Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Master of the Obvious

Just before I left grad. school lab, a new manager was hired. While this person was very nice, they were also very annoying due to the loads of useless and obvious information they tried to impart on me and other members of the lab. For those reasons I dubbed him Captain Obvious (If you like, you can read about Capt. Obvious here and here.)
In my new lab, I found no one obsessed with imparting the obvious and this made me happy. Unfortunately, I was knocked down a peg or two when I found a new specimen in journal club. She attends every week and as you might imagine, she finds many obvious things to point out. Since this person is actually a tenure-track faculty member (sigh), I will refer to her as Dr. Obvious.
After many journal clubs, I’ve noticed Dr. Obvious pretty much sticks to the basic tactics of imparting the obvious, but she also adds her own little flair to the process. I’ve also noticed that unlike most maters of the obvious, Dr. Obvious really enjoys sucking up to other faculty. It’s nauseating.
  1. Through out journal club, Dr. Obvious insists on speaking along with the presenter. Like when you know what someone is going to say and you say it with him or her. Only, since this is a presentation, I find it inappropriate and annoying. Also, since I think Dr. Obvious is inferior to every other faculty member in the department, I can only assume this "talking with the speaker" is some sad attempt at making sure that someone, anyone, realizes that they know something about science. Unfortunately, the whole room could have chimed in because we all know what the presenter is about to say in these instances. It’s called common knowledge. This goes on every week.
  2. Dr. Obvious asks way too many questions. These questions are either (a) silly or (b) a thinly veiled attempt to discuss her lab’s research or (c) both. I started keeping track of the amount of time Dr. Obvious takes up in the hour-long journal club with her questions and I clocked her at 10-15 minutes. Guess how long journal club typically runs over. That's right, 15 minutes. When Dr. Obvious does not attend journal club, they end on time.
  3. She coos and coos over the other faculty members when they present a paper for journal club, telling them how smart they are and how awesome their work is. (Note: The paper typically does not have anything to do with their research.) When she found out that one of the faculty members discovered a TLR, I thought she was going to offer to spawn his children. After the fourth or fifth, “Wow, I didn’t know you discovered TLR??, that is soooooooooo amazing,” even he seemed a little annoyed.
  4. When Dr. Obvious isn't stating something obvious, she is demonstrating why she tends to stick to stating the obvious. This is best illustrated with an example. A few months ago a paper that detailed the phenotype of a particular knockout mouse was presented. In this case, the KO mouse exhibited a skin abnormality. Ten minutes after journal club was supposed to end and 10 stupid questions and comments later, she asks another question. After the speaker answers her, she proceeds to say, “Oh! I thought this paper was about Drosophila.” Drosophila? DROSOPHILA!

Today’s journal club was chock full of #1s and #4s. Today’s #4 went something like this: The speaker presented a paper on how a particular viral protein affects leukocyte trafficking. Ten minutes after journal club is SUPPOSED to be done she asks something like this: Since a virus can evade the host's immune system by producing proteins that interfere with signaling, and bacteria can make these types of proteins too, then how do antibiotics work or is this why they don't work?
Let me just say that if spontaneous human combustion were possible, it would have happened to me today. All I could do was burry my face in my hands and muffle the large sigh and eye rolling that spontaneously occurs when I hear something that ridiculous.


chall said...

I am happy I didn¨t attend that jc... sweet god, I would've been on fire ;)

good luck with that. I never stop being amazed about all these people who suck up in public and in front of people. Hello? !! embarrassing....

Mad Hatter said...

Good god! How did she even get a faculty position? Well, I suppose you could look on the bright side: (1) she's not likely to get tenure at this rate, and (2) hey, if she can get a tenure-track job, so can the rest of us! :-)

transientreporter said...

Whenever someone asks me a question like that at a talk, my immediate inclination is to give them the benefit of the doubt and think that they're asking an incredibly complex and insightful question that I'm not understanding. By the time I've figured out that, no, they really are that dumb, I'm the one that looks like an idiot.

Mad Hatter - don't be so sure that she won't get tenure. I've met tenured faculty who would just BLOW your mind. As a probationary faculty member, I comfort myself by believing that tenure is a completely capricious process.

microbiologist xx said...

chall - Yeah, it is so trying. I agree, the whole sucking up thing just makes the person doing it look like an idiot. Not that she needs a lot of help with that. :)

Mad Hatter - Number 2 is exactly how I choose to look at it. If this dumb-ass can get a faculty position AND funding, then so can I. If I don't look at it that way, I'll be forced to punch her in the mouth.

Transient Reporter - I am not sure any of the questions I have heard her ask could be misconstrued as complex and intelligent.
I've seen presenters take your approach and I don't think they look like idiots, I just assume they have a shit-ton of patience and don't want to make someone feel/look stupid even when they are.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Wow. I'm sorry for laughing, because it does sound incredibly frustrating, but it's funny from the outside!

Thomas Joseph said...

So, when are you slated to present ... and what steps are you going to take to prevent her from forcing you to kill her on the spot?

microbiologist xx said...

Cath - Feel free to laugh. I am glad someone is getting some enjoyment out of my situation.

TJ - LOL! That is a really good question. Fortunately, the schedule for this semester was made up before I started in the lab, so I won't be going until the fall semester. Maybe by then I will be numb to her irritating ways (yeah right). A shot of NyQuil might do the trick. I typically speak to fast when presenting, so that might kill two birds with one stone. ;) If she actually raised her hand before asking a question, I would just avoid calling on her, but since she doesn't, that option is out the window.

Dimitris said...

hmmm yes that lab species.... one other trick is to tell dr. obvious after question #1000 that you can talk about it more after the presentation.

microbiologist xx said...

Dimitris - I wish people would employ that strategy now. Maybe it would nip the problem in the bud.