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HELP!!! Should I change my research lab?

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HumanHu

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Hey, so I am in a predicament. Right now, I've been in a small lab since second semester freshman year (I'm a sophomore right now), with one grad student, one senior undergrad, and two undergrad (including me). So, there's a lot of maintenance to do in lab which makes this lab time intensive (20-30 hours a week). This time commitment has made my life considerably more hectic and a lot more stressed. I am having barely enough time studying, not exercising as much, and sleeping very little. Also, next year, the senior undergrad and grad student are both graduating so more work for us two undergrad. The PI is also very strict; he doesn't allow us to listen to music, converse when doing experiment, and wants us to be in lab (when not in class) all the way to 6 pm every weekday. He is also not paying us. Furthermore, it doesn't seem like he's going to publish a paper anytime soon.
The pro is that I am getting a research project, which is interesting. We are growing these tumor cells with mutant genes that prevent them from repairing DNA damage. We grow these with drug media to create drug resistant tumor cells, and karotyping these to see what's really happening. I started growing these cells already. Is the lab worth this research project? Or is this research project not as great as I imagined it to be? Also, will the lab be ruined if I leave? The two senior members are leaving and I'm leaving too which leaves only one undergrad left. Thanks!
 
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Domepiece

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The value of research at this stage of your education lies in what you garner from the experience and the understanding of the research process you develop. You also sound like you are in a basic science lab and have been there relatively short. Projects in these disciplines can take many years to come to fruition.
 

HumanHu

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The value of research at this stage of your education lies in what you garner from the experience and the understanding of the research process you develop. You also sound like you are in a basic science lab and have been there relatively short. Projects in these disciplines can take many years to come to fruition.

Yeah, I haven't been there too long but I don't want to be locked into this lab if it's not working well for me. I enjoy the research and am interested in the project. However, the time commitment has become too much in this lab. Most of my time in lab is spent on grunt work such as dishes, doing constant pcr's, or helping the grad student with her experiments. Growing tumor cells doesn't require a lot of daily work. I spend probably only 1-2 hours a day on my cells and the rest on lab grunt work. I am just wondering if this is a good enough research project to commit my time to.
 

wizzed101

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Hey, so I am in a predicament. Right now, I've been in a small lab since second semester freshman year (I'm a sophomore right now), with one grad student, one senior undergrad, and two undergrad (including me). So, there's a lot of maintenance to do in lab which makes this lab time intensive (20-30 hours a week). This time commitment has made my life considerably more hectic and a lot more stressed. I am having barely enough time studying, not exercising as much, and sleeping very little. Also, next year, the senior undergrad and grad student are both graduating so more work for us two undergrad. The PI is also very strict; he doesn't allow us to listen to music, converse when doing experiment, and wants us to be in lab (when not in class) all the way to 6 pm every weekday. He is also not paying us. Furthermore, it doesn't seem like he's going to publish a paper anytime soon.
The pro is that I am getting a research project, which is interesting. We are growing these tumor cells with mutant genes that prevent them from repairing DNA damage. We grow these with drug media to create drug resistant tumor cells, and karotyping these to see what's really happening. I started growing these cells already. Is the lab worth this research project? Or is this research project not as great as I imagined it to be? Thanks!
20-30 hours a week unpaid? That's slavery.
We are growing these tumor cells with mutant genes that prevent them from repairing DNA damage. We grow these with drug media to create drug resistant tumor cells, and karotyping these to see what's really happening
Kornheiser_Why.jpg


Besides, what the heck mane? What is the end game of your project? Sound very "promising." Is your PI trolling you?
 

HumanHu

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20-30 hours a week unpaid? That's slavery.


Besides, what the heck mane? What is the end game of your project? Is your PI trolling you?

Haha, thats exactly what my friend said when I told him of this situation: "slavery". I guess the end game of these tumor cells is to look at the chromosomes and see genetically what's causing these mutated tumor cells to survive in drug media. I'm not too experienced in the research field (this is my first research lab), so I can't tell if this is a good research project or not.
 

CaliforniaDreamer

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What the hell, get out of there, or just tell the PI that you want to present some research and if he says no then walk. It sounds terrible. Focus on your studies.
 

HumanHu

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What the hell, get out of there, or just tell the PI that you want to present some research and if he says no then walk. It sounds terrible. Focus on your studies.

I've just started the research project, so I can't really present any research. However, the grad student said she would be willing to help me with a poster for my research for a research forum. My cells were recently contaminated though (got chastise by my PI for that), and now I have to start back on base 1. So that's why I feel now would be a good time to quit.
 

wizzed101

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Haha, thats exactly what my friend said when I told him of this situation: "slavery". I guess the end game of these tumor cells is to look at the chromosomes and see genetically what's causing these mutated tumor cells to survive in drug media. I'm not too experienced in the research field (this is my first research lab), so I can't tell if this is a good research project or not.
Do you have any related papers, not necessarily by your PI? Like the basis of the project. I feel that this is a ruse...You have your tumors which have messed up DNA, then you messed them up some more to see what's gonna happen?!!
 

HumanHu

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Do you have any related papers, not necessarily by your PI? Like the basis of the project. I feel that this is a ruse...You have your tumors which have messed up DNA, then you messed them up some more to see what's gonna happen?!!

It's more like the tumors can't repair the DNA damage and so we expected them to die out in drug media. Instead, some drug resistant tumor cells began growing and we are wondering why. We are working with pancreatic tumor cells and this is a seen phenomena when cancer relapses when patient is using drugs. However, I have no idea if this is a good project or not since I'm not experienced enough. It sounds good but I'm not really sure...
 

wizzed101

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I don't have much bio experience. I'd just started learning it from literally nothing about a year ago, but ... isn't the reason obvious? A wild guess, but your PI probably used some very specific inhibitor of a particular repairing enzyme which leads to further mutations which create new drug-resistance strains; in which case, you should be able to find answers in the literature. But from your original description, it sounds like he did something with the DNA, like irradiating the whole tumors. That's quack if true... tbh since there are millions of things that can go wrong leading to the observed results.
 

HumanHu

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I don't have much bio experience. I'd just started learning it from literally nothing about a year ago, but ... isn't the reason obvious? A wild guess, but your PI probably used some very specific inhibitor of a particular repairing enzyme which leads to further mutations which create new drug-resistance strains; in which case, you should be able to find answers in the literature. But from your original description, it sounds like he did something with the DNA, like irradiating the whole tumors. That's quack if true... tbh since there are millions of things that can go wrong leading to the observed results.

Well, we mutated brca1 and palb2 genes, which help repair DNA damage in tumor cells. We put these tumor cells into drug media which are given to actual cancer patients. The drug media should kill off all the tumor cells since they can't repair their DNA which as stated before didn't happen. We are trying to find out why the drug didn't kill off these impaired cells. However, I don't actually know why they mutated these genes in the first place, since the result isn't as applicable in real life if we tested it on mutated tumor cells.
 

wizzed101

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uhm... I don't follow. Shouldn't the damages to those 2 genes cause the tissue to become cancerous in the first place? So your lab was going to mutate them some more?...

Or the tumors were caused by mutation of a different set of genes, then by mutating those 2 genes which normally cause cancer in other tissues, we create a new strain of tumor. Why is this surprising? :/
 

Goro

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Yes, it's time to leave. Getting research experience isn't meant to be a suicide pact.

Hey, so I am in a predicament. Right now, I've been in a small lab since second semester freshman year (I'm a sophomore right now), with one grad student, one senior undergrad, and two undergrad (including me). So, there's a lot of maintenance to do in lab which makes this lab time intensive (20-30 hours a week). This time commitment has made my life considerably more hectic and a lot more stressed. I am having barely enough time studying, not exercising as much, and sleeping very little. Also, next year, the senior undergrad and grad student are both graduating so more work for us two undergrad. The PI is also very strict; he doesn't allow us to listen to music, converse when doing experiment, and wants us to be in lab (when not in class) all the way to 6 pm every weekday. He is also not paying us. Furthermore, it doesn't seem like he's going to publish a paper anytime soon.
The pro is that I am getting a research project, which is interesting. We are growing these tumor cells with mutant genes that prevent them from repairing DNA damage. We grow these with drug media to create drug resistant tumor cells, and karotyping these to see what's really happening. I started growing these cells already. Is the lab worth this research project? Or is this research project not as great as I imagined it to be? Also, will the lab be ruined if I leave? The two senior members are leaving and I'm leaving too which leaves only one undergrad left. Thanks!
 
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Umyo

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20-30 hours, unpaid, and during the academic year?

I would re-evaluate your priorities and see if this is worth it.


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HumanHu

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20-30 hours, unpaid, and during the academic year?

I would re-evaluate your priorities and see if this is worth it.


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Okay, I wasn't sure if this research experience was out of the norm or not but now I'm getting the feeling that this lab is crazy. I'll probably quit
 

aldol16

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The demands do seem unusually high, although there are definitely those PIs out there who like working their students (grad and undergrad) like workhorses. But those PIs usually don't have tenure yet and they want to push out papers so they get tenure. Are you sure the PI isn't looking to publish and does he/she have tenure? Being one of very few people in a lab can be either beneficial or harmful. You might benefit from having more responsibility and independence and being thought of more as a graduate student in your PI's eyes than as an undergrad, which may result in a shining letter and publications, etc. But that comes with more work and more dedication and if you can't make that commitment, it could hurt both your health and your PI's opinion of you. At the end of the day, you need to do what's healthiest for you.
 
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HumanHu

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The demands do seem unusually high, although there are definitely those PIs out there who like working their students (grad and undergrad) like workhorses. But those PIs usually don't have tenure yet and they want to push out papers so they get tenure. Are you sure the PI isn't looking to publish and does he/she have tenure? Being one of very few people in a lab can be either beneficial or harmful. You might benefit from having more responsibility and independence and being thought of more as a graduate student in your PI's eyes than as an undergrad, which may result in a shining letter and publications, etc. But that comes with more work and more dedication and if you can't make that commitment, it could hurt both your health and your PI's opinion of you. At the end of the day, you need to do what's healthiest for you.

Yea you could be right. It seems like he wants to get a research paper out and seems to get angry at any setbacks. However he hasn't published in many years (at least 5 years). Is the recognition of being a valuable lab member worth the hours? Is this something impactful med school especially want to see? I'm willing to make some sacrifices but I need to know if it's worth it.
 

wizzed101

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Yea you could be right. It seems like he wants to get a research paper out and seems to get angry at any setbacks. However he hasn't published in many years (at least 5 years). Is the recognition of being a valuable lab member worth the hours? Is this something impactful med school especially want to see? I'm willing to make some sacrifices but I need to know if it's worth it.
Hasn't published in 5 years eh?... 6th year's a charm? Do you feel valued in the lab?
 

aldol16

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Yea you could be right. It seems like he wants to get a research paper out and seems to get angry at any setbacks. However he hasn't published in many years (at least 5 years). Is the recognition of being a valuable lab member worth the hours? Is this something impactful med school especially want to see? I'm willing to make some sacrifices but I need to know if it's worth it.

That's really odd. If he hasn't published in 5 years and he's not fired, then he's either got serious connections or tenure. What's valuable is that you get to think scientifically and perform hypothesis-driven research. That's pretty broad so yes, you can get that experience pretty much in most labs you work in. Whether you want to stay in the current lab is a personal decision - we can only help you see the pros and cons of each side. Med schools don't care about what kind of research you do as long as it's hypothesis-driven and you can talk intelligently about it and your role in it. You shouldn't have to feel like you're making "sacrifices" to do something for med school.
 
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