Thursday, December 18, 2008

Are You a Rockstar Scientist!!!!!?

Many, many years ago, while I was a grad student, New Scientist magazine published a quiz titled "Leader of the Lab." I have shamelessly stolen borrowed and altered what I remember of that for the following:

Are You a Rockstar Scientist!!!!!?

Answer the following multiple choice questions to determine if you have what it takes to be a Rockstar Scientist!!!!! Keep a note of your answers and use the grading system at the end of this post. No cheating!

1) You've just started your tenure track faculty position. You're trying to get your lab up and running when your newly hired tech comes into your office clearly upset. His mother has just been diagnosed with a terminal disease and has only a week or so left to live. The tech hasn't as yet earned any vacation or sick leave time, but would like to take time off to spend with his dying mother. What do you do?

  1. Of course he should go. He should take as long as is necessary. And he shouldn't worry about being paid - you'll make sure he is.
  2. He can go. Although you feel bad about it, it does have to be leave without pay.
  3. He can go when he finishes up all the experiments he was supposed to have done during that time. And it's leave without pay.
  4. Tell him that's what weekends are for.

2) Two graduate students want to join your lab. Both have indicated an interest in the same project of potential high impact. What do you do?

  1. Explain the situation to both and try to work out who gets the coveted project. Do your best to come up with a second project of equal potential for the other student.
  2. Give the best student the project and assign the second student something else.
  3. Give the best student six months on the coveted project. If after that time they haven't made sufficient progress, give the project to the second student.
  4. Put them both on the project and tell them whoever gets Nature/Science/Cell-worthy data first wins. The loser gets the boot.

3) An undergrad from one of your classes approaches you about doing research for credit in your lab. She is very interested in your work and is going to apply to grad school. You've never had an undergrad do research with you before, but are well aware that it's a substantial time and effort commitment on your part. What do you do?

  1. Agree and set up a schedule where you can work with her until she's up to speed in the lab. Thereafter make sure you meet with her at least weekly.
  2. Agree, then assign her to one of your grad students. Check up on her progress about once a month. Let the grad student decide her grade at the end of the semester.
  3. Agree, then assign her to your tech. Don't bother checking up on her progress and assign her a C at the end of the semester.
  4. Agree, then make her the lab dishwasher. Make yourself unavailable to talk with her once she's started. Give her an F for not having produced any data.

4) You will soon be coming up for tenure. You have plenty of grant money and a bunch of published papers, including two in the C/N/S glamormagz. A senior colleague is planning to go on sabbatical and asks you to teach one of his courses while he's gone. It's very much in your area of expertise and your colleague has offered you his Powerpoint slides and lecture notes. What do you do?

  1. Agree to teach the course. It won't be that much work and will earn some good will.
  2. Agree to teach the course but insist that your colleague writes a glowing paragraph about your selflessness in his letter supporting your tenure.
  3. Tell your colleague you already have too much teaching.
  4. Say no, then go tell your Department Chair that, with tenure coming up, you need to lighten your teaching load. Insist your senior colleague (the one who wants to go on sabbatical) is not only the best replacement, but the only person in the Department capable of giving your lectures.

5) You're now an associate professor with tenure. Professor Bigwig, a leader in your field, is coming to give a seminar in your Department. You know that she's organizing next year's SuperBig Meeting in your field. By sheer coincidence you are currently reviewing a renewal of the major grant that Bigwig needs to keep her laboratory running. What do you do?

  1. Meet with Bigwig, tell her about the latest findings in your lab, and pay her all the respect she is due.
  2. Meet with Bigwig and try to dazzle her with your latest findings in the hope she will consider you for a speaking slot in Superbig Meeting.
  3. Meet with Bigwig and try to charm her into giving you a speaking slot. If that doesn't work, outright demand a speaking slot using your latest C/N/S publication as justification.
  4. Meet with Bigwig and point out what a wonderful speaker you are and that you noticed there's an empty slot for a plenary speaker. All while tapping on that copy of her proposal you left lying in full view on your desk.

6) You're sitting on a grant review panel when you are assigned a proposal from a new investigator who is proposing to do precisely what you were going to put into a grant application you're currently writing. What do you do?

  1. Let the program officer know the situation. Review the proposal as objectively as possible. If the new investigator's proposal receives a fundable, or near fundable, score, rethink your proposal.
  2. Tell no one, but review the proposal somewhat objectively. Give it the score you think it deserves, given that this is a new, unproven investigator... Submit your proposal as planned.
  3. Review the grant, but, no matter how good it is, give it a score that guarantees it won't be funded. Insist on additional preliminary data that will take at least a year to generate. Submit your proposal as planned.
  4. Trash the grant, writing a review that sends the message that the proposed work is crap, and that the new investigator has never had and never will have a decent idea in their life. Then cut and paste from their proposal into your proposal.

7) You are now a full professor. An assistant professor in your Department, who is coming up for tenure, has been collaborating with you. You've each put in the same amount of time, effort and $'s. The manuscript is written and you're deciding on authorship prior to submission (a postdoc is clearly first author). What do you do?

  1. Give the junior person senior authorship - it will be a big help in getting them tenure.
  2. Insist on being co-corresponding author with your junior collaborator, but let them be last author.
  3. You're senior. Obviously you'll be senior author.
  4. Collaborator? What collaborator?

8) You've been very successful at grant writing and now have a lab full of smart postdocs. What do you do?

  1. Keep doing what you're doing. Provide the best environment you can for the people in your lab, encourage them to write proposals for their own funding, and make sure they move on to bigger and better things when the time is right.
  2. Keep those postdocs working hard. If they can keep the data flowing and you can get your own proposals funded, they can apply for their own funding.
  3. Have your postdocs write grant proposals for you. Apply your editorial magic to them before putting your name on as PI and submitting.
  4. Have your postdocs write your grant proposals for you. In their free time. Don't bother reading them, just have your secretary put your name on as PI and submit. They remain employed as long as they bring in the money. Keep the best grant writers convinced that they need to publish a lot more before they'll be ready to move on. Find ways to delay publication of their data. Sit back and enjoy.

9) When you first arrived at your University your Department purchased a confocal microscope you needed. The deal was that you would be in charge of this instrument, but that others in the Department would have access and you would provide the training. Over the years you have been doing less and less confocal work, to the point that you now no longer need such an instrument. What do you do?

  1. Still put in the effort to keep the instrument maintained, and to train other users.
  2. Retain control over the instrument, but leave the training to the tech in your lab who has used it once or twice.
  3. Tell the Department that you no longer have any need for the instrument and that you refuse to be responsible for it anymore.
  4. Sell the confocal microscope on Ebay and use the proceeds to pay for a skiing vacation in the Alps.

10) A young, completely unknown, recently graduated PhD from Estonia emails you a rough draft of a manuscript for you comments. Upon reading the manuscript you realize that this is Nobel-prize stuff. What do you do?

  1. Go through the manuscript carefully, provide thoughtful and detailed comments, and inform the PhD as to the impact the work will have.
  2. Offer to collaborate with the PhD, but insist they will be senior author.
  3. Tell the PhD that the manuscript is interesting, but needs further experiments. Offer them a postdoctoral position in your lab so they can do the work with you, and that you will then publish the work with you as senior author.
  4. Email the PhD telling them the work is crap not worthy of submission anywhere. Meanwhile have everyone in your lab do some quick and easy experiments you can add to the existing manuscript, rewrite it and submit.

Answer Key:

For each "a" give yourself one point, for each "b" two points, each "c" three points, and each "d" four points.

If you scored:

Sorry, you are just too nice to ever be a Rockstar Scientist!!!!! Your colleagues really like you and you are certainly popular among the grad students. But stardom will forever be out of reach.

Not going to make it to Rockstar Scientist!!!!! You try, but that pesky conscience keeps getting in the way.

You're almost a Rockstar Scientist!!!!! But not quite. What's holding you back? Couldn't sell the confocal? Missed the plane to Stockholm?

You are truly a Rockstar Scientist!!!!! Congratulations! It must be great not having to write grant proposals anymore. What did you get for the confocal and how was Stockholm?

Happy Non-Denominational Festive Season!


Arlenna said...

This is awesome.

But I failed. :(

Odyssey said...

In this case failure is good.

JLK said...

I scored a 15.

Let's hope that grad school allows me to keep my soul. :)

Professor in Training said...

A 12 for me - guess I'm too nice for my own good. I never wanted to be a rockstar scientist anyway ... I always wanted to be a lumberjack.

JollyRgr said...

I scored 40 and I'm not even doing science.....I laughed so hard my head hurts.......some of my colleagues would be 'Rockstars" without even trying....and they wouldn't get the joke...:-)

Odyssey said...

One of these????

And JollyRgr, I would expect nothing less than a 40 from you. :-)

Goose said...

If I could only count well enough to work out my score... but I am a chemist! :-)

Professor in Training said...

One of these????

Precisely :)

Milo said...

I'm too nice, of course. I scored 11.

niewiap said...

"... and they wouldn't get the joke"
Wait, what j.... Oooooh! Ooops... 36 here...

But seriously, it is so true that I didn't know whether to laugh or cry...