Thursday, March 09, 2006

My Own Personal Reality has been Upended

The semester I was writing my masters thesis, J joined my lab. He already had his masters degree and had been personally invited to join by Dr. Hari. The whole time J has been in our lab he has never had to be a teaching assistant. I have twice and I would have had to be this semester if it weren't for my new fellowship. He eats, sleeps and breathes physics. Any physics question you have he can answer. He immediately showed interest in everyone's projects and spends most of his waking hours there putzing with side projects. He has more publications in the 2 1/2 years he's been here than I have in the 3 1/2 years I've been in the group. And he's one of the nicest guys I've ever met. Which is why I can't dislike him. But I can resent him a little. I'd get frustrated that he was Dr. Hari's "golden child", he couldn't do anything wrong and I felt that we were all secretly being held to the standards that J provided. At the same time, I felt comfortable resenting him. I was happy with my place in the hierarchy and would relish the year or so following J's graduation where I would be the senior member. But until then, it's fine for Dr. Hari to call on J for every little thing he needs. I could just kind of chill in the shadows doing my thing until I had gradually accumulated papers, a resume and eventually a Ph.D.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a distinct change in the lab dynamic. It started when I made a comment to Dr. Hari about wanting to get my stuff and graduate so I wouldn't "clog up the pipeline", something Dr. Hari is vehemently opposed to. He chuckled and left. Five minutes later I was called up to the office. I felt like I could have been in grade school again. His lecture to me went something like this,

"Natalie, the last thing I want to do is get you out of my lab. I want to keep you here as long as possible to give you the skills and the resume to get a very good job. I think you have the potential to be a great researcher. You have exceptional analytical and writing skills, things that will enable you to get far in life especially if you take advantages of the resources provided for you."

It made my day.

Then later in the week I sent Dr. Hari a rough draft of my presentation for the conference I am going to next week. He emailed me back saying,

"I have reviewed your APS presentation and it looks excellent. I am glad to see to that you are becoming an expert in this. Good job!"

Again, pleasantly surprised.

Then things started going south. J came to me the other day saying that Dr. Hari told him that his writing skills were weak (which he already knew) and to come see me for help on his presentation. He also said Dr. Hari was talking about what a great researcher I am again. Cheesehead confirmed and said Dr. Hari had told him how awesome I am too. The tides have turned and I am sensing some resentment. The boys jokingly called me "golden girl" today, and "pet". I would hate me too if I were my labmate!

I have also been asked to have dinner with Dr. Hari and one of our collaborators while in Baltimore and prepare a presentation to show him (BTW- this is the same collaborator I describe here. Yikes!).

Things reached a head when we went through our practice talks as a group today. Dr. Hari had plenty of critiques for my lab mates. When it was my turn at the end to go, he said, "Pay attention, guys. This is how it's supposed to be done." That made me a wreck.

Faithful readers, I blame you. When J asked me with a twinge of jealousy in his voice how I became such a good writer, all I could think of to say was, "Well, I blog."


Sylvia said...

Since I happen to respect and admire you and all the things you have accomplished I'm glad you could hear it said. Dr. Hari probably assumed you knew how proud he is of you. You'll dazzel them at the conference.

Scott said...

All I can say is let them drool. Resentment is a burden, but it's also a compliment. Personally I am very proud of you. You've always admired talent and have given credit where it has been due, so don't shy away when it is due you.

magnetbabe said...


Thanks guys! I have the best readers a girl could ask for.

Runner Girl FL said...

You bolg, and you have kept a journal for years before that. Writing even a little, but consistently has helped you write to get your point across even though I know it is a completely different style. (Technical writing is really very different - and difficult)

You know what I think another MAJOR difference is....

YOU READ!!! By his own admission J doesn't read much. And other than some sports publications I don't think Cheesehead is too far behind. Although he buys lots of books and wants to read them I think he doesn't get much time in.

Being well rounded is the key. When you have trouble reasoning out what might be going wrong you can talk to J. Now he is having trouble so he is talking to you.

Enjoy quietly, but enjoy.

Jackie said...

That's great! As a female scientist too (well at least I was one in school), I completely enjoyed being the "golden girl" in my biophysics class (mostly because I was the only bio major there, and I loved the class because I was taking it because I WANTED to, and not because I NEEDED too)

I agree with runner girl. ENJOY IT (just don't enjoy it too much in front of the boys, you know how boys are, they get all testostorinie, and that's not something you want to deal with. lol


DearOldDad said...

I couldn't have said it any better than RunnerGirlFL. We've joked about how dysfunctional so many really brilliant people are, but you have all the smarts and posses more than your share of the softer skills as well. With this you will go far. BTW - RGFL, lunch is on me again next time I'm in the neighborhood.

minnesotablue said...

I agree with runner girl. You read and you read all types of books, from novels to true stories, to science journals,biographies, sports pages, arts ect. You also enjoy diverse entertainment. All of this diversity of thought will carry you as far as you want to go. YOU CONTINUE TO GO GIRL!

Runner Girl FL said...

I'm in!! Vietnamese?

Hot4Teacha said...

Nat, You are excellent at so many things; it was only a matter of time before everyone recognized this. Or, as a guest on Jerry Springer might say, "You betta reck-ah-niiiiiiiiiiize!" I love that you are the golden girl - perhaps some Wonder Woman bracelet cuffs are in order? :)

jenbeauty said...

and a wonderful blog it is! and you are a great writer.