My name is Joseph and I am doing my Research Doctorate in Biology at the University of Bari. My experience in the laboratory, which still continues today, began about two years before writing my graduate thesis, while doing an internship in an immunology lab.
Since the very first months of this experience, I was struck by an attitude that the researchers I was working with naturally displayed, but which I did not like at all. In fact, there was an extreme jealousy between them over the protocols that were optimized for the experiments for which one was responsible, or over the “recipes” of strange reagents used. This was certainly due to the intense work of reading numerous scientific publications on the part of those researchers, and this explained the total attachment they had to their protocols. A while later, when I had established more confidential relationships with them, they explained to me, almost with a smile, that there is generally a lot of jealousy over these protocols because they give the researcher an exclusive importance, so that “one cannot do without him/her.”
I, who during my previous 5 years of university, had tried to live my studies with detachment: from my own notes or the professors’ lecture notes. I was used to a sharing among my colleagues that I could no longer find in the laboratory.
After my graduate studies, I began my Doctorate, and I was the one who was entrusted with graduate students, and I absolutely wanted to avoid that they would have the same sensation that I had experienced.
Each researcher has a register book to record protocols and data from their experiments… and I also have one. In remembering those researchers who locked their notebooks away, I decided to leave my notebook on my desk, available to everyone.
I confess that when I saw the other researchers going through my register book, I was torn between taking it out of their hands or pretending that I did not notice. Fortunately this indecision lasted only a few seconds because then I remembered my university years and the happiness that I had experienced after having “given” something, a hand perhaps, to one of my colleagues.
Slowly it became increasingly natural to see the register book in the hands of everyone… and one day I saw that one of my colleagues had also left her register book on her desk. This was something wonderful for me because I felt that our individualism was beginning to give way, even if not everyone was aware of it!
When colleagues from other laboratories come to visit me, not being used to this way of sharing, they ask me many questions, almost “hungry for science” in their attempts to understand the methods and protocols used; can you imagine their surprise when they saw that it was all available to them!
This way of behaving is risky because, in losing exclusive rights, I am not longer indispensable, but stronger than the risk factor is the awareness of building relationships with those who work with me; new, sincere and true ones.
Another small experience that I lived at work was when I participated in a competition for a scholarship, held last August, which a number of us took part in. Such a competition could have given me the guarantee of a stipend even after the end of my doctoral studies (which is in three months). A colleague of mine also participated in the competition, who has been working with me in the laboratory for two years as a volunteer. The competition took place and I came out in 1st place. In speaking with my colleague, I understood that it was not right to assure myself a “future” when my expenses where already presently covered by a scholarship, and hers were not. I thus did not accept the scholarship. Many told me that I was making a stupid mistake that I would later regret. This has not yet happened; in fact, my conviction is always stronger that only in this way could I have the guarantee that our work relationships will continue to be sincere and special, even if I have to risk my future because, in the end, “good always wins out.”