You’ve been voted off the island

Our group has been shrinking lately. One of the post-docs took off for a new job last week, our German exchange student’s semester-long gig is ending tomorrow, and one of the older students has her defense on Monday and is taking up a post-doc somewhere else next week. Our advisor busted out one of his bottles of champagne last group meeting to properly send off the first two, and I’m sure we’ll be celebrating a bit after the defense.

Still, three leaving students introduces a distinct brain-drain situation. In theory, all of their techniques and methods are recorded in their lab notebooks, which, for legal reasons, actually belong to the group and get left behind when they move out. In theory. Occasionally notebooks disappear with the student, which is a fairly serious No-No, but does happen. More often, things aren’t quite so diligently recorded. We have an former student’s notebook floating around that we like to look at for laughs when we’re feeling down. There is a literally a page that says “Made molecule A, took an NMR spectra. :)” Yes, the smiley face was there. No, he didn’t have anything else to say about the procedure.

Suffice it to say, I’m finding it interesting how the rest of us have been doing last-minute brain-picking to make sure we have what we need from those leaving. The post-doc had a weekly teaching session where he showed us the unwritten tricks of making his molecules (the previous week’s lesson: where all the best napping spots are in the building). I’ve been making the German translate all the foreign words out of his notebook for the rest of us. Still, there’s no way to avoid a loss of expertise when people leave. The next few weeks will probably be full of “Dammit, how did John do this? Someone give me his new phone number.”