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Approach Researchers and Disclosing

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Hey guys, 

I'm an older student with a Bachelor's Degree in Microbiology, who decided not to go down the Masters/PhD route while completing my degree and a little bit after as well. However, it's been a few years at this point and I've found myself dissatisfied with writing off research without actually having tried it myself.

My question is: would it be ok if I approached a PI and saying that I'm very interested in their research/can I volunteer BUT I want to get involved to see if this path is right for me, and if there's some option for me to contribute to the lab without long-term commitment? I'm eager to get experience through volunteering or other opportunities in a lab, but I'm not comfortable with committing several months/years to doing it in the event where I see that it isn't for me. 

Anyone else began involvement in a lab with a conversation like this with their PI? 

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Honestly, you probably won't get very far with that approach. All new researchers are a massive burden on a lab. They need to devote time and resources to training you, and you're essentially saying that you aren't willing to make their efforts worthwhile by sticking around long enough to actually do something productive.

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Most of the tasks they would give you is data entry which doesn't really represent research as a whole(and could be quiet boring). How about you commit to a 3 or 4 months internship? You will get the hang of it much better

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As @adhominem is eluding to, you're unlikely to be able to offer a lab much at this point in terms of skills. It sounds like you're far out from your degree and have not done much research to begin with and will therefore require upfront investment from any PI/lab that would take you on. Many PIs are reasonable and understand that research isn't for everyone, but often a means to an end, but will expect a reasonable return on their investment (i.e. commitment, their name on a publication, etc). If you really want to explore research as a career it's probably also beneficial for you to go through the process of having success and failures along the day (both of which require time) to see if the work is for you. 

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On 3/7/2019 at 7:15 PM, nawrockp said:

Hey guys, 

I'm an older student with a Bachelor's Degree in Microbiology, who decided not to go down the Masters/PhD route while completing my degree and a little bit after as well. However, it's been a few years at this point and I've found myself dissatisfied with writing off research without actually having tried it myself.

My question is: would it be ok if I approached a PI and saying that I'm very interested in their research/can I volunteer BUT I want to get involved to see if this path is right for me, and if there's some option for me to contribute to the lab without long-term commitment? I'm eager to get experience through volunteering or other opportunities in a lab, but I'm not comfortable with committing several months/years to doing it in the event where I see that it isn't for me. 

Anyone else began involvement in a lab with a conversation like this with their PI? 

If you don't have much research experience, chances are the tasks you'll be given in the lab won't allow you to really understand what research is all about (e.g. when I first started, I worked on data entry). Research is a learning curve and I feel like you need to be willing to give in order to get back. If you're not into working full-time in a lab. I'd suggest volunteering weekly in a lab for a few months to a year. 

If you find that you enjoy it, your PI will give you more complex task and that's how you advance in the "research world". 

I've always been transparent when meeting with a PI. When I first met with my current supervisor, I told her that I wanted to give research a chance and see if it would be something I'm interested in integrating in my future goals - she was very understanding of that. I went in with the mindset that I'd only be there for the summer - 3 years later and I'm loving it!

Research isn't for everyone but I think you should give it a chance if it's on your mind. 

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