I'm not entirely sure this is an etiquette issue, so mods please feel free to move it. I would be very happy for some insight from experienced and wise EHellions.
I'll try to make this as short as possible:
As it is summer vacation, many undergrad students are starting summer research projects in labs accross campus.
An undergrad student (UG) was assigned to me, and we had our first meeting two days ago.
I outlined my expectations, explained the project and the methods we will be using. I asked UG what his expectations were, and he mentioned a number of times that the project consisted of 150 hours, that he wanted to hand in a "research proposal" as soon as possible (a requirement of his program), and that he was willing to work beyond 150 hours, but didn't want to "work for free." I asked him when he wanted to start, and he said Tuesday.
I sent him home with three short review papers and a 4-page document that summarized some published data pertinent to his project. My PI also suggested I give him a copy of my own research proposal.
I told him to come in on Tuesday to discuss what he read and make a workplan for the upcoming week, and that we'll start working on Wednesday.
UG came in this morning, after having read one of the three papers. He didn't have any questions, just said that he didn't feel that the papers were relevant. I went over the project in more detail, planned out the next two days with him and went over the protocols that detail the procedures we will do tomorrow. I explained that my plan for the day had nothing to do with his project, but that he was welcome to tag along and learn. I sent him to the library to continue reading.
UG returns after half an hour and tells me that this wasn't what he was expecting. Apparently he expected something more applied. I reminded him that the plan for tomorrow was to start working, but that he needs to read the background for his project - that it is expected of every student.
UG replied that he's just an undergrad project student, not a grad student (he repeated this at least twice more during our conversation). I replied that my expectations are the same of every student (I've been working with a high school student for the past few weeks as well).
I stressed the importance of reading in research, explaining that if he wants to write a research proposal, it will have to be based on published work. He replied that he thought we would write it together. I replied that I'd help, but he needs to start on his own (I also suggested that he work a week or two in the lab before starting to write).
Eventually I told him that he could join me for the day doing my work plus regular maintenance as I was on duty, or go back to reading. UG replied that he doesn't know, this is just his first project and what do I suggest he do. I suggested he join me in an attempt to learn more about lab work. He chose to do so.
I started explaining what I was doing, took him to do some boring maintenance tasks, explaining them as well and then we had some time so I showed him how to do something that will be applicable to his project. I told him that I would show him how to do it, explained each stage, and when we finish he can do it on his own again to practice. He agreed.
Part of the process requires some waiting. He got bored, and told me he was going and would be back later. He never returned.
Meanwhile, I contemplated talking to my PI about my conversation with him, because I found his attitude to be ... well, puzzling. Every single student that starts working in the lab reads up on the literature. Another undergrad has spent the last two days in the lab reading.
This afternoon my PI comes and asks me if something happened with UG, because apparently he sent him an email that he quit! PI doesn't really know why, but he sent UG a letter that he would be happy to meet with him to understand why.
I went and talked to PI, who said it could be anything from him having different expectations, to bad chemistry between us, to the work being too hard to UG not liking the color of my eyes. I told PI that I would be happy to know the reasons, so that I can try to do better next time.
My questions are:
1. What happened? Was I too hard on him? Were my expectations too high? I know it's hard to tell without being there, I'd be happy to provide more details if necessary.
2. How do I follow up on this with PI, if at all?
3. If ever confronted with UG again, what should I say?