How do I grad school: management skills edition
August 20, 2013 3:46 PM Subscribe
I'm a grad student in the sciences, going into my (mumble) year. I've been assigned an incoming grad student to show the ropes. Great! What the hell do I do?
posted by kagredon to work & money (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Pretty much what it says above the fold. I don't really have any point of reference for how to do this, because I joined a lab that was just getting started during my first year; I didn't get trained by senior students because there were no senior students. There were a billion things that needed setting up, and I figured out how to do them either by reading and trying things on my own and asking my adviser when I was at an absolute dead end. Now that the lab's been around for a while, everything's kind of settled into a few established projects that are chugging along in their own way, and there's a bit more structure to it all, which includes having senior students mentor newer ones.
We're both chemists, but it's an instrument/methods development lab, which is super-fun and all, but it means that I can't really direct him to make up a batch of precursor reagents or run samples on an off-the-shelf instrument or any of the other tasks that are standard to undergrad chemistry training. There's a fair amount of mechanics and electronics and such that I'll need to teach him.
What we've done so far: the first day, he just sort of observed and I narrated what I was doing and why as I tried to fix my instrument for the nth time, and that seemed like a good introduction to basic principles. Also, he got to witness
an argument a spirited discussion between my adviser and I about what was wrong this time (my adviser's a great guy and we actually get along pretty well, but this tends to be how we troubleshoot.) Today I set him up on Labview putting together a simple local-maxima-finding routine to add to the data collection program that I put together (something that I've been meaning to do for a while, but it's been low-priority compared to all of the other stuff.) I worry that that's not an appropriate level of difficulty, and that I need more ways to get him involved with the running of the instrument (which at this point is really more the fixing of the instrument.)
Also, at the risk of sounding like an insecure jerk, I'm not really someone who went into research science despite an outgoing personality and winning social skills, you know? I'm pretty oriented towards working by myself, and I don't have much middle ground between being silent and rambling a blue streak. I worry about both going so slowly that I'll insult his intelligence or running through everything so quickly that it winds up being overwhelming; I worry both about being too hands-off and being overbearing; I just kind of am not sure what balance to strike in general?
So: what kind of things make for a good introduction to a laboratory? How do you design tasks that are appropriate for someone who's new to a project? If you manage people in the sciences, or not in the sciences, what are the important things you've learned about that? If you had a more traditional introduction to grad school than I did, working mainly with a more senior student, what did they do that you liked/didn't like?