How to choose between two labs I like for my dissertation?

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  • #1
Kinase
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I'm a first year PhD student and the program I'm in requires three laboratory rotations. I have finished those and all three of the PI's explicitly said they want me to join their lab. I would consider joining 2/3 of them. I really like both PI's and the work they do (and the work they would let me do) and could see myself being happy in each lab.

I'm not sure what other factors I should be looking into to help me decide. They both have funding to keep me around for the foreseeable future, They're both younger PI's but come from good pedigrees... Any input?
 

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  • #2
kuruman
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Ask other students who already work in these labs what it's like and why they chose to work there. Maybe you'll hear something that will tip the balance one way or another.
 
  • #3
Dishsoap
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Sounds like a tough decision, but that there isn't a wrong answer. I'm assuming you've thought about these things, but here are some factors:

1. Mentorship style of the PI (some people prefer a hands-off approach, others don't)
2. Availability of the PI (are they always travelling?)
3. Level of collaboration between grad students (both within the group, and with other labs)
4. This one sounds silly, but... office space. Some groups have offices that house all of the grad students in the group, whereas others (at least here) have offices that have 2-3 people each in them. In my opinion, this has a pretty big effect on the group dynamic, see #3.
 
  • #4
Choppy
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Additional things to consider:
  1. Details of the potential projects
    - What skills are you going to pick up on each and how transferrable are they to the working world?
    - Is there an opportunity to patent or commercialize part of the project?
    - How much do you understand about the project and how clear in your mind is the map from where you are now to the completion of a PhD?
    - What are the contingency plans if the project doesn't go the way you're expecting?

  2. Details about the supervisors
    - How many other students do they supervise and how much time will they have to dedicate specifically to you?
    - Will the majority of day-to-day supervision come from a post-doc? How well do you get along with this person?
    - Formal or informal interactions? Which do you prefer and what does each supervisor prefer?
    - Degree of independence. Some supervisors just let their students work and check in occasionally. Others watch their students like hawks. What circumstances do you think will work best for you?
    - How comfortable would you feel if you had to give each supervisor bad news?

  3. Other factors
    - What do you think of the other people you've met in each lab? How well are you likely to work with them?
    - What's happened to recent graduates out of each lab? Are they going into places that you'd like to go?
    - What's happening with current grad students in each lab? Are they going to conferences? Are they participating in young investigator competitions? Are they successful in them?
    - How free are you to explore your own ideas?
    -
 

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