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Need help deciding which lab to join: collateral angiogenesis or panc. cancer?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by vokey588, Dec 16, 2008.

  1. vokey588

    7+ Year Member

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    Hey guys, let me just say off the bat that my #1 criteria is whether I will have a good learning experience at the lab. I am most interested in learning good research methodology and how to think of and approach problems. I've narrowed my search to two professors in cell physiology. They are both outstanding mentors and really understand what I'm looking for. One, who I will refer to as CO, researches the role of a prominent cytoskeletal protein (that she discovered) in pancreatic and breast cancer. The other, JF, researches how collateral arteries develop and their genetic variability. Again, both of them have affirmed to me that they are there to teach me, not to use me as free labor. Here are the facts:

    CO
    -Probably slightly more direct contact with the PI than JF.
    -Lots of cell culturing, some knockout mice.
    -Investigation of biochemical pathways.
    -CO is the discoverer of a ubiquitous cytoskeletal protein, which is the focus of her research.
    -Experiments are shorter than the ones JF does.
    -Has published fewer articles (she's younger than him) than JF but has three papers of 500+ citations.
    -Smaller lab than JF.
    -Allowed her last undergraduate to be listed as an author on a paper.
    -Lab-wide meetings and potentially one-on-one meetings each week.

    JF
    -Experiments depend on rat and mouse surgery, which I would learn how to do.
    -Molecular techniques also (RT-PCR, western blot, etc).
    -Investigation of biochemical pathways.
    -Experiments take longer than with CO because animals must be observed for 1-2 weeks after ligating chosen arteries.
    -JF has told me that he will be extremely busy for the next year because of grants and training new grad and post-doc students, BUT has also said that he will always make time to meet with me.
    -Lab-wide meetings, and one-on-one meetings each week.
    -I feel like tons of undergraduates gravitate towards "hot topics" like cancer, neuro, immunology, etc. and I think this would be more unique research for an undergrad.

    Again, I have to emphasize that learning is my #1 priority, and both of these PI's have proven that that is their priority also so I'm having trouble making the decision between the two. I'd love to get some input from other pre-meds, med students, MD/Phd students, and really anyone who has been involved with research. Much thanks in advance!
     
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  3. silverlining1

    7+ Year Member

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    Firstly, I wouldn't use "which topic is more unique" as a criterion - what really matters is whether you enjoyed what you did, if you learned from it, and if you contributed significantly.

    It sounds like you've got two solid options. Do you feel like you've gotten enough info about what the time committment will be like, what you can expect to get out of it, and what your role will be? Consider how much guidance/autonomy you'll have and what the likelihood of you having your own project down the road is.

    Sounds like one lab is more surgical/procedural as well - is this a point of interest for you?

    Have you gotten to talk to any other people who work in those labs?
     
  4. majahops

    majahops YOU are great.
    10+ Year Member

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    Oh my GOD I wish I had been aware of such opportunities when I was an undergrad. Damn. SO awesome!!!
     
  5. 229141

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    Pick the one where YOU do more research...

    Who cares if you're working on a great project if you are nothing more than a lab slave. I wouldn't waste my time just autoclaving or running monotonous experiments...make it clear that you want to actually contribute, or else you may be stuck as a lab slave. I worked to start my own research project with a professor- it may not be a reality for everyone but you get to do almost everything and you get a lot more interested in it. Just explore what exactly you will be doing...I'd hate to see you end up as another student who spends hours autoclaving haha
     
  6. vokey588

    7+ Year Member

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    Thanks for your replies! I did indeed seek out undergrads who worked in JF and CO's labs, and they absolutely raved about each of them. They specifically talked about how they did meaningful independent research and got to interact with the PI on a significant level. So yes, in both labs I would have autonomy, guidance, and would not be doing slave work. This is what makes my decision so difficult!

    Also, I have discussed the time commitment with both PI's and we are on the same page with regards to what I can commit to.
     
  7. silverlining1

    7+ Year Member

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    It sounds like you have looked into this thoroughly and both options would be great, so I think it just comes down to which topic and which types of experiments you would prefer to do. I don't really think there's a wrong choice here. Good luck!
     

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