In case "PR" has some scientific meaning that's either not occurring to me or is relevant only in fields with which I'm not well-acquainted, I'm talking about Public Relations, here. I've been thinking about this a lot, lately--the role of the PI in "advertising" his or her trainee, especially when the trainee is getting close to the next phase, be it grad student to post-doc, or post-doc to junior faculty. I mean, it's in everyone's best interest for us to move onward and upward, right? So why aren't they all selling the shit out of us? Or if you're a PI, why aren't you selling the shit out of your trainees? Or are you?
I'm not talking about writing letters of recommendation, here; everyone does that. What I mean is, what extra things is your PI doing to show the world how great you are? Or is this not happening? And how do you feel about that? This is an essay question, to be answered in the comments by both trainees and PIs alike.
A couple of recent experiences have made me hyper-aware of this phenomenon. First, I was at a small symposium in the city a couple of weeks ago. Four really great talks, including one by my PI and one by a very famous collaborator dude (VFCD--different from the new Famous Dude I may work with soon). My PI didn't present my work, but VFCD did. And right before VFCD presented my work, he said, "this is the work of Dr Becca, who is over there (he points, I wave bashfully) and what she did that was really monumental was..." I mean, he actually said "monumental," which I thought was really nice of him. I don't even know if I'd consider my work monumental, but it made me feel really good that he'd promote me like that. Moreover, he deferred to me to answer any relevant questions after the talk, and not because he couldn't have answered them himself--VFCD is a bona fide brilliant person who has the mind-blowing ability to remember every tiny bit of data you've ever mentioned to him in the hallway or whatever. So that was all really great. I felt like I was being treated like an adult, having adult scientist conversations with other adult scientists, and I was so grateful to VFCD for that.
More recently, I was at a meeting in the Midwestern US (OMG $2.75 for Maker's Mark??!!??!). During one of the talks, the speaker said, "this is the work of my post-doc ____, who is here at this meeting," and she showed a picture of this post-doc, which she continued to show a couple more times as she went through the data. I saw this and thought, That is so smart and great! Now people don't have to remember her name--they can just remember her face! And then they'll recognize her at future meetings, rather than having to randomly check her name tag and try and remember where they heard the name. I am so doing this when I am a PI. Every time.
These truly small-in-effort gestures are, I think, really important for trainees. While in the long run, we of course will (and should) bear the primary burden for promoting ourselves, you never know what a two-second mention, a photo, or a casual "monumental" here or there can really do for a person.
Parting – art through psychosis – at King’s Place
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