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Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Get Out of my Brain
Yesterday, while I was reading an obscure article for the dissertation, I had a brainstorm: the obscure article pointed me in the direction of a source of data I hadn't thought about before, a little-used procedure most people don't even know exists. The data, provided I could get ahold of them, would provide another interesting angle on my dissertation topic and a huge complement to my case studies. Brilliant! This morning, I set off in search of the actual data for the case studies I'm writing about, eventually dismayed by just how difficult this information is to find.

I decided to Google a few key terms to find other possible ways to get the information. Among my Google hits was the name of a professor at Well-Known University, a man who does the same type of work I do but who uses a different methodology. He's published all over the place -- it was after reading one of his articles, in fact, that I came up with the idea for my dissertation.

This guy drives me a little crazy, to be honest. I feel like he's always two steps ahead of my thinking. He's really good at what he does, his work is first-rate, he's a nice guy on top of it... but can't I come up with a good idea FIRST for once? In my Googling this morning I uncovered an unpublished, recent (i.e., written in the last few months) article by him using the EXACT same obscure data that I was just thinking of using in my dissertation. Granted, he doesn't use it in the way that I want to use it, but he does use it to prove a similar point to the one I'm making. This is not the first time this has happened. Throughout the prospectus and dissertation process, I have continually found that this man is on my same wavelength, making similar arguments using a different methodology. And he's FAST about it. This guy cranks out articles like pancakes.

Sure, he's a tenured professor with lots of experience. Sure, I'm a nobody professor-to-be who is just getting her feet wet in a very, very complicated subfield in which I've had no formal training (in that my graduate program had no one specializing in this subfield while I was taking classes). Sure, it's nice to know that my ideas aren't wacky, and that someone of his stature is onto the same things. But just once -- just ONCE -- I'd like to do something novel that he hasn't already done. And I'd like HIM to say -- just ONCE -- "That Prof. Me is just so doggone clever... why didn't I think of that?"
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 1/10/2006 01:24:00 PM  
4 Words of Wisdom:
  • At 3:44 PM, Blogger ScienceWoman said…

    I feel like that about my advisor sometimes. I feel like I am trying to "out-idea" him. On the rare occasions that I succeed, I feel like I am really earning my Ph.D.

  • At 7:38 PM, Blogger BrightStar said…

    Maybe I would have asked this dude to be an external member on my committee? Or I'd try to collaborate with him in the future. My theory is -- try to join them rather than beat them.

    But you ARE doggone clever and you will have that moment when people see that.

  • At 7:52 PM, Blogger Prof. Me said…

    Thanks for the comments. Actually, I did ask him to be on my committee and he read the prospectus and liked it -- he was waaaay overcommitted at his own school, however, and had to decline to serve on yet another committee. (See, I told you he was smart.)

    I'd love to collaborate with him at some point -- our work is very different methodologically, but the ideas converge at many points.

  • At 10:16 AM, Blogger academic coach said…

    In the meantime, send him a very brief email telling him an appropriate version of the story you just told here.

    Even though he is smart and prolific he will appreciate having his good idea noticed.

    That he "got to it first" doesn't matter for your diss - but does for post-diss publishing - drat it all.

    I hate the feeling of being scooped.

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