HOW TO WIN AT RESEARCH ROTATIONS [a thread] 🔬💪
You're getting paid to try new things this year, so try new things! Jump into a research area you don't know much about. Even if you end up not joining that lab, you will learn a TON, make new connections and maybe spark future collabs.
When PhD students run into trouble, surprisingly often it's because of poor communication at some level. Good mentors & good mentees teach each other how to communicate well as a pair.
Part of your job as a roton is to demonstrate your potential value to the lab, & this is one key element. Don't endanger your health by working beyond what's reasonable! But you do need to show that you don't just like "being a scientist," you like DOING SCIENCE.
Think about them. Ask about them. Try to make connections. This will probably be awkward at first. It's much better to look awkward and ignorant than disengaged and complacent.
Lab members often have a lot of say in who will get an offer to join their lab. Nobody wants to share a bay with a slob, reagent-hoarder, chemical-waste menace or centrifuge-exploder.
Be curious, interested and friendly. Offer to help. If you can bear it, go to happy hour (bowling/coffee/etc) once in a while. Labmates should be able to picture you as a future colleague, not just a good student.
Not getting things right away is fine. But the PI needs to know that when you don't get something, you're willing to try to correct that. People who don't do that don't learn.
If you don't make mistakes in a new lab, you're probably not trying very hard and you're definitely not learning much. What matters is how you deal with screw-ups and what you learn from them.
We will get you out of there and into a better lab. Mentors who don't create safe and respectful lab environments shouldn't have students.
Trust me—for at least four very good reasons, never half-ass any rotation, no matter how boring it may be to you. Get what you can from it and make them miss you when you leave.
Remember, you're not just being evaluated by the mentor and the lab—YOU'RE EVALUATING THEM TOO. Don't sell yourself short—you wouldn't have gotten into grad school if you didn't have a LOT to offer. Be choosy (but not cocky)!