Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I can jump-start a car

I was reading somebody's blog (sorry, can't remember who) and they complained that their female neighbor, who was plenty smart, had to ask the blogger's husband for help in jump-starting her car. Today I got the opportunity to prove to the world and myself that I can jump start my own car (in the rain, no less). My husband was actually right inside the house, but he screwed up his shoulder skiing and was heavily sedated, so I didn't want to disturb him. I'm so proud! But, at the same time, thoroughly annoyed that my son left the dome light on.

Anyway, the new semester started yesterday. Although I did borrow lecture notes off the internet, I did also give credit where it was due. Thank you, Sandra Porter, for pointing that out. If I may allow myself a little rant on the subject...

When my post-doc advisor (Big Famous Guy, BFG) left for Europe, leaving me to manage his lab and teach his classes, he had just hired a new post-doc. I hoped that New Post-Doc and I could work together to keep BFG's lab running. I was supposed to teach the same class I teach every year that spring, but I got pregnant and went on maternity leave instead. So New Post-Doc got stuck teaching the course. I had previously co-taught it with BFG, and he was of the old school and used overheads. Thus I had only a few lectures in electronic form, which I gave to New Post-Doc (along with the overheads). New Post-Doc then made up a whole new set of electronic lecture notes and used them to teach the class. A year later I had to teach the class again, and I asked him if he would share his lecture notes with me. He told me he had lost them. How does one lose electronic lecture notes? I knew he had to be lying, but I didn't say anything. He and I didn't get along too well anyway, so I kind of understood why he didn't want to share. So that was bad enough, but to make matters worse, a week or two later, when I was furiously making up my powerpoint slides for the class, he came and stood in the doorway of my office and waved a CD and said, "I do have these, but I put a lot of effort into them and I don't want to share them. " I told him I understood, and then he said, "I might be willing to share them if you had something to trade..." I was flabbergasted. As I look back on it, I realize that this might sound like some kind of sexual proposition, but I don't think it was. I still don't know what he thought I might trade for them. I just said, "no, I don't have anything to trade," and he walked away.

This was the same guy who refused to help one of my students (who was working on a BFG project, and therefore should have been deserving of help from BFG's post-doc) while she floundered for over a year trying to make a method work. He just didn't want to do anything that would make me look good, or even competent. When BFG finally inquired why the project wasn't moving forward, New Post-Doc told him it was my fault because I had never asked for help. I thought that was odd, considering that (a) I had asked for help, (b) I don't think I should have to ask for help from BFG's post-doc for a BFG-related project, and (c) I thought that he and the student were friends, and that even though he hated me he would help her. Just goes to show that he would even screw a friend to achieve the desired object of making me look bad.

Anyway, the moral of the story is to be generous. Give people your lecture notes! Help them! Don't be an ass. I would rather give someone help and not get credit for it and get a reputation for being a generous patsy than not help people and get a reputation for being a dick.


Blogger BotanicalGirl said...

I just found my way here from Terra Sigillata, not sure how I missed you before.

Not sharing lecture notes seems to go against everything I've heard about being successful in science. What an ass. Even in my lab from hell (I initially had a PI similar to The Big Hurt) the postdocs were always helpful. Maybe because we were all suffering together.

Thanks for sharing about The Big Hurt. It helps to know that I wasn't the only one who went through something like that, though I chose to leave, even without an NSF grant.

The car-jumpstart story was at YoungFemaleScientist.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Sandra Porter said...

New Post-Doc sounds like a total jerk, to put it politely.

I've never hesitated to share materials. After all, in teaching we all stand on each other's shoulders (to paraphrase Isaac Newton).

Still, there are some basic rules of etiquette that some college instructors seem to miss. I'm glad that you will credit the source of your internet lecture notes. As usual, it's the people who do blantantly rude things, like New Post-Doc, who seem to stand out and ruin our opinions of others.

People like New Post-Doc will probably never "get it" but I decided to post a set of rules for the generally conscientious new instructors. the Instructions in ethics for instructors

2:01 PM  
Blogger The Leaky Pipeline said...

I have just set up a blog to compile information for female scientists starting their reserach careers. I am hoping women will send me comments about their experience as female researchers and ideas about where to get advice and avoid discrimination. I thought you might be able to help.

My blog is at The Leaky Pipeline .

7:30 AM  

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