The abyss of uncertainty
It’s been a day. Meetings, planning, the usual stuff, just a whole lot of it. There is a few things that have been left unresolved unfortunately, namely I’m not sure what my main PI is going to do or how to be ready for it. I get the feeling that he’s trying to move on to the next phase in his career and I’m not the only one.
Being a PI must be very hard. There’s an outrageous amount of coordination involved, planning, grant writing, and just an overabundance of work that you need to do. My main PI is good at what he does. Networking comes super naturally to him and I’ve seen him manage to form collaborations in a single meeting. He’s created a whole organization through the people he’s met and has more co-appointments than anyone I’ve ever met.
His intelligence matches his work ethic too. When I did my qualifying exam I thought I knew the biology inside and out and he ran circles around me. He’s not even a spine person, he’s a brain person. It reminded me that he has a depth of knowledge that is pretty remarkable if you can get him to share it. His greatest strength, his work ethic, is also a great weakness for his lab though.
He’s always busy. That’s the problem, he doesn’t have time for your things because he’s always working on the next big thing. This has lead to missed deadlines, emails that go unresponded to, and a general sense that you’re wasting his time. That last one, I feel that a lot so I try not to bother him when I can help it.
You would think that with all this networking and grant writing we would be pretty well off as a lab. To a certain extent we are, but in a lot of ways we’ve stagnated. There hasn’t been new lab members, postdocs have left yet no one has come in to fill those spots, equipment is starting to show its age, and really I was the last addition to the lab after so many had left.
I started to wonder if he was planning on shutting down. I’ve seen it happen before, a PI in my old school literally left his lab without advanced notice to them to start a new position elsewhere. I recently found out that I may not be so far off from that. I found out that my main PI was made an offer at a different institute, but when he started explaining his plans for the space they were going to give him and he felt that he needed a much larger portion of it than they were willing to give him, the offer was withdrawn.
I was surprised to find it out, but at the same time I wasn’t shocked. At this point I should remind my readers that I’m extremely grateful for all the things my main PI has done for me and this is in no way me trying to claim he is a bad person. My problem is the lack of communication. I do better when I know the expectation of me and right now I’m not even sure the research I do and the research my PI thinks I do are the same thing.
Basically there’s a lot of unknowns right now. I don’t know how my main PI and Co PI will get along. I don’t know if my grant proposal is what my main PI has in mind. I don’t know if I will have a lab to finish my PhD in. I don’t know what expectations my main PI has of me. But worst of all, I don’t know how to get any of that information from him.