Collaboration with the old

If you read my stuff on my previous blog it should come as no surprise that I didn’t like my advisor.  I’ve come to now realize that the opinions were misplaced.  He’s still selfish, and I won’t forget the things I didn’t like.  But being in his spot now, I totally get it.  There are times when I realize that I have to weigh the students versus me, and I have to come out on top sometimes.  But alas, I’m torn.  I still dislike him, even though I understand now why he behaves the way he did.

So now that my tenure packet is out (I submitted early…using my industry experience as ammunition), he’s realized that we can work together, collaborate if you will.  I kept a distance because I dislike him, but also my tenure advisor said it’s a good idea to distance oneself from the advisor.  So I distanced myself, but he knows as well as anyone else that my packet is submitted.  And this week he reached out to me wanting some collaboration.  The thing is-I felt partially like he may have used me in grad school to fill gaps in knowledge, results, etc. that he doesn’t have.  And at the time I didn’t care for the distraction, but now I’m glad I got the experience.  So I’m worried that he’ll be pushy and want lots of stuff and I don’t know what I will get in return.  There’s literally nothing except maybe a passing authorship I can get with him (which I acknowledge is payment in itself).  The research isn’t in my focus so it wouldn’t help me keep the lights on, so the only dial I have to turn is asking him to get on future grants to utilize the technology I’d be providing.  Which I’m definitely in favor of, but again, it’s out of my particular research interests.  In fact, I think it’s useless (though I wouldn’t tell him that).  How do I know it’s useless?  I worked on it in industry early on and there was no clinical benefit.  I won’t tell him because I still have to keep corporate secrets.  The problem is if I say ‘no’ I could see it hurting me, but if I say ‘yes’ I don’t want to be roped in with him again.


4 thoughts on “Collaboration with the old

  1. I think calls for the old. I don’t have the resources to devote to this response. It is really hard to change the dynamics of our relationships so no matter the viability of the project you will always end up feeling a bit used. It doesn’t sound like there are enough upsides to spend resources in this way.


  2. Your old advisor clearly values your skills if he still hasn’t found anyone that can fill in this technical hole in his knowledge. Presumably, he’s also at an R1 with tons of potential collaborators, yet he still contacts you, right? If you needed a collaborator, would you hope that the person would say ‘yes’ when you came knocking? While the effort might be tough, and the payoff might not be the best (given your research agenda) consider this as you being just a good collaborator. Word will get around and maybe some folks would be willing to sratch your back.


  3. Just tell him thanks but that you have a lot on your plate with current projects and don’t have the bandwidth to do whatever he’s proposing […]; you can add that your current research interests are somewhat divergent. Polite but firm declination.

    I had to “break up” with collaborators piggy-backed on my work without contributing. I said I enjoyed the work but would like to go in a different direction and that perhaps a certain paper would be our last one together for the time being.


  4. So I had a call with him and I ended up coming to a middle ground. I explained the reasons I thought it wouldn’t work by basically explaining the physics of the problem (not using the confidential past learning, but basic physics, to explain away the issues), then we started talking other ideas and he came up with something that has some overlap with my stuff, and he would write the grant and throw some money my way. I’m not hurting for cash, but these types of collaborations look good so I’m just dealing with it. I mentioned outright that I can’t be distracted since I still have to satisfy my grants, and that we would only be doing some of the design work that he’ll use, and I can’t use a student. My lab tech will take care of it, and I extended the timeline by 2x so we can really back-burner the thing….politics. I’d love to break up with some bad collaborators, but I’m just too subservient, I guess.


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