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How to do with jealousy of new grad student in lab?


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Hi everybody,

I am a first year graduate student and am the first student in my lab (brand new professor/PI). I love my project, and get along great with the two post-docs and my PI, but there were just interviews of the new potential incoming class and my PI talked to a student that I can tell he absolutely loves. He has been gushing about this student to myself and the post-docs, saying how excited he was and that he hopes that he'll at least rotate in our lab.

Now, maybe I'm just being paranoid because my project is in a bit of a rut, but I can't help but feel super anxious that I'm going to get shelved if this student joins our lab and hence get little to no guidance from my PI. Based on the nature of my project (and the fact I'm relatively new to a lot of these techniques), he's been really involved in the process, and I'm worried that having this student join will completely change this dynamic.

Am I crazy? Has anyone else had to deal with this? I don't know how to communicate these worries to my PI without sounding like a jealous older sibling fighting for my parents' attention.

Thanks for reading!

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There's no way one other grad student would significantly change the dynamic or the amount of time you would spend with your professor. I think you are a bit crazy, and I don't think there's anyway to communicate this to your PI without sounding immature. In fact you should support your PI in growing his lab and research group. Having other students can be really helpful to you too, somebody to bounce ideas off of.

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I think "crazy" is a bit harsh. I would say that as a new grad student these feelings are perfectly normal, but I would not act on them. Try to think about how this new student could inspire you, always search for the bright spot in situations. Don't stress unless the time calls for it.

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Perhaps I should have put "crazy" in quotation marks. I was just pulling from the word she used for effect.

FWIW, by my reading, the quotation marks were implied.
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Its a natural feeling, but one you have to get over. As you progress through your training, you need less and less hands on mentorship from your boss. In fact you start resembling more of a colleague than a noobish trainee by the time you are done. Your job begins to become mentoring the new student in the lab but only if you are way senior than they are.

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I completely understand your anxiety, but perhaps you could think of this new student as a boon to your research/education. Perhaps I am way off base, but if a new hot shot came into my group I would be slightly threatened. However, even though you are developing into a competitive researcher, you are also in grad school to learn as much as you can from every source/experience that you can get your hands on. Like ktel said, you could bounce ideas off of this person, learn what they know, and benefit from a fresh perspective. Unfortunately, you will always encounter new hot shots, but it is better to learn how to work with them rather than waste time comparing yourself to them.

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The other thing is that you have to get comfortable in who you are and what you are doing. Like others said, it's only natural to compare yourself to others - but if that other person is a superstar, realize that there's a reason for the word "superstar." They're unusual. I, personally, have become content with the fact that I am a great but not superstar-esque graduate student. I also ask my advisor to evaluate my progress periodically and he has no negative comments, instead saying that I am in the right place for my advancement. The more confident and comfortable with your own abilities you become, the less threatened you will feel by someone new doing more work than you.

Besides, that person may motivate you to work a little harder. Who knows, you may become friends! Or at least civil colleagues.

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Your feelings are only human, and it's good that you're attempting to deal with them. Understand that your professor is not reflecting on YOUR abilities or place in the lab. The professor wants to build the lab up, and is excited that (YET ANOTHER, AFTER YOU) awesome student is joining! I would make sure to befriend this student and learn from them. View it as positive--this new hotshot student might be joining YOUR lab. It is so much better than having a terrible student, right?

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I agree with the posters above. Feeling a little jealous is normal, and it's good that you're acknowledging the feeling and that it "might" become detrimental. I think that since you're aware of this yourself, you won't let it get the better of you.

With that said, and this is a TAD off topic but... when the New Student arrives there might be some initial uncomfortable feelings. The Newbie might feel a little insecure too, or rather he/she might feel that they have to prove they're really good enough. Given that your professor is so enthusiastic, the Newbie might feel that they have a lot to live up to and perhaps for the first few months might go to extra lengths to "shine". Also your professor *might* spend a little more time with the Newbie initially (to make them feel welcome, get him/her acclimated etc).. This *might* result in heightened feelings of jealousy on your end...

I suggest making friends with the newbie - or at least being open to the idea of building a good relationship - 1) so that you can gain the benefits of their knowledge and insight as suggested above 2) because you are going have to work with this person for a while and 3) your feelings of jealousy can melt away once you know him/her as a person and see that they have a couple of flaws too. (we all do, right?)

Good Luck :)

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