Responsibility
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12-09-2012, 07:24 AM
Responsibility
Okay, wow...I need to rant before my head explodes but I wanted to separate this from the Ranting Corner because I want to get other people in on the story-time.

Over the last month I have moved from New York to Connecticut to begin my PhD at UConn, and so far, I am loving nearly every aspect of it. I like the department, the campus (they have their own dairy farm and make their own home-made ice cream), I love the people in my research group, and I love the faculty I have begun to work with (my advisor and multiple other professors across different departments). I am TA'ing (teaching assistant) for my funding here at UConn. That basically means that my tuition is waived and I get paid a salary to teach lab sections, this semester I am teaching an introductory level lab. Intro labs are always fun but annoying at times because most of the students are only taking the class to fill a prerequisite. That is annoying but manageable because I like the material. The class basically works such that there is a professor who teaches the lecture and organizes the materials and decides which labs are to be taught each week. The TA's teach those labs, help the students in lab, and then grade them.

Now, for my rant. I have TA'ed before, but the "professor" (I put in quotes because they are a new PhD who got their PhD from the department only last semester) for this class is becoming really frustrating. For 2 big reasons that are widely applicable to a much wider array of people, so I'll make the rants more general now.

If you don't know something, admit it. Ignorance is only bad when you remain willfully so. The realization that you do not know something is an opportunity to learn. It is incredibly frustrating when people can't admit that they don't know everything and continue to air this smug attitude of "I know more than you, so don't question me" and dammit that is annoying. Especially when you catch them in their ignorance and they continue to assert it.

The second part of this relates more directly to the title of the thread, when you make a mistake, own up to it. Don't pass it off as "It was the people who helped me that messed up." You make mistakes, I make mistakes, we all make mistakes. Realizing that is step 1. Owning up to it is step 2. Learning from it is step 3. If you recognize a mistake but don't even own up to it, you are missing all 3 steps and you are bound to fuck it up again.

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley
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12-09-2012, 07:39 AM
RE: Responsibility
So what did the douche do?

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12-09-2012, 08:39 AM
RE: Responsibility
Okay, the specifics are these:
First off, the professor is trying to redo the labs. That means using a brand new lab manual and doing labs never done before and changing up their order. Needless to say, errors within the lab manual are not the professor's fault (but they abound) and there will always be some associated issues with redoing any lab, I understand that. It also means that caution should be taken when generating the schedule for the labs and time to complete the labs is going to change. So far, the labs have been too long as the result of too many questions being asked to be completed within the 3-hour period. Some of the questions are just flat-out confusing too and should have been omitted on shear ambiguity alone.

The schedule is also frustrating. I don't think labs should ever meet week 1 of class. There are several reasons for this, 1) students need some basic intro before beginning lab, 2) students should have some idea of what lab is before attending, 3) students add the class during the first week and would miss lab simply because of scheduling. We had lab week 1, and it was a lab that related only to conversions (in essence) and as such, had no real use in a geology lab (wasted time).

Week 2 of classes in the US is interrupted by a holiday on that Monday. That means labs that would normally meet on that Monday are out of class. If students don't have class, they shouldn't have to complete the lab. But no. Instead they were still supposed to complete the lab on their own, and we were also required to host extra office hours during the week in the event they couldn't figure it out. There are several big issues here. 1) the students who had lab are at an advantage as they could work in groups and had access to their TA for 3 full hours 2) those that had lab got an intro into the material before starting it 3) this intro was especially helpful to some since the material for that lab had not yet been covered in lecture either. What should have happened is that the schedule is arranged so that Monday labs are always a week behind the others but catch up the last week of labs by meeting when the other labs do not.

The latest round of frustrations stems from this previous week's lab on minerals. Once again it was too long but I have come to anticipate that now. Instead the mineral specimens we were given to use where not very good, and several were just flat-out wrong. The hematite in some wasn't hematite, the plagioclase feldspar was dolomite, none of the talc was actually talc, some of the basalt was magnetite, crap like that. My 2 gripes in my original post stem mainly from this (although they also apply to my experience as a whole with this professor so far) lab. The professor (when confronted) has blamed the bad specimens on the people they had helping them put the trays together this weekend. So, naturally it was their fault. The talc that isn't actually talc (it is probably a serpentinite) was pointed out by me to not be talc. The professor continues to claim it is talc, despite the fact that it is harder than your fingernail (~2.5 hardness) and talc should be a 1. They claim it is just "crappy talc" but it lacks THE fundamental quality of being talc , i.e. it is softer than your fingernail.

AHHHHHH! I realize some of this may sound trivial, but it is making me question their fundamental understanding of intro geology.

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley
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12-09-2012, 09:12 AM
RE: Responsibility
Your rant makes perfect sense. Could part of their problem with admitting lack of knowledge be from being so new? Like somebody that becomes a manager for the first time and runs amok, they need time to get set and realize their limitations and get a good bead on reality?

I find people accepting responsibility for their actions is very rare. I'm pretty blunt when I mess up and people find that odd, like hiding it is better.

Glad the rest of the program is working so well for you Smile

" Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous."
David Hume
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12-09-2012, 10:14 AM
RE: Responsibility
Welcome to the insane world of PhD students. All the screw-ups are your fault, everyone else gets to put their name on your work, and everyone treats you like you're some trained monkey with no value whatsoever.

Last week, my supervising professor disappeared out of the blue and stopped responding to emails. This sucked because I was submitting a journal paper and wanted to get him to review it first. He sent his corrections on the day of the deadline. I really doubt I will be getting this paper accepted.
I'm not really complaining. The guy has practically never had a holiday. It was just bad timing.

Basically what I'm saying is, everyone expects you to screw up so when they do they can just pin it on the "grad student".

Hey on the bright side, only a few more years before we get to do the same thing to our PhD Students. So hang in there.

"But the point is, find somebody to love. Everything else is overrated." - HouseofCantor
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12-09-2012, 10:15 AM
RE: Responsibility
Responsibility is one of my biggest pet peeves. It is lying when someone doesn't own up when called on things, and it's a trust breaker. Trust is a basic tell tale sign of the character of a person.

And you know what that means. Dudes a douche.
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12-09-2012, 10:30 AM
RE: Responsibility
Here, just learn this song and sing it during lab:





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12-09-2012, 12:03 PM
RE: Responsibility
I see no song...

My wife said the same thing about the low confidence level contributing to an over-compensation in knowledge. That is laughably ironic considering she is teaching the intro course for new graduate students and she continuously spouts off the need to be more realistic...

@Smoosh
I saw similar grad/slave treatment at SU, that happens everywhere, but this lady has no room to judge me. I think she may feel slightly threatened by me...which makes her responses make a little more sense. Not more rational or appropriate, just easier to understand. She should take her own advice about constructive criticism...don't take it personally!!!

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley
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12-09-2012, 12:40 PM
RE: Responsibility
I can't get the video to work, lots of things have been going screwy here for me at this forum over the last couple days. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pla...KLH7zPJMW8
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12-09-2012, 09:46 PM
RE: Responsibility
So excuse my ignorance but I assume the PhD is in rocks and stuff?

So how does someone with such a high qualification get rocks mixed up?
Even when pointed out that it's wrong they hang tight that it's not.

Especially if this is a week 1,2,3 lab and so I assume it's basics and such. So she SHOULD know this.

Also how hard is it to set up samples on a tray? Are the samples not categorically organized? This box is labeled Basalt hence this rock chunk must be Basalt etc... Like a mechanics nuts and bolts (well.. organized mechanics). Does she just keep this things laying around in a big box labeled "rock samples" or something?

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