I haven't seen any responses to this post, which surprises me because I
think the questions are very interesting and I have been thinking about
them all week. Perhaps others have responded to Julia privately. I am
in an unusual situation because I have been a technician, graduate
student, post-doc and co-PI, all in the same lab, and over the past 14
years I have seen many grad students and post-docs come and go. To my
knowledge, I have never had a written job description.
I think the primary responsibility for everyone involved is communication
-- of information, of research results and of resources available.
Perhaps this seems obvious but it certainly does not always happen. I
believe that too often this does not happen.
I believe that the primary responsibilities of the PI to the grad student
1) To provide the student with a project that has a high likelihood of
generating a PhD thesis with publications and the opportunity to lead them
to a career;
2) To provide the student with the resources, the information and the
guidance to carry out their research;
3) To help the student finish in a reasonable amount of time, perhaps
giving them the "push", and certainly the encouragement that they might
4) To provide the student with guidance in finding an appropriate post-doc
I believe that the primary responsibilities of the student to the PI
1) To work hard, because that is what grad school is all about;
2) To enter grad school in good faith. That might seem obvious, and
certainly there are many situations which come up which might prevent a
student from finishing. But if a PI is supporting a student's graduate
education, she has every right to expect that the student stay and
if possible. Sometimes students use us as a stepping stone, to a more
prestigious school or lab, having entered with no intention of staying for
a PhD. It is a waste of our limited resources.
In contrast, I think that a PI should give a post-doc a lot more freedom
in terms of choosing projects, trying risky things, fiddling around.
Still, the PI should help the post-doc get papers out and guide her toward
a more permanent job.
I think that the post-doc's responsibility to the PI is to work
toward publishing results on the project that is funding her and to use
presumably greater expertise to help the
grad students and others in the lab.
I think both grad students and post-docs should be responsible for writing
up at least initial drafts of their work. And PIs should be responsible
for publishing whatever is publishable.
I hope this is helpful to you, even though the format is not exactly
correct. I would love to see others thoughts on these issues.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology