I’ve met quite a few arrogant people in my life, and most of them are in science/engineering academia. This definitely includes plenty of students (worse among those striving for advanced degrees), but professors tend to top them all.
So many science/engineering “research professors” claim to (no joke) work in the best college/university in the world, on the best research project in the world, with the best colleagues in the world. Note that “colleagues” invariably refers to other professors, not the students who actually do the work.
If this sounds like you, here’s a tip: If your most high-profile research publication is in the Journal of Offseason Squirrel Mating Practices, “politics” and “bias” are not the reasons why the Nobel Prize Committee has “overlooked” your research program.
I can’t figure out whether science/engineering faculty appointments tend to turn people into arrogant blowhards, or vice versa. That’s a worthy topic of study right there. Without further ado, on to the arrogant odyssey!
High and Mighty Quote 1: “When you think about it in broad terms, all the major scientific advances of the past ten years have been outgrowths of my research program.”
Remarkable! All of chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, physics, psychology, and on and on, wouldn’t be where it is today without your amazing research project that, at the time, had its most high-profile publication in a piddling science journal that no one actually reads. What this professor probably actually meant is that if it’s not related to the professor’s research program, it’s not a “major scientific advance.” That’s no less arrogant.
High and Mighty Quote 2: “He’s lucky he gets paid at all! It’s an honor to work with me.”
As said in response to criticism of whether a graduate student should be forced to sign a new contract, overriding a previous agreement, to work for less money than what was originally agreed. Yeah, it sure is an honor! Please let me work in an environment that pays me (on an hourly basis) less than minimum wage and treats me worse than toilet bowl crust. Pretty please?
High and Mighty Quote 3: “See? You’re not as stupid as you look.”
As said to an undergraduate student after explaining a homework problem (not me, thankfully; I probably would have lost it). Total ass; enough said.
High and Mighty Quote 4: “If I were doing the research, all our papers would be Science papers. But I recognize that you all are just learning to be scientists. I know your data isn’t as good as mine would be. As a professor I have a responsibility to teach the next generation of scientists. It may slow me down, but I gladly accept that responsibility.”
Well, well, you got five papers in Science, received ten multimillion-dollar NIH research grants, won a Nobel Prize, and had a huge diamond-studded, solid gold statue built in your honor, and that was all before you even started research, huh? I’m unworthy to be in your presence.
Here’s a tip: don’t say that to a science postdoc, i.e., someone who has a Ph.D. in science, and has already “learned to be a scientist.” They might slug you.
Originally published Dec. 2014