of the box.
Research is 99% perspiration. You go backwards more than you go forwards, and many times you feel like you're banging your head against a wall. In the end, if you are successful, you contribute a tiny little piece to total human knowledge.
When someone gives up after two hours, having not even picked up a test tube, that doesn't bode well for their future career.
I actually saw UG this week, looks like he got a project in another lab. I wonder if he had two options from the beginning and just wanted to try them out (or, who would do more of his work for him).
The high school student I have been mentoring part-time came to say good bye and thank you, and gave me a lovely note thanking me for being a source of knowledge and inspiration for her. Made my day