Working as a Researcher: A Rant

Sorry for the lateness of this post! I have no internet at home until the weekend so I’m essentially using internet from elsewhere to write (i.e. find pictures) and upload this.

 

So last time, I covered the Pros and Cons of doing a PhD/Postdoc. This time I’ve decided to post a pure and simple rant about my first few months at my current workplace and the frustrations I’ve been dealing with just in this past week. It’s not because I’m simply all about work (maybe I am) but I find this therapeutic and it’s good to let you guys know in case I’m cranky when we next meet (thanks for organising our get together H!).

 

So to refresh your memory in case you’ve forgotten and/or simply don’t care, I’m a researcher.

 

I work at a Research Intensive Institute where there are people who work both in the wet lab (i.e. cells, animal or human tissue, animals, etc. for those of you who remember from my previous post) and dry lab (i.e. computers (either hardware or software) like yours truly). We have all sorts of research going on at my Institute and everyone’s doing something different and working as well as they can together despite their different disciplines, which is nice.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Sharing is Caring (about yourself) in Research.

 

That’s where the “good” things end however, so here starts my RANT. This post covers the woes and miseries of a computational researcher but anyone reading this who works in the wet lab may be able to relate:

 

  1. Tech Support don’t understand you or what you’re trying to do.

This for a computational researcher who relies on fast working machines to do their work, and for who the virtual environment is essentially their lab, is A PAIN IN THE BACKSIDE. Not only is your time wasted with trivial backwards and forwards emails over a tiny issue, in which you know exactly what you need and the Support staff do not, but the amount of time taken to resolve the issue severely impedes your work progress. At my Institute, the Tech Support staff can also restrict your access to the computers even if your jobs are unknowingly taking up too much time and data crunch to finish. This is essentially like telling a working professional that because their work is taking too long and hogging resources, they’re banned from the office. This might be a relief to some but for a researcher we need to work to progress. While I understand the importance of sharing resources and while I’m not purposely trying to hog these resources (i.e. no idea if the process is taking too much crunch because Support staff can see this), it’s wholly unfair when this happens and makes me think that Support staff don’t understand what research is.

Figure 2

Figure 2: The Definition of Research.

 

Research is the act of finding something about something that NO ONE ELSE (not your friends or family, not the text books we had to force feed into our brains to pass with a good GPA, and certainly not your Supervisors) knows.

 

It requires:

 

Time . . .

Figure 3

Figure 3: Good time spent doing Research.

 

. . . Money . . .

Figure 4

Figure 4: How Research is Funded.

 

. . . and Resources . . .

Figure 5

Figure 5: How Research Resources should be organised.

 

. . . to do it right. If any of those things are missing you’re not in an environment where you can do good research.

Figure 6

Figure 6: Research Progression is important.

 

In my case, the “Resources” bit can sometimes go awry. It also goes without saying that if the Institute didn’t need me to do their research, they’d have hired the Tech Support staff to do it for them. In such cases where the “Support” is only a namesake title, the Researcher has to strive ahead and figure out their own solution.

Figure 7

Figure 7: Research Progression is Important (PART 2).

 

I was doing this until Tech Support came back with a solution of their own. The problem is they have the super powered computers I need to do work. My own PC can’t handle that level of crunch and also doesn’t have the software compatibilities to run the programs I need. Hence, we must get along for the duration of my sentence Postdoc.

 

  1. Tech support staff can have poorer communication skills than Researcher.

Basically, when explaining computer related issues, Tech Support have it all in their head but what actually comes out of their mouth looks something like this:

Figure 8

Figure 8: Research Comprehension.

 

I’ve now learnt to email rather than meet up so everything is in writing. Their written information is marginally better than their spoken information.

 

So, this post was all about my woes and miseries with a select group from my Institute. Hopefully next time I’ll have something good to report but I rather doubt it.

Figure 9.gif

Figure 9: Government here I come.

~ Gelato

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