Friday, June 26, 2009

And here I thought I was being discreet...

According to one of my co-workers, my face turns red and the temperature in the room drops by 10 degrees as soon as I start talking to Captain Useless when he visits my lab.

In my defense, he really should know the material I explained to him five separate times today. In fact, he was the TA for the course where I learned that material. I've tried getting him to repeat back to me what I just said, asked him questions about what I've told him to make sure he understands... but somehow 15 minutes later he always comes back with the exact same questions. It feels like he just doesn't care enough to bother remembering. This also pissed me off because he later brought them up at a group meeting with our supervisors, which wasted the short meeting time we had, especially when they said exactly what I said, along with a, "You should know this." It also kind of made us look really stupid. Like, "We should take less data readings to get rid of the noise." stupid. Aaaaagh. I spent my entire morning explaining these things so that maybe we wouldn't look like fools at the group meeting!

Oh, you didn't.

I left the grad student I call Captain Useless "alone" today to prepare a sample. Normally I would stick around to make sure things went smoothly, just in case, but my deadlines are looming and I can't simultaneously get my work done while supervising his.

Result: My solid steel equipment got deformed today because soooooomeone loaded it to 60,000 lbs instead of 1,000. Incredulous, I asked him why he would do that, and he said, "Well, I was just going to load it all the way (500,000 lbs) but it started bending so I had to stop when the pieces wouldn't fit together anymore."

I guess getting him to help draft the procedure wasn't any insurance that he'd actually understand it or follow it.

This week's lesson: Orders of magnitude?

Friday, June 19, 2009

The pursuit of hopelessness

So glad my supervisor is getting back soon! He's been gone for the past 3 weeks and I've been forced to babysit one of his grad students. I've been so frustrated with this student lately though that I can't even begin to write about it without launching into an angry rant.

Although I know he has good intentions and he tries hard, he is absolutely incapable of working on his own. If you asked him to pick a random number, he wouldn't be able to. He doesn't seem able to follow basic instructions (in English, which is his first language), never mind get into the design of the experiment or future test plans.

This leaves us in quite a strange spot. I'm here for half the year as a research assistant before I head back to class and get my undergraduate degree. So far, I've designed, built, and ordered all the parts for his experiment, looked through literature to predict things so I could get instrumentation that will measure things in the proper range, decided which variables need to be controlled/measured/varied, wrote a program to display and record the data... It's at the point where everyone refers to this as my experiment, and I delegate work to him only if it's trivial, simple, and not an immediate priority.

Basically, it's Freaky Friday, but all year long. What will happen when I go to grad school?
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