Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A bit of a giggle remembering past PI's

The ScienceBlogs weekly roundup this week highlighted a funny blog with a cartoon and reflections of the 9 types of PIs (principal investigators, the head honcho's of research projects).

For my first job post university in a medical research institute, I had a PI that was part slave driver, control freak, science wonk and rising start (or at least he thought so). Add 'Swiss' and their known penchant for precision to the mix, and you can probably understand my dilemma. Although I have to admit, attention to detail, if it wasn't before is now very much a part of my repetoire, probably making me at times a tough boss to please, and delegation a challenge! Worst 2 years of my career professionally, though the Friday night bonding pub sessions at the 'Marly' with fellow suffering teammates made for good times, and some of those friendships still survive 12 years post-PI #1. PI#1 had me searching for ways out of the lab (or at least His lab).

How bad must it have been when the option I chose next was to do a PhD. Nothing like working at least as hard, for less money, but at least the atmosphere was better. PI#2 was a mix of 'big talker' and 'laid-back'. I only ever saw him at times when I needed to apply for money or ethics review, had to present at the company who sponsored my research, or to get my PhD chapters reviewed, but because of the 'big talk', he knew how to spin to get things done, so probably a good mix on balance.

After psycho-boss PI#1, to go to the complete opposite was a bit scary and stressful (after all, how would I cope without PI#1 breathing down my neck, telling me what to do and think and criticising everything? Was I capable of thinking on my own? ). PI#1 refused to believe I was capable of doing a PhD, as he went to great lengths to tell me. I had asked to do a PhD under PI#1, but he turned me down. I guess I can be grateful to him for that at least, and sparing me another 3 years of pain under his supervision. (You can tell can't you - no scars here from the PI#1 experience, and we wonder why people don't do or leave science!) Thankfully, doing the PhD showed me I was capable of original thought and led me to believe I could have some value as a scientist. PI#2 offered me a job post PhD which set me on the path to industry and out of the lab, for which I am truly grateful, so he wasn't so bad.

I think we could translate some of these cartoons to the arena of clinical research PIs, of whom I think I've encountered every type over the past 8 years, but a few minor revisions would be necessary. For example the Big Talker Clinical PI - same text out of his mouth would be appropriate. The +ve = good for encouraging others to become involved with the trial, or later publicity of the new treatment. The -ve = overdelegates and never available to sign off a CRF or paperwork. If I had some cartooning skills, I might just have a go at the revisions, but alas, I'll spare the world from my attempts at drawing!

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