Not being the “boss”

My supervisor is on vacation. Which was not great timing with me just getting back from my own conference/vacation trip. But things happen when they happen and you just need to work with it. And normally, this isn’t a problem at all. And, to be honest, it’s not really a problem. It’s just that I have a summer student.

Before I left, we (my supervisor, myself, my research group) made a list of tasks for the student to do (with enough stuff to cover a couple weeks worth of work depending on pace). But, one of the major tasks required another student finishing off one of their tasks first. Which was suppose to be no problem (this was about 4-5 weeks ago). However, it took this student until the middle of this week to finish this task.

And so the summer student was running out of things to do. And the student is eager to help. I’d love to have the student help me out. The problem is, at this point in my research, there really isn’t anything I can assign. All of the stuff requires learning a whole new programming language and system (which I’m just learning myself). But, because I have a background in computer science, it’s not as huge a learning curve for me, as it would be for the student.

Having the student tag along and work on projects with me, would require me to vastly slow down my own research – something I can’t really afford at this time when I already feel like I’m behind. So instead, the poor summer student was stuck just sort of playing around with a few pieces of software we have, and trying to come up with tasks to pass the time.

I’m not this other students “boss.” But I am a “superior” in the sense that I’ve been in the research group longer, and the student is an undergrad. Unfortunately, I really don’t have any authority to get on this students case. And even if I did, I’m not sure it would have done anything towards getting the project done sooner.

Now that this student finished the task, I thought things would get better. Only problem is, the finished task has had more than a reasonable number of issues with it. With at least one large feature ignored until it started getting used and it became a “oh, I guess we need that.” So while I continue to shake my head, and wish I could have changed things for the better, at least my summer student now has some work to do.

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