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I just started a postdoc position at a prestigious institute in the US. I am one month in and the contract is for 1 year with a possibility of renewal (the project I work on received a 3-year grant). Having said that it is a prestigious institute, the lab environment is on the low standard side for me. Lab is unclean, unorganized, with instruments not working properly or very outdated. Several tools, equipment, notes are just scattered around on the benches. Moreover, it is a molecular lab but people bring their bicycles to the lab and park next to the lab bench. People touching/working on lab stuff without wearing gloves or lab coats, which is completely different from when I did my PhD in another country where none of these happened in a molecular lab.

I also didn't have a good first impression with my PI either. We seem to have different working style and can't seem to be understanding each other. I wanted to focus on a specific topic but she wanted me to do an exploratory work and also be on other people's projects. Labmates are nice though but they are on the end of their 3rd or 4th year and are planning to quit soon (I guess that is why PI wanted me to continue their work). I can feel that my mental health is going down right now.

I am one month in and keep asking myself if I should toughen it out for a year, or 6 months in case I am just homesick and still acclimatizing, or should I wait and see a few more months and if I still want to quit then just quit (with a proper notice - although my offer letter did say that I can leave with or without notice and with or without reasons).

I know I should have thought about this very hard before taking the position but because I still enjoy doing science so I just accepted it after one Zoom interview, but if this doesn't work out then I feel like it is time to explore other career options (probably industry). I don't have any financial issues as I have a secondary income.

If I am 99% determined to leave but still want to give it a chance (love the science - hate the environment), how long should I stay for? What should I do?

*Edited for typos

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  • just checking-out: what happened then?
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Nov 3, 2023 at 12:48

1 Answer 1

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it is a molecular ... People touching/working on lab without wearing gloves or lab coats

You should not work in an organic chemistry lab that has bad workplace safety practices. I know people who have been set on fire. Don't join them. That said, as a postdoc you should be participating in teaching the other staff to use good safety practices.

Lab is unclean, unorganized, with instruments not working properly or very outdated.

That's normal.

If you are unhappy in your job, look for a new one.

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