Academic common room
Help! Massive attack of imposter syndrome
murmuration · 25/05/2020 11:06
I don't know what's wrong with me. My research is finally picking up 8 years after mat leave. Due to vagaries of PhD funding, I'm going to have 3 new students starting this autumn, adding to my current 2. Given that I was already telling my newer student to go talk to the other student about XYZ, I figured it was time to start lab group meetings again, so people could learn directly from each other. And since everything was online, I was going to do it now while an undergrad who has done some cool stuff is still around to share his work with the incoming people.
I'm thinking of how to set up an online portal for my group, and all sorts of resources, etc., to have.
And now I'm feeling like I just can't do this. How can I tell a bunch of people what to do? I know its ridiculous. I advise my students all the time! I've even stood in for the DoT and told staff what to do. But I haven't had more than 2 in my group since years before mat leave - I had a brief period of group meetings then, but haven't done them in a decade.
I remember what my PhD/postdoc groups were like, and I feel like I could never generate such peer-groups around me. I didn't have this problem starting out - I was so sure, and made little guides about working with me and how the group works, etc. But now I feel, I don't know, embarrassed to do that? Help! How do I get over this?
parietal · 25/05/2020 13:51
my group (me + 1 postdoc + 5 phd students + various MSc etc) uses Slack as our online keep-in-touch system. You can have different channels for people to discuss projects / post photos / share jokes etc. The latter is especially useful to keep a sense of working together during lockdown.
we also have weekly lab meetings. I set out a schedule where each person has to present something for one week. they can present a paper (like a journal club) or a plan for an expt or some new data or a summary of what they learnt at a conference. they can choose as long as they present something to the rest of the group. At the end of the presentation, I make sure that I don't ask the first question.
I always find it hard to force people in my group to work together, but I think that if I create the structure that lets them work together, then they seem to become friends.
parietal · 25/05/2020 13:52
and don't feel like an imposter - your group members want you to lead them so go ahead & say SOMETHING and do SOMETHING - it almost doesn't matter what, because they will then get engaged.
murmuration · 25/05/2020 15:17
Thanks parietal - I remember prepping for lab group presentations. And giving feed back to others, and getting it - that's what I want to generate. We have Teams, and I was thinking about a channel each for some of the basic tasks that everyone has to learn, where I could put things like the text of an email I wrote to an UG years ago that explained how to use something and have been forwarding on to each new group member since. And people could share tips and tricks, and maybe calendars for booking out machines/software. And thinking this sort of thing is where I suddenly was hit with the imposter syndrome!
Do you also meet individually with all your group members? I'm trying to figure out how to do this. My current working pattern is meeting with each person once a week - but with 5 PhDs plus the expected 3 UGs (and we've just been told more people are going to have to do MSc's - I hadn't done that before), that's 8+ hours just meeting people.
But if I have, say, 8 people (including the UGs), it means someone would only get feedback on their work every 2 months, which clearly isn't enough. Maybe I could have shorter weekly meetings? Or biweekly? I'm remembering trying to grab my PI for individual things after lab meeting (as he was otherwise never around); maybe I could have an 'any questions' time, and also ad-hoc individual meetings?
bigkidsdidit · 25/05/2020 17:32
I do fortnightly lab meetings where everyone just talks about what they’ve done in that fortnight - no presentations, just discussions and raising problems or showing a cool new data point. Then the other fortnight either a journal club or a longer presentation by someone (Jc usually at the moment)
bigkidsdidit · 25/05/2020 17:32
So we have a meeting every week, if that message isn’t clear
parietal · 25/05/2020 20:12
when I started my lab, I tried weekly meetings but often there was not much to say and it took too much of my time.
Now I do monthly 1 hour meetings with each person to get into their work in depth and think about plans. then small short catch up meetings in between as needed. And a few people who need more support get weekly meetings.
murmuration · 25/05/2020 20:18
bigkids - so do you have other meetings with individuals, or is it all just one meeting a week? How long does it last?
My complication is that I'm very interdisciplinary, so everyone's project is really different and it's unlikely everyone will have all the backgrounds in their heads. So a presentation talking about the domain would be useful. Although perhaps once we get going, I can do general report-type meetings as you describe.
murmuration · 25/05/2020 20:22
Oh, wow. I thought I was pretty hands off, but I'm not sure once a month in-depth would be enough. Maybe for more senior members? But most of mine are still quite early (one 8 months in, one 6 months in, and then all the new starts not even here yet). I've got quite a niche area that nearly no one has background in, so I need to do a lot of training. This is why I'm hoping I can do it in one big meeting!
parietal · 25/05/2020 21:15
I know of some PIs who do one BIG lab meetings (3-4 hours) each week where everyone shares what they are doing / discusses ideas / makes plans / presents data etc. I think I'd find that exhausting & scary for everyone (especially junior lab members sharing ideas), but it seems to work for them.
bigkidsdidit · 27/05/2020 00:45
I posted and it disappeared, so apols if this comes up twice.
I am in the lab myself almost full time, so I am always there to talk to and see each person daily really
For 10 mins, to go over any issues and exciting results. Probably 3-4 times a year I see each person individually
In depth - it’s not really needed
murmuration · 27/05/2020 11:17
Ah, because I'm interdisciplinary, we're scattered all over. I usually don't see people unless we set up a meeting - but one of the three new ones will join one already here in my building (if anyone is in a building any time soon...), but that's just 2 out of all of them.
Well, I've sent out a doodle for our first meeting. Also CC'd in all my co-supervisors, which was in fact more than the students! Still feeling like I don't have the... I'm not even sure what... authority? to go ahead and do this, but I know that's imposter syndrome talking and I really need to just do it.
But it is so hard. I just want to go crawl under a rock and be alone for a while, not run a big group... (I think all these virtual meetings are getting to me - I'm in 15-25 hrs worth of them a week at the moment)
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