A fictitious/sarcastic email disguised as a job opening from The Interdisciplinary Centre for Advanced Materials Simulation (ICAMS) at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany for a post-doctoral researcher to study “Atomistic simulations of structural rearrangements at solid-solid interfaces” was recently posted. Shortly after the announcement was posted the email below was sent to the PSI-K community – a network created by researchers all over Europe to facilitate cooperation and collaboration in the field of electronic structure calculations. Members usually use the PSI-K listserv to distribute and receive information about workshops, conferences and job announcements.
Subject: [ PSI-K ] postdoc position at Department Atomistic Simulation ICAMS Ruhr-Univ. Bochum
From: juttar ogal
Date: 09-Sep-2011 17:57
I am desperately searching for eager victims – postdocs or PhD students – mine or other supervisors’ – to make my workhorses and to plunder ideas from. I am a dirty Hun who seethes from jealousy out of every pore. I cannot do research myself because I’m narrow-minded, rigid-brained, and petty. Therefore, I have to recruit desperate scientists from anywhere in the world and then manage (harangue) them into submission. The smarter you are relative to me, the more I will hate you. If you complain, you will be threatened by my gang of goons – faculty and administration are all allied with me in order to achieve our clan’s goal of world domination which has eluded us for the last century or so. The reward for taking up this Faustian bargain with me is good renumeration – but if you start to complain or expose the secret of my incompetence to others, especially outsiders, then you will be let go as we cannot tolerate traitors within our ranks. ALL credit for your work will go to me and my gang of inbred dullards, not to you. We are ruthless gangsters who recruit legitimate scientists from all over the world to do our work because we cannot do any of it ourselves – due to severe brain rigidity brought about by centuries of inbreeding the traits of blind obedience, robotization, and general dullness. The techniques which we employ to keep these victims productive is nagging, threats and psychological abuse, facilitated by the university’s administration. Eventually, the victims give up all credit for their research to us. I have no conscience since I am a psychopath. I am entitled to success because supremacy is my birthright.
Please send your CV and three references to [removed]
The above email (and another I did not see) was soon followed by a message from the PSI-K Chairman and Vice Chairman:
Dear Psi-k members,
We want to shortly comment on the two e-mails sent last Friday by the fake user “juttar ogal”. This was an unfortunate misuse of the Psi-k mailing list. Fortunately up to now it was also the only incident noted. Obviously, these e-mails were not sent by our long term Psi-k member and highly respected scientist Jutta Rogal.
We are very sorry that this has happened and will take appropriate measures for the future.
With best regards,
Peter Dederichs Walter Temmerman
Psi-k Chairman Psi-k Vice Chairman
Prof. Peter H. Dederichs
PGI, Forschungszentrum Jülich
D-52425 Jülich, Germany
Who sent the emails? A disgruntled employee? An aspiring comedian trying to reach a larger audience? The email is clearly over the top, yet many employees can relate to some of the messages embedded in the hyperbole. Post docs and graduate students acknowledge that we are working to make our advisers famous or more famous. We know that we may not receive full credit for fame-inducing ideas.
Additionally, there are few options for graduate students and postdocs disgruntled with their bosses. Human relation’s resources are limited or underutilized in science departments. A conflict between an adviser and a graduate student results in the student joining another research group or leaving school. Postdocs move on to a new position, assuming they receive a reasonable letter of recommendation.
So is the best way to deal with these issues an anonymous, inflammatory email? Probably not. But we should acknowledge that this response alludes to greater issues within the system.