How to make the most of an nnfulfilling post-doc experience
Before I pose my question, I would first like to describe the circumstances and provide as much "quantitative data" relevant to this as possible.
I am on a leave of absence from a US university for 1 year (2014-2015) and currently working at a lab in France as an Engineer II (let's face it, E2=fancy_way_of_saying(post_doc)). I posted a question about the merits and demerits of doing this a few months back and received some useful feedback (in hindsight obv.!)
I am at an early stage of my career. I received my PhD in Mechanical engineering in 2013. From Aug 2013-May 2014, I worked as a non-tenure track instructor at my US university. I will return to my university in May 2015 to take up a non-tenure track lecturer position. I prefer teaching track to research track. The idea was to diversify my portfolio to work and hence the leave of absence to work as an E2 in France. I am in month 3 of my E2 position.
Gist of current position
To introduce major modifications in a "spaghetti code" developed by my E2 supervisor some 6-7 years ago. The code itself is quite obfuscating and models certain thermal engineering physics problem.
My perceived failings as an E2
The code is obfuscating! No, I am not making excuses but the previous two E2 quit to go on to purportedly greener pastures.
I was given tasks to modify certain aspects of the code and in my opinion (I have no yardstick for comparison), I have not done the best job at it.
Result (for now)
My supervisor has hinted that "we must hurry as there is a deadline next month we must meet" (I did not know of this deadline prior to taking up this position).
I am making a sincere effort to accomplish the tasks but I am not sure if it is my ineptitude or lack of scientific maturity that I constantly see myself failing at my job.
Over the last couple of weeks, my supervisor has not asked me to do any important things with this code/project and I think I have been relegated to "just check the code for mistakes".
Also I find that unlike my previous department head, my current supervisor treats me like a student and is sometimes disparaging in his comments. I suppose this is normal.
Also, what is normal in my current lab is that post-docs share the office space of their supervisors and the supervisors LITERALLY are looking over their shoulders at all time. Yes, I know what LITERALLY means.
I understand that this is a character building exercise for me and I'll treat it as such.
- Do I have a future or am I looking at a premature "pink slip"? My contract doesn't mention conditions of being fired.
- How should I make the most of this situation? I want to have a positive impact on this project which in turn will have a positive impact on my career. Although I am in a teaching track from 2015, I feel that this research experience will only enhance my teaching capabilities.
References I have used to understand this better
However, I would feel better if I got "real time advice" from the diverse membership of this forum.