Does being a lab technitian count as research experience?

Sep 6, 2017
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I'm confused by the semantics "Research assistant", "Research program assistant", "Lab technician", blah, etc.
 

gonnif

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Usually no, a lab tech doesnt count as research but can be EC as employment
 
Jul 23, 2017
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The job title varies. "Lab Tech" can mean a lot of things. Think more deeply about the job description: Are you conducting and designing experiments to generate new knowledge? (research) Are you just doing PCR on whatever samples they throw your way without understanding why? (no) Are you in a commercial lab running some assay on specimens for others? (no)

Some people, usually 22 year olds with their first job, might say "Well an RA does experiments but a lab tech washes dishes! And I, mom, am a research assistant." In reality it depends on the institution. If you are working as a lab tech and want to call it research just read the literature, stay mentally engaged, and don't be shy about floating suggestions by your PI. That is how you make an intellectual contribution worthy of a presentation or publication.

I am speaking here more as an experienced and published research assistant myself, not an adcom, obviously.
 
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DNA Polymerase

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Sep 14, 2017
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The title does not matter at all. What matters is what you do.

If you do routine tasks like PCR or washing dishes or animal room maintenance without getting to know what kind of research the lab does, or be given the promise of contributing intellectually after mastering certain techniques that the lab uses, it is NOT research. But many, many people embellish this to be "research experience." Personally, it would be strongly against my morals to do so.

Meaningful research involves carrying out projects throughly, including experimental design, data collection, analysis, and writing. Not all type of research have clear hypothesis, but what's important is the scientific method as well as the ability to summarize complicated conclusions drawn from convoluted data. (Inevitably having existential crisis from time to time while you are at it)
 
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DNA Polymerase

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Sep 14, 2017
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If you are working as a lab tech and want to call it research just read the literature, stay mentally engaged, and don't be shy about floating suggestions by your PI. That is how you make an intellectual contribution worthy of a presentation or publication.
This doesn't work for undergrads. An undergrad would be presumptuous to assume that PIs would care about what they have to say, or have high expectations of what they get to do in the lab, for that matter. We are too inexperienced to make any sort of substantial intellectual contribution, at least without committing for a long time to it, and not all PIs allow that.
 
Jul 23, 2017
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This doesn't work for undergrads. An undergrad would be presumptuous to assume that PIs would care about what they have to say, or have high expectations of what they get to do in the lab, for that matter. We are too inexperienced to make any sort of substantial intellectual contribution, at least without committing for a long time to it, and not all PIs allow that.
Right. The OP is asking about job titles, though, which leads me to believe he's looking for a job and may be there 40+ hours per week for a a year or two. I was referring more to how you can maximize that kind of experience and close relationship with a PI who is relying on you to run the experiments while they teach and write grants.

It is very different dynamic from undergraduate research. Undergrads getting their feet wet are usually going to be given a role in a preplanned experiment. If the PI is a decent person they will make some effort to mentor the undergrad, or have a grad student supervise.
 
OP
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Sep 6, 2017
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Usually no, a lab tech doesn't count as research but can be EC as employment
Would being a lab tech who does pcr, centrifugation, washing dishes, etc. count as brownie points towards research, if that males sense?
 

gonnif

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It is just lab work but not research
 

boogiecousins94

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I have the title "research technician" but I am in a very small, new lab, so I do almost all of the data analysis, all of the experiments, consult with the PI about future directions and what I think we should be doing etc. I've been doing this full time for 15 months.

I think it is case dependent honestly. If you work in a lab with like 5 postdocs and you work under one, chances are you do the project of the postdoc and do more "non-research" tasks. I was lucky enough to work alone with the PI for an entire year where my opinion was relevant to the overall research and future directions. Again it depends on what type of lab, how many people, how much trust the PI puts in you etc

The one downside of this was it was hard to explain on my application due to limited amount of space so hopefully it came across as okay.
 
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MareNostrummm

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I skimmed the thread so this may have been addressed, but I'm pretty sure many premeds who are just running PCR all day are already counting their experience as research, which is pretty similar to what a lab technician does.
 
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OP
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Sep 6, 2017
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I skimmed the thread so this may have been addressed, but I'm pretty sure many premeds who are just running PCR all day are already counting their experience as research, which is pretty similar to what a lab technician does.
That's what I was thinking. I thought "lab work" was equivalent to "research", but I guess not. The more ya know:confused:
 
OP
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Sep 6, 2017
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I have the title "research technician" but I am in a very small, new lab, so I do almost all of the data analysis, all of the experiments, consult with the PI about future directions and what I think we should be doing etc. I've been doing this full time for 15 months.

I think it is case dependent honestly. If you work in a lab with like 5 postdocs and you work under one, chances are you do the project of the postdoc and do more "non-research" tasks. I was lucky enough to work alone with the PI for an entire year where my opinion was relevant to the overall research and future directions. Again it depends on what type of lab, how many people, how much trust the PI puts in you etc

The one downside of this was it was hard to explain on my application due to limited amount of space so hopefully it came across as okay.
You give me hope.
 
Jul 23, 2017
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I get the sense you're angling toward something but I'm not sure what:

-Is your title lab tech and you're worried it won't come off well, or want to make the most of the job for a med school app?
-Did you get a job as a lab tech and you want some kind of assurance you can run gels all day and say its research?
-Are you trying to figure out what job to pursue?
 

DameJulie

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Most of the time, lab technician is an employment and not strictly research experience. In my lab, our lab techs perform tasks like running gels and chemical synthesis. They don't participate in research design, or have much autonomy on the stuffs they test.

However, "research assistant" means otherwise. At my school, almost all UG students have "research assistants" as their title in lab. It definitely counts as research experience as the students start their own project there.

It comes down to what is the duty of the job, rather than a job title. Just try your best to describe on AMCAS experience description, then judge which EC category this is in.
 
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