CoffeeCat

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I'm in a lab right now (literally right now!) that really makes me question my desire to pursue research. I have been in two other labs, one psychology and one for a very short period of time, and they both worked out to be good experiences. However, right now there's so much negative stuff happening in the lab that I wonder if I'm cut out for it. I've been considering MD/PhD but the question that keeps coming back to me is - although I could probably do it, does that mean I should?

What sorts of lab experiences have you had? How have you dealt with negative ones?!
 

sluox

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My lab experiences are mostly good, especially when the lab is small and the PIs are very attentive. My worst experience is when the Post-Doc is not doing as much as I do and the progress of my reserach is totally dependant on his results. Though I am still courteous with him. :p
 

MeGrowTall

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Are you speaking about interpersonal experiences or ones related more towards research?
I have really had a pretty fantastic experience in the main lab I have worked in for the past 4 years. The people have generally been great, and the research has been exciting. It's a pretty small lab with at max around a dozen people. Everyone there (except for one biatch who is leaving tomorrow! Whoo!) is really focused on the research and cooperation. No one is afraid to ask questions, and no one is considered stupid for doing so. Of course, this is the ideal. I did a year long project in a huge human genetics lab where I was just one out of 40-50 people. I met with my busy PI rarely and had little chance for interaction with more than 1 or 2 people.
I know other people who enjoy research, but have had just horrible experiences in labs. They complain of the competitiveness and feuds that make the lab an uncomfortable place to be. You may be happy with the research, but if no one is willing to help you when you need it, you won't be happy working there.
I had one friend who went to be with her father for a week when he had heart surgery. When she got back to the lab, her PI was upset that she had been gone so long and said, "Even if it was my father, I still would have found a way to come into lab." This was the last straw in a string of unreasonable behavior, and she quit within a week.
I have lots more ideas and stories, but I have class in 10 minutes.
 
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Spudster

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Though I can't say that I have really had a "bad" experience an any of the labs I've worked in, I've certainly found that some go better than others. If you are in a bad situation, find some way to gracefully get out of it. I think that you'll find, particularly when it comes time to actually get your PhD, that what matters most is learning good science, not the particular project you are working on or with whom you are working. I have found that if you are having a bad time in the lab, you won't be learning as much as if you were enthused to get in there each day.

Now, as for the first questiono as to whether you _should_ do it, that one is more difficult. Idealy, I would say that if you are not passionate about doing MD/PhD, then you had best leave it alone. It is a long track and probably not worth it for a few extra letters in your suffix if you won't love what you do when you're done. While I have known some who at first decided to just go the MD track and later changed their minds when they found their niche (usually in a completely different field than they first thought), that is probably not the norm. Another thing to consider is that some MD programs are geared with research in mind, such as Stanford which offers the possibility of a 5th year for whatever (and the new curriculum that is being developed will in fact make MD research even more mainstream), Yale which requires a thesis, Duke, which devotes the third year to research, etc.
 
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CoffeeCat

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I'm having problems both with the people and research. I'm sort of in a half biotech, half academic situation and I have no control or say over what we do - sort of get all of the **** and none of the glory! There are a lot of other people who have had problems in the lab - I think part of it is that we're on the low end of the totem pole. Also, the people in the lab are really abnormal - a few are pretty unfriendly and it really makes for a negative atmosphere.

I know that I'll do some research in the future regardless of whether or not I'm in a MD/PhD program. I'm thinking maybe I'll try another lab later on and see?
 

brandonite

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I think the best thing to do would be to get a bit more experience, and then decide, like you said...

I'm in a very tiny lab right now... Haha. Well, I guess it's just my PI and I right now - he has a variety of collaborators, but I never get to interact with them. I love the atmosphere, and the PI is a great guy. But this summer I will be working in a much bigger group, and I'm looking forward to that just to get a more representative idea of what the atmosphere in a real lab is like.

At least in my limited experience, what determines whether you'll enjoy a lab rotation has almost as much to do with the PI as with the research...
 

mattatlab

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I have so far spent most of my research time in two labs. My first experience was really nice. My PI and I didn't see each other much, but I liked the postdoc I worked under. We got on well, and I guess we understood what we expected from each other.

The second lab was not as fun. I felt like we never really cooked up thorough plans of action, and I felt like I was being told to shoot from the hip with a lot of things where a few small experiments would have cleared things up and at the same time I was being chewed out for little mistakes. That seemed paradoxical. I also felt like there wasn't much of a barrier between my prof's emotions and demeanor, so their foul mood was detrimental to me as well.

I guess it's hit or miss, and I tell everybody I know to try research again if they didn't like it the first time.

I think contrary to what I see above, it was a very small lab that gave me these problems. I plan to combat this streak by hereafter joining larger and larger labs until I find one the size of the entering class of a small liberal arts college. <img border="0" title="" alt="[Wink]" src="wink.gif" />
 

Sonya

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Hi,

My experience is like Brando's. When I started, it was just me, the PI, and a Tech. Occasionally a few other undergrads have come and gone, now we have two post docs. it varies, from like 3 to 7. It's great, i spend a LOT of time with my PI... he's basically who i report to, and ask questions from and such. and if I have questions, anyone's willling to help with whatever they can (which isn't often a lot, because i'm on my own project sortof). It's been a good experience.

umm, try and get different experience maybe. can you try and guess what phd would be like?

Sonya
 

Real

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I think lab experience would be a lot better if the PI is very supportive and friendly. My first experience in a lab doing honors research as an undergraduate was a mixed feeling. I was working on my on project and my PI was extremely very helpful and approachable but the tech was really hard on me picking on every little mistake and even presenting me in negative light with my PI. This continued until the day i got in her face and warned her never to talk to me anyhow. she never thought I could do that but it pays off as she totally changed her attitude, the rest of my experience with her for amost 2 years was plesant with a published result. Working in my new lab I had similar experience initially with post doct trying to make the envi uncomfortable, I resisted and thank God my works were good. So my PI sided with me and the result is I only report to him. Now it is more fun as my PI is very patient, understanding and often overlook my mistake while given opportunity to partake in his project that will soon be publish.
The bottomline is one needs the favor of a very understanding PI. And you also need to let him/her know about your interest (MD/PHD). If he/she discovers that you are good and he is reasonable, then he will not only support you he will also protect you from the attitudes of the post doct who often hide info.
I think another element to it is that most of those post doct are frustrated and some feel jealous of others progress. whatever may be the case, if you are going to enjoy lab, you've got to do good science, read widely, connects with your PI by showing enthusiasm, initiatives, be very observant of everything, kwnow every detail of what you are doing, and ask good and intelligent questions possibly from your PI. Then you can resist oppression from the post doct and play the lab politics successfully.

Wow! this is an epistle. just feel like chiping in something.
 

Sonya

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</font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by Real:
<strong>

Wow! this is an epistle. just feel like chiping in something.</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">a very appreciated one none the less! I wish people told me how to be when i first started research.

at the same time... don't be afraid to ask not so good questions. it's better to ask some thing "stupid" then not ask and goof up. (at the same time, you don't have to ask the PI).

and don't feel scared to show your ideas, ask weird questions... why can't this be done, whatever. At first your thoughts may humour him (and later the naiveette even yourself too), but you'll start to learn what's really possible, and come up with good ideas too. at least that's how it was for me. okay, a little OT.
 

Sonya

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</font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by Real:
<strong>

Wow! this is an epistle. just feel like chiping in something.</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">a very appreciated one none the less! I wish people told me how to be when i first started research.

at the same time... don't be afraid to ask not so good questions. it's better to ask some thing "stupid" then not ask and goof up. (at the same time, you don't have to ask the PI).

and don't feel scared to show your ideas, ask weird questions... why can't this be done, whatever. At first your thoughts may humour him (and later the naiveette even yourself too), but you'll start to learn what's really possible, and come up with good ideas too. at least that's how it was for me. okay, a little OT.
 

wgu

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It's only been a year of college for me but here's my take on research.

1st Lab for one academic year: We did research on p53 protein and cancer-related pathways. I was surrounded by lab tech's and residents (about 8) who surpassed me by far in skill . Problem was, my PI kinda kept everyone in the lab really busy, so I never got a good mentorship. Still, the people in the lab became nice to me. My strategy in getting along with others in the lab was to do the best job I can and try to win their respect. Advice for your first lab experience into any new field: make sure you negociate for a mentor.

Right now I'm doing an internship involving immunoassays. The co-workers are nice (there's about 10 in my department), and I am surrounded by people who are willing to answer my questions. Plus a mentor-type person was assign to me :) Internships are definitely the way to go.

Next fall (maybe late summer) I'll be in a Microtechnology lab (finally in engineering).

I am afraid that doing many different labs spreads you thin.
 

JJ4

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PI = Principle Investigator (usually a professor who's in charge of the lab i.e writes the grants and comes up with the ideas).
 

exigente chica

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I have worked in two very different labs settings. One was fun and everyone was nice and willing to help. The other lab was very competitive and people would not even show you were solutions were. The PI in this was never in and barely answered my questions!
Sometimes you get good ones, sometimes you get bad ones. The question is what are you going to do about it. Staying in the bad lab for two more years is a waste of time unless things change. You should feel comfortable in your lab, and have at least some type of relationship with you PI, if not ..there will be no publications because you don't know what your doing, and not recs' for med school. :confused:
 

Bikini Princess

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Wow!! This is a great thread.
 
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