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How to handle the awkwardness of switching labs?


harrisonfjord
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I currently volunteer in a lab since I do not have a funded research position. I recently came upon a funded research opportunity and decided to take it. Since I do not get paid for my volunteering position, and I do not have time to do both, I need to "quit" my current lab.

 

How do you go about handling this? I thought about lying and saying that I have an internship I will be completing or some other obligation that makes it no longer possible for me to work with the lab. I don't want to burn a bridge, but I also don't want to tell the people in the lab where I am going. They will figure it out eventually, but since it's the end of the semester, I think another excuse might be more beneficial. Any ideas?

Edited by harrisonfjord
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Be honest. People (especially the PI) will be more upset that you lied to them than the fact you changed research groups to get a funded position, which is a great way to burn bridges. Why specifically don't you want to tell them which lab you are moving to? 

 

Just say that a funded opportunity came up in another lab, it is a better fit to your research interests, it's not you its me, blah blah blah. Don't talk about anything negative in conjunction to your current lab either with your current or future lab. Thank your current PI and lab mates for their assistance and how much you valued the opportunity to work with all of them (even if this is an outright lie). You don't have to tell them which lab when disclosing your departure, but expect them to ask and (again) don't lie. The odds are that someone in your current lab will have a connection to somebody in your new lab...or a connection to a connection in your new lab, so they'll find out the specifics anyway. 

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Any reason not to share the fact that you're moving to a new lab, and say which one? I think it is totally fair to say that you have found a paid position in another lab and have decided to accept their offer. I don't think anyone can blame you for taking a paid position over an unpaid one. Say it's a great opportunity, you really appreciate the PI helping you get the research experience that got you this job, etc. If you currently have a good relationship with your PI, I would thank them for investing in you and giving you the opportunity to work in their lab, and - if appropriate - say that you are happy to stay involved in advanced current projects or to help train/turn over new projects to someone who can take them over. Being honest and thankful, and willing to help in the transition so nothing is lost when you leave, is the best course of action. 

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The problem is the current PI of the lab is so busy that I don't ever see him. I've seen him once since I started working there in January, no exaggeration. Another PhD student and a student who just graduated with their bachelor's both run the projects I am working on, but the PhD student moved out of state, and is running the projects over skype/email so as you can imagine, it is chaotic and disorganized. I honestly cannot look them in the face and tell them it's been a pleasure working with them. I could do it over email, but I am so upset about my ideas being continually stolen that it's a complete lie.

 

 

The reason I don't want to say I'm switching labs is because there are some politics between my new lab and the old one. I also just really don't want them to know my business. One of the guys, which I have mentioned in a previous post, continually steals my ideas and I'd just rather keep it a secret from him as long as possible. I've had a lot of family problems this semester and my job schedule is really crazy, so those are also two valid excuses that wouldn't be lies. Also, the two labs are run out of different programs, it may come across them via departmental gossip, but I personally would not have to see them again. I'm not suggesting lying, i just think that in this case it may be beneficial for me to cite my job and family as reasons why I am unable to continue over the summer. It's a complicated mess, and I mean I could tell them, I just don't really want to continue having a relationship with them.

Edited by harrisonfjord
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Well in that case I'd suggest putting together an email that is truthful, though may not contain the whole truth, and emailing the PI. You can say that you are leaving the lab and state personal difficulties as contributing to the decision. Even if you're not too thankful, I'd still thank the PI for the opportunity they gave you. I don't think you owe anything to the other students or the lab manager, they are not your supervisors. You need to let the PI know, and they can take it from there and find a replacement for the projects you were working on. Since you already know that there is politics involved, keep information to a minimum so it can't be used against you; don't lie, and be very polite and thankful. 

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