This originally went up 28 Sept, 2009.
Female Science Professor related a tale of a scientist directing inter-laboratory rivalry in a remarkably petty direction:
Now consider a different situation - one in which a faculty member in Research Group 1 tells a recent PhD graduate of Research Group 2 that the student made a huge mistake in choice of adviser and had probably ruined his/her career by working with this person.
FSP has a nice dissection of laboratory conflict going but I was struck by a simple thought.
I must've ruined my career a half a dozen times...so far.
I can date my self-defeating, science-career-ruining behavior back at least to the selection of an undergraduate institution which didn't have a research focus. It was a small school where the professors were expected primarily to teach, shouldered a heavy teaching load at that and only rarely engaged in primary research. I then picked an unfortunate major, considering the eventual direction of my career.
I wasn't done.
I picked, by many measures, a disastrous laboratory in which to conduct graduate studies...and went on to some additional mistakes and choices of the career-ruining nature later.
To all appearances I still have a career.
Don't get me wrong- I don't recommend that anyone do things the way I have. I believe that I've survived in my career more by dumb luck than by making the right moves. There is little doubt that many things would have gone (and be going) better for me had I avoided some career-ruining mistakes. Lessons learned the hard way seems to be my stock in trade.
Nevertheless there is a positive lesson which is that it is frequently possible to overcome such obvious career-ending errors such as training in the wrong lab. Frequently. And I expect that the comments will contain some allusions to supposed career-ruining moves made by the commentariat.
When someone says that a person has ruined their career, particularly to a newly-minted PhD, they are full of petty vindictive crap.