Org Prep Daily

December 11, 2009

Predetermined Conclusions 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — milkshake @ 8:40 pm

I suddenly found myself in HR office this Wednesday in front of assembled top four bosses, faced with immediate dismissal. The story was that I supposedly yelled at a security guard and chased him around the lab  – which I have not done – but they already had it all prepared nicely (you see, they investigated it quietly for almost three weeks and they kept the meeting secret to the last minute) and there they would not allow any facts get in a way of their neat story. They threatened and bullied – that I better shut up and sign the papers they are giving me to sign or they will fire me right there. Needles to say, the HR meeting did not go down too well but it became noticebly nicer towards the end, especially after the boss of the translational research institute screamed on top of his voice that he is in control of the entire budget and that I am messing with the wrong guy – and then stormed out. (He threatened to leave the meeting unless I apologize for saying that their story makes no sense – and I observed that it would be perhaps helpful if he could leave the meeting).

What they insisted on was that I must undergo anger management treatment with therapist of their own choosing and they handed me a consent form – to sign away all my confidentiality over to HR, and to confirm that this is actually an employer-mandated psychiatric treatment that I am taking voluntarily so that HR could receive regular status reports from my therapist.

I guess they just tried to find out if I have any interesting personal problems and see how I am struggling through with the help of their therapist – who would then send a nice summary to HR about my treatment plan and attendance and they would just add it in the file…

I knew that they were considering layoffs next January because of the funding problems and from their nastiness I figured out that this was a cute method to have me certified as a nut so as to not to have worry about wrongful dismissal case from me in the future. Bending over and taking it from both ends would only save me couple weeks at best. So I boxed up my stuff, loaded it in my car and wrote back that  I can see someone if they insist but I am not signing away my shrink’s confidentiality over to HR. I also wrote  that it was a fine inquisition meeting – and that they should check the facts because there are people who can easily confirm that the guard story is a fabrication and that I hope they will at least have the decency to clear my name with the same eagerness with witch they have now besmirched it.

The next day my e-mail client stopped working and the PC logged itself off. That gave a hint that I should probably head down to HR so I said the goodbyes to my colleagues, handed back my keys + keycard and it was over in a civil way within few minutes.

As to why this has been staged the way it happened, there are several reasons but I think the main one was that the people I worked for got from me all what they needed, my salary just got past six figure and they were faced the financial pressure to have someone let go – in our group the potdocs cannot find staff jobs anywhere (and are willing to survive on indefinite postdoc-ship often due to the visa situation). I have had complained too much about the people here being left intentionally off the publications and cheated from their co-authorship on patents. I have been with the institute from the beginnig, and I am not an easy person to put up with, over the five years they had plenty about me on file – so they thought they can easily make it look like it I am creating some serious trouble and therefore they had no other choice but to let me go…

The reason why I wrote down all this unpleasant story is to firsthand inform my colleagues and friends who are reading this page because I did not have the time to speak with everybody before leaving.

December 2, 2009

Predetermined conclusions

Filed under: Uncategorized — milkshake @ 6:56 am

In the last year of elementary school I got encouraged to take part in the science fair – The top winners of the national highschool science project competition could possibly earn the admission to a college of their choosing. I was a new chemistry club member and it was decided there that I ought to try an analytical chemistry project –  an assay to determine content of vitamin C in various foods by titration. There is a simple redox method and I could compare how the processing and contact with metals diminished the ascorbic acid content. (Cooked food has less ascorbic acid because it gets oxidized and metals catalyze the oxidation etc. etc.)

So I started on this stuff but it bothered me a bit when I was reading in the book that described this analytical method that there are actually other components  in the food that also have reducing properties and they would show up in this titration and I had no way of telling them apart from ascorbic acid or figuring out their relative ratio – so my result would always end up higher, as a sum of two unknown values. The club boss suggested that I should not dwell on this over too much –  after all, it was an established method and I was only doing a modest experimental work to practice for more serious research – and that I ought to get on with the work for which she had the plan laid out for me. So I listened and did the whole thing.

Next, before I even completed writing up the ascorbic acid stuff – and since we were working so well together – the chemistry club boss suggested that the second project I should try is to measure lead in fruit picked from trees growing along the roads because of the health issues posed by the wide-spread use of leaded gasoline at that time. There is dithizone, a ligand that makes a deep purple complex with lead and she had a spectrophotometer in the lab which she wanted to put to some use and it would be much more interesting project – one that had a chance of winning awards for our club…

A small problem arose when I finished the calibration curves for the dithizone-lead complex standards and proceeded to apples picked from trees along a busy road:  it turned out that there was not much lead in those apples (I could barely detect a hint of the colored complex but there was no way to quantify that on this instrument). I got promptly sent out on missive to try to find some more-contaminated fruit so that we can have material to support our serious study –  I was told to make sure to pick the fruit only when there was no rain for few days, and that I should prepare the samples from the surface layer only. (How exactly you separate the surface in a reproducible way was not obvious to me – but reproducibility was apparently not the biggest concern in our project). When I asked if this really was the way to go about the  sample collection, it was made clear to me that I better find some lead-laden fruit somewhere soon or she will not waste her time with me anymore. So I stopped attending that chemistry club and resumed my research on home-made fireworks and rockets and methods for  ethanethiol production – the projects in which I found some encouragement from my non-chemist buddies.

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