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No-Pay Research

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by futureMD90210, Nov 30, 2008.

  1. futureMD90210

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    I am a college graduate and I have been doing research in a Plastic surgery clinic at a medical university here in California (for about 30 hours a week). I do clinical research so I get some good patient interaction and what not, but the only problem is that there is no pay(I have discussed this before with the PI and since it is a non-funded study there is no compensation). Furthermore, the project that we are doing does not have an end date in sight, as it depends on the patients we get ( i.e. I could be working right up until the start of medical school)

    I recently got into a medical school and I would possibly like to do a Plastics residency in the future (or at least have the option to do so), but I would also like to spend my next 6 months before medical school traveling, taking an anatomy class to prepare for medical school or making some money to help pay for my college loans (~$600 a month)

    I am afraid that if I leave they may not be able to find anyone else to conduct these trials and it may jeopardize the study (and also reflect negatively on me in the eyes of the PI). I am immensely grateful for the opportunity and I know that this could potentially help me in the future for residency, but it is frustrating that I am working so hard and not getting paid for the work I do. I also feel like I should be enjoying my time before medical school starts.

    Is it common to do research jobs like this for no pay? Am I being unreasonable to be frustrated? Should I just stay with my current research position for no pay or should I go ahead and pursue something else for these next 6 months?

    Any advice is MUCH appreciated!:)
     
    #1 futureMD90210, Nov 30, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2008
  2. NTF

    NTF
    Physician Moderator Emeritus Verified Expert 10+ Year Member

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    30 hrs/week with no compensation? You're getting hosed and your PI is taking advantage of you (not unusual behavior for some PIs). I say explain that it's not financially feasible for you to work for free at this time. You'll probably lose the LOR but you'll have plenty of time in medical school to get new ones. Plus, there's no guarantee that you'll even want a derm residency by then.

    Don't kill yourself trying to maintain a reference that will be at least three years old by the time you apply for residency.
     
  3. DrYoda

    DrYoda Space Cowboy
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    I do research for no pay, but I already have several jobs and wasn't looking to make any money at it. I just wanted the research experience, so I volunteered.

    I'm assuming you knew upfront that there would be no compensation, in that case you may have shot yourself in the foot with regards to money making.

    I get the impression that you like your research, is it not possible to do both research and have another job?

    As far as traveling goes; since I ask and receive no payment, I never feel bad about taking days off from my research. I allways tell the PI as far ahead as I can for the sake of professionalism, but I pretty regularly take time off for interviews, vacation and meetings.

    Edit: 30hrs/wk does seem a bit much for no compensation IMO.
     
  4. scarletgirl777

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    What if you took a paid part-time job or something and maybe reduced your hours to 25 or 20? You could say you underestimated the expense of this process and you need to find a way to make ends meet. As for traveling, if you left your job in May or so, and med school starts in August, that's a good chunk of time to travel.

    If you started this job with the understanding that you were committed for a year and would not be paid, it would be bad form to leave. If you leave and your boss thought you had committed to be there until going to med school, you have to realize that it may be awkward for you to put this experience on any future resumes. Also, if you entered the job with the understanding you would be a co-author on any projects, then leaving now would really jeopardize that.
     
  5. Slowpoke

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    Wow I was going to say something to the effect of "stick it out until you are done" but then I realized that there may be no end for a long, long time.

    Try reducing your hours, as others have said. But it already seems you want to quit, as no one would spend time posting if they hadn't already partially decided on what they wanted to do. If you wanted to hear

    "Quit! Take some time off before medical school"

    Here it is!
     
  6. OP
    OP
    futureMD90210

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    I really really appreciate you guys input. The problem is that I cannot reduce my hours because I see patients throughout the day and they are recurring scheduled patients appointments (same time 5 days a week). I usually have a few hour gaps between patients when I do charts and paper work etc.

    The thing is we didn't really negotiate the time I would be employed, just until the study could be completed. Each new patient that is recruited is another few months time commitment due to the nature of the trial, so this thing could go on for a while. The PI is very nice and actually wrote me a letter for medical school, with high recommendations, which makes it all the more hard to leave.

    If I leave I fear that the study could be jeopardized because I imagine it is hard to come by people who would give up time for free.

    I am really torn because getting this residency in the future (if I decide to) would be a lot easier when I have a friendly face in the department vouching for me. I feel however, that in the last 4 months of working there I have made a positive impact. I just want to kind of back out slowly without doing any damage.
     
  7. Retsage

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    If you leave, you fear the study will be jeopardized because nobody else is willing to be hosed like you are being, therefore you should stay? Crazy.
     
  8. pianola

    pianola MS2
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    Yeah, I totally understand why this would be a dilemma.

    But my instinct is to say that if the PI cares about you or your future at all s/he should understand that it's just not possible for you to work 30 hours per week for the next half year or so. Just tell her what with expenses and all, you absolutely can't work more than (15? hours per week) (or choose something that would be acceptable to you). Just apologize nicely and explain that you will do everything in your power to continue to contribute, but that it's just not possible to volunteer for AS much time as you were.

    Maybe you could consider getting a part-time job to help cover expenses if you work part time in this research area. I'm sure your PI understands that you may need to do things outside of research for no-pay. If she doesn't, then she's kind of not normal...or I would think :oops:
     
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  9. Rexhina

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    wow that is alot of hours to do without getting paid, is like you are working full time :p...however like you i have graduated and am looking to do research, but so far no luck...if you don't mind me asking, what did you do to be accepted to do research...how did you find it?
     
  10. scarletgirl777

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    The PI won't be able to find one person to replace you, but 2 or 3 to replace you and split the work might be able to happen...it's a good EC for a premed and there must be other people who want the experience. She has options, and it seems like you did not make a definite commitment for the whole year, so if you're willing to work with her to train new people and stay on for a couple more months for that purpose, I don't see her getting too angry.
     
  11. Rabbit36

    Rabbit36 Lagomorphadelic
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    This is a tough situation, considering you're in a trial and have an obligation to see it through (as was your agreement with the PI). I would say, however, that unpaid research (especially so many hours) is certainly not the norm outside of a university setting (and even then you can get credit if you're not paid). I would say talk to the PI, give them a heads up so you can both start looking for a window for you to move on. The PI (I assume) went to medical school too, so I think they should understand it's important to do other things before the plunge ('cuz you're really never going to have that kind of freedom again). It's clear you've been dedicated and extremely helpful, so I think the PI will want to help you out. The most important thing is to talk to them ASAP, that way there's not a sense that you just sprang this on them. They know you're good as gold because you're free, skilled labor. That doesn't mean they should expect you to stay bound to that unconditionally. The hardest part is always sitting on something waiting for the right time to bring it up. After that, things are always easier than you thought they would be. Just talk to them.
     
    #11 Rabbit36, Dec 1, 2008
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2008
  12. richse

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    The volunteer researchers in my lab only work 10 hours a week. Maybe 20 if they really want to, but my PI would never let them work more than that unpaid and he generally tries to get them a spot on a grant ASAP.
     
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  13. Neoformans

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    As somebody else already said, you should talk to the PI right away. It's definitely not the norm in research to expect somebody who is so integral to the project to work for free 30+ hours a week.

    Maybe you can find some med student wannabe to take over your job, I'm sure there are plenty of pre-meds out there who would love the experience that you're getting. That way you can back out of it slowly while training your replacement.
     

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