Reflections on a Lab Rotation

I have just completed my second lab rotation of the program. Because we are dual degree candidates pursuing both an MD and a PhD, we rotate with different labs before we choose which ones to join, like other PhD students, but only during the summer breaks. Medical School studies remain largely undisturbed for the most part. We have journal club meetings, lunch seminars and MSTP dinners during the school year, but those commitments are minimal so that we can focus on Med School Stuff. I completed my first rotation the summer before M1 (last summer) with a PI (Principal Investigator) that I really liked. His research was everything I wanted to do, but he left for another institution shortly after I completed my rotation. This also means that I have one fewer option to choose from when thinking about which lab I would like to join next year. There is some room for me to do a third lab rotation next year after I take Step 1 (USMLE/Licensing Exam) in March, and I might just do it for the sake of seeing what is out there, but I really liked the lab I just finished rotating with.



It is a smaller lab composed of basically all women, which is strange to me because I have only ever been in labs where I was the only female student. And I was afraid that we might not get along, because I unfortunately believe that the probability of drama occurring during any point within a group in time increases in proportion with the amount of women in the group. This is not backed by any scientific evidence that I am aware of, and anecdotally, this was not the case with the group I was working with this past summer. I loved it! Everyone eats lunch together. One of them always has a story to share about her beloved dog, and the Lab Manager/Mother Hen of the group leads us in a game of jeopardy before we return to our experiments. It is a cohesive group. Everyone is respectful to one another and they all are hardworking and focused. I got to work on a project in macrophage biology, very similar to what I was doing last summer, and though that is not historically what the group has focused on, it seems to be the direction the lab is going in and perhaps the source of some new grant funding. It really looks like a win-win to me, where I basically didn’t lose the opportunity to do what I wanted to do in spite of the other PI no longer being an option.

Most importantly, I think the PI of this group, who happens to also be a woman, would be a great mentor for me. She is a physician-scientist. She runs a lab, sees patients, and is the head of the Gastroenterology department here. She has also managed to have a family and have some semblance of work-life balance. I basically want to model my career after hers, and I can’t wait to ask her questions about it all! I am around 90% sure that I want to join her lab, and so I am wondering if it makes any sense to do an additional lab rotation next year, when I could go on a vacation and get a head start on my PhD instead? I am obviously going to chat with our program director because he has advised many students in my shoes, and I need some wisdom.

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