Help me decide between 2 research labs?

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Full Member
Mar 8, 2022
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Hi all, an advice request:
Help me choose between two labs at the NIH for an IRTA postbac?


* PI is an MD-PhD, so I would be able to talk about my understanding of the career path and MD-PhD insights in my application essays
* PI is super nice, warm, expressive, eloquent, and helpful and I feel will write a great LOR (seems like a caring mentor)

* It is very obviously clinical research (essentially statistical analysis of clinical images of a disease), which MSTPs are biased against
* Research topic is decent but not the most interesting to me



* True basic science lab which is what MSTPs prefer
* I find this research topic quite a bit cooler than the other lab’s

* PI is a PhD nice person and decent mentor (arbitrary 7.5 out of 10 mentor rating according to a previous postbac), but is quite reserved and unexpressive/undescriptive in writing and speech
* I’m also kind of afraid this PI seems harder to please, and will result in a sub-ideal LOR, although this is just my impression from talking to them and might not be true


Overall, both labs are led by well-established senior PIs, are small labs, will give me my own project to work on, and have approximately the same chance at publication

What do you all recommend?

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Current NINDS postbac. Are you planning on staying 1 year or 2?

In my opinion, for your development as a scientist, the right answer is clearly B. As to other considerations, A may give you a better quality of life (remote/telework) and lead to results faster (it doesn't sound like you have to collect your own data, the images are ready). I think senior investigators all know how to play the academia game and write a decent LOR-- they've played the game at a high level for a long time to get where they are.
I'm a current postbac too. I would personally lean a little towards A based on what you've said here. Though the research fit in B may sway me.

Don't choose the lab solely based on what you think would look good on paper. Building relationships and growing as a scientist are also very important. Besides, physician-scientists don't solely do basic research and programs accept students who've done clinical research in the past. You'll need to be able to speak about your contributions to the research and why you want to be a physician-scientist.

Also, if you're planning on staying 1 year, then are you applying this cycle? There's probably no time for your new PI to get to know you and write a strong LOR by the time you submit the primary.