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ditritium monoxide

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I've been on a project in a chemistry lab for about 3-4 months now, and I'm concerned its going too slow. I've already accepted the fact that the paper for this project will likely be written and submitted after I've sent in my applications, but I would like to at least get enough data to get a poster/abstract accepted at a conference presentation before I plan to apply (next summer).

We've already proved our project concept for one substrate, and my mentor will join in on collecting data in a month from now after he's done submitting previous papers. My P.I. says that 6-8 types of substrates would be considered enough data for a poster.

Any words of advice? I'm not really sure who could help me out here, and I would like to have something tangible from research as I've already spent three unpaid semesters (1.5 for training) in this lab (and will not be on the papers for my project contributions when I was being trained, which is understandable), and the only tangible thing of value I've earned is a $1300 school grant for next fall. Would anyone recommend taking one gap year to get more tangible things out of this work?
 
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What kind of medical schools do you want to apply to?
 

ditritium monoxide

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What kind of medical schools do you want to apply to?

I've done well in my classes (4.0) and in my endeavors outside of class so far. If my MCAT is high enough, then I'd like to have some top 10-2o schools on my list.

I'm at a state school in the midwest.
 

Lucca

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If you have already done the proof of concept then all that is left is producing data right? Just set up a schedule for yourself. If your research allowed, have multiple experiments going at once. figuring out if a hypothesis is testable or not is the hard part, it sounds like you have that, now you need data to substantiate it, so...get to work, I guess? Perhaps I'm misunderstanding.
 

Shirafune

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This is the reality of research. Sometimes things just move so slowly, even though you have a pretty good hunch of what's going on.

If you really want to get something more tangible out of this, then you better bust your bum getting data this year. Come next summer and you haven't made the progress you would have liked to, then consider asking your PI for a paid specialist/tech/whatever your institute calls it. You may send update letters after you've gained accepted abstracts/posters/publications.
 

piii

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What are you waiting for? Research has to be conducted, right? Someone needs to do it, right? So do the work, work more, figure out how to do it yourself. If not, don't complain about not getting a publication. And stop worrying about publications in general, doing research just for a pub is kind of vain.
 

JustAPhD

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This is the reality of research. Sometimes things just move so slowly, even though you have a pretty good hunch of what's going on.

If you really want to get something more tangible out of this, then you better bust your bum getting data this year. Come next summer and you haven't made the progress you would have liked to, then consider asking your PI for a paid specialist/tech/whatever your institute calls it. You may send update letters after you've gained accepted abstracts/posters/publications.

That's fairly unrealistic. You'd better be an absolute rockstar of a student to warrant your own tech.


I agree with @Lucca. If you know the idea is correct, then you just have to become a data machine. Crank out those experiments and get that data flowing. However, this comes with the caveat that you can't let that cloud your judgement. You still have to be impartial when analyzing the data, I've seen many people fall into a situation where they let their biases shine through when the data gets looked over.
 
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Shirafune

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That's fairly unrealistic. You'd better be an absolute rockstar of a student to warrant your own tech.


I agree with @Lucca. If you know the idea is correct, then you just have to become a data machine. Crank out those experiments and get that data flowing. However, this comes with the caveat that you can't let that cloud your judgement. You still have to be impartial when analyzing the data, I've seen many people fall into a situation where they let their biases shine through when the data gets looked over.

Sorry, I wasn't clear enough. I meant ask your PI to hire you as a paid tech while you apply in your gap year to get more research time.
 

JustAPhD

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Sorry, I wasn't clear enough. I meant ask your PI to hire you as a paid tech while you apply in your gap year to get more research time.

Ah gotcha! Yes, sorry I misunderstood.
 

ditritium monoxide

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Thanks for all the advice everyone. Yes, we did get proof of concept, but it was also with the easiest substrate, and we're now seeing that there may be some more tweaking with the entire process than we originally thought. Sorry if this isn't detailed enough, but I don't want to divulge too much about the project.

The project itself is very interesting to me, as it is in a chemistry subfield I enjoy, but I'm concerned that it would reflect poorly if I have nothing to show for the large amount of time I have put and plan to put into this lab, which is why I'd like to know if one gap year would be worth it if it would mean that I would have a much greater chance of having something tangible.
 

Shirafune

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Thanks for all the advice everyone. Yes, we did get proof of concept, but it was also with the easiest substrate, and we're now seeing that there may be some more tweaking with the entire process than we originally thought. Sorry if this isn't detailed enough, but I don't want to divulge too much about the project.

The project itself is very interesting to me, as it is in a chemistry subfield I enjoy, but I'm concerned that it would reflect poorly if I have nothing to show for the large amount of time I have put and plan to put into this lab, which is why I'd like to know if one gap year would be worth it if it would mean that I would have a much greater chance of having something tangible.

For an undergrad, I don't think lack of pubs/presentations are going to take precedence over a great PI letter. If your PI can write you a great letter detailing your wonderful skills as a researcher, adcoms are just going to see that you've been working on a tricky project. There's nothing wrong with that. You can also demonstrate your development as a scientist during your interviews. I don't think any adcom is going to care about you not having pubs if your PI writes you a fantastic letter and you show thorough understanding of your research project.
 

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From thr advice on the Physician Scientist board sticky:

You don't need pubs.

Pubs are very difficult to get. It is almost entirely dependent on your PI- it doesn't usually reflect on you.

Also, just wait for good data. I'm so sick of reading terrible Nature papers with obviously crappy models from mediocre data...just to shove out publications.

Focus on learning how to do the research design well. This will serve you well.
 
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anonymoose1640

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The project itself is very interesting to me, as it is in a chemistry subfield I enjoy, but I'm concerned that it would reflect poorly if I have nothing to show for the large amount of time I have put and plan to put into this lab, which is why I'd like to know if one gap year would be worth it if it would mean that I would have a much greater chance of having something tangible.
I wouldn't worry too much about this. I worked for 3+ years in a lab (and over 2,000 hours) and I don't really have any papers to show for it (yet). Only once was I questioned about lack of publications and I replied to the question that my lab only publishes if it's worthy of cell/nature/science or the like and that we needed more data before it was at that caliber. The interviewer had heard of my PI so he knew it was an honest answer, which may have helped. But still, publications are less important, in my opinion, than spending meaningful time doing really good work and having a strong letter of rec from the PI.
 
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ditritium monoxide

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For an undergrad, I don't think lack of pubs/presentations are going to take precedence over a great PI letter. If your PI can write you a great letter detailing your wonderful skills as a researcher, adcoms are just going to see that you've been working on a tricky project. There's nothing wrong with that. You can also demonstrate your development as a scientist during your interviews. I don't think any adcom is going to care about you not having pubs if your PI writes you a fantastic letter and you show thorough understanding of your research project.

I'm fairly certain the letter will be strong, and my PI is aware that the project I'm working on is quite difficult, but doesn't any student who does research for a while get a good LOR and is able to say they've developed as a scientist? These things are noteworthy, but aren't they pretty common as well?
 

ditritium monoxide

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From thr advice on the Physician Scientist board sticky:

You don't need pubs.

Pubs are very difficult to get. It is almost entirely dependent on your PI- it doesn't usually reflect on you.

Also, just wait for good data. I'm so sick of reading terrible Nature papers with obviously crappy models from mediocre data...just to shove out publications.

Focus on learning how to do the research design well. This will serve you well.

Then why are they given a great deal of weight when applying? I also really wonder how they are so frequent among premeds (especially here). I know the field and mentor you get play the largest role in your chances for success, but would a majority of adcoms also realize this? Not trying to hound you here, but just trying to put it all together.
 

Shirafune

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I'm fairly certain the letter will be strong, and my PI is aware that the project I'm working on is quite difficult, but doesn't any student who does research for a while get a good LOR and is able to say they've developed as a scientist? These things are noteworthy, but aren't they pretty common as well?

If you're a mediocre student, then you are not going to get an outstanding LOR. You're probably going to get something along the lines of "Having Steve in our lab has been a pleasure. Over the years, he has developed as a young scientist and has shown consistent improvement." This is the kind of letter I imagine students who are just doing an okay job get. This is in contrast to a student whom the PI will fight to keep: "Steve has been an integral member of our lab and has produced thoughtful and insightful remarks about our research. He has been a tremendous asset as a dedicated member of our team and an invaluable scientific mind." There are many degrees with which your PI can describe you.

Ask yourself this. If you decided to leave the lab today, how easily could your PI replace you? If you're really putting in the effort and providing great input into the research, then your PI is going to have a hard time replacing you. If you're replaceable, you're not special, and if you're not special, your letter is not going to be special.
 
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Lucca

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Then why are they given a great deal of weight when applying? I also really wonder how they are so frequent among premeds (especially here). I know the field and mentor you get play the largest role in your chances for success, but would a majority of adcoms also realize this? Not trying to hound you here, but just trying to put it all together.

One word: credentialism. People like objective things to attach value to. A publication/presentation is a good thing. It gives some credibility to your work. People like credibility. It doesn't make you a good scientist and from the research PoV that is all that really
Matters.
 

Shirafune

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Then why are they given a great deal of weight when applying? I also really wonder how they are so frequent among premeds (especially here). I know the field and mentor you get play the largest role in your chances for success, but would a majority of adcoms also realize this? Not trying to hound you here, but just trying to put it all together.

Publications are a standard measure of your productivity and involvement within a lab. However, they are by no means the only measure. Someone who gained 1-2 3rd/4th author publications just by being in the lab for a long time is not as impressive as somebody who has an outstanding PI letter. Some PIs are incredibly nice and will hold their undergrads by the hand (i.e. tell them how to do everything) to a publication.
 

mw18

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Then why are they given a great deal of weight when applying? I also really wonder how they are so frequent among premeds (especially here). I know the field and mentor you get play the largest role in your chances for success, but would a majority of adcoms also realize this? Not trying to hound you here, but just trying to put it all together.
No real advice for your dilemma, just some perspective. I got accepted to a top research med school without any publications or a PI letter. I understanding wanting to show productivity, but I honestly don't think they are going to look at your experience all that much differently. There are people who have done insane amounts of high level things, and there will be people accepted to top research institution with less to show for it than you will have.
 

ditritium monoxide

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If you're a mediocre student, then you are not going to get an outstanding LOR. You're probably going to get something along the lines of "Having Steve in our lab has been a pleasure. Over the years, he has developed as a young scientist and has shown consistent improvement." This is the kind of letter I imagine students who are just doing an okay job get. This is in contrast to a student whom the PI will fight to keep: "Steve has been an integral member of our lab and has produced thoughtful and insightful remarks about our research. He has been a tremendous asset as a dedicated member of our team and an invaluable scientific mind." There are many degrees with which your PI can describe you.

Ask yourself this. If you decided to leave the lab today, how easily could your PI replace you? If you're really putting in the effort and providing great input into the research, then you're PI is going to have a hard time replacing you. If you're replaceable, you're not special, and if you're not special, your letter is not going to be special.

Not sure how this never crossed my mind. Much needed insight. Thanks a bunch.
 

Lucca

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Publications are a standard measure of your productivity and involvement within a lab. However, they are by no means the only measure. Someone who gained 1-2 3rd/4th author publications just by being in the lab for a long time is not as impressive as somebody who has an outstanding PI letter. Some PIs are incredibly nice and will hold their undergrads by the hand (i.e. tell them how to do everything) to a publication.

I wouldn't call those PIs "nice". You are basically just cheap technical labor at that point, which is a fine thing to be, especially if you are getting paid for your work. Most premeds would probably be fine with this situation if it results in $$$ and a publication or poster. However, if you actually want to develop as a scientist sounds like a ****ty situation.
 
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If you're a mediocre student, then you are not going to get an outstanding LOR. You're probably going to get something along the lines of "Having Steve in our lab has been a pleasure. Over the years, he has developed as a young scientist and has shown consistent improvement." This is the kind of letter I imagine students who are just doing an okay job get. This is in contrast to a student whom the PI will fight to keep: "Steve has been an integral member of our lab and has produced thoughtful and insightful remarks about our research. He has been a tremendous asset as a dedicated member of our team and an invaluable scientific mind." There are many degrees with which your PI can describe you.

Ask yourself this. If you decided to leave the lab today, how easily could your PI replace you? If you're really putting in the effort and providing great input into the research, then your PI is going to have a hard time replacing you. If you're replaceable, you're not special, and if you're not special, your letter is not going to be special.
Eh. I disagree. Tbh no undergrad (basically) is irreplacable...they aren't techs or postsocs.

They are students.
 
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Shirafune

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Eh. I disagree. Tbh no undergrad (basically) is irreplacable...they aren't techs or postsocs.

They are students.

Perhaps it's just a perspective from my institution, but I would say 90% of our undergraduate researchers are not paid and perhaps 5% are on work study. Most labs here are also not just overflowing with funding, so most students aren't stuck into a lab with 6 postdocs; a typical lab here has maybe 2 postdocs, a graduate student, a tech/lab manager, and maybe up to 5 undergrads helping out.

My point is if you have a good head on your shoulders and put in the effort as free labor for your PI (i.e. skilled and devoted enough to run your own project), then your PI is going to want to keep you (not replace you with another undergrad). I'm not making a comparison to those of higher rank or experience. It's another paper or faster paper without any of the staffing costs.

I wouldn't call those PIs "nice". You are basically just cheap technical labor at that point, which is a fine thing to be, especially if you are getting paid for your work. Most premeds would probably be fine with this situation if it results in $$$ and a publication or poster. However, if you actually want to develop as a scientist sounds like a ****ty situation.

I totally agree that it's a terrible way to gain experience as a scientist. I actually think it's a disservice to those students by giving them a false impression of what actually doing research is like, but PIs can and should do whatever they dam want. In such cases, I'm just imagining an undergrad with publications on their resume, but come application and interview time, there's an average LOR and little to no understanding of the project which will be very obvious during the interview. And I do agree that publications are not necessary for undergrads; the LOR is infinitely more important imo.
 
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ditritium monoxide

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Perhaps it's just a perspective from my institution, but I would say 90% of our undergraduate researchers are not paid and perhaps 5% are on work study. Most labs here are also not just overflowing with funding, so most students aren't stuck into a lab with 6 postdocs; a typical lab here has maybe 2 postdocs, a graduate student, a tech/lab manager, and maybe up to 5 undergrads helping out.

My point is if you have a good head on your shoulders and put in the effort as free labor for your PI (i.e. skilled and devoted enough to run your own project), then your PI is going to want to keep you (not replace you with another undergrad). I'm not making a comparison to those of higher rank or experience. It's another paper or faster paper without any of the staffing costs.



I totally agree that it's a terrible way to gain experience as a scientist. I actually think it's a disservice to those students by giving them a false impression of what actually doing research is like, but PIs can and should do whatever they dam want. In such cases, I'm just imagining an undergrad with publications on their resume, but come application and interview time, there's an average LOR and little to no understanding of the project which will be very obvious during the interview. And I do agree that publications are not necessary for undergrads; the LOR is infinitely more important imo.

Are you an undergrad or a grad student?
 
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