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Hey everyone, thanks for taking the time to read this. I am freaking out a bit about whether or not I should switch labs and Could use your advice on what to do in this situation. I will lay out the whole thing here:

So, I am one semester into my PhD and up until about a month ago I have been really enjoying it. I thankfully got into a lab right away but it is in a field entirely new to me. I received my bachelors in biomedical engineering and did research on electrochemical biosensors. My current research is on 3D printable temperature sensitive hydrogels. My project does have a biomedical application but the actual research is strict materials science. At first I really liked the idea but my initial excitement is starting to wear off. I still really like working with the 3D printer but I fear I may not want to work with temperature sensitive hydrogels for the rest of my life, or at least the rest of the phd (but isnt your research now going to determine what jobs you get later on?). Our lab is strictly temperature sensitive hydrogels right now but we are a very new lab and our direction hasn't been entirely solidified I suppose. However, what if the lab and my projects stay like this or stray even further from my interests? I am not sure if I should look to switch labs now or just stick with my current direction. I left biomedical engineering behind so far but I am feeling drawn back to it. I am even debating maybe switching my degree from nanoengineering to bioengineering. I don't know if this is necessary or not but I like to consider all of my options, for better or worse. 

I am nervous to speak with my advisor about this since we recently just had one person fired from the lab. Also before I joined another person was also fired. The reason for the last person to be fired was due to his inability to make enough progress on his project and that he wasn't suited for research. The other person was fired, from my knowledge, for simply not being productive enough. this person currently works in a new lab at the school apparently. My PI has mentioned that she thinks I may not be as interested in my work as the other people in the lab, but at the time I told her I didnt feel that way and that I would be doubling down on my productivity. I said this because I was scared of being fired. Since she is a new lab and funding is tight, I understand why she is so cutthroat; she wants to make sure she is investing what little money she has into those who will be the most dedicated and productive (we dont have any grants yet). I am worried that if she finds out that I have these feelings and am maybe considering switching, she will fire me for not being dedicated enough or because it is wasteful to invest in me if I may leave. I am still looking around at the research in other labs but one in particular that I like is a professor that is friendly with my PI. I am worried that if I speak with him word may get back to my PI about it and I'll be in a really bad situation. I am also worried about switching labs and how it will set me back. I don't really know what to do here. 

I would really appreciate any advice on what to do in this situation or just from others who are experiencing something similar. Thanks again.

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First of all, you can never be in a project that is 100% aligned to your interest. What you do right now does not dictate what you do in future. Something you learn in nanoengineering will be applicable to bioengineering. Even if you go to that professor who is in bioengineering, there would be bits of his project that you don't like. 

That said, if your PI is so tight on money that she may not be able to support your PhD, then you should indeed consider switching lab. Resources are important for timely completion. 

I agree with you that you should not reveal your thoughts to your PI. It's fine to network with others, including that bioengineering professor. You never know. Since he is friendly with your PI, they may collaborate at some points. Then you will have some bioengineering work! 

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3 hours ago, Hope.for.the.best said:

First of all, you can never be in a project that is 100% aligned to your interest. What you do right now does not dictate what you do in future. Something you learn in nanoengineering will be applicable to bioengineering. Even if you go to that professor who is in bioengineering, there would be bits of his project that you don't like. 

I definitely agree with you, there will always be parts of a project that you don't entirely like or are interested in. However I'm starting to think that I don't necessarily want to study what my lab is focusing on. I find the idea of it interesting but actually doing research on it isn't doing it for me. On my previous project in undergrad I was constantly reading papers and trying to understand more and more. However here, I find myself not reading into it as much. And when I have to read into things I read much further into the biomedical side of it than what I'm actually working on. I'm wondering if this is a sign that I should switch to a lab that is more involved in the biomedical field.

3 hours ago, Hope.for.the.best said:

That said, if your PI is so tight on money that she may not be able to support your PhD, then you should indeed consider switching lab. Resources are important for timely completion.

This is certainly a driving factor for me as well. I think if the research really did align with my interests I would maybe stay, but it seems like it might be too much of a risk.

3 hours ago, Hope.for.the.best said:

I agree with you that you should not reveal your thoughts to your PI. It's fine to network with others, including that bioengineering professor. You never know. Since he is friendly with your PI, they may collaborate at some points. Then you will have some bioengineering work!

That is a good point, I think I will talk with him. Thanks for all of your advice!

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