I recieved a job offer as a research tech

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Sigmon Froid

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10+ Year Member
Apr 1, 2011
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Hello everyone, I am seeking any kind of advice for my current situation.
I am a recent BS biology graduate who has an interest in going into translational science, and I was ecstatic to hear that I was offered my first full-time job yesterday.
The generalized job requirements are, you have to be able to learn new techniques and fit well in the team-oriented environment. Having said that, I have little experience in the real life work force out side of college. Besides, what is the best thing a person in their early-mid 20s (who starting to learn more about the important things in life) do besides asking questions to more experienced individuals?
One thing that worries me is my introverted personality. My immature desire is to really get the most out of my 2-3 year commitment in the lab and hopefully get published. If anyone could post any life-long advices (in regards to the lab-settings or not), or any advice on how to NOT get fired :), I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you members of the SDN!

A short list that I came up with briefly on how to get the most out of my job, based on my previous limited experience in the world
-Do not try to hide anything or be a shady character (like hiding bad data or mistake)
-Constantly communicate with supervisor about what I am going to do throughout the day
-ask for recommendations for reading materials before the job start date
-attend seminars and journal clubs

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Congrats on getting the job! Last year I spent months trying to find a lab tech position, so I know how exciting it is to finally get one.

I'm assuming that since you plan to attend journal clubs and seminars that you will be working in an academic setting. If so, then the job setting will likely be very similar to any undergraduate research you did. The main difference between research in college and research as a full-time employee is that you work for 40 hours a week instead of 10. You will likely be trained just the same and will be given similar responsibilities, so there is no reason to feel nervous about starting this job.

As for your goals, I think that if you really put effort into your work, you will succeed. I've been working as a lab tech for seven months now, and I am already writing drafts for my first paper. When I first came to the lab, I spent a lot of time reading journal articles in order to better understand my project and be able to make useful suggestions on what to do and how to do it. I made an effort to come up with my own ideas and present them to my PI, and I think he was impressed with that. Of course over the last seven months I've had to report bad data and have made mistakes, but everyone has these moments (even my PI). I think that as long as you show that you are taking initiative and putting in a fair amount of effort, you'll be fine.

Good luck with the new job. I hope everything works out for you.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. And good luck to you with your first paper!
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Working as a tech is awesome, especially if you want to go the MD-PhD route, as it is a nice way to get a sense of what full-time lab work entails. Work hard, be on time, learn all the techniques you can, stay organized, ask lots of questions, read lots of papers, go to lots of talks, form close relationships with your PI and co-workers (good LORs can go a long way), and just have fun with it. You definitely get as much out of being a tech as you put in. I've been a tech for 1.5y now and have been second author on three pubs and have my own first author pub on the way. If you like science, I'm sure you'll have a blast!

One resource I'd recommend is a book called "At the Bench: A Laboratory Navigator" by Kathy Barker. It will help get you acquainted with the expectations of being a professional in a laboratory.
Something to note about tech jobs: They differ wildly between labs. In some labs you're be treated as a poor man's grad student, in others you'll be treated as a human PCR machine.

Case in point: In my undergrad lab there were a couple techs who had been there for years, never had a single paper or poster or anything. In the lab I've been working in as a tech for the last year, I've submitted one first author paper, will be submitting another one this Friday, got taken by my PI to the biggest conference in the field to present a poster (had another one at the same conference that was second author as well with another poster coming next month at another conference), I came up with my own project idea which is now the main project of the lab for the time being, and I'm in charge of supervising all the students in the lab including the master's student.

So a tech job can either be a vacation/waste of time, or it can be a ridiculously amazing CV booster. I think a large part in what determines that is how big the lab is. If it's a lab with an army of post-docs and grad students large enough to invade a small country then I'd imagine the techs in that lab will be relegated to scut work. Meanwhile I'm pretty sure that the whole reason I've had such a productive time in my lab is because I was the ONLY person in the lab aside from the PIs (there were some undergrads but they didn't even come in 10 hours a week so...).
Something to note about tech jobs: They differ wildly between labs. In some labs you're be treated as a poor man's grad student, in others you'll be treated as a human PCR machine.

Tech jobs differ based on the lab and the goal of the tech. If the goal of the tech is to make a career out of being a tech, and the goal isn't to get into grad school or some other academic position, then they are often given the duties of running experiments and that is all.

Techs who have the goals of moving on to graduate school should be given additional duties such as presenting, writing, etc. Everyone just needs to make sure that the PI of the lab and the technician are in agreement as far as expectations and goals.