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Stuck Sharing a Project With a Lazy Labmate?
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Stuck Sharing a Project With a Lazy Labmate?

Dear Dora: A lazy labmateDear Dora,

My advisor assigned me and another grad student a big project. It was implied from the start that we would have equal contributions. I do all the literature reading, planning, designing, and problem solving while actually performing a larger portion of experiments. My lab partner did help me with doing experiments but nothing else. She only does what I tell her to, never takes any initiative and relies on me to solve problems. He’s basically just a lazy labmate. But when we present our work at groups meetings, it looks like we have the same contribution while we do not. What should I do?

– Fed up, Grad student

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Dear Fed up,

First of all, I would like to congratulate on being so dedicated to your thesis project. It sounds like your partner is not as committed as you are, and this is clearly frustrating you. There could be several reasons for this, such as having less expertise, distractions from other commitments, or personal problems. It is not up to you to change her behavior, but your advisor must be aware of the contributions that each of you make. Not only is this important from an ethical standpoint, but your advisor should know who is the expert in the literature and who generated the data. When you publish this data, the order of authors will be determined by the level of contributions everyone made.

My suggestion is to talk to your advisor about your concerns, and be sure to give the other graduate student credit for what she has done. It is up to your advisor to determine whether she is a good match for this project, and what her thesis project should be. While you might be concerned that you are “telling on her”, it will be to her benefit in the long run to be given a project where she takes more responsibility for her research.

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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 DearDora@benchfly.com and keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue!

 

Stay tuned for the next Dear Dora in two weeks!  In the meantime, check a few of Dora’s recent posts:

 

Submit your questions to Dora at DearDora@benchfly.com, or use the comment box below!

 

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