Laboratory assistant etiquette?

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Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2011 5:31 am

Laboratory assistant etiquette?

Post by atg » Mon Dec 05, 2011 5:44 am


So I'm not sure if this is the correct place to post this, but I thought I'd try. I'm in my junior year of undergrad, majoring in biology and I recently began working in a research laboratory. This lab does not take on many undergrads and I'm not work-study (ugh) and thus my PI said he'd see how I worked out and then offer me a job based on my initial performance. So I completed a project for him and he decided to hire me and he even said he'd try to pay me (exciting! Non-work study undergrads never get paid! Well, here, at least).

The next project he assigned me involved one of the graduate students training me on a particular piece of equipment. I go to a top university in the U.S., so our graduate students are very busy people. So we've rescheduled the training about three times now because the grad student forgot about me or got busy with something else. The third time he said we'd have to reschedule after Thanksgiving break and I told him to just let me know whenever he wanted to do it but I haven't heard back from him so far (That was about a week and a half ago, the project was assigned about three-four weeks ago).

I really don't mind any of this because I'm a lowly undergrad lol and I know he's probably really busy, but I feel rather useless. Also, my PI is supposed to be petitioning for me to get paid and I haven't even been in the lab in the past three weeks except to show up, realize my grad student had forgotten me, and leave after calling him. I've never worked in a research laboratory. Should I be doing something to help my graduate student/PI? I'm a bit worried about approaching either of them like "It's been 3-4 wks since I was supposed to start this....?" because I don't want to push the graduate student or annoy my PI or get my grad student in trouble.... I'm confused. Politics! Everyone seems really nice, though, I just feel like a horrible employee. If I do start getting paid and the grad student is still busy, I thought I could just ask people if they needed anything done that they really didn't want to do? But I really want to avoid annoying people/getting in the way, obviously.

And I don't think this is something that I could/should just learn on my own, by the way, but I could be wrong about that. Just because people tend to frown on untrained people handling expensive equipment by themselves.

Again, I'm not complaining at all, I'm just worried that I'm doing something really wrong. But I haven't heard from my PI since the project was assigned or my grad student since a week and a half ago, so maybe no one cares and I'm worrying for no reason. It seems like they would contact me if they needed me. I think? Any thoughts? I'm sorry this is so long. Hopefully someone will read it.