The confusing road to my dissertation
I’m very lost at the moment about what the next step would be in my degree. I mean I know what the next step is, my dissertation proposal, the problem is that there’s now a rather large wrench thrown into the mix and I’m not sure what to do. Honestly it would be so much easier to just give up on my degree and go work like I’m doing now, it really would, but after three full years in the program and a decade of schooling to get to that point, I don’t want to stop short. Which means once again I’m faced with an impossible choice and no matter what I decide I feel like someone is going to get hurt.
For those who aren’t aware, I am about to do my dissertation proposal defense. It’s the next step in my PhD and the last until I do the actual dissertation defense (in about two years if I’m lucky). I’m very excited to do it, but my situation has made things quite a bit more complicated than I would’ve liked. The problem is hospital-PI and school-PI can’t find common ground, or rather both are in charge and have very different views on what I can and cannot do (you can read about that whole mess here). This would be so much easier if I didn’t like one of them or didn’t think highly of one of them, but I can’t chose, they are both great people who want the best for me, they just don’t agree on what that looks like.
Hence the choice I need to make. Option one is to go back to my school-PI and work part time with hospital-PI. Hospital-PI has already mentioned that he could cut me down to 60% pay and that would give me two days to do my PhD and school-PI would have to pick up the cost difference (ideally). This would screw with a lot of my benefits from work, because being full-time means I get nice benefits that you forget you even get because you’ve been in school for so long and they don’t care to give you basic things like health coverage or paid time off (just to name two). So this is far from ideal!
Option two is better and if it were a few months ago I would do it. This option is to do my dissertation fully in my hospital-PI’s lab, meaning it would be a project he specifically approved and would be directly and firmly related to his labs work. Now my “super secret” technique, that does relate to his work, but only tangentially so it may be hard (or at least not straightforward) to get him on board with the full extent that school-PI wants to explore it. It does mean I have access to super cool options, like experiments in the operating room, or even animal models (I’m not a fan of experiments with animals, I fully support animal experiments and the benefits are huge, but it makes me feel bad so I’m hesitant to do that one).
Unfortunately option two only would’ve made sense if it came up months ago. Since my hospital-PI was on the fence about staying at the hospital he is at, well it wasn’t even an option a few months ago so we never had that conversation until now. The problem being I was just awarded a (for me) large sum of money to pursue my “super secret” technique for the next two years (here). Okay, I wasn’t awarded directly, my school-PI was awarded and the project was my project (since it’s my technique). So I’m all but committed to the project. If I abandon it, my school-PI would have to find someone else to do the work and I feel like that would look bad for me from a professional standpoint.
On one hand hospital-PI holds my paycheck, on the other school-PI holds my degree. Both of them have significant sway and I’m sort of stuck in the middle needing to choose, but it’s not an easy choice. Since I don’t think option two is even a real choice at this point because of the funding we got, I need to figure out option three. Option three would be the one that I thought we originally had agreed upon, but maybe not. In this case, school-PI and hospital-PI (or maybe surgeon-PI on behalf of hospital-PI) would come up with a contract, as in a legit legal agreement, which would outline my time in school-PI’s lab (the amount of work I need to do for the project) and school-PI would pay hospital-PI (through surgeon-PI since surgeon-PI is on the funding proposal and hospital-PI is not) for my time. Meaning I would be full time, but subcontracted out to do my work toward my PhD.
At this point option three is a pipedream, but I’m going to try to smooth things over with hospital-PI, then discuss this with school-PI. There has to be a way to make this all work and I really want to find a way to make it happen, but I’m just not sure at the moment. I don’t want hospital-PI to feel like I’m taking advantage of him, but I also don’t want school-PI to be upset if I abandon the project so soon after the funding was awarded and the interviews happened. I just don’t think that would look good for me and because school-PI is very connected I don’t want that kind of reputation early on in my career.
Hence being stuck in this very complex, very frustrating, situation. I’m going to have to figure something out for sure, but I just don’t know how it will all work out in the end. Since all three PI’s (school, hospital, and surgeon) are on my dissertation committee, I need to keep everyone happy. School and surgeon PI are both on the grant we wrote so I’m not sure how surgeon-PI would feel if I abandoned the project either. It may be time to get him involved in the talk too actually now that I think about it since he has a better relationship with both school-PI and hospital-PI.
So now that I have this all laid out, I need to think of what would be best for me and the people I care about (all three of my PI’s since I apparently need that many).
Oh hell, maybe I need to crowdsource this. My dear readers I love all of you very much. You’ve all been supportive and I hate to ask more of you than following along, but if you have any advice, suggestions, or feel like I need a good kick in the head because I’m an idiot (trust me I know I am!) feel free to leave a comment. Maybe some outside perspective will help.