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How To Survive The Next Meeting With Your PI (Members Only Article)

Every scientist, at one time or another, has avoided meetings with their PI. They are, however extremely important in shaping the direction and progress of your project. Having regular productive meetings with your PI will help maintain a positive working relationship and contribute to the success of your project. Keep the following in mind when planning your next meeting:

  1. Be prepared and organized. Write down a list of issues you want to discuss and prioritize the most pressing. Often your PI may be tight for time and you may not get through everything, so focus on the most urgent issues. Make sure you give yourself time to adequately prepare for the meeting. Plan your day accordingly.
  2. Stick to your plan. During your meeting, the conversation may stray or get interrupted by your supervisors’ phone or an interruption from a colleague. Guide the discussion back to the pressing issue.
  3. Bring your data to the meeting in a well-presented format. Have your data in a format that will work well with your supervisor. Printouts can work well for taking notes. Make sure you have carried out any appropriate statistical or other analysis. If you have repeated an experiment a number of times, your supervisor will want to know if the result is significant or not. Turing up at a meeting without such basic and critical information gives your boss a bad impression and makes your work appear sloppy.
  4. Present your “to do” list. Talk though your future work plan with your supervisor. Make them aware of any equipment breakdowns or consumable supply issues that may affect your work progressing. Also bring up work you wish to stop doing or spend less time on to focus on more pressing matters.
  5. Build up your relationship with your supervisor. While it is important to prepare well for these meetings and conduct them in a professional manner, the relationship you have with your PI is critical. Where appropriate, allow room for informal chit chat. This can make your meeting more relaxed. Remember, your PI is human and was in your shoes at one point, too.
  6. Dealing with unexpected criticism. Even with careful planning, your meeting may not go according to plan. Your supervisor may not be happy with your work progress and experimental data. If this happens, forget about the agenda of issues you set out to discuss. Focus on the issues your supervisor has brought up. Work through them in a calm manner and come to an agreement with your supervisor about how to go about amending these issues.
  7. Put things in writing. If your boss is a bit scatty or you have had communication issues in the past, follow up your meeting with an email. Set out the work plan you and your PI agreed on and the timeframes involved. This will show your PI that you had a clear understanding of what was discussed in the meeting.
  8. Show appreciation and understanding. If your supervisor gives you back a corrected manuscript on schedule, thank them. On the other hand, remember they have a hectic schedule and you are not the only person requiring their attention.

What are your tips for surviving a meeting with your PI?

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