So the lab drama all started shortly after I decided I was leaving for the ED, and now I’m finally getting around to sharing it with you. I got paged to the OR to pick up a specimen and when I returned I walked into a meeting between my boss and my chinese co-worker (CCW) where she was going over with him which of my projects she wanted him to take over after I left. Since I walked in they asked me to join and started asking me a few questions about my procedures.
So these western blots I’ve been running over the course of the past 3.5 years are part of an absolutely enormous project about menopause and pelvic floor disorders my boss collects tissue from surgeries and we analyze it for different kinds of proteins. In order to make this work over the long term my boss has it set up to use cultured cells from a select one or two patients made in mass. We use the same exact amount from the same exact patient on every single gel we run so we can compare all of them with each other. CCW is in charge of cell culture in the lab so whenever I needed additional control samples he just handed them over.
When she started asking me about my controls I brought out my big binder where I keep all my records. I started pulling out the codes for my controls and my boss almost immediately started flipping out. I had just copied the codes my ccw gave me, I didn’t really know what they meant, but I learned that the codes meant that ccw, rather than giving me a control sample, was giving me whatever random tubes he didn’t need. Without regard to what patient they came from or what hormone treatment they had received. I was livid. My boss was livid. He ruined 3.5 years of data.
But what further infuriated both me and my boss was that he sat there and continued to make excuses. He tried to say “oh but those aren’t my cells they’re Cathy’s” (the woman I replaced 3.5 years ago). My boss said, well then you can just use her cells to finish the project” and then discovered that my coworker had let those cell lines die out and started his own. Which is a huge no-no in research as you’re required to keep everything you publish a paper on for at least 5 years after publication. “Not mine, they’re Cathy’s”… ugh. So then as this heated discussion went on he changed to “but I just gave her those cells for a pilot test” “just for a pilot test” “pilot test” and I finally busted out (with an extremely angry tone) “do you mean to tell me you honestly thought I was doing pilot tests for THREE AND A HALF YEARS?!” UGH. My boss wasn’t going for it either. She said “CCW, we don’t DO pilot tests here, we’re WAY past that”….
That was a Monday. I was so angry with him I couldn’t bring myself to speak to him the rest of the day or the next day. And I’ll admit, at first I felt a little guilty for being so angry. We had a great relationship for the past three years and I was leaving for good in like 2 weeks. Was I really going to spend the next two weeks angry with him and ruin our relationship.
Then the day after I came in in the morning to find this email in my inbox that he sent to my boss and CCd me on:
I am hesitating should I let you know or not, I frankly don’t want to cause anyone any trouble, but I am facing a big trouble of not being able to get good result from enzyme activity assay on tissues. Tuesday, I happened to see the Monday’s tissue specimens sitting in the 4C, I realized this is probably why I got very low collagenase activity from tissue of 50mg (the extraction buffer was confirmed to be of high salt). After 24 hours, most live enzymes in tissue should be gone. And today’s specimen is in 4C too after [SSFB] left. I am processing it now. I don’t know how many specimens were processed in such delayed manner, hopefully, not many.
I am not trying to upset you as we’ve been working together for years, but I don’t want to be blamed for bad activity data or failure in activity assay due to inappropriate tissue processing. I feel bad to have to let [Boss] know.
Oh I was livid. I wanted to take the specimen and throw it at him when he came in that morning. I decided then that yes our relationship truly was over. –So it’s a good thing that he already gave me his wife’s NCLEX practice CDs– I wanted to say, “oh well thank god superman-ccw will be completely responsible for everything in the lab two weeks from now to save it from disaster”. Because I don’t mind telling you that in the past two weeks my boss has voiced on more than one occasion that her biggest concern with me leaving is now he’s going to be in charge and she doesn’t trust him to be responsible for anything. Then I saw my boss had responded:
Thanks [CCW]. It is important to process the samples within 2 hours of receiving them. I am hopeful that the vast majority of samples are treated this way. At the same time, if they are chilled overnight, enzyme activity should still be preserved. Actually, I have mostly noticed specimens left at 4 degrees when [SSFB] is not around. I still think you should be getting enzyme activity – I have done zymography on these specimens and have been able to get an active enzyme. The saline is mostly bad for the biomechanics assays. Lets do this – specimens received during the day until 3 pm will be [SSFB] responsibility. Thereafter, [CCW] will be in charge. All specimens must be processed as soon as possible after receiving them. [CCW], I will need to see you dissect off the epithelium. When [SSFB] is gone, [CCW] will be in charge of all specimens – you will need to wear the beeper. Thanks.
…She added those last few sentences because the week before she called me in huge distress in the morning because no one had picked up the specimen the afternoon before and it was discarded by the OR. She asked me if I gave CCW the pager. I said I did, and I really wished she would have followed that up with “Well did you tell him to answer the pager”… because I would really have liked to reply “no, but he’s 39 years old and this is his 4th year working in the lab so I feel like I shouldn’t have to”… because honestly, if you’re the only person in a room, and a pager goes off, do you think you might be inclined to answer it? I would think so. Obviously CCW doesn’t.
Anyway, that morning my boss came in before CCW and we had a nice discussion before he arrived and our conversation pretty much went like this:
“so when did this big rivalry between you and ccw start” and I said “well I’ve barely been able to bring myself to talk to him since last Monday when I found out he didn’t think my westerns were important enough to warrant an actual control and he could just give me whatever tubes he didn’t need” and she said “I know, but clearly he’s on the attack with you right now so I was just wondering if something else I wasn’t aware of had happened” and I said “no, not that I’m aware of” and she said “Because I tried to answer his email in a very diplomatic fashion but to be honest I’ve only ever noticed specimens not processed when you’re not around and he’s correcting you for something I think I’ve only ever reprimanded him for” … so we chatted for a while and she said she’s really worried about him taking over this enormous menopause database that I’m in charge of and I guess he’s a reviewer for some grant application and sent her this email about how he spent ALL weekend working on it (which, you never want to bitch to Boss about how much time you’re spending on work) and he needed her to review it all before he sent it in and she said “which kind of defeats the purpose of him being an independent reviewer doesn’t it? I just don’t know what to do with him, he’s just so cocky and so incredibly below average… but if I fired him now I’d have no one in the lab…. of course I’d probably get a lot more of these papers written, haha”….
That day she sent ccw and the punk new kid (who is growing on me) an email telling them that I’m in charge and they have to listen to me. (maniacal laugh). That hasn’t worked very well, but it is kind of nice knowing that my boss is totally on my side and has my back. So that’s the official version of the drama between me and ccw. I’m still only talking to him when I absolutely have to, and my irritation level is at an all time high with him. Nearly everything he says to me makes me want to beat him. I won’t, cause I don’t roll like that. But I did really get the urge to throw a nice hunk of stinky monkey vagina at him today.