Hey everyone, just wondering if anyone has been through the same kind of thing or if anyone has any advice:
So I'm going through some data with my supervisor and he sees that I haven't included a negative control - he goes nuts, I mean totally loses it then in the lab meeting the following day he makes a point to remind everyone how important negative controls are - fair enough. Basically, he wants to meet with me next week "to discuss my progress". I started my PhD just 5 months ago and have really struggled to get some decent data, all the experiments I try and do just don't seem to work the first or second or even third time. I'm basically a bit worried as to what the outcome will be. I've spoken with other people in my group and they say that this behaviour (from my supervisor) is normal and that before i started he was like this every 2-3 weeks. I really don't know what to make of this all. Comments please! :)
I'd take this meeting seriously and make sure you get an account of the meeting written up afterwards (and signed off by him), that states clearly what he thinks you need to improve on to progress with the PhD. Then you've got something that you can measure progress against whenever there's a formal review of your progress (saves unpleasant surprises further down the line). Have you got any idea why things aren't working - are there particular skills that you lack and that you could ask him for help with? A friend of mine got permission to sit in on a Masters module to help her understand something she was really struggling with, although that wasn't in the sciences, but perhaps there's similar possibilities?
wow, 5 months in and already in the lab - i should be so lucky! i started 5 months ago too and it has taken ages for things to get going (my topic is a bit out of my comfort zone so lots of reading had to be done!), so i haven't actually generated any data at all yet. i agree with the previous post - you need your supervisor to help provide you with a clear plan of what he expects you to achieve, and if you need a little extra help in the lab, then ask! you're not expected to know everything at this stage, you are still learning and your sup should realise this. if your sup isn't very helpful, then are there any postdocs around that could help you out?
Sounds like you have a potentially difficult supervisor that needs careful handling. Definitely keep good written records of meetings, agendas etc. We all make mistakes - some supervisors handle this better than others. I recall one lab leader (who I was actually very fond of) saying that he didn't feel anyone was properly broken in until they'd been sent to the bathroom crying. People management skills are not always top notch.
It's very demoralising when expts don't work - you need to figure out how much of that is down to inexperience, bad luck, or that fact that it just doesn't work (because some expts just don't work). 5 months is really no time at all - your work should still be pretty closely monitored at this stage, I would have thought.
It took me over a year to get my main experiment working: I tried and tried and eventually figured out that it was not going to happen using the method I'd been told to use (HPLC-UV). Switched to a new machine (a mass spec) and it was fine.
Were you specifically told to include a negative control? Not all experients need negative and positive. Either way, it's hardly earth-shattering and I've seen 40 year old postdocs make the same mistake.
thanks for all your replies guys!! the experiment was just a PCR, it's good practice to have a negative control but it's hardly the end of the world.
if i got all my experiments to work every time i wouldn't be a PhD student, i'd have his job! i'm just worried as to what the outcome will be. i guess i'll know soon enough!
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