August 11, 2011

What is going on with my RA job?

I'm working as a research assistant for a professor in another department. She has always treated me kindly -- if anything she worries too much about whether I'm enjoying the work, considering that she pays me -- and I like her a lot. She seemed to really like the work that I did with her during the academic year, and we agreed that I would work about 10 hours per week for her over the summer. Since she knew that I didn't have summer funding, she insisted on paying me in advance, so I have been paid for about two months of work.

But it's August and I have barely done anything, because she just stopped answering my e-mails. She was going to set up a shared drive for us so that I could access the data, and she also said that she would answer my questions about the data that she has given me so far -- she told me some vague plans for the project, but I don't know enough about what I'm looking at, or what she wants, to do anything without more guidance.

About a month ago, I e-mailed her with questions about what I should be doing, and she said she would get back to me the next day -- and then she never responded. I followed-up to suggest that we meet on campus, and she never responded. Yesterday, I e-mailed her again to touch base, but still nothing.

So I've been paid for two months of work, but I haven't done anything, and I can't seem to get in touch with this professor. I know that professors avoid grad students for months at a time, but my experience is that they do respond when you're working on their projects. Wouldn't she want me to move forward with the project? All she has to do is give me the data and the instructions, and then many hours of work will get done for her.

So what is going on? My primary theory is that she has been so distracted and busy with other things, whether it's professional obligations or vacations or family or what, that she hasn't found the time to deal with the project long enough to get me started. But I'm also worried that something else might be going on, because it has been so long since she even contacted me to apologize for not answering my questions. It has reached the point where I've been worried about her, hoping that she is okay.

I've been paid anyway, so I guess I should just wait to see what happens... but if we get to the fall quarter and she still hasn't contacted me, I'm going to owe her a lot of work, and the money will be spent.


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