About two months ago, I started working at a university lab as a Research Associate. The application stated that 0-2 years of experience was necessary and that training would be provided, prior to this I had zero years of experience. Now, this is a lab with only one other RA, who helped but had to split training time with their own responsibilities in the study, so I was understandably making mistakes under a lack of supervision. Last week, the PI walked in and told me that he didn't have the resources to properly train me and I'd be laid off in a few weeks, this despite telling me that training would happen on the job.

I was advised by the PI that I should spend the time before being laid off checking if any other of the PIs in the department had openings in their labs with more experienced mentors available, but that advice seems kind of sketchy. Has anybody heard of a transfer like this happening or was this just hollow advice meant to console me?

3 Answers 3


I think you would be wise to assume it is honest. It could result in a good outcome. Maybe better than your original job if you get to work with more experienced people.

Good luck.


As an administrator, I am privy to more of the behind the scenes reasoning for staffing decisions. They could have run out of money, it could be a bad fit, the PI could be inexperienced at running a lab, they could be overcommitted, have personal problems that is decreasing their capacity, hard to say. It's all speculation at this point. At my institution, a research associate is actually not a trainee position, it's more like a years 3+ postdoc.

As for your question, people shift labs without an issue. You just need to spend the time finding a new home. See if you can find something else local, or maybe ask this PI if they have colleagues at other institutions you can be introduced to. Now is not a great time to look for a job (seasonally), but sometimes folks are needed at off-beat times and you could get lucky. Junior faculty with incoming NSF or NIH funding (starting this fall) may need someone to help get their project off the ground. You can look up recent awards in their respective awards databases.


I would take this at face value. There can be any number of things going on behind the scenes that might end in a lab "downsizing". But your PI has no real reason to lie to you.

I think the offer is probably well meaning - it doesn't sound like your PI blames you. Perhaps he/she had not trained someone from scratch before. Or maybe the other RA isn't up to the task but does good work in general. Who knows.

You admit you have been making mistakes and, honestly, that isn't really as normal as you are playing it off. You might need help (and obviously training) at the beginning but repeatedly messing up is going to get anyone fired - trainee or not.

It sounds like the PI just underestimated how much hand-holding you would need to get started. I would say they are being pretty reasonable. They're giving you a few weeks to sort things out and actively encouraged you to search around the department. They pretty much acknowledge that they can't properly train you right now, but obviously someone else might be able to. I would ask around and see what comes of it. Labs often like to hire from within the department so you've already got your foot in the door.

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