elitehacker1337

2+ Year Member
Jun 5, 2017
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So I have been in a microbio bench lab for about 2 months and have thankfully been given a project, even though it is rather basic. I'm not complaining though as some undergrads only get assigned busy work like a friend was telling me who quit.

So my dilemma is that during interview before joining the lab, the PI brought up pubs and I said that pubs aren't everything because I didn't want to seem over zealous talking about pubs before actually joining the lab. Basically, I wanted to seem like I know the process to a publication and the work required and not just wanting a pub after a few months.

So now, I really want a publication because I genuinely enjoy research and bench/wet lab. I didn't think I would like it this much honestly; not just the lab but the research lifestyle is very appealing to me.

So I was contemplating sending an email to the PI expressing my desire to be published at some point (next 2 years) and saying I will work really hard for it, etc etc. Would you guys recommend this? I'm not sure how the PI will receive this since we don't talk much at all. From what is seems, some grad students are nervous when the PI walks in too.

@aldol16 Any advice? Because I think you're a post-doc right? I read your thread on summer lab etiquette.
 

aldol16

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Nov 1, 2015
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So I have been in a microbio bench lab for about 2 months and have thankfully been given a project, even though it is rather basic. I'm not complaining though as some undergrads only get assigned busy work like a friend was telling me who quit.

So my dilemma is that during interview before joining the lab, the PI brought up pubs and I said that pubs aren't everything because I didn't want to seem over zealous talking about pubs before actually joining the lab. Basically, I wanted to seem like I know the process to a publication and the work required and not just wanting a pub after a few months.

So now, I really want a publication because I genuinely enjoy research and bench/wet lab. I didn't think I would like it this much honestly; not just the lab but the research lifestyle is very appealing to me.

So I was contemplating sending an email to the PI expressing my desire to be published at some point (next 2 years) and saying I will work really hard for it, etc etc. Would you guys recommend this? I'm not sure how the PI will receive this since we don't talk much at all. From what is seems, some grad students are nervous when the PI walks in too.

@aldol16 Any advice? Because I think you're a post-doc right? I read your thread on summer lab etiquette.
This is not the right way to go about it. Imagine you're a publisher and you have a young author who's trying to write a book. The author sets up a meeting with you one day and comes in with a sheet of paper with the book title typed out with a couple of introductory pages. He says, "I'm super excited about this book! I definitely want to publish sometime in the next two years!" What do you say to the guy? Most likely, you're not going to tell him "Yes, we're going to publish this when it's done in two years." You don't know if he's ever going to finish the book or if it's going to be good. You only have the title and intro to go on.

Now change scenarios. Same guy comes in but now he has his computer and he shows you all the different chapters of the book he's got completed on his laptop. What do you say? At that point, you would say, "Great, why don't you tie it all together and get me a finished draft and we can see?"

You want to be the second guy and not the first guy. If you approach your PI like you said, what would you expect? Him to just say "Oh yeah, we'll just tack you onto something we're publishing so you can get your name on something"? Set up a meeting with your PI to talk about where you envision your project going. It's always good to plan out what you're doing so you have a road map of how you're supposed to spend your time in the lab. Is your project part of something bigger that other people are also working on? Is your project designed to be preliminary work to see if there's any promise to a hypothesis? Figure out what kind of project you have and where you are in that project. Then talk with your PI to see what direction he or she wants to take the project. PIs don't just make up stuff for people to do - publications is how they get funding so they want to publish too. It's a matter of when the right time to publish is.
 
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elitehacker1337

2+ Year Member
Jun 5, 2017
96
32
This is not the right way to go about it. Imagine you're a publisher and you have a young author who's trying to write a book. The author sets up a meeting with you one day and comes in with a sheet of paper with the book title typed out with a couple of introductory pages. He says, "I'm super excited about this book! I definitely want to publish sometime in the next two years!" What do you say to the guy? Most likely, you're not going to tell him "Yes, we're going to publish this when it's done in two years." You don't know if he's ever going to finish the book or if it's going to be good. You only have the title and intro to go on.

Now change scenarios. Same guy comes in but now he has his computer and he shows you all the different chapters of the book he's got completed on his laptop. What do you say? At that point, you would say, "Great, why don't you tie it all together and get me a finished draft and we can see?"

You want to be the second guy and not the first guy. If you approach your PI like you said, what would you expect? Him to just say "Oh yeah, we'll just tack you onto something we're publishing so you can get your name on something"? Set up a meeting with your PI to talk about where you envision your project going. It's always good to plan out what you're doing so you have a road map of how you're supposed to spend your time in the lab. Is your project part of something bigger that other people are also working on? Is your project designed to be preliminary work to see if there's any promise to a hypothesis? Figure out what kind of project you have and where you are in that project. Then talk with your PI to see what direction he or she wants to take the project. PIs don't just make up stuff for people to do - publications is how they get funding so they want to publish too. It's a matter of when the right time to publish is.
What a great reply @aldol16 , thanks! I needed the perspective from someone like yourself.

The project is definitely preliminary as in I asked the PI a few weeks ago for the long-term goals of the project which was protein/gene identification. I really want to get into mapping genes and discovering which genes are responsible for immunity to certain conditions which is what I feel is the future of the project.

As far as I know, the grad student who trained/mentored me is also doing something similar although they have multiple other projects too.

I don't expect at all to be tacked on for a pub but I obviously wouldn't mind.

I just don't want to be seen as someone who just wants to check the research box. This is why I thought about emailing the PI to express my enthusiasm going forward. I fully agree with what you said and I won't send the email. I'll try to express my enthusiasm in putting in the time in lab and possibly discussing the project with the grad student.

I think setting up a meeting may be a bit early because the grad student still looks over me and I am not fully independent yet. I might be finishing up a checkpoint in the project to which I envision a good time to discuss the project with the grad student and the PI.
 
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aldol16

2+ Year Member
Nov 1, 2015
4,936
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Medical Student
What a great reply @aldol16 , thanks! I needed the perspective from someone like yourself.

The project is definitely preliminary as in I asked the PI a few weeks ago for the long-term goals of the project which was protein/gene identification. I really want to get into mapping genes and discovering which genes are responsible for immunity to certain conditions which is what I feel is the future of the project.

As far as I know, the grad student who trained/mentored me is also doing something similar although they have multiple other projects too.

I don't expect at all to be tacked on for a pub but I obviously wouldn't mind.

I just don't want to be seen as someone who just wants to check the research box. This is why I thought about emailing the PI to express my enthusiasm going forward. I fully agree with what you said and I won't send the email. I'll try to express my enthusiasm in putting in the time in lab and possibly discussing the project with the grad student.
If you're still working with a grad student, definitely talk to him or her about it first. Try to see the overall picture and contextualize your work. The point where you talk to your PI about a publication is when you have enough good results in hand and have sufficiently analyzed them. Then you say "Here's the story we have to tell and here's why it's compelling." That's how you get a publication.
 
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elitehacker1337

2+ Year Member
Jun 5, 2017
96
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If you're still working with a grad student, definitely talk to him or her about it first. Try to see the overall picture and contextualize your work. The point where you talk to your PI about a publication is when you have enough good results in hand and have sufficiently analyzed them. Then you say "Here's the story we have to tell and here's why it's compelling." That's how you get a publication.
Yeah, I definitely don't want to go over the head of anyone. I'll stick to quietly working on the project and hope for some results that require further explaining which lengthen the project.

I feel that I am in the honeymoon phase of research and have too much excitement to contain. Did you have this too?
 

kb1900

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Oct 4, 2015
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Yeah, I definitely don't want to go over the head of anyone. I'll stick to quietly working on the project and hope for some results that require further explaining which lengthen the project.

I feel that I am in the honeymoon phase of research and have too much excitement to contain. Did you have this too?
I had a honeymoon phases when I was first exposed to my undergrad research realm and immersed myself in the literature and expt design.

Longitudinally:
All projects have moments that bring on a lot of energy and motivation.

Often and inevitably there will also be moments (series of technical or systemic failures, noisy data, poor results) that will be accompanied by despair and hopelessness.

It’s in the second set of moments where you find out if being a scientist is for you :)
 
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