I am a PhD student in a lab in a well known university. I am not sure if I should just ignore this although it has been bothering me for a really long time. My project relies on help from the IT person in my lab who would maintain the database so that we can have the data coming in. However, during last years there are countless times when the database was down and we lost data due to this issue. Everytime it went down I was the first one to find out and contact the IT person, but they never replied to my email within a day, usually they ignored me for days until I or other people in my project reach out again. Due to their lack of communication, my project lost a lot of good data and the data quality is critical for generating good results. I am not sure why my PI never said anything about this but I am very troubled by this IT person.

I have tried talked to this IT person about it and asked if I did anything wrong , but they said everything is fine between us. But still they never really replied to my emails. My PI also doesn't seem to care about it at all. However, my PhD is sort of depending on the data we collect and this IT person's lack of communication and not helpful has made us lose fair amount of data. I am not sure what to do, I respect my PI since they gave me a good project and opportunity for studying in a PhD program, but dealing with the IT person feels traumatizing because I constantly wait for their email reply since we need to know that the database is fixed before meeting with our study's candidates. I am not sure if this is a toxic environment or if there is anything I should do to improve myself. Any advice is appreciated.

  • 1
    Is this "IT person" an actual IT person? Or are they, say, another student or technician with a host of other responsibilities?
    – Bryan Krause
    Dec 29, 2022 at 3:46
  • "I constantly wait for their email reply" Why not pick up the phone to call the IT person?
    – Nobody
    Dec 29, 2022 at 3:47
  • They are basically the technician for our lab, I believe my PI would be their boss.
    – Molly Ryan
    Dec 29, 2022 at 4:03
  • I don't have their phone number and they were not nice to me so even if I do I would not call them. They have walked away from me during our conversations in person every time we had spoke, so I do not want to speak with them on the phone either.
    – Molly Ryan
    Dec 29, 2022 at 4:05
  • Can you set up your own database, so you can store your data in it, and no longer rely on your IT? I had a very similar problem once, and I worked around it by first storing my data in MS Excel, and eventually setting up my own MariaDB under WSL. :) If this sounds hard, it shouldn't. Most PhD students can do it. Dec 29, 2022 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


This really does seem like an issue that you have to take up again with your PI. You aren't the boss of your IT person, and you have no leverage that you can employ other than an appeal to their sense of fairness or reasonableness. But they might have other commitments and demands that you don't know about. It might also be, for example, that their employment conditions mean that they don't get paid for responding on particular days, or during particular hours; again, something of which you are likely to have no knowledge.

On the other hand, it is the apparent unconcern of your PI that is most striking and troubling. I think if I were in your shoes, I would try to document, in some detail, the effect that computer/database outages are having on your project, and then try to have a discussion with your PI about what can be done about it.

Unless your PI specifically brings it up, I see no reason at all to mention emailing or contacting the IT person. Simply talk to your PI about it as a problem of system unreliability that is having a wide impact. For example, "Sometimes the computer goes down, and the database might be offline for several days at a time, during which time it isn't possible to gather or retrieve any data. It's having X effect on the project overall, and Y effect on my capacity to get on with my research. "

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