GreenDuck12

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I mean, what is your goal in the lab? Is it to do research because you are interested in pursuing research or to do research to say you did research when applying to medical school? Both positions are valid, so no judgement here, but keep what you're doing in perspective of your long term goal.

Couple thoughts:
1. My guess is they aren't that interested in getting to know you as an undergrad because many undergrads flake after a few months when their classes really get tough. If you stick it out, my guess is things will get better.

2. It will be easier for you to get involved in another lab if you have a reputation of being a hard worker who shows up on time and follows through on your commitments.

3. Your lab PI is not going to respect your time the same way you respect your time (it will be the same when you get a job!). Once you make peace with that, things will get a whole lot easier.

Hello everyone!

I have been having this issue that has been bothering me for some time.

I am a sophomore and I joined a renal pathology research lab at the beginning of this semester. However, I am having second thoughts for a number of reasons:

I hardly ever have any interaction with my PI. I work mostly with one of the research assistants in the lab, but I feel that she does not respect my time. For example, she always comes 30 min-1 hr late.

Also, I feel kind of unwelcome and alienated because I am the only undergraduate student, and they aren't willing to get to know me even though I try really hard to be friendly and interact with them.

I'm not exactly passionate about kidney disease, so I tend to lose sight of the goal of the project I am working on. In addition, one of the parts of my project is to make a database on a computer of 1000+ patient data files, and I have been told that this is work that the other lab members did not want to do, so they made me do it instead. I only joined this lab because I shadowed this doctor (my PI) last spring and found the biopsies to be interesting, but now that I'm actually in the lab and see what is going on, I don't want to do research in that lab anymore.

I feel that I should be excited working in a lab, but I am always trying to find a reason to avoid going to the lab. Should I try to make the best of this situation and continue working in this lab until the end of my senior year, or find a new lab? When is the latest recommend time to join a lab?

Please and thank you guys so much.
 
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WedgeDawg

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You definitely have time to join a new lab. It sounds to me like you're not enjoying your time there and you're not getting anything out of it. I would spend this term finishing up in this lab, but let your PI know you're probably leaving at the end of this semester. Try to look for another lab with a focus that you might be interested in and start contacting new PIs of these labs to see if they have room for you. Given what you've told me, you should probably be looking for labs with a larger cohort of undergraduate, more direct PI involvement (which you can ask about in the interview - "who will I primarily be working with during my time here?"), whether there is the possibility of you eventually leading your own project (or part of a larger project) as you increase in skill and experience, etc.
 
Aug 7, 2015
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You definitely have time to join a new lab. It sounds to me like you're not enjoying your time there and you're not getting anything out of it. I would spend this term finishing up in this lab, but let your PI know you're probably leaving at the end of this semester. Try to look for another lab with a focus that you might be interested in and start contacting new PIs of these labs to see if they have room for you. Given what you've told me, you should probably be looking for labs with a larger cohort of undergraduate, more direct PI involvement (which you can ask about in the interview - "who will I primarily be working with during my time here?"), whether there is the possibility of you eventually leading your own project (or part of a larger project) as you increase in skill and experience, etc.

Agree totally with WedgeDawg - staying too long in the lab that you absolutely hate will damage you more than you think. It often deters students from science for a long time.
 

Neurodoct

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I believe you have great opportunities available in your current lab. Try to get to know the other RA by expressing more knowledge and interest in the topic. At my current institution it is very difficult to be accepted into a research lab as an undergrad so it is something I would not let go of so quickly personally.
 

WedgeDawg

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Thank you! I'm just worried that something like this will happen again if I join a new lab. When I interviewed for my current lab, my PI told me I would be mostly working with her, but I discovered that is totally not the case. The other lab members told me that they never see her either because she's always at conferences, lectures, etc. So is it bad to join a lab that does not have many undergraduates?
I wouldn't say it's "bad", but there's usually a reason that a lab retains or recruits few undergraduates. Sometimes, it's because the lab is baller and wants only highly competent and experienced people, but more often its because the undergraduates don't get to do much and the turnover rate is therefore very high.

For the next labs you're considering, ask to talk to the current undergraduates before you commit to anything. Ask them how long they've been there, who they primarily work with, how often they see their PI, how productive they are, what their future plans are, and how their general experience has been. This will likely give you much better and more accurate information for when you have to decide which lab to start working in.
 

NewHorizons

2+ Year Member
May 20, 2015
290
230
Hello everyone!

I have been having this issue that has been bothering me for some time.

I am a sophomore and I joined a renal pathology research lab at the beginning of this semester. However, I am having second thoughts for a number of reasons:

I hardly ever have any interaction with my PI. I work mostly with one of the research assistants in the lab, but I feel that she does not respect my time. For example, she always comes 30 min-1 hr late. I've had this happen often too... they are busier than you can imagine so I cut them some slack. That said if you really need to be somewhere then be sure to have open communication between yourself and the preceptor... or meet up with the other members of the lab (which will give you a chance to learn more from others)

Also, I feel kind of unwelcome and alienated because I am the only undergraduate student, and they aren't willing to get to know me even though I try really hard to be friendly and interact with them. Definitely agree with the above posts... new post-secondary students are notorious for flaking and showing a lack of commitment beyond getting that LOR and/or publication in research. Even if you have to push yourself to work hard at it give it a shot... if you really can't stand it any longer then consider quitting. Is this a research based course? an independent project? I'm not sure what context you are in for this research.

I'm not exactly passionate about kidney disease, so I tend to lose sight of the goal of the project I am working on. In addition, one of the parts of my project is to make a database on a computer of 1000+ patient data files, and I have been told that this is work that the other lab members did not want to do, so they made me do it instead. I only joined this lab because I shadowed this doctor (my PI) last spring and found the biopsies to be interesting, but now that I'm actually in the lab and see what is going on, I don't want to do research in that lab anymore. Most post-secondary students are not passionate about most topics... even if they think they would. I think it's better to prioritize it in terms of what you'd like to learn from the experience and what can you contribute back to the lab. There will always be dull moments even in the best jobs that you will dislike...

I feel that I should be excited working in a lab, but I am always trying to find a reason to avoid going to the lab. Should I try to make the best of this situation and continue working in this lab until the end of my senior year, or find a new lab? When is the latest recommend time to join a lab? No one is thaaaaaaaat excited ... I mean I was when I started but I realized the hard work and time that really has to go into making something worthwhile (and even then it may not be... it's the nature of research). See how it goes for a little while longer... then if you still are finding every excuse to not be in the lab... it's best to quit amicably for both side's sake.

Please and thank you guys so much.
 
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I wouldn't say it's "bad", but there's usually a reason that a lab retains or recruits few undergraduates. Sometimes, it's because the lab is baller and wants only highly competent and experienced people, but more often its because the undergraduates don't get to do much and the turnover rate is therefore very high.

For the next labs you're considering, ask to talk to the current undergraduates before you commit to anything. Ask them how long they've been there, who they primarily work with, how often they see their PI, how productive they are, what their future plans are, and how their general experience has been. This will likely give you much better and more accurate information for when you have to decide which lab to start working in.
Thank you so much!
When would be the latest time for me to begin research?
 

NewHorizons

2+ Year Member
May 20, 2015
290
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Thank you so much!
I am doing research so I can gain some more experience and I feel like it would be more awesome to actively apply knowledge and learn about science in a lab than to just sit in a classroom or study from a textbook. I think it would also look good for med school apps, especially if I had a publication.
The thing is that I can't really connect diabetic nephropathy to my life at all. There seems to be such a high disconnect between the work I am doing and patients. I don't know if it's normal for undergraduates to feel like they don't belong in a lab, or if it's normal for them to be stuck doing work that other people don't want to be doing.
Most research will have a disconnect no matter how applied it is...... that's why you need to also work on how to bridge information and knowledge translation.

It is completely normal to feel like they don't belong and to do work that others don't want to do..... you're an undergrad....

My Ph.D colleague (who is an amazingly outgoing guy) said that the hierarchy goes like this:
PIs --> Research Associates --> Post Docs --> Ph.D students --> Masters students --> lab equipment --> undergrads

You are the one asking for an opportunity to do something... you have to be the one to prove yourself and start from the bottom.
 
Dec 15, 2014
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Completely normal. I am new to a lab. Another PI makes no eye contact with me. He/she insists on doing this. Even if I ask a question. Ego as big as they come. My PI signed off on all my lab training paperwork, then turned around and said to the student I am working under "I have an engineering student that might be better for you in the long-run". LoL this took a moment to get passed.

The phD candidate does similar with no eye contact. I dont blame her. She seems tired of undergrads.

My actual person I work under, my first day she/he had a rough week and came in 6 hours later than expected.

You really gotta seek out information. Most of the time I have come to realize that clinical research personnel think poorly of undergrad premeds because we come off a little snotty and are there for a letter, checklist of research and move on. You really have to showcase why you like working there, outside of medical school application. One way to do this is to use Pubmed and research the articles they wrote on and similar topics covered in your lab. Then ask questions. It will showcase how interested you are, also not terrible prep for MCAT, and you have access to people willing to decipher some complex pathways and interesting articles you otherwise would not get.

Please don’t get discouraged. I took it personal for about 30 seconds. And Then realized just how narrow-sighted I was being in the long run. I say hi to everyone. Even if they walk by and say absolutely nothing. My mom taught me manners. Its up to them if they want to reply or not. That’s the extent of trying. From here ask very serious-research based questions. Over time they will warm up to this more.

You just got to showcase your interest. Learn the techniques well. Repeat them. Study them. Write Notes. Ask questions. And do your best not to mess up. So if you are inputting data, great. Do your best. Then when you have done this a couple of times, politely ask to learn other lab techniques. If this were a no-go then I would say u should leave. More importantly if you really want to go, make sure to secure a position before you leave in my opinion. If you ask in a polite way that is not presumptuous, you could see what plans they have for you in the future in your current lab. Its not a bad idea to ask if you would ever be performing some lab techniques. At the end of the day you are free labor. It can be a high commodity. Especially for phD and master students. Especially for those willing to train you, the road goes both ways. They focus on grants and so on. And you do all the cool, gritty grunt work that they have mastered.


Best of luck ! I hope you find a place you are comfortable with :thumbup:
 

samac

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Thank you so much!
I am doing research so I can gain some more experience and I feel like it would be more awesome to actively apply knowledge and learn about science in a lab than to just sit in a classroom or study from a textbook. I think it would also look good for med school apps, especially if I had a publication.
The thing is that I can't really connect diabetic nephropathy to my life at all. There seems to be such a high disconnect between the work I am doing and patients. I don't know if it's normal for undergraduates to feel like they don't belong in a lab, or if it's normal for them to be stuck doing work that other people don't want to be doing.
You're lucky to find truely clinical work as an undergrad. They're not going to give you patient interaction. You're the grunt. No matter what lab you're going into you'll be the grunt.
I worked in Petri dishes for 4 years in undergrad. I wish it was clinical.
 
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Shirafune

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Jan 2, 2014
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Hello everyone!
I hardly ever have any interaction with my PI. I work mostly with one of the research assistants in the lab, but I feel that she does not respect my time. For example, she always comes 30 min-1 hr late.
I am always perpetually behind on my lab work. It's hard to juggle everything at once and keep everything on time. Something usually goes wrong or you grossly overestimate how quickly you can accomplish things, even for the most experienced.
Also, I feel kind of unwelcome and alienated because I am the only undergraduate student, and they aren't willing to get to know me even though I try really hard to be friendly and interact with them.
That might just be the lab culture. If all members of the lab are like that to each other, then it's really an all work, no play kind of lab. These are not uncommon.
I'm not exactly passionate about kidney disease, so I tend to lose sight of the goal of the project I am working on. In addition, one of the parts of my project is to make a database on a computer of 1000+ patient data files, and I have been told that this is work that the other lab members did not want to do, so they made me do it instead. I only joined this lab because I shadowed this doctor (my PI) last spring and found the biopsies to be interesting, but now that I'm actually in the lab and see what is going on, I don't want to do research in that lab anymore.
Learn to love the science and how biomedical research in general functions. Most researchers I know do not really love a topic enough to focus on it for the rest of their lives. Many research superstars have switched to a completely new field (at least in bench work) but with light overlap with their background. You are the bottom of the totem pole. Secretarial, organizational, and paper-pushing work is all fair game for you. Do they expect to hire some high school kid to do all this work? No, undergrads are realistically the best and only option; no need to waste more qualified people's time.
Also, another thing that gets me is that my roommate is also in a research lab, but she is having the time of her life. Every day, she is telling me how her lab is always making awesome discoveries and how she gets to work with mice and decapitate them. I just feel kind of sad and feel that I'm not getting as much out of my research as she is.
Important scientific contributions don't happen in a day, at least nowhere near the frequency you've exaggerated. Reproducing results and optimization, as you may learn, eat up a lot of your time.
I think it would also look good for med school apps, especially if I had a publication.
Are publications good for apps? Sure. Do they really shotput you over other candidates with research experience, but no publication? Depends on the applicant. There are too many factors in undergraduate authorship for any undergraduate not dedicating a huge chunk of time to research to even think about a "secure" publication. Lab politics, unexpected results, difficult to reproduce data, publishing politics, PI's opinion on if undergrads are allowed on papers, etc etc etc. Most undergrads do not contribute significantly to warrant authorship (i.e. not just doing what you're told). If you have research-oriented career goals and can actually land this kind of opportunity, start an independent project early on with a PI who has steady funding and spend a lot of time on it, and you might just make it to the end of a 1st author paper.
 

pdmaes

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Jun 7, 2015
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I worked in a lab for all 4 years of my undergraduate career and loved it. What I found is that if the other members of your lab know you are pre-med and likely not going to get your PhD and continue research (especially in their field), they assume you are only in it to put it on a resume. They may be hesitant to respect and accept you if they think you are just there to check off a box on your to-do list for med school, when the RAs and other graduate students are truly passionate about their work.

Since you just joined the lab, I would wait it out a little while longer to prove that you are willing to work hard and contribute to the lab. It will take some time to prove that you have something to offer and can be depended on.

As far as publications go, I worked on the same project with a PhD student for 4 years and we still don't have publication out due to experimental design issues, financial bumps in the road, etc. I definitely wouldn't go into it assuming you'll get a publication - it would just be a nice bonus.
 
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I worked in a lab for all 4 years of my undergraduate career and loved it. What I found is that if the other members of your lab know you are pre-med and likely not going to get your PhD and continue research (especially in their field), they assume you are only in it to put it on a resume. They may be hesitant to respect and accept you if they think you are just there to check off a box on your to-do list for med school, when the RAs and other graduate students are truly passionate about their work.

Since you just joined the lab, I would wait it out a little while longer to prove that you are willing to work hard and contribute to the lab. It will take some time to prove that you have something to offer and can be depended on.

As far as publications go, I worked on the same project with a PhD student for 4 years and we still don't have publication out due to experimental design issues, financial bumps in the road, etc. I definitely wouldn't go into it assuming you'll get a publication - it would just be a nice bonus.
Just to echo this, I also did 4 yrs of research and got no publications but because of my dedication and leadership in the project the project is coming to be successful. I couldn't be any happier seeing all the hard work being an inspiration for new and old undergrads to be carrying this project to some exciting funding or patent in the near future. Research in general is frustrating and I got quite disillusioned from it which led me to a clinical job but it only took me less than a month to realize my deep attachment to research as the two environments are quite different. Where in research you might have one person trying to act smart but isnt, you have more of those ppl in clinical setting...
I will say rude behavior is prevalent in most lab but its frequency is dependent on whether or not the pi encourages this behavior and/or the amt of work in the lab. In my old lab, I set my own time and did my project with collaboration of pi. It was really fun doing the project and learning how to do something from ground up. In my new lab I don't really get time to talk to pi and I don't think he wants to talk either as he thinks I am only doing this for med school or something. Despite me doing a lot of things right and even doing the scrap work like throwing trash or something, things like me not coming on time will get me on square one even if I come voluntarily and practically full time. I am doing things that are so against what I want to do but I still see the techniques I learned have their practicality in medical school and research more so than my first research. So I am sticking it out so that one day pi can realize my passion and put me at a better position. Just remember, you can't have the ice cream and eat it too.
 
Last edited:
Oct 8, 2015
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Pre-Dental
Hello everyone!

I have been having this issue that has been bothering me for some time.

I am a sophomore and I joined a renal pathology research lab at the beginning of this semester. However, I am having second thoughts for a number of reasons:

I hardly ever have any interaction with my PI. I work mostly with one of the research assistants in the lab, but I feel that she does not respect my time. For example, she always comes 30 min-1 hr late.

Also, I feel kind of unwelcome and alienated because I am the only undergraduate student, and they aren't willing to get to know me even though I try really hard to be friendly and interact with them.

I'm not exactly passionate about kidney disease, so I tend to lose sight of the goal of the project I am working on. In addition, one of the parts of my project is to make a database on a computer of 1000+ patient data files, and I have been told that this is work that the other lab members did not want to do, so they made me do it instead. I only joined this lab because I shadowed this doctor (my PI) last spring and found the biopsies to be interesting, but now that I'm actually in the lab and see what is going on, I don't want to do research in that lab anymore.

I feel that I should be excited working in a lab, but I am always trying to find a reason to avoid going to the lab. Should I try to make the best of this situation and continue working in this lab until the end of my senior year, or find a new lab? When is the latest recommend time to join a lab?

Please and thank you guys so much.
You need to realize that your principal is really busy, and it might not be an issue of them respecting your time as much as it is you're a single part of their many parted lab.
 

Shirafune

5+ Year Member
Jan 2, 2014
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so even if i'm not interested in the research i am actually doing, should i still be in that lab? do most undergrads actually enjoy the research projects they work on?
You should join a lab to see if you enjoy the research process. If you can't enjoy what you're doing, not necessarily the problem you are studying, I would not stay in the lab. Hopefully you like the topic you're researching, but at the very least, you should like what you're doing (i.e. thinking about hypotheses, interacting with more senior researchers, reading papers to understand how to build experiments, etc). I don't think most undergrads enjoy the research projects they work on. A lot of the time, you have little say of what specific project you're working on, especially as an undergrad.
 

eoan

5+ Year Member
Jan 30, 2013
13
4
Definitely join another lab, if you want. I was in a similar position. I left to a different lab in January of my second year and I am much happier. I have my own project now and the PI is great! Just be sure to talk to people in the lab and see if they enjoy it - especially the undergrads. Be upfront with what you want from the experience when you are joining a lab.
 
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Salt Salt

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Quit and find a new one. Do it sooner rather than later.

This time, ask around to see what labs are undergrad-friendly and before you start, make sure you know what you'll be doing (e.g. tissue culture vs. washing glassware). Let the undergrads who brag about being willing to "start from the bottom" wash the glassware while you do cool stuff.
 

Dral

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having the time of her life....and how she gets to work with mice and decapitate them.
:confused:

Not most people's ideas of 'time of their lives'. Haha.

Decide how much you may be interested in research. If not at all and you just need the checkbox, it may be easier to just stay where you are.

Otherwise, leave the lab and move on. Understand that you probably won't be able to get a great letter from this attending doc at that point. However, you can easily leave by stating you found her clinical work interesting, but the lab work isn't what you expected.
 

Shirafune

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Jan 2, 2014
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I've worked in a lab for 2+ years and don't have anything to "show." All I've done is present a poster at my school's poster sessions...

Don't med schools expect something from you if you work that long? Like do they think you didn't work hard enough so you didn't get to publish or something?

Or they expect posters/presentations at least?
Too many factors in undergrad authorship to worry about. The only thing you need to worry about is if your PI can write a strong letter for you.
 
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