Award for most insecure mentoring in a public setting

At a scientific meeting, clinical sub-discipline, a friend, let’s call her Alicia,  was giving a great talk. It was an invited “seminar”, an hour long presentation about the role of a specific research sub-discipline and its potential for impact on clinical treatment. Alicia is an assistant prof, who has gone out on a limb to move into this new area (to the sub-discipline). She had worked very hard to give a talk that was both in content and presentation accessible to everyone, especially the young clinicians who go to this meeting for continuing ed credit.

In this talk Alicia mentioned her PhD mentor, who had done some very important work in this area (since Alicia had left the mentor’s lab). However she did not mention her postdoc mentor, Jane, who thinks that her own work is exactly in the new area Alicia is pioneering. Jane has used the buzz words, etc, but is really clueless. (full disclosure: this work overlaps some with mine, but I’m mostly a bystander here).

At the end of the talk Jane, the postdoc mentor, went to the microphone (its a 400 person session), and started making the most passive-agressive statement. Not a question, but she said something along the lines of “Well, Alicia, as you remember when you were my postdoc, we talked about this, and you have left out considerations of X and Y, which, as I taught you are very important”.

X and Y are actually totally irrelevant.Alicia was puzzled (but strong enough not to engage said mentor either during the session, or afterwards). I said it was the best compliment she could get, it meant that what she was doing was important, and everyone felt they needed to be part of it.

Conclusion: no one at the meeting was fooled, and Jane falls into the basket of “de-mentor”.


5 thoughts on “Award for most insecure mentoring in a public setting

  1. I see this all the time. So dissappointing. But good for her she didn’t become defensive. We have two assist. professors here where one of which thinks the other is scooping her. She (X) shows up to any talk that Y gives just to spend 5 minutes at the end trying to discredit everything that Y said. Everyone knows exactly what X is doing. Y ignores as best as possible. I think that is the best response, anything you say will sound defensive. Best to just let it go, everyone will know exactly what is going on. X then looks like the petty person.

  2. I was ready to jump up and smash faces, as is my bad habit (just joking, asst profs need to learn to deal with this). I am so impressed with Alicia. She knows what is up, and when we talked about it, she realized that this had happened in milder forms before, and that she just wasn’t quite aware. Mostly I feel sorry for the mentor, Jane, who is roughly my age, and perceives that her work is becoming peripheral and doesn’t know what to do about it.

  3. We all worry about being peripheral at some point. Especially when papers and grants get so hard to come by. I just think it is petty to use another person to make yourself look better, bigger, smarter. But there is a lot of that out there, stunning amounts. Best to figure out how to deal with it early, so she is clearly doing well.

    I like your blog by the way. I have been reading since you were on the same page with Isis.

  4. Pingback: Things that Frost My Shorts – BSD at Scientific Meetings Edition | Mistress of the Animals

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