Sink or swim

May 10, 2012

Approximately how much should the PI and postdoc or grad student attend meetings together versus separately?

I think the together part is obvious and should be the majority of the time. The PI is supposed to be introducing the trainee around.

But flying solo can be great for independence.

 

The big shottes *have* to talk to you if the PI isn’t at the meeting. So I’d definitely be okay with a handful of meetings where the trainee is there without the PI.

Making it habitual, however, is MentorMalpractice.

 


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No Responses Yet to “Sink or swim”


  1. I met a few big shots as a grad student, but typically it was the students/postdocs of the big shots who talked to me rather than the PIs directly.

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  2. Socal_dendrite Says:

    In my lab it is much more separately than together. My PI is usually at the same big meeting that I attend every year, but so are 10+ postdocs from the lab, so he can’t possibly have us all go around with him in a group, introducing us as we go. But if I happen to bump into him visiting the same posters then he is very good at making introductions. So I try and make sure this happens ‘naturally’ at least a couple of times. Oh, and we have a big lab alumni dinner, which is a great way to get to know at least those PIs that he has spawned over the years.

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  3. Dr Becca Says:

    I am honestly not sure if any of my PIs ever introduced me to anyone at any meeting. Grad PI never went to the same meetings as me, and post-doc PIs were always on a million committees and I never saw them. Still, I seem to have done OK for myself…

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  4. Pascale Says:

    Generally at the meeting together, but not “together.”
    PI should drop by poster or see talk, but then become scarce so trainee can shine during presentation. If you can’t leave them alone, they shouldn’t be presenting. PI should guarantee dinner and /or drinks with Valuable New Connections at least once during a meeting.

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  5. Travis Says:

    I generally go to the same conferences at my supervisor, but not exclusively (and oftentimes I’ll be there for the full conference, while they will be there for only a day or two). And I don’t think I meet more or less people either way – usually when I’ve met people at conferences it’s because I’ve introduced myself online or in person, rather than getting an intro from my supervisor at the conference itself.

    In contrast, my supervisor *has* brought in a few big name researchers to do talks at our institution, and in those situations he always brings them in to introduce them to the students, and often sets up a meeting specifically for students to chat with the person. In my opinion that is a much better way for them to introduce trainees to the big names, since we actually have time to chat with them in an informal setting. At conferences people are generally interested in catching up with old acquaintances or attending sessions, which can make it difficult to do much more than introduce yourself and then move on.

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  6. Ass(isstant) Prof Says:

    I’ll say both can be good. It was great when my PhD mentor would introduce me to people at meetings, but I think the biggest benefit was him sending me to solo a field-specific international meeting (~120 people) heading into the last year of grad school. It’s a good vote of confidence that helped secure a great postdoc.
    As an independent investigator, I at least know many of the big shots who are proud that their field is producing new investigators.

    Knowing all of these people over the years has helped with collaborations and exchange of reagents. Of course, I’m still chasing that elusive first R01…

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  7. anon Says:

    As as asst prof, I could not afford to attend meetings, and I definitely could not afford to send students – my startup was pitifully small and I was unable to get funding. My grad student won an award to attend a meeting, and so went solo. There was no other choice, and she was strongly encouraged to do so.

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  8. Echo Says:

    Most of the meetings I’ve been to have been with my PIs, but as a grad student I never went around with my PI collecting introductions. She was very good about attributing work/talking me up in her talks & I think often sent people my way, but I always interacted pretty much on my own. Pretty much the same with my postdoc PI, though we do have a tendency to walk & chat a bit more during “the big meeting”. Small ones, I don’t think he introduced me once. I guess I never expected otherwise and might be embarassed to be trotted out as “Here’s X from my lab”, especially if I didn’t really have anything substantive to say. Those small meetings with the other postdocs & visiting professors can be really good, or really painful (most post-docs in my current lab have a curious habit of asking all kinds of questions about where a person lives, but none about science, which leaves me trying to make up for it).

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  9. Lady Day Says:

    I remember going to a couple of meetings as a grad student and introducing my PI to bigwigs who had earlier come by my poster, later at the conference to her. At the time, I was working on a project that was not really the main focus of her lab (and I was getting department funding for the research project and my stipend… long story). Before her lab, I had worked in the lab of another PI (who moved to a different institution; I didn’t want to leave with him, even though I liked him a lot as a mentor). The first PI was the type who would send people by my poster, but not lurk near it. He was (and still is) a wonderful mentor. Actually, they both are, in different ways. As crappy as it was to switch labs in grad school, I learned a lot about different styles of mentoring.

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  10. neuromusic Says:

    Damn, DM, I wish you could come and give a workshop on “mentorship” to the faculty in my program…

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  11. drugmonkey Says:

    I think there would be MANY points of fundamental disagreement between us, neuromusic.

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  12. Jen Says:

    I have had the misfortune of never attending a meeting with either my grad or postdoc PIs. Grad PI largely stopped attending meetings about the time I started grad school, and I ended up annoying the postdocs by following them around and getting to know their contacts. Postdoc PI and I have never been able to attend the same meeting. I’m moving into my own tenure-track position, and I guess it’s time I get over my terminal shyness and figure out how to meet people on my own.

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  13. Isabel Says:

    Being introduced around by the PI sounds awkward.

    This is a little off-topic, but is anybody else having trouble accessing the science blogging aggregated site? http://www.scienceblogging.org/

    I have been getting a blank page for the last week, whether from my bookmark or trying the link straight from google.

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  14. drugmonkey Says:

    It’s only awkward if done awkwardly…

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  15. neuromusic Says:

    DM – which is precisely what would make it so fun/awesome!

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