We're a little crazy, about science!

A meeting with my two PI’s

Yeah it feels pretty dangerous…

If I could make a comedy TV show about my life, I would call it my two PI’s and I would get into hilarious situations while trying to make both of them happy. Mostly you would see me get a lack of sleep and sort of feel like I’m running on a treadmill, going as fast as I can, but getting nowhere. It’s not all bad and I respect my two PI’s, but there’s a saying about having too many hands in the cookie jar and sometimes it feels like that’s what is happening. It’s a lot like the old game “telephone” where I’m given information to pass along between the two, so we’re all going to meet… *cue dramatic music*

My two PI’s is sponsored by sleep! Sleep, without it you’d go crazy. Also by stress! Are you too tired think, move, and do any work, or are you stressed? We’ll never tell! Stress! Whether you want it or not. Now that we got the sponsors out of the way a quick intro, which I am trying to do more often. I’m a third year PhD candidate in neuroengineering studying how spinal cord injury changes communication to the brain. I have a BS and MS in mechanical engineering and the switch was far more painful than you would imagine. This is my daily blog about life as a PhD candidate and for the past two years I’ve been telling my story, so let’s get on with the telling.

Having two PI’s is like having your parents divorced. There’s a lot of disagreements, I’m spending time semi-evenly between the two of them, and sometimes often times I’m delivering messages between the two of them. It’s not all bad and I don’t regret it at all, I just wish I knew my place in this relationship better. Maybe I’m just one of those people who constantly feels like they don’t belong, but I’ve managed to step on toes at least once or twice since signing up for this.

For me, the problem is I prefer when I’m told directly what’s going on. I don’t process subtlety very well and maybe I should work on that. I wish I could blame COVID, but truthfully I’m just bad at interacting with people, probably because I’ve actively worked so hard to avoid it in my life. Sure, these days I try, but it’s almost certainly a mediocre attempt at best. I guess I’m just that person or maybe I just need to practice more (he says like there isn’t a pandemic going on).

In an effort to make sure we’re all on the same page and that I have my expectations adjusted accordingly, I’ve been tasked to arrange a meeting between the three of us. I’m hoping to go over the plans for me degree. Both of them want me to finish as soon as possible, next year if possible *I’m in danger.jpg* but it definitely doesn’t feel like that would happen. There’s also the issue of funding, I run out of funding this fall so in the meantime I’m rushing to find alternative sources of income for myself (grants, fellowships, etc).

There’s a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it, which is probably why I feel so overwhelmed at the moment, I’ve got a lot of writing and working to do. There’s a fellowship, my second (technically first) grant edits that need to happen, three papers, an abstract, my class work, oh and my dissertation proposal. That’s not even the full list and most of that stuff is due as quickly as I can crank it out, which as of late has been incredibly slooooooow. Which is another reason for this meeting. I’m being pulled in two different directions with two very different sets of responsibilities and I really need to make it clear to everyone that it’s just not working well for me.

I’m hopeful the meeting will clarify a few things and get them both on the same page as far as the progress I need to make for my PhD. My main-PI was rushing for me to get my proposal done, but suddenly drew the goalposts back so now I have things he wants me to accomplish before I do my proposal. I don’t mind, I just wish we discussed things a little bit more in depth. My main-PI is incredibly busy (even for a PI) so I don’t ever really get to see him that often. My Co-PI is more hands on, maybe it’s because he’s still early career(ish) or because that’s just how he likes to run his lab, but I really appreciate the balance between hands on and trusting me to make the correct choices (IE – not micromanaging).

Overall it’s a little nerve wracking, but I’m happy to finally be at the point that I can discuss with them collecting THE dataset I need. THE dataset is just the data I need to finish my PhD, it’s literally the thing that needs to happen so I can graduate and my Co-PI wants to get the data collected like now. Which means I would have (hopefully…) plenty of time to analyze everything and make sense of all the data. Okay, not plenty of time, 9+ months may seem like a long time, but that’s nothing compared to all the ways I can dig through the dataset we’re proposing I collect. I’ll know more if and when the meeting happens, so until then fingers crossed!

But enough about us, what about you?

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