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Familiar faces and the network analyzer August 9, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, engineering, feminism, teaching.
Tags: ,

I was in a different part of town than normal at lunch time, so I decided to go to my favorite Greek restaurant.  As I was standing in line, waiting to order my gyro, I noticed someone further back in the line.  I recognized the face, but all I could remember at the moment was that I knew this person because he had sneered at me.

After I left, I realized how I knew this person, and why the only thing that came back to me was his sneer.  I still have never been able to understand this particular behavior, but perhaps someone else has an idea.  I found a locked entry in my LJ from about four years ago which recounted the event.  (And those of you who are engineering students – take notice.  It’s rude, don’t do it.  Sadly, I’ve also gotten this attitude from a number of students, as well.)

My classmate/officemate/fellow grad student asked me for help on something in the lab he was TAing. We needed a part (a female to female BNC connector) to calibrate the network analyzer.

We had no such connector, even though it was there a day or two ago.  At that point, it could be anywhere in the building.  I quickly constructed another part that would serve the same purpose. (For those who are interested, I connected a female BNC to N connector to an N barrel to another N to BNC female.) I handed it to the guys (or maybe I should say Guys with a capital G…they’re power engineers, and think dealing with anything less than 20kV is wussy) and said, “Use this.”

Guy #1: “So do you always just put stuff together until it fits?”

Me: “Do you want to do your calibration?”

Guy #1: “Yeah, but isn’t adding more parts going to throw it off?”

My response: “Perhaps, but the network analyzer is looking for a through connection to perform the calibration. This should work just fine since its not going to increase your resistance by that much. Your main concern could be that because it’s longer than the other barrel, you could have some sort of phase shift…but it should only be a little bit.” (I don’t know about you guys, but in re-reading this, it doesn’t sound all that complicated to me.)

Guy #1 stares at me for a moment but says nothing.

I say: “Or I could just be blowing smoke. That sometimes happens, too.”

My officemate sort of smirked and said, “Thanks, Cherish.”

As I was walking out the door, though, I heard Guy #1 say, “That was a long answer to a simple question.”

I told Mike about it. He said that Guy #1’s initial comment was meant to imply that I didn’t know what I was doing, and I responded in a completely appropriate manner (i.e. explaining my reasoning). However, he wasn’t expecting that, so he made the last comment to “save face” in front of his buddies. I guess the conversation didn’t bug me so much (it’s a good idea to ask about someone’s methodology) until I heard the comment on my way out. Mike’s comment was that he couldn’t say it in front of me because then I might have had a chance to respond…but he probably meant it as a dig, which is why he said it as loud as he did.

I don’t get it…I thought they WANTED my help.


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