Saturday, November 22, 2008

unibrow boy hates women. how to deal?

I am writing this post after being completely baffled by a certain graduate student's attitude, existence, etc, and from this point on I will refer to him as unibrow boy (I'm sure you can determine how he has received such a nickname).
Unibrow boy rotated in our lab a little over a year ago as a first year graduate student. While in the lab he worked for our post-doc at the time and basically did the same experiment for the entire eight weeks with a few variations, and not very successfully. He would disappear for hours at a time, mid-experiment, he would stand in the lab's darkroom reading papers and making hand gestures at the papers, and he was really an all around strange dude. He also got arrested for public intox while rotating, but at least he was not in the lab being publicly intoxicated. He already had his master's, I cannot remember what in, but something biochemical or biologically related. Our post-doc asked him to look up some papers on the project he was working on. He did not know how. has gotten me through graduate school and I cannot imagine having done any of this without that wonderful site. Unibrow boy wrote his master's thesis without ever looking at pubmed. When our post doc asked how unibrow boy got his references for his thesis, his response was "encyclopedias." While encyclopedias contain a LOT of useful information, they are not published fast enough to contain the information needed to write a thesis, master's or otherwise. So, we learned very quickly that unibrow boy was not a good fit for our lab, and those are just a few examples. I also got the feeling that he had a problem with women. I had never really met someone that made me feel like I shouldn't be in graduate school, the sciences, etc, but something about unibrow boy just said that he did not like women, and he certainly did not like taking direction from a woman, even if she was a post-doc. My boss didn't believe me when I told her, because she is a woman and she couldn't imagine a person who had a problem with women working for a woman, but I stood by my feeling. The post-doc was convinced he was gay (not that there's anything wrong with that), but I still thought he just had a problem with women.
I have since found out from other labs he has rotated in and the lab that he eventually joined that he does have a problem with women. He was told he was doing the wrong thing by a senior female graduate student in a lab that he did not end up joining and he told her "women don't talk to men like that where I'm from." This ended badly, as you might imagine, and he did not join that lab.
The lab he did end up joining is also run by a woman. She does really interesting science, has been published in Nature, and has lots of clout in the department. She also is somewhat psychotic and has lost many graduate students to other labs or master's degrees. Someone who is that strong and has no problem yelling at her students you would think would put unibrow boy in his place. PI and unibrow boy are from the same town. PI therefore accepts unibrow boy's behavior as normal and does not put him in his place. There is one other male in the lab and he will be graduating in the next year or two. Unibrow boy will not listen to any of the female graduate students and I guess basically pretends they don't exist, except to take the solutions that they have prepared for themselves. He will take people's solutions, use them up, not replace them, and then scream if they try to use any of his solutions. He also throws things, at centrifuges, in sinks, anything he can grab he throws, hard, and at any object that has made him mad. With someone who behaves like that in the lab and a PI that tells you that you are not working enough when you are working 90 hours a week, this PI is really going to lose everyone.
Yesterday, I was heading to our department's cell culture facility (mammalian cells need lots of love and commitment and we therefore have a facility in which to maintain this love and commitment) and unibrow boy was heading out. He blocked the door so that I couldn't enter and our conversation carried out as follows:
UB: do you know where they are? (pointing at the custodial person's cart that is down the hall)
Me: Where Laura is? Our custodian?
UB: yes.
Me: I don't know, why do you need her?
UB: I spilled media.
Me: There are plenty of paper towels in the lab, use them to clean up the media.
UB: I used paper towels but I need to completely clean the floor.
Me: Well, I would check the first floor for Laura.
Unibrow boy went in search of our custodial person and I went in the lab. He spilled media in a great big circle and put down five paper towels to contain the circle. He didn't do anything to clean up after himself and went on to find someone else to clean up his mess for him. I was so mad, and part of it is because I get the feeling by his attitude that he thinks women are here to serve him. I did what little I needed to do and went back in my lab with the door locked so that if he couldn't find someone else to clean up his mess he wouldn't come to me. As if women are here to clean up after his lazy bum. I stayed holed up in my lab for another hour and then went back to the cell culture facility to check and make sure the mess did get cleaned up. It did, but unibrow boy also left the vacuum pump on when he left. He is such a problem. Someone needs to put him in his place. I suppose I could have yesterday, but I am not comfortable picking a fight when no one else is a around (it was 11 pm). I don't even like to leave the confines of the locked lab that late at night, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and see what happens.
I am so glad he is not in our lab. Honestly, there are way too many alpha dog women in our lab for him to handle, but I really feel bad for the women he works with now. I guess I can't really call it 'works with', it's more like 'works next to' or 'non-works with'. And from what I know of them, they are not alpha dogs and they do not speak their minds. So, no one is prepared to tell unibrow boy what's up, and he is going to continue going through life being a complete jerk to women, using encyclopedias to research his project. Such a problem.
I certainly hope this is not a problem I ever have to deal with on a daily basis, ever.

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