I am currently a second year undergraduate student at a public university in the US working in a lab run by a successful new PI who is on tenure track and is currently in their 3rd year at this university. I started working in this lab my first month of undergraduate, and have continued working ever since.
I am uncertain of whether or not I am cut out for research and feel like my time and skills are being taken advantage of. I was also wondering if I should continue to work here.
I'll briefly outline some examples below to make the situation clearer:
- As a freshman, I was uncertain about course selection and I asked my PI for advice where I was told to take Class B over Class A. In hindsight, by taking Class A, I could have saved a year but now have to stay one more to get my degree.
- I have been working a lot during the semester, between 40-80 hours/week. I spend the time on my own volition because I enjoy the work I do and learn a lot while keeping up with my coursework. However, my PI expresses disappointment when I don't keep up the same time commitment during weeks with midterms for instance, and I feel guilty that I can't do as much.
- One stipulation that my PI gave me was that if I work for the lab for 2 summers, I would be given a recommendation and be able to do research with my PI's old advisor during the summer instead of a traditional REU or internship. My PI's postdoc advisor is very well known in the field and is also at a prestigious institution. I am unsure about the best way to ask for compensation during breaks such as summer for instance, and I am not being fully compensated compared to traditional REU students due to "lack of funding" or "investments already being made" in my research.
- I have expressed doing REU's or internships instead of staying at my institution doing research with my PI, but when I ask for a recommendation letter the topic quickly changes, or my PI asks me to write it myself. To my surprise, my PI writes recommendation letters for other undergraduates in the lab applying to graduate school.
- For the past year I was working on a project in which I was able to give a talk and two poster presentations at 2 large international society meetings. Ultimately, I was placed on another project and my old one was left to be determined and I'm left wondering where these projects would go. My PI has 2 PhD students, but they are also in their 3rd year and have not published at all yet. I am also wondering if I have to wait for them first before I can send my material off for publication.
I am conflicted at this point since I enjoy my research and it is in the field I would like to do my graduate studies in. I would like to have some compensation to cover at least housing or otherwise do an REU instead, however, most REU deadlines have passed. For clarification, I want a strong recommendation for wherever I apply, but it seems like it has to be on my PI's terms, in that I am being strongly pushed into working here instead of somewhere else.