“If I were you, I’d be really offended”

Yesterday, I had my committee meeting. Advisor seemed to think that it was very useful. I didn’t really get the same impression. Basically, I went in there, showed them my data, told them what I had left to do for my paper, we talked, I came out of there with the same list of things to do with a couple of exceptions, so there really wasn’t much of a change in my priorities.

Except that they think I don’t need to do the 3-color labeling experiment to which I can only say, “Hallelujah.”

One of my committee members, let’s call him Crazy Yeast Geneticist, came up with several ideas for “easy” experiments that took 15 minutes to explain. I looked at him liked he was whacked. Advisor looked at him like he was whacked. The other two committee members sat silent. Additionally, CYG gave me some advice on how to make my images look better in powerpoint (actually useful) and questioned why some of the experiments for this paper are being done by another grad sudent. His extremely helpful input culminated in a hissy fit about the way I presented a western blot* on a particular slide. I had created this slide for a talk at student seminar and the samples I wanted to show were far apart on the blot, so, for ease of presentation, I had chopped up the blot in photoshop to eliminate the middle lanes. It was obvious I had done this because the two samples were separated by white space. He was not pleased. I tried explaining this was a seminar slide that I wouldn’t be presenting it like this in the paper, that, in fact, I was redoing this experiment because I didn’t trust the detection system I used (which was the point I was trying to make about this data anyway) and when I did that I would be putting the samples side by side in the gel so that it wouldn’t look like this, etc., etc.** We moved on.

After the meeting, Advisor informed me that CYG got on his case about this (the committee tosses you out of the room at the end so that they can talk about you) and Advisor promised him he would look at the original raw data. I thought this would be like so many other things that my committee has said (“We want to see [X] from you by your next meeting,” where [X] is something ridiculous and I never do it and nothing ever happens), but at the end of our conversation Advisor reiterated that he promised CYG he’d look at the data and if he didn’t do it CYG promised to cause me trouble. Clearly, CYG had been much more emphatic with Advisor about the blot thing than he had been with me.**

Which is interesting because it seemed that I was the one that CYG was coming close to saying had manipulated her data in an unethical manner.

So, because I keep a kickass notebook, within 10 minutes of being back in the lab, I located these blots from a year ago and brought them in to Advisor’s office who asked me to scan them and email them to him. And then he said the following:

“If I were you, I’d be very offended by all of this, but if John Kerry’s presidential campaign has taught us anything it’s that when you are accused of something you should respond.”

So, I scanned them in, sent them to Advisor, who sent them to CYG.

So, to recap:

  1. Yesterday, I had a committee meeting.
  2. I got some useful advice about powerpoint.
  3. I heard several suggestions about ridiculous experiments.
  4. One of my committee members accused me of scientific misconduct.
  5. Advisor compared my experience to smear tactics used by a presidential campaign.

Yes, I can totally see why my department thought it was critical for me to have a committee meeting.

UPDATE (5/5/08):  Just got back from talking to my departmental administrator.  Apparently CYG has been in a mood lately and this isn’t the first very strange and disturbing incident she has heard about regarding him in recent weeks (though she wouldn’t say what the other incidents were about).

*Everytime I try to type “blot” my fingers type “blog.” Possibly I’m spending too much time on the internet.

**Also, I’m pretty sure I did the exact same thing when presenting my data at my last committee meeting with nary a word about the evils of photoshop and blogs blots. Something must’ve happened in between then and now (having nothing to do with me) to piss him off. Nice.

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8 thoughts on ““If I were you, I’d be really offended”

  1. Has CYG never seen all the papers with IP-Westerns where the authors only show a teeny-tiny strip of their blots and claim it’s their protein of interest, when there could’ve been a gazillion other bands on the blot??? Yeesh! Isn’t it nice that you get to be punished because somebody else did something to “sensitize” your committee member to this?!

  2. As long as the two chopped up sections came from the same exposure of the same blot, I don’t really see the problem (especially for a committee meeting ’cause you’re there to say that), and I’m really anal about this topic. People actually publish comparisons of different blots with the same exposure time and say that’s okay (and, um, it’s not). And like Mad Hatter hinted, at some point, we have to believe that the band someone shows us is actually what they say it is. We can’t look at every piece of primary data for every paper (though some people do want to make that kind of data available online).

    I think some profs are just there to be jackasses. They’ve obviously got nothing better to do.

  3. The chopped up sections came from the same exposure from the same blot. There was absolutely nothing going on that I haven’t seen in hundreds of papers.

    The funny thing was I was telling them that these results made no sense, that I was not confident of the data, and that I wanted to repeat the whole thing. Surely, if I had wanted to manipulate the data, I would have done it in such a way to prove my point rather than say, “These results are really fucked up.” Dumbass.

  4. Committee meetings: so useful! At the beginning they make insane suggestions and fail to override one’s insane advisor, and at the end….. the same.

  5. THere is an imaging guy on my committee. Any picture he sees during meetings is ‘overexposed’ if it isn’t taken on his scopes or by his people.

    I might actually change my email sig to the quote from your advisor. It made me chuckle because it really really really reminded me of something mine might say.

  6. Oh my! We aren’t the only ones with a CYG. That amuses me to no end.
    I wonder if there is an enrichment of crazy in YG. Maybe the Awesome Power of Yeast Genetics has simply enhanced their view so they can see things us mere mortals can’t. Yeah, that’s it.

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