Job Offer Advice

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10+ Year Member
Sep 25, 2011
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.Hi all,

. . I'm an MD/PhD hopeful, and ..I just wanted to ask some advice. I'm ultimately interested in using molecular approaches/animal models to study psychiatric illness and drug abuse. I graduated in June 2011, and I'm planning to enter medical school in a couple years. During my gap time, I want to gain some more research experience to make myself a more competitive applicant. .

.I'm in a very unexpected position. I was just offered a position with one lab, and I anticipate that I will receive an offer from another lab very soon as well. (They said I'm their "top candidate.") So I'm not sure which one to pick! I'm interested in the research offerings at both labs, and I would have similar potential for coauthorship with either lab. I'm expecting pay grades to be fairly similar, and both labs seem like pleasant work environments..

.Job A (offer given):
. Disadvantage: The lab director is a junior faculty member (no tenure), so there is the potential that he might leave or lose funding. He has a much less extensive publication record. .

.Advantages: Mix of clinical and bench research. Initially more clinical, but ultimately I'd work with tissues at the bench. I'd learn a lot of new molecular-based techniques. (It's a totally different research area than I did in undergrad). PI does have senior faculty mentors as well, so I'd get the chance to work with them. .

.Job B (offer expected):.

.Disadvantage: Job is mainly clinical research – consenting and interviewing patients. I know the physician does some basic science studies as well, so I ultimately might be able to get in on them. (I'm not sure)..

.Advantages: Senior faculty member with very extensive publication record. The initial study is joint with a psychiatrist who does work in my area of interest.

.I'm inclined to go with Job A, as it would give me more bench experience. Is there any reason I should decline the offer? Is working with a junior faculty member with a smaller publication record too risky?

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It is great to have choices. I certainly do not know the chances and drive of faculty A, but if he is dynamic and have potential, often, he has to publish a lot to get his tenure. Therefore, you can ride the wave. It is riskier but you are investing on his drive. Faculty B is a more sure bet, but considerably less interesting and with less likelihood for you to get a publication. From lab A, you might get several pubs. Personally, I choose faculty A and got very lucky...
Thanks for the great advice Fencer! I didn't consider how that need to publish papers for tenure could be a really positive driving force in Lab A. I feel much more reassured with my desire to go with Lab A. :) Thanks again!
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Thanks for the great advice Fencer! I didn't consider how that need to publish papers for tenure could be a really positive driving force in Lab A. I feel much more reassured with my desire to go with Lab A. :) Thanks again!

I agree with Fencer here, but I think there are some other things that you need to consider (that also should make you choose Job A). First, you say that Job B is primarily clinical while A has a higher potential for basic science research. Ultimately, this is what *most* programs are looking for. If you've only had clinical research (which you can do no problem with only an MD) they are going to ask you "Why not just and MD" and you will have a harder time convincing them that you want to do basic science research because, quite frankly, you will have very little lab experience in that regard. On the other hand, Job A will give you both basic science and clinical research so that, in my opinion, you will be able to make a very strong argument of what you want to do with your career and the lab experiences that helped you to make that decision.

That being said, Job B does have the slight advantage that it is more clinical, which may aid your answer to "why do you want the MD/PhD and not just the PhD". But, given that Job A also has clinical research, I think you will have a good answer to that as well.

So ultimately, I agree with Fencer and say Job A, provided you think the faculty is driven and will be a good mentor. If you can, try and do a little physician shadowing or volunteering in a hospital or something 1 day/week (if you haven't yet already) so that, in the case you end up doing mostly basic science research, you can gain some clinical experience as well.

Good luck!
Re: ImagineThis

Yeah, I was inclined to go with Lab A specifically because it offers more basic science potential. I've already done 2.5 years of basic work in electrophysiology and behavioral neuroscience (animal work), but I really want to gain some exposure to molecular-based techniques before grad school. I also like that I'll get some clinical research exposure as well. I think exposure to both sides of research will help me make the best why MD/PhD argument.

I've got plenty of shadowing experience already. I worked for two years as an ER scribe. That experience helped me land this job.

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