I am a freshman. I have been in a lab but I felt that I am not interested in science, so left it. in my spring semester, I joined another lab, and I was pretty interested in the science I am working on. I loved the people there, and they were helpful and supportive.

However, my pi actions were weird. I was thinking about adding a new idea to the project I am working on; she got upset and said that she thinks that the lab does not fit me because I want to add something new. I elaborated that that was not my intention and that I just thought it might be a good addition but rather than that I am content with the science I am working on. After a month things got even worse. Whenever I got something wrong, she gets so angry although I am a freshman.

The other two people joined the lab at my grade, and they were so good as they have previous lab experience when they were in high school. she started to state an indirect comparison between me and them. After that, in every meeting, she used to tell me that I look so stressed from the lab, and she feels that I am out of place and does not know how to interact with the lab members. To me, that sounded wrong because I always interact with my lab mates and most of the time my pi is not even around to make such a judgment.

I work so hard in the lab, and I find that working most of my day in the lab is fun because I love what I am doing; however, she thinks that this stresses me out. My other lab mates are also hard-working and they leave the lab at 1 am! She never comments on that. Eventually, she limited my access to the lab and deactivated my id access. I am so confused and do not know what to do. She also keeps on saying that I am naive, and she sees that my transition to her kab was hard for me . To me, it was not. I am not interested in the science that other labs are working on at my university. I want to leave, but at the same time, I do not know if I should. Should I follow her rules? or should I leave? I really love working in the lab and I do not want to be restricted like that. I feel that I am disrespected. I am planning to do PhD, and I am afraid that if I stayed in this lab, she might mess up the recommendation letters.

  • 6
    Please reformat this wall of text and break it into paragraphs. Please also use correct capitalization and punctuation (your "I"s are small at the beginning of the sentence). All this will make your question easier to read and thus more likely to attract responses. Jul 2, 2023 at 20:13
  • 7
    "she limited my access to the lab and de-activated my id access" It kind of sounds like you've been fired, which would solve the dilemma.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 2, 2023 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


I suggest you leave the lab and find a better one. It sounds like you have a toxic PI. Don't let her ruin your mental health and your career. Not all PI's are like that and there are many nice ones who will not berate you for getting things wrong, compare among students, or make students work until 1 am. My PI doesn't do that. Other more senior members of your lab might be able to recommend another lab for you to move to. This is what I did back in undergrad, moving to another lab on the same floor. Unfortunately, toxic PI's aren't uncommon. While I mainly worked with nice PI's back in undergrad and grad school, I heard horror stories from colleagues who moved to our lab after candidacy about their toxic former PI's.

You may discover that you like the research in another lab as you learn more about the lab or progress further in your major. Furthermore, you are not locked into your undergrad research topic forever; my graduate school research had a very different topic from my undergraduate research.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .