In the Fall I will be completing my last year of undergrad. Once I graduate I want to get my PhD, and so grad school applications are approaching.
I’ve been doing research with a professor at my university over the past year, and I’m continuing this research into the Fall. Generally speaking, it’s been going pretty well. I enjoy the research and it’s been productive. I’ve also been doing this research with another undergrad at my university.
I have a dilemma with him, though. Truthfully, over the past year, I have been much more serious about the research, have contributed all of the major insights, and written essentially all of both papers. Our research meetings (between me and him) essentially consist entirely of me explaining what I’ve been working on, and he does not really contribute to our conversations. He also sometimes says things which indicate to me he does not even truly understand the research problem. I’ve felt alone in this process much of the time.
I have put this past me, since I like him, and I know that what matters most is conducting meaningful research. However, a recent conversation with him and my advisor kind of sent me off the edge, and I am looking for advice about what to do moving forward. Specifically, he expressed that he wants to continue working with me on the research in the Fall (which I was not expecting), even though he will have a full-time job and many other responsibilities. I am not confident that he will be able to contribute to the research, given my experience over the past year when his responsibilities were much lower.
Further, my professor mentioned that working on research alone is better for grad school admissions. I am not from a top university and I know admissions are extremely competitive for my field. I now have this strong emotion, whether justified or not, that having my research partner’s name on our work…what feels like just my work...will damage my chances. This emotion only builds when I consider the research situation in the Fall, where I’ve cleared out much of my academic schedule for the research, and he has significantly more responsibilities to juggle. I don’t consider myself cutthroat, so I hate that I get angry when I think about the prospects of him being put above me in the admissions process because of this situation. The upside is that I’m pretty sure my professor knows I’m carrying the operation and hopefully this would come through in his recommendation.
My current plan is to talk with my research partner about these concerns tactfully (specifically the research in the Fall). However, I am nervous he will convince himself he will have the time and energy to contribute, for which I am not confident as mentioned. I also do not want to burn bridges, as it is not good professionally, I don’t want to create a division, and he is my friend. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Does anyone have advice on this situation and maybe where my mindset is flawed?