We're a little crazy, about science!

Day 249: A stern email later…


Photo of me responding to his email …

I don’t want to jinx it, I really don’t, but I have an update on my group member situation and it isn’t completely awful! I mean, I’m still doing all the work and blah, blah, blah, but I’ve got an interesting story and I hope that things will be better now.

I am a patient man. I will explain something to you 100 times without complaining. I will happily hold your hand and walk you through something step by step. I enjoy teaching and more importantly I love watching people learn. There is one rule here and that is you respect my time and I will give you all of it that I can. My group member does not respect my time.

He’s a newly minted grad student working on his masters. I remember being there just a few short years ago. The transition can be hard and I’ve tried to be polite and help him along. He’s lied to my face and I’ve brushed it off, he’s called me without warning in the middle of the night and I calmly walked him through what we were doing even though it is literally written down in the paper we are planning to publish. I even took the bulk of the work so he could focus on one small portion of the project that I thought he could handle. I am acutely aware that this is probably a very new and possibly scary experience for him.

We’ve gotten to the point where I’ve done all the work, I took over and wrote the code we needed and did it in record time. So now I’m simply asking him to babysit that code, wait for it to finish running, save the output, send it to me, rinse and repeat. Simple, or so I thought. Yesterday morning he asked me how he was supposed to calculate the statistics for our work, so despite having a conference and a bunch of other work to do I wrote some nicely commented code that would do the work for him and sent it off. Unfortunately I forgot to label what one of the inputs was, literally the variable was called input and I forgot to put a comment in the code explaining that input was our input. I caught it later in the evening when I finally had some time to really look it all over.

Before I could send it off he emails me asking me to explain the input for the expectation maximization. I was confused, I was using a LDA (linear discriminant analysis) in the code, not EM. I respond explaining that input is the input, attached my freshly rewritten code and thought that was the end of it. He responded back asking specifically about the EM step, the step that he told me he was doing that morning, the step he assured me was already running. Something I thought would be completely finished by then.

He waited the entire day to tell me he couldn’t get it to run, worse he told me he had it running when he really didn’t. Had he been honest with me in the morning it would have been a quick fix. The solution was literally to change a variable from 2 to 3 since we had 3 inputs where we previously had 2. So I sent a strongly worded email explaining that I know he is learning and that is perfectly okay, but constantly disrespecting me and not being upfront about a problem is not okay. Well I think I finally got through. This isn’t the first time we’ve had this conversation and the team whose work we are continuing already had the same conversation with him, but for the past 12 hours or so he’s actually been pretty responsive. That is actually a first for him.

Will it last? I couldn’t say, but we only have a week left in this project so I’m hopeful we can get it done. Originally it was due today, but since the class was behind schedule we were lucky enough to get an extension. Finally there is some hope in all of this… for now at least. Fingers crossed!


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