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Competing for a spot after rotations

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I'm set to rotate with someone this summer who I really like (research and personality), but apparently 2 of us will be rotating at the same time with only one open spot in the lab.

Anyone have any experience with this or advice? 

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Whatever you do, don't treat this person as your enemy! Academia is a small world: your PI may decide to take 2 students after all, you may end up in the same teams for coursework, or you may put off the PI/lab members by being too mean and thus not get accepted. 

First - come up with a solid back-up plan for alternative rotations. It could be that you don't get on as well in this lab as you thought, or the PI's funding falls through and they end up not taking anyone this year. Treat all rotations seriously and be open-minded.

Second - do the best you can in the rotation. It's not just about putting in the most hours or getting the most experiments done. You want to come across as a conscientious (future) labmate who tidies up after themselves, follows the rules, matches the group personality, etc. A lot of the decision-making for selecting new grad students is based upon personality, values and perceived fit, which is hard to change if you don't match up to what the PI is after and doesn't necessarily mean you're a bad scientist if they don't accept you.

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2 hours ago, St Andrews Lynx said:

Whatever you do, don't treat this person as your enemy! Academia is a small world: your PI may decide to take 2 students after all, you may end up in the same teams for coursework, or you may put off the PI/lab members by being too mean and thus not get accepted. 

First - come up with a solid back-up plan for alternative rotations. It could be that you don't get on as well in this lab as you thought, or the PI's funding falls through and they end up not taking anyone this year. Treat all rotations seriously and be open-minded.

Second - do the best you can in the rotation. It's not just about putting in the most hours or getting the most experiments done. You want to come across as a conscientious (future) labmate who tidies up after themselves, follows the rules, matches the group personality, etc. A lot of the decision-making for selecting new grad students is based upon personality, values and perceived fit, which is hard to change if you don't match up to what the PI is after and doesn't necessarily mean you're a bad scientist if they don't accept you.

Thank you for the response! I guess I'm mostly just afraid that there will innately be competition (I'm not a competitive person, and get anxious in those types of situations) or that the PI will choose the other student over me (I know I would take it personally). But I guess there's not much I can do but work hard and be friendly. 

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A bit late to the reply but I have definitely experienced this in my rotations. With the lab I wanted to join the most I was competing against 6 other students for only 2 spots. I agree that the most important thing is to not make these people your competitors! You need to keep in mind that any of them might join the lab and that you could easily not end up in that lab. Before agreeing to this, make sure you have a backup in case you don't get chosen. Additionally, you have to keep in mind that you are evaluating the people you are rotating with at the same time because you might have one as a colleague for the next five years. Lastly, just for yourself and trying to get the position, put the competition out of your mind and make sure you get face time with the professor but show your independence and your ability to fit in with the lab. Be confident and you will do great!

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