Sunday, January 25, 2009

The weekly lab meeting.



As I have mentioned, my class schedule this semester allows me a better lab schedule. I am hoping to be a lot more productive, and I am quite happy about that, as is my PI (way to state the obvious!) The flip side is that I am also once again available to attend our weekly lab meetings. And that just plain stinks.

I've been in a number of labs, and everyone has their own way of running these meetings. In my current lab, lab meetings are particularly painful. We have one person present their research, we have one person present a journal club, and then we are supposed to be done with it. But every single week our PI says "Well, we have a few extra minutes, so lets just go around the table and update everyone on what they are doing."

Now, he meets with us regularly, he has an open door policy, and he generally know what is going on. So it isn't that he needs to know. He is really just trying to keep us involved in each others work. Since we don't have a lot of time, we will each just say "Well, I ran this gel and saw abc, and I am setting up that experiment." Then our PI will pipe in with specific details to be aware of for that particular experiment. This means that, as supportive as we are of each other, these conversations are basically non-inclusive of anyone else around the table, so we all sit bored waiting for our turn and fidgeting to get out of the room. The worst part is that our PI thinks these are somehow educational and informative and that he is therefore fulfilling his responsibilities to mentor and guide us.

It is quite painful. We all dread lab meetings. And no matter how hard we try, we can't get our PI to stop it. This format actually represents an improvement over the way things were run when I first started. We have tried to tell him how miserable these weekly meetings are, and he has tried to make adjustments, but until he understands that they are not constructive and that we are not bad colleagues if we don't enjoy these 'around the table' summaries, lab meeting will never get better.

I am thinking that perhaps, given my very restricted schedule, lab meetings will be optional. In fact, I haven't put my name back on the rotation yet, and I am not necessarily anxious to do so. That 2 hours can make a difference between me getting an experiment done this week, or having to put it off until next. Does that make me a bad person?




PhizzleDizzle said...

Bad lab meetings are the WORST!!!! They can be such a waste of time. I don't think you're a bad person :).

Ambivalent Academic said...

Those round-the-table meetings are totally useless....primarily because without the background of "this is what I am actually trying to figure out" that comes with a more comprehensive presentation, nobody has any idea how to offer advice or constructive criticism because they have no freakin' clue what you are talking about.

Your PI needs to drop that shit - it's a waste of everyone's time.

Our lab does two members presenting what they've done since the last time they talked (usually on ~6 week rotation), complete with background info to remind everyone of their burning questions, which steps they were stuck at last time, how they've progressed, etc, etc. This is really helpful and educational for everyone.