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  1. I have had issues with my lab-mate since I began my PhD work last August. I entered the program with a MS. I have to keep the details vague due to the immensity of this situation. I joined a lab of two other graduate students, let’s call them Sarah and Veronica. I entered the lab at the same time as a lab tech, John. When I interviewed for the lab I sensed that something was off with the graduate student dynamic. Which, in hindsight, should have been a red flag. Sarah became the person that my PI wanted me to work with. Our research areas overlapped and she was a very smart, productive student. I was even placed on a side-project with her. It soon became evident that she was a very controlling/micromanaging person. She works seven days a week and is always in lab. This personality type is very common in the sciences, so I wasn’t immediately put off. I did however have problems with how she talked about people. She held no trust for anything that anyone did. She ridiculed the skill set and work ethic of others constantly. She was also very close with my advisor. She was deemed that she was the only person in lab that was allowed to mix solutions. She was also the only person in lab training John and myself, even though Veronica is the most senior student. John was placed on a project using techniques that only Sarah uses. He had previous experience with these techniques. His results showed consistent, unexplainable contamination. He spent many weeks troubleshooting this work and eventually had one successful run. He was then taken off of the project, because of the failed attempts. I worked on a protocol that takes three days to complete where my materials must sit out in lab for three days. The first time that Sarah trained me my results were, “better than she had ever gotten them to work”. I then spent months trying to replicate them. Each time I would run this work I would get weak to no signal in the results. I knew that I was following the protocol. Other people weren’t having any issues, including undergrads. I even ran at the same time as Sarah using all of the same materials. Still the same result of nothing happened. Each week I went to my PI with zero data. I am not uncomfortable with laboratory procedures and didn’t have any problems with them during my masters. I optimized an old protocol of Sarah’s (tweaking concentrations) and began another type of lab work. It was working with beautiful results. Sarah began to hover over me. She began to go through my notebook every time I turned my back. She was monitoring me and tattling to my advisor about solution volumes and concentrations. She told me that my methodology was completely inconsistent. I asked her why she thought that, because I knew that I was doing everything in my power to reduce variation. She was talking about a run from 1.5 months prior in which one of my 5’s looked slightly like a 3. It had been consistent. It seemed she was looking for problems. This is when I started to think that she may be sabotaging my lab work. I talked to Veronica. I told her that I couldn’t breathe in lab and that her level of micromanagement was not appropriate. I then told her that I felt crazy, but I was starting to think she could be sabotaging me. Veronica’s face dropped and she said, “I wish I could dispel that completely. There is no proof, but other’s have felt this way as well.” She explained that her and a previous lab mate had thought that. I was terrified at this point. Things escalated with her and I was very paranoid. I talked to John and said the same thing, “I feel crazy, I feel like she is messing with my stuff.” He then told me that he had thought the same thing. He said that he put out decoy reagents and hid his reagents. That was when he had the one successful run. This fact only furthered my suspicions. I waited for her to go out of town for a conference and performed the protocol that had not worked for me since the very first run. It worked. I didn’t do anything differently. I had spent over 300 hours and thousands of grant money troubleshooting this. It worked. When she came back, she was very off. She spent three hours in my advisors office having what Veronica said was an existential crisis. Veronica claimed that Sarah said, “If science is going to make me a bad person, I think I should quit.” I have now had two more successful runs. Now I am at a crossroads. I think she will back off, but I can’t be certain. I now have complete disdain for Sarah, yet have to see her everyday. I can’t talk about it to my PI, because it is such a bold accusation without concrete proof. This could result in funding being pulled or affect my PI’s tenure. I also believe it be a disservice to the scientific community as a whole to let an individual like this continue. At this point, all I can do is get past it or provide evidence. I can’t focus to write or read. If anyone can give me advice I would be very gracious to hear it. Thank you for letting me get this off my chest.
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