My Boss’ Spouse: A Spy or Civilian in Lab?

Dear Dora: The Boss' SpouseDear Dora,

My PIs wife just started working in the lab and it’s made things really awkward since everyone assumes she’s a spy for the boss. Is there anything we can do?

– biokid, graduate student


Dear Biokid,

Husbands and wife teams are quite common in science (as well as other fields). In many cases the arrangement works well. It is understandably an awkward situation at first, but she is probably more preoccupied with her own workload than with others in the lab. My suggestion is to continue with business as usual and treat your PI’s wife as you would any other colleague.  If you need to speak about your boss to another student it is best to go out for coffee, rather than talk in the lab. However, if everyone is going out for lunch together, invite your PI’s wife too so she will feel included in the group.


Dora Farkas, Ph.D. is the author “The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.:200 Secrets from 100 Graduates,” and the founder of PhDNet, an online community for graduate students and PhDs. You will find links to her book, monthly newsletters, and discussion board on her site. Send your questions to [email protected] and keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue!


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