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Difficulty getting in contact with my PI

rechemist

Full Member
Dec 6, 2019
14
4
26
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
I am doing a summer research program, but because of COVID-19, it has gone completely virtual. However, my PI and his grad students are in the lab in-person and have been for the past few weeks. I am not allowed to be on campus working with them since I am an undergrad. This is a 45-day program and I am now 9 days into it with no luck in setting up an appointment time with him. I have given him my availability, suggestions for times we can meet this past week, and my contact information, but he chose to ignore these aspects of my email and instead vaguely stated that we would meet sometime "soon" in an email sent 5 days ago. This has happened twice now, where I suggest a meeting time and he pushes it off without clarifying when he can meet.

I don't want to get him or myself in trouble by bringing this up with the program supervisor; she expects us to have been meeting somewhat consistently (at least 1-2 a week), and most of the other undergrads have been meeting on a daily basis, are sitting in on virtual lab meetings, are being guided by mentors, and have been given projects to work on. I feel completely in the dark because I don't know what my project is, I don't know when or if his lab has meetings and I have no clue if I can sit in on them because they may be in-person, I don't know if I have a mentor at all and I cannot even get in touch with him. My PI has made a habit of waiting a few days to respond to my emails and I am frustrated because I want to get involved but have no means of doing so. Would it be annoying to send a third email in a row? Should I bring this up with the program supervisor? She asked us to let her know if we had any difficulty getting in touch on the second day and I did not say anything because at that point, he had sent me an email the day before and seemed willing to cooperate. Now I'm not so sure and I feel like too much time has passed for me to admit that I have done nothing.
 
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lumya

Indoor Cat
2+ Year Member
Aug 7, 2018
704
1,402
126
  1. Medical Student
1) Try emailing one of the graduate students. I once worked with a PI who was so scattered brained I literally had to stand over him to make sure he finished some of the required tasks. Having someone physically present asking him will help remind him.
2) Just email the program supervisor. Say you're having difficulties coordinating with your PI and if she could help mediate. You won't be "getting him in trouble." He agreed to take on an undergrad and you're early enough where either you can still make this work, or the program supervisor can help you find a new PI if yours is too busy right now.
 
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Fidelio17

Full Member
2+ Year Member
Mar 30, 2017
82
153
116
  1. Medical Student
Reach out to the program supervisor. (Send her an e-mail right now, or call her first thing in the morning.) Let her know what you said here, and that you don't want to be annoying, but at this point you need help because effectively you don't have a summer research program. Say you're embarrassed you waited this long, but you were afraid of getting him in trouble & thought he would come through.

There will be lots of these things in medicine - learning to firmly yet tactfully advocate for yourself will be helpful now & in the future. There is still a good bit of the program left - if you speak up now there's a change they can either nudge him to participate or transfer you to someone else who will take you on.

Best of luck!
 
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rechemist

Full Member
Dec 6, 2019
14
4
26
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
1) Try emailing one of the graduate students. I once worked with a PI who was so scattered brained I literally had to stand over him to make sure he finished some of the required tasks. Having someone physically present asking him will help remind him.
2) Just email the program supervisor. Say you're having difficulties coordinating with your PI and if she could help mediate. You won't be "getting him in trouble." He agreed to take on an undergrad and you're early enough where either you can still make this work, or the program supervisor can help you find a new PI if yours is too busy right now.
Thank you for the advice. I hadn't considered reaching out to a grad student, but that sounds like a really good idea. At the moment I don't have any of their contact info, but if I obtain it I will keep that in mind, and I'm sure it would come in handy. I just sent the supervisor an email in hopes that they can help out. Thank you
 

rechemist

Full Member
Dec 6, 2019
14
4
26
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Reach out to the program supervisor. (Send her an e-mail right now, or call her first thing in the morning.) Let her know what you said here, and that you don't want to be annoying, but at this point you need help because effectively you don't have a summer research program. Say you're embarrassed you waited this long, but you were afraid of getting him in trouble & thought he would come through.

There will be lots of these things in medicine - learning to firmly yet tactfully advocate for yourself will be helpful now & in the future. There is still a good bit of the program left - if you speak up now there's a change they can either nudge him to participate or transfer you to someone else who will take you on.

Best of luck!
I reached out to her, solely because the thought of having to send her an email a few days later is scarier and seems far more unorganized than doing so right now. Hopefully she can get through to him somehow so that I can make use of the rest of the time. Thank you for the advice!
 
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