It is the beginning of fall semester and the air is full of first year graduate students talking about how they are going to finish their PhDs early.
Being new to the field, my guess is they are unaware of the existence of arbitrary rules. These rules have developed over time, being passed down from one graduate student to another as a sort of unwritten code.
(are you enjoying reading the unwritten?)
Interaction with Fellow Students:
Arbitrary rules exist to teach first year students to respect authority. They are not written down or verbalized, however you will be scolded for not knowing them.
“Where is the HEPES buffer?”
“It should be in the bottom of the fridge.”
“Yeah, checked there…”
1st Yr: Oh, I put it on the top shelf
“What! You’re only supposed to put salts on the top shelf. All Good buffers are supposed to be kept on the bottom shelf.”
(Thanks a lot 1st year for turning my day into a living hell)
In addition, arbitrary rules teach 1st year students to respect their elder students.
“Where is the TEV protease?”
(The answer will depend on the seniority of the person asking):
1st year: “In the -80.”
2nd year: “2nd shelf in the -80″
3rd year: “2nd shelf from the top in the -80″
4th year: “2nd shelf from the top, behind Jill’s box in the -80″
5th year: “Let me show you”
The first year gets the pleasure of digging through the entire -80, while the 5th year is shown where the TEV protease is located.
Interaction with Your Lab:
The first couple of weeks in the lab are going to be like a depressing Easter egg hunt.
To give you a false sense of security, we have labeled most of the drawers and cabinets. However, you will soon realize that the cabinets that hold what you are looking for, do not have a label.
The way you learn this lesson is by looking through every cabinet and drawer, again and again. For your personal enjoyment, we have also placed deceiving labels on some cabinets, like ‘Glassware’, which will (obviously) contain plastic funnels.
Interaction with Your Boss:
Arbitrary rules are complex enough that your boss will never figure them out.
I find it funny when 1st year students think they can get around the arbituary rules. They will ask your boss where an item is located and after 5 minutes of failing to find
anything what they are looking for, they will ask one of the more senior students.
This makes the 1st year feel a little off because they’ve seemingly wasted the boss’s time when they could have just asked a senior student.
And now you know the answer: In the -80.