Real Life Interaction from yesterday. I got the following email from Interested-in-your-Lab:
We have met a few times before [list of times]. I recently moved to the middle-of-nowhere, where your almost-MRU is located. I left my PhD program 5 years ago, and have been teaching since, but the itch to do research is coming back (I also need to get my PhD). Do you have time to talk with me?
My immediate answer is always "sure". It almost never hurts to talk with someone.
But I emailed someone I know at the place from which he had not finished:
Should I run or not? I don’t remember much about him at all. Potential student? Or potential disaster?
Her response was succinct (no greeting, even):
Run. Fast. Very fast. Sent from my iPhone
Well that solves that.
Followup from Deb this morning:
Hey Potty, Re: ... if you want more info on his potential as a grad student, I'm happy to provide it. I was on his MS cmte and have been asked to write letters for him for grad programs. I have told him repeatedly they would not be positive but he still wanted me to submit them....go figure. He has applied to a couple of our non-tenure track jobs and we won't hire him. And it is not a bias against hiring one of our own. Deb
Me to Deb:
Thanks for the clarification, but really, your first email to me was sufficient. I've had enough issues and do not need anyone who is not 110%.
Well, he "needs" to get his PhD so why shouldn't you facilitate that? 🙂
I am not in the business of filling needs of people with itches
And that, my friends, says it all. While training is an important part of what we do. And training is by large without reward, thanks or remuneration. The rewards, as the joke* goes, must be internal. But picking trainees is still something over which we have control. Do not take people into your lab because they have an itch to do research. Do not take people into your lab because you think you need someone. Choose your people carefully.
* early morning joke:
What does Dali Lama say to the hot dog vendor in NYC? "Make me one with everything".
The Dali Lama hands the vendor a $20 bill and looks expectantly for change. The vendor replies "change must come from within".