triplebond

2+ Year Member
Dec 3, 2014
36
3
Status
Pre-Medical
Hi all,
I'm a chem major who's been working in an ochem research lab for 1 year already, but I don't really understand the work I'm doing. My PI was on a hiatus this past spring semester so I had no idea what to do in the lab and the grad students were busy working on their theses. Since no one had any time to mentor me, I didn't really do anything in the spring and I didn't come in during the summer.

The worst part is that the PI agreed to take me in because he'd heard from my TA that I was a great gen chem student. He was very accomodating towards me and personally taught me the lab techniques while he was there. Unfortuntely, I took ochem while I worked in lab and actually didn't do so well in both ochem classes. I feel like a total failure. I just feel unhappy all the time working in this lab because I don't understand the reasons behind any of the experiments. Sure, I can do the wet work but I wouldn't call myself a research assistant in any way. This experience has made me realize that maybe chemistry and research isn't the right direction for me, and I'm contemplating changing majors to bio because I understand the topic much better. But at this point, I'm still very indecisive.

Looking back, I do regret not giving this lab my best effort, even while the PI was gone. But school starts soon and I've decided to quit the lab before it's too late. How should I break the news to him? I don't want to make up an excuse like, "I'm studying for the MCAT" (which I am) but I don't want to come off as offensive or have him think I hated his lab.

[Though, I have an inkling that he might just kick me out because I haven't been in lab all summer...]

WHAT SHOULD I DO?! :(
 

gannicus89

2+ Year Member
Jun 4, 2015
427
280
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
You could thank him for the opportunity to learn x, y, z and then just say that you'd like to spend more time on academics as opposed to labwork since you will be undertaking additional responsibilities and want to do well. You don't have to go into a lot detail about how you plan to use your time...PIs are used to people leaving the lab, coming back, leaving forever, etc. Just be courteous and get out of there lol.
 
Oct 2, 2014
68
35
Status
Medical Student
Changing labs or trying out new ones is not any problem at all, just a natural aspect of the learning process. Lots of people have worked in more than one lab. The important part is to maintain a good relationship with all the PIs you've worked with. You said you're interested in potentially switching to biology as a major, so just tell the PI that you want to explore your other research interests and thank him for teaching you all the chemistry research techniques and topics. (I don't know if I'd use MCAT studying as an excuse though, because it makes it sound as though being premed is more important to you than doing research... which I'm sure is true for most people but it does have a negative connotation to it.)
 

Shirafune

5+ Year Member
Jan 2, 2014
946
733
Status
Medical Student
Changing labs or trying out new ones is not any problem at all, just a natural aspect of the learning process. Lots of people have worked in more than one lab. The important part is to maintain a good relationship with all the PIs you've worked with. You said you're interested in potentially switching to biology as a major, so just tell the PI that you want to explore your other research interests and thank him for teaching you all the chemistry research techniques and topics. (I don't know if I'd use MCAT studying as an excuse though, because it makes it sound as though being premed is more important to you than doing research... which I'm sure is true for most people but it does have a negative connotation to it.)
This. You're only in undergrad. There's no way people will expect you to narrow into a specific research topic, let alone chemistry vs. biology research. The only obligation you have to your PI is that you have and will put your best effort in, not that you are committed to the lab for X amount of time.