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Should I stay in my current PIs lab?

I graduated from a Biology program with a 3.49. During that time I didn’t take many quantitative classes. I look calculus 1 and I’m currently competing a data science certificate. Afterwards I got a wet lab job. I do a bit of data analysis, and I have three non-first author papers and a poster but none related to bioinformatics. I was considering applying to Bioinformatics PhD programs next year, but was offered the chance to stay in my current PIs lab. Her background is imaging, and her lab is more nutrition/neurology focused but she did have two Computer Science PhD students in her lab as a co-mentor, and she is affiliated with the data science department. From what I heard they did struggle a bit because she doesn’t know how to code and wanted more data science from them which wasn’t applicable to their degree.

She is considering a collaboration with another professor who is actually a bioinformatician and is using causal analysis to analyze behavioral sensor data. I would only join this project if I stayed as a PhD student. I do like the lab, but I’m just not a fan of the small midwestern city I live in. I would like to live somewhere better preferably on the east coast, but I’m a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to get in anywhere else in a better city.

Basically I’m wondering: with the information I gave, what am I lacking to apply to grad school?

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  • It looks like you’re not fully satisfied by this option. What are the alternatives? I’d suggest applying to other PhD programs in places you like better. And make sure to also consider the alternatives to a PhD!
    – user126108
    Dec 9, 2023 at 13:32
  • Yes not fully, I’m worried I might close this for my telling her I want to apply elsewhere. But that question can only be answered by a discussion with her. Mostly I’m wondering if I have enough experience to apply anywhere else?
    – User
    Dec 9, 2023 at 13:35
  • your PI, as your mentor, should (in theory at least) help you find the best path forward for you, before thinking about her own interests. Your experience definitely seems good enough to apply for PhDs, but you won’t know until you try!
    – user126108
    Dec 9, 2023 at 13:52

2 Answers 2

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I suggest that you think long term. The location of the lab is only a short-term consideration. After your degree completion you will be in a better situation to move. Do you want to work in this field to begin your career? Is your success likely in this lab?

On the other hand, if you are completely familiar with the work this lab does and what the people there can offer you, there is an advantage in expanding your horizon. I usually suggested my own students study elsewhere in grad school, just to get, potentially, a broader view and to expand their contacts. That, of course, is a longer term way of thinking.

But, think about your career and your future more than your current, perhaps boring, living conditions. Is this the best place for your career? Maybe it is, or not.

A discussion with the PI might be useful. And, if you can enhance her career with your skills, creating a better collaboration, it might also be to your benefit long term.

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With three publications (non-first author) and a poster you're in the "good enough" category in my department. That is, your selection will depend on other things, that's neither disqualifying nor "so good we have to take them".

You will have to apply to grad school in any case (though if you've been offered a chance to stay, that means they plan to accept you), and I can see no reason why you shouldn't apply to others as well. I suggest looking to see if there are faculty at other institutions that are already doing what you want to do, rather than the possibility that your current advisor is thinking of working something out.

If they were so controlling as to make the offer contingent on you not applying elsewhere, I would see that as a reason to leave in itself.

And this will work very nicely in your application: "My undergraduate research was in XYZ and I believe that this kind of work is ripe for study with ABC technique. I would very be interested in working with Professor Blah in applying ..." Or "My work was in XYZ and I realized that I needed experience in ABC to proceed. I would like to ...".

As far as location goes, I would not recommend staying in a location you don't like unless you get a specific benefit from doing so. The only advantage I hear in your situation would be working in the lab even more than most graduate students (which is already "all the time") to get out faster.

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