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Advice on potential lab situations

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by maldon, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. maldon

    maldon 2+ Year Member

    Oct 28, 2011
    Hi guys, I'm an M1 currently in the process of picking his rotations. I was wondering if I could get your advice about a dilemma I find myself in....

    Two of my top choices for lab rotations have serious question marks. Lab A is my dream lab. Unfortunately it's also a dream lab for pretty much every other MD/PhD student and spots are hard to get. For good reason too, the PI is from all accounts a great mentor who gets her students out on time and the research is really interesting with immediate medical implications.

    I've talked to the PI about rotating there this summer but she says she's at capacity in terms of students for the next 2-3 years until one of her PhD only students has graduated. She has however given me the option of rotating there to pick up some techniques. Normally, this would be an open-shut case for me and I would not do it. But she also hinted at the possibility that rotating this summer could open the door for joining the lab in 2-3 years.

    Lab B is also a solid lab but smaller and less well established. The PI is an assistant professor with one R01 to his name and high impact publications in Nature and Science. But he's never mentored an MD-PhD before.The other major issue here is that the lab's funding expires after this summer meaning that the funding might not be there for me in a year when it's time to join a lab.

    I guess my question is if it's worth doing a rotation in either of these labs. I know we only get so many bullets and rotations should not be used lightly.
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  3. gbwillner

    gbwillner Pastafarian Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    I would skip both of these labs.

    A- are you saying you would switch into this lab from another after a year or two of grad school? If that is the case, hells no. If you ahve a chance of going straight into this lab then ok.

    B- no. no money means no lab. Times are tough, and I would only rotate in well established, bulletproof labs. There have got to be more than two options for you.
  4. maldon

    maldon 2+ Year Member

    Oct 28, 2011
    Regarding A: I was a little bit confused about this point as well. In the PI's words, I could still make a decision about which lab to join in the first year of grad school as I would mostly be taking classes during G1. She also said that if she could acquire more funding in the upcoming cycle that it would be possible to add one more grad student.

    There's a lot of moving targets in both these labs. My gut instinct is to go for something more stable with multiple R01s. But I also know myself and that I would thrive best in a smaller lab. I did a rotation in an extremely well-funded lab with multiple R01s but it was huge and easy to get lost in the shuffle.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm looking for that sweet spot between a small, tight-knit lab group and a large extremely well funded science-factory.
  5. gbwillner

    gbwillner Pastafarian Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Well funded and respected does not always mean a mega large lab. I recommend you keep looking. And it sounds like the situation in lab A may not be so bad after all.
  6. gutonc

    gutonc No Meat, No Treat Administrator Physician PhD 10+ Year Member

    Mar 6, 2005
    A fibrotic stroma
    As someone who went for "small, decently funded, tight knit", absolutely follow the money. While it's true that "well funded" doesn't always mean huge, it's becoming more common in the current funding environment.

    That said, I agree with gbwillner that you probably have more than 2 options and that, depending on how your program is set up, lab A doesn't sound all that bad.

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