Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Chalk Talk.

My project has changed. It came rather suddenly. Prof. Bigshot called me into the office and explained how a person is badly needed to do a particular task. That's fine, I'm new. Changing projects isn't that big a deal.

Our research group has group meeting once a week. They're actually pretty scary events. All of that is because Prof. Bigshot has changed the format. Rather than give a 1.5 hour powerpoint presentation, Bigshot is calling people randomly and having them go to the board and give an old fashioned chalk talk. Chalk talks are scary since Prof. Bigshot seems to be keen on torture. Every talk is like an oral examination. Yes, Bigshot is very good at finding people's weaknesses and beating them down.

Normally I'd think this is all fine, but the attitude in the group is really pathetic. People basically use this opportunity to make their collegues look bad while they simultaneously improve their own image. Also, Prof. Bigshot is exceptionally mean during these endeavors. Last week one group member looked like she was going to cry. It's really sad to see our entire group gang up on one person like that. In fact, I've overheard group members state, "Group meeting is the ultimate opportunity to make someone look bad and make yourself look good... Bigshot seems to love stuff like that."

I mentioned that people are called on randomly. That's not entirely true. Bigshot keeps a list, checks it twice, looks around the room and picks anyone that didn't go last week. I've been told by Prof. Bigshot's spouse that I'm next. Apparently, my thrashing comes tonight. You really can't prepare for these things. Even if you give a solid chalk talk, Bigshot and the other group members will nitpick and find something to thrash you on.

This isn't such a big deal. Right? I just started my new project last week, but spent that week in graduate student orientation (a mandatory event). I haven't any data. In fact, I'm still getting clear on the exact question being addressed through my new project.

Bigshot's spouse told me that three group members have lobbied to have me go next. Politics are very very bad in this new group. The worst I've seen. Yesterday I overheard two group members talking, "Yeah, yeah, we asked Bigshot to put him on the list tonight... I know, he just started this project... Ha ha ha, yeah, Bigshot is going to tear him apart."

I guess I deserve some of this cloak and dagger stuff, what with all of my galavanting around the lab. I'm going to do everything I can to give a good talk. If I think someone's trying to cut me down to make themselves look good, I'm going to do what is needed to demonstrate that I don't stand for that garbage. That's probably not the best way to make friends, but hey -- I've already got plenty of friends.

7 Comments:

Blogger LoraLoo said...

I bet you handle this beautifully. You are excellent on your feet and good under pressure... not to mention you know your stuff!

8:19 AM  
Blogger FJ said...

Good luck mate...

I hope you cream 'em!

8:40 AM  
Blogger RT said...

Is that how they haze people at FU?

Seriously, give 'em all you got. You already know they're going to nit pick you to death, so why worry?

8:44 AM  
Blogger dusty said...

good lord the politics are rampant there...damn shame too..good luck and hope you make it through this stupid thing tonite.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You'll be great. You seem to do really well under pressure.

Knock em dead.

3:38 PM  
Blogger Lily said...

Let us know how it all turns out.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

You'll always have us. (But, we don't pay much!)

Good luck - keep us posted.

9:39 PM  

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