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The Shittest Supervisor of Them All

January 11, 2013


Imagine you are young, full of life, eager to change the world, and bursting with enthusiasm.  You are a PhD student!  You have embarked on a scientific career, where your brain power alone will literally change the world.  You will discover things hitherto unknown.  You are a God amongst women! Your balls are massive!

Your quest for success will be perilous though.  You will encounter many trials and tribulations.  You will face hostility from editors, reviewers, and colleagues, and you will be embroiled in conflicts at the upper echelons of academia.  Carnivorous cenozoic dinosaurs will try to squish the ambitions of young whippersnappers like you, and you will surely face defeat if you are not well equipped.

But fear not!  You have been entrusted with a Guardian.  You have been granted a Supervisor!  This Angel of Light will train you in the Art of Science.  They will guide you in your first forrays, and help you find your feet.  They will train you and shape your overwhelming excitement into deadly empirical weapons.  In a few years you will master all the necessary skills for a career of discovery.

So it is written, and so it should be.  Except that the Gift of Supervision is not bestowed to all.  Some of us are hindered even at the outset, by having been betrothed to The Shittest Supervisor of Them All (TSSoTA).

TSSoTA’s crimes won’t be listed here.  There aren’t enough bits on the internet.  But their single greatest sin should be aired as a warning to all.

All that a Supervisor needs to do to avoid becoming TSSoTA is to keep their students’ flame alight.  All that they need to do is prevent their students’ interest and enthusiasm for science from expiring.  This may be hard with all the setbacks a student will naturally face, but if you, as a supervisor, become the student’s greatest obstacle, you have failed.  You are a shit supervisor.

TSSoTAs snuff their students out.  They choke them with narrow-minded pettifogging, turning minor details into insurpassable hurdles.   They crush them with their abhorent lack of empathy.  They single-handedly prevent their students from flourishing.  They snip the roots of their students’ passion and drain their thirst for growth, making them feel like they will never sprout new shoots.  TSSoTAs actively block every sign of initiative, or every spark of genius with their corpulent mediocrity.  They will purposively discourage a student from aiming for higher goals, for setting the bar high, for trying to reach the unreachable.  They will drag their students down into the fetid swamps of obscurity that they call home, and try to keep them there so that the misery might be shared and their burden eased.

Words can’t express the indignation I feel when imbeciles like these are given the responsibility over a student’s life.  It is an honour to be awarded the stewardship of a bright and inquisitive mind.  The damage done by a TSSoAT will far far outlast the time they spend crippling their student.  Shit supervisors, you are all bastards, and you should be treated as such.  You should be stripped of your standing and shelved.

Rant over.


From → Macademia

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