The Plight of the Post-Doc


Summer Student Situation

I don't know if it's my biological clock or what, but I've just had to turn down what are probably two very excellent summer high school students, and my heart is totally breaking.

An email popped up earlier this week from a PI in a different department in my institution, saying I'd been recommended as a possible mentor for these two high school students who were interested in neuroscience.  I scrolled through the string of emails to see who recommended me, and it was a PI in my department who I don't know very well at all, but who described me as "stellar."  Well!  I see my reputation precedes me.

Below that email was an email that included mini-statements from the students, and WOW.  High school students are reading primary source journal articles these days?  I went to one of the best (public) high schools in my state, and I think I had maybe heard of the amygdala.  Maybe.  These kids can more articulately describe their interests (which substantially overlap with my own) than many grad students I've encountered, and oh, how I want to adopt them!  I want to take them under my wing and teach them stereotaxic surgery and run a journal club and I can't help but imagine we'd all have the Best Summer Ever. 

Unfortunately, this is pretty much the Worst Summer Ever to take on a good times mentoring gig.  First off, though I think it's unlikely that I'll get an offer for the fall, it hasn't been definitively ruled out, so I may not even be here this summer.  Assuming I don't get an offer, I then need to kick so much ass and be crazy productive to try to get another paper at least in press (or, more realistically, submitted) by the time the next hiring cycle comes around.  The students would only be here for 4-6 weeks, which is not really enough time to train them to the point where they'd actually be helping me; it's just not that compatible with kicking so much ass.  Finally, most of the work I'll be doing this summer will be computer-y stuff, not fun animal experiments, so even if I were to take them on as helpers, they likely wouldn't be doing anything they actually find interesting. 

Sigh.  Bon chance, little students!  I'm sorry the timing was completely wrong for us to be together.  Look me up when you've (started and) finished college and are looking for PhD advisors, mkay?


Patrice Brassard said...

It's sad indeed...but I agree that their first experience in research needs to be interesting! I got mine only during the first year of my master's degree!

Let's hope they will knock at your door in a near future, with the hope of pursuing a PhD with you. Who knows, it could be the consequence of a wonderful research experience as high school students!

Candid Engineer said...

most of the work I'll be doing this summer will be computer-y stuff, not fun animal experiments

Umm....?? I don't know what kind of animal experiments you do, but I would never call mine fun. My animals just shit everywhere.

Becca said...

Ha! Yeah, they all shit. But I think that for what these students' interests seem to be, they'd like more hands-on, animal behavior type stuff, which I sometimes do. Just not now.

Ms.PhD said...

I've had this problem of having to pass up students over and over since my situation has been so unstable for so long.

Take heart, there are plenty of labs for them to work in (though maybe not so many great mentors as you would be).

And, let's just focus on the HUGE compliment that this other professor a) noticed your work and b) called you stellar. That's HUGE. Hang onto that.

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