this letter (Figure 1) I felt the chills all over, once again. It wasn't the first time I heard that students were treated like slaves but this poor guy was a postdoc and the letter was an official one.
Signed by Erick Carreira (then at Caltech but now at ETH Zürich), this piece of paper is a rock solid evidence of how much a "mentor" can take advantage of his/her flock. And none can do anything about it. Hats off to Guido Koch for his courage to get this published.
The horror stories of E. J. Corey (see the late Jason Altom for example) are still in the minds of many but what troubles me is these people are still freely walking among us.
Some would think that if one enters to these hell-labs on his/her own will, they deserve to be treated this way, but in most cases I encountered you don't know the persona of the boss unless you are in his/her group. Even then, it may take time to see the real face of the monster. There are no websites or forums available to learn about the professors' characters. Nobody seems to be willing to speak openly either. This is a true vicious cycle and in the end some even gets away with a murder.
There is a guide to mentors at Nature and three items are highlighted for a balanced mentoring: "Accessibility, optimism, guided independence". Maybe someone should create a "Mentor Index" based on these scoring advisors by their treatment of students. This would make being a graduate student a much less riskier (or fatal) profession.