I’m a lab assistant at my university and one day some of my coworkers who are underclassmen asked me about my experience with a professor I had taken a couple classes with. I told them that every class that professor teaches is hard and that one specific class, is a “flipped” course in which students have teach themselves the material and come to class ready to just answer questions and do classwork. I also mentioned that in that particular class the professor would get frustrated when students asked her questions during class time (so much so that she would yell at whoever asked her a question and in one instance became so frustrated that she stabbed the white board with her expo marker and could no longer write with the marker because the tip was completely sunken in). I also mentioned that this particular class put me under so much stress that it caused me to develop anxiety. Everything that I told my coworkers was my honest experience with said professor.

It is not the first time I’ve told others at work about my experience while taking classes with this professor as well as with any of my other professors (in fact, on that same day I had talked about many of my previous professors and my time in their classrooms). Somehow one professor who manages some of the labs found out that I was talking about that particular professor (I’m not sure what exactly she heard or how much of what I said she heard) and decided to get right in my face and yell at me to stop talking about said professor because she didn’t like what I said. After having yelled at me she just briskly walked away. When she confronted me, I was standing right next to my coworker and I noticed that even my coworker had to pull her head back because of how loud and close the professor got to me/us. My ears were also ringing for a few moments.

I am not upset at the fact that whatever I said got out because I don’t think I made any personal attacks, I simply talked about my experience in that particular professor’s class. What upsets me is that the way the professor confronted me has really increased my stress levels and anxiety to the point that my blood pressure has risen. I am also experiencing dizzy spells, fatigue, and aches all over my body. I suspect that this is due to my anxiety. I have been stressing over this incident for the past couple of days and I’m not sure what to do.

For now I’ve decided to go speak with a counselor to try and calm down and seek a different perspective on the situation. I’m also going to discuss the situation with one of my superiors at work and ask her for advice as well as get her perspective on the situation. I don’t want to make any rash decisions or actions based on poor judgement and wild emotions. I am not comfortable enough to talk to the professor who confronted me (at least not 1-on-1). Can anyone give me any suggestions on what I should do? Do I contact the Dean? (Is there even enough basis to do this?)

I have a former classmate of mine who wasn’t successful in his/her application to top-tier PhD/MD programs this past application cycle.

Over the phone and through email, I’ve been sympathetic when I learned about his/her disappointment and offered words of encouragement, reminding him/her of their worth ethic (working 2-3 jobs at the same time and maintaining a stellar GPA) and personal aspirations (the kind of aspiration where you think that he/she would be a major force in research, selflessly serving the needs of others, and accomplishing a great deal in their career) during our undergraduate years.

However in recent time, I’ve lost touch with this person for unknown reasons, as I stopped hearing back from them. Distance, time, busy with other stuff. I don’t know.

The question I wanted to pose is, should I try to reach out again?

If they decided to reapply, what little would my words of encouragement offer beyond a smile and good wishes? (I doubt they would have an impact on the actual admissions board)

If they decided to not reapply, wouldn’t my words just pour salt into an otherwise fresh bitter wound in their mind?

Mind you, I am going through the testing phase at the moment myself and am narrowing down my PhD study programs to a handful for application, so I can’t claim that I am in similar waters.

Put yourself in this person’s shoes, how would you react in either scenario?

I am international postdoc and 7 months into my 1 year postdoc. My PI is very young and the lab is relatively new. I chose this lab because after the interview I was convinced that the PI and I had similar research interests. I had also made sure the work would be experimental in nature since that is what I am an expert in.

The research direction proposed seemed interesting and I have enjoyed working on the project. But there is a major mismatch between our attitudes. I do appreciate him taking the time out to listen to my research plan and goals but I just cannot bear the abusive nature of the PI. In my 6 months time he has humiliated me in front of the whole group twice (both for journal clubs), saying my presentations should be much better than what it is. The theoretical aspect of my work is not of my interest and he expects me to know each and everything about it even though it’s a new topic for me. There is zero tolerance for any mistake or unanswered question.

Long story short, I feel under-confident and bullied I am convinced that I need to look for a new position and have already started contacting some potential advisers (no luck yet).

My questions are the following:

  1. How do I survive the remaining 5 months of my postdoc with an
    abusive mentor who has unreasonably high standards?
  2. I have been so stressed since the past month that I feel unfit for
    any position. How do I regain my confidence?
  3. How do I find a position without a reference letter from the current

A colleague of mine has recently edited a book whose subject I find very interesting (I know several of the authors personally as well). Unfortunately, like most things published in academia, the copies available from the publisher are quite expensive (and I would have to pay with my own personal money). Is it OK to message him and ask for a soft copy?

I’m not sure as to what is the usual publishers’ practice in that case. Would I decrease my colleague’s revenue if I don’t buy and thus asking for a copy would be considered rude? Or maybe by the time of publication the editor has usually already received her remuneration?

A professor and I spoke recently (I’m a grad student), and she told me about her upcoming sabbatical, and I wished her well and was genuinely excited for her and her travel plans. But the reaction that I got from her was one of caution and displeasure, with no reciprocation of good vibes. I mostly said stuff like “that sounds amazing that you’re going to Country X for Y number of months! I hope you enjoy your time there, I love Country X!”

I’m a male student. Have I possibly said something condescending or disrespectful to a female professor, by showing my excitement about her travel plans?

When I analyzed it a bit, I came to the conclusion that I would have had the same reactions if a male professor told me of his sabbatical, travel plans. So, I don’t think that I’ve said anything sexist. But I am not 100% sure.

In my school, I tried to help my teacher with getting a projector to work, she didn’t accept the help though she clearly needed help.

Even when the teacher does something and they don’t know what they are doing and they refuse student help because they want to look professional by not getting help from students.

How to help a teacher though they don’t want it and it looks like they need it?

I have collaborated on a certain topic with researchers A, B and C, where A is my PhD supervisor (I’m now a post-doc), and B and C are senior colleagues from different universities. The collaboration lead to a number of papers, in which I was the main author, while A, B and C made important contributions.

I’m now working on an idea that continues the research direction of this earlier work. Since I already got pretty far with the execution of my idea, I don’t expect much additional benefit from involving A-C at this stage. In fact, I would prefer to publish this work without them, since I’m in a career stage where the common advice is to assert myself as an independent researcher.

However, I have the feeling that A-C might be disappointed if I don’t involve them – I certainly would, if I was in their position. Is there an etiquette for tactfully dealing with this kind of situation?

I’m starting my master’s thesis work with a new professor and had a really bad meeting with them recently. They asked me questions I am supposed to be able to answer, but I was so stressed I couldn’t think. I couldn’t write stuff on the board. It was just a mess.

He said some things that made me feel pretty bad about myself and I really don’t want that to happen again in the next meeting. Could someone please share their ways on how they prepare for research meetings they are nervous for?

I’m a student; recently, in one of my classes, a fellow student brought their baby in a stroller. She may have asked the professor beforehand for permission to do this. The baby cried, made loud utterances, and loudly kicked the inside of its stroller. Several students, including me, found this very distracting. The professor didn’t react to any of this. What should he have done? Should students be prohibited from bringing babies to class, or are there some circumstances under which it should be allowed?

A few months ago my lab had a new member. Shortly after he joined I started hearing from students in other labs that he was being very weird, hinting that they were somewhat bothered. For instance he would roam around near other people’s benches, stand really close to a student doing their work, or even follow them when they move to another machine.

We are in an open-lab environment so a lot of labs share the same area. Maybe it was confusing to him and he thought it was fine to do what he did. Still, I talked to my PI and he had the situation dealt with. However, when I am working he still likes to stand on the side staring at me. Apparently my PI forgot to tell him don’t do that to your colleagues either. I know he’s just being curious and wants to learn. I could probably use this as a precious opportunity to train myself to focus and ignore distractions. And I have learned over the years to tolerate some social behaviors in scientists which are not accepted by the general public. But his behaviors can be REALLY disturbing sometimes.

How should I talk to him about this without making the whole thing too awkward? I am afraid if I tolerate him any longer one day I would just blow up and yell at him… I don’t want things to turn out ugly.