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I am doing research now as a sophomore majoring in molecular biology and biochem. I am in a lab and my current PI is awesome and she is so supportive. However, I do not like the science practiced in her lab and can not see myself writing an undergrad thesis about it after 2 years. I am basically not interested in the topic the lab is researching. Should I stay in the lab or look for another lab with an "okay " PI, but with a topic that interests me in the same field?

I am planning to apply to PhD program after graduation.

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    Why do you want to do a PhD if you don't like science?
    – Bryan Krause
    Nov 26, 2023 at 3:00
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    I did not say that I do not like molecular biology. I just do not like what the lab I am in is researching.
    – sallylnny
    Nov 26, 2023 at 3:03
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    @sallylnny you say that “you do not like science”. This is a very general statement and like Bryan said it would not make sense to do a PhD in any scientific topic in that case. If you meant that you do not like the specific topic that is researched in your current lab, that’s different and you should clarify that in your question.
    – user126108
    Nov 26, 2023 at 3:10
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    Got it, so I guess when you wrote "I do not like science" you meant to write "I don't like the specific science in this lab". But also, it sounds like this is your only experience doing science, as opposed to reading about it. So, even with the correction in language, how do you know there is science you do like if you haven't done it yet?
    – Bryan Krause
    Nov 26, 2023 at 3:27

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Since you are asking the question you already realize that there are tradeoffs. I suggest that you speak (personally) with each of the PIs giving your concerns. It might be that the "great" PI can suggest something you like.

I also suggest that you investigate, if possible, perhaps by asking, what has been the future of students mentored by each of them. A department chair might also be a good source of information on this. If on or the other has a better record of advancing students then that might be an important factor.

Two additional points. First is that any undergraduate research experience is valuable for doctoral admissions since it is relatively rare, though maybe not in your field. Second is that you aren't locked in to a particular research direction by what you do as an undergraduate. That would be especially true in the US, but perhaps less so in some parts of Europe.

It is good to be able to do something you really like, but at your stage there might be other, longer term, considerations. At the end of the day, however, you need to be comfortable with yourself and your decision. The "easy" path may not be the best path.

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Search for the project you would like to work and find the PIs that work already in that or would be interested to assist you. Doing something you don't find interesting and then applying also for PhD will lead you into various problems eventually (mental/health issues, burnout etc). First understand what "the job" is in the lab and then either you do it or you search for something else. By "lab" I don't mean only that particular lab, but the wet-lab work that researchers do in your field.

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You need to care about your subject/topic - your fascination for the topic will get you through the hard times (and there will always be hard times during a PhD).

At the very least - discuss this with your PI. Nobody wants to start a PhD (whether as candidate or as supervisor) when there isn't 100% commitment to the whole package.

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This may be an unpopular position but as an sophomore eyeing a PhD you should worry about other things more than liking your topic. Your primary focus should be gaining skills and experiences that make you marketable and prepare you for graduate school. Sure liking the topic helps but what good is liking the topic if the lab you are in is not adequately funded, run by a jerk or you are not provided opportunities to learn, present and write? You say your current PI is very supportive but does that mean she provides these opportunities? If so, it would be foolish to jump ship, especially if you plan to stay in molecular biology or biochem. Learn and become proficient at every technique you can. Write up everything you do and PRESENT EVERY WHERE YOU GET THE CHANCE. If you do that you will be competitive for any PhD program and can worry about liking your topic then. As a researcher and/or graduate student you will routinely do things you do not like but are necessary to advance you toward your goal. You have to widen your perspective beyond what you immediately like or are drawn to.

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