Self-funded PhDs

I’m shocked. There’s a girl visiting our lab, who’s doing her PhD in genetics. She found a defective gene in a family with multiple cases of a mysterious neurodegenerative disease. So far, so good.

She’s in our lab now to figure out why this gene is causing this disease. Problem one: she has no clue. No idea how to do that. Problem two: her work is not related to ours, so the boss doesn’t seem to care too much. Problem three: her own genetics supervisor doesn’t care at all. Why the fuck would anyone let someone carry on, doing some random experiments, without trying to ensure it is leading somewhere?! That’s why you are a supervisor…

She’s got only one year left officially and I felt really sorry for her, so I took the time to sit down with her and devise a plan on how to tackle her research question. Some quick experiments that might give some insight, but more importantly easy data for her thesis. And some experiments that are a bit more difficult/risky, but that would allow for publication of the work at some point if all goes well. I like helping people out, so I’m looking forward to showing her how things work in the lab, make sure she’s including the right controls in her experiments and drawing the right conclusions from them. Maybe even keep her experiments running during the days she has to teach…

Fine, you’d say, the day is saved. But. She is not getting paid for this. I almost fell of my chair when she told me. She’s teaching two days a week to make enough money to live. And is working her arse off in the lab so that two supervisors who don’t care can put their names on the publication, should she manage to produce one. I’m absolutely baffled something like this is happening in a developed country. I’m too new and too worried about my own position to start criticising my boss already, but I’d love to take action at some point… And I seriously don’t want to know how many others are in a similar position 😦


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