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Context

I have an undergraduate degree and I'm working as a medical researcher in a research lab, affiliated with a University. I've done very little since being employed, due to problems such as:

  1. lack of usable samples for projects
  2. equipment being broken down for long periods of time
  3. issues getting trained on equipment & techniques
  4. waiting on reagents with an otherwise unspecified delivery date

Sadly, roughly the first 6 months or so into work I was given very little to do so had to try and self direct as much work as possible, which I filled by teaching myself software programming and data analysis automation. There were several attempts to get me trained on things that would support my project but due to people being too busy or not wanting to give up time for their own work, every attempt failed and the training would get forgotten about. This was a difficult situation as the people training me were not actually a part of my group (I don't actually do any work with my team), but collaborators/colleagues/students from other labs in the institute.

Programming worked very well for a good 4-5 months but now I'm back into another rut with all of my equipment being out of order with an unspecified ETA on repair as well still waiting on reagents. Whilst I know this happens in science all the time, when it comes on the back of nearly half a years worth of not a whole lot it's hard to keep spirits high.

The issue

This has caused a severe reduction in morale and 'excitedness' about work and I often come in day to day feeling depressed and unhappy because all I can do at the moment is busywork (lab stocklists, cleaning, etc). How do people go about dealing with a slow moving or otherwise stagnant project for long periods of time?

I should mention that I love the environment I work in, including my boss and the people I work with. I got the opportunity to move to an entirely new state and experience a different way of living, which has been very nice. My boss is happy with my work (I was re-contracted) and says I have very good ideas and is sympathetic to my current situation but has little to offer in terms of solution, granted he's not able to speed up repairs or make my reagents come in faster!


Clarification

I thought this warranted a clarification. I have done some work which has contributed to the project and provided some good insight. I am now trained and fully autonomous in the work that I need to do. My only restriction at this point is having the equipment I need to work and the reagents for them. A problem which is kind of rife throughout medical research.

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Your problem is not a peculiar one to be frank. People face different problems of similar type at their workplace.

As you said you were working in a research lab affiliated to a University, you can get in touch with the University Student Government/Student Body/Student Representatives. The President of the organization is surely one of the reagents. Get in touch with them and explain your issue. You can even take your boss along with you when you're meeting with them in order to emphasize your issue more. It will show that even your boss is helpless. I was a Senator at my University during my Masters and I faced a lot of problems like this. Let one of the Senator take up your issue. They will discuss the issue in their meetings and the Senator will be able to make your issue reach the board members/higher officials/management. In that way, I am pretty sure some action will definitely be taken.

I can very well understand your situation where you're facing a dead-end every direction you face. 'Waiting' is the only other thing you can do at this time. Because, I am pretty sure you are not in an environment where you can take the initiative and go ahead and get the equipment repaired. But nobody likes that.

I would still recommend you to talk to the Student Representatives. There is no need to worry as you are not overstepping any boundaries. You are not doing anything wrong. By getting in touch with the Student Body, you are just making sure that the management notices your situation and takes the necessary action at the earliest.

All the best!

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