Jump to content
Premed 101 Forums
KeyzerSoze

My PI Just Gave Me An Ultimatum...I'm Completely Torn

Recommended Posts

I approached the PI of a lab I've been working at for almost a year today asking for funding for NSERC. I'm in my 2nd year so of course I'll be doing my MCAT this summer and applying for med school the upcoming year, but evidently my PI despises the notion that students are allowed to leave undergrad without finishing their degrees,as he feels it is "taking advantage of" the lab. He told me that either I stay and finish my 4th year thesis (i.e. not apply for med school in my 3rd year), or I would no longer be allowed in the lab.

I've been weighing the two sides. Obviously admission after 3rd year is highly unlikely, but the fact that my PI wouldn't let me apply at all seems unfair. On the other hand, I've made substantial progress and I'm in a serious position to get published this summer so maybe I give that small chance of early admission up for progress in my academic career...?

I've absolutely no idea, and my prof wants a decision by the end of the week. I don't know. At all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, KeyzerSoze said:

I approached the PI of a lab I've been working at for almost a year today asking for funding for NSERC. I'm in my 2nd year so of course I'll be doing my MCAT this summer and applying for med school the upcoming year, but evidently my PI despises the notion that students are allowed to leave undergrad without finishing their degrees,as he feels it is "taking advantage of" the lab. He told me that either I stay and finish my 4th year thesis (i.e. not apply for med school in my 3rd year), or I would no longer be allowed in the lab.

I've been weighing the two sides. Obviously admission after 3rd year is highly unlikely, but the fact that my PI wouldn't let me apply at all seems unfair. On the other hand, I've made substantial progress and I'm in a serious position to get published this summer so maybe I give that small chance of early admission up for progress in my academic career...?

I've absolutely no idea, and my prof wants a decision by the end of the week. I don't know. At all.

ha classic academic narrow mindedness. As if UG working in labs are the ones being taken advantage of - all your work/free labour is such a burden on him. Plus the education you receive there is hardly wasted if you get into medical school. 

Obviously in any case he simply won't provide you a letter of reference for a 3rd year application so you don't have to factor that into anything. 

I don't like lying or misleading to people but your situation I would be sorely tempted to simply tell him no problem, the odds of getting in 3rd year are small anyway and the research is important to you and your long term academic goals (and boosting your medical school goals). Plus having a degree does help you I feel down the road (not to the point that I wouldn't apply in 3rd year but enough that having it is useful) Assuming you would still have enough time to prepare for the mcat (which sounds like your plan was that anyway) then still write that test (many people applying in the 4th year still write that test in the 2nd year summer anyway - you just did all the courses, and if you don't do well enough you can rewrite - not a lot of negatives really). If you do well then what exactly would be stopping you from applying regardless of his wishes? How exactly would he even know anyway? If this person is the sort to provide ultimatums how sure are you that they will write a suitable LOR or not force you into some other scheme for more work down the road?  In any case staying on in the lab, and getting that publication etc buys you time to figure out ultimately what you want to do. It would also give you leverage - "ok, I am willing to put my goals a bit on ice for you and the lab - I expect support down the line when I do need it when applying as fair is fair".

People in positions of power are suppose to help you reach your goals not get in the way. Academics are also supposed to teach - that is literally their job. They aren't supposed to be bullies and create high pressure scenarios . 

Regardless of what you do in the point be clear - he is looking out for his interests ultimately here regardless of the wording used (you cannot take advantage of a lab, he feels you are taking advantage of him or at least not giving him what he wants). You have to do the same. If he can teach you one lesson in the lab outside of the research that would be it :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, rmorelan said:

Regardless of what you do in the point be clear - he is looking out for his interests ultimately here regardless of the wording used (you cannot take advantage of a lab, he feels you are taking advantage of him or at least not giving him what he wants).

I was a bit off with the wording. I wish he was so circumspect; he actually did say explicitly that he did not want to be taken advantage of.

Seriously, I'm now thinking a lot less of him since this incident early today. OBVIOUSLY I'm not trying to take advantage of anyone... If I do end up staying in the lab, it absolutely will be for my personal gain. I really am in a good position with my research, but I also want an environment where I can be happy going to everyday, and I'm starting to serious feel a sense of "ugh" every time I have to go to my current lab now. I feel like this is the first time in university, in my life for that fact, where I'm expected to make a decision by myself that might seriously impact my future. It's a bit daunting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, KeyzerSoze said:

I was a bit off with the wording. I wish he was so circumspect; he actually did say explicitly that he did not want to be taken advantage of.

Seriously, I'm now thinking a lot less of him since this incident early today. OBVIOUSLY I'm not trying to take advantage of anyone... If I do end up staying in the lab, it absolutely will be for my personal gain. I really am in a good position with my research, but I also want an environment where I can be happy going to everyday, and I'm starting to serious feel a sense of "ugh" every time I have to go to my current lab now. I feel like this is the first time in university, in my life for that fact, where I'm expected to make a decision by myself that might seriously impact my future. It's a bit daunting.

he probably has been burned in the past by people leaving in mid projects - odd though that he even got into that type of problem with UG students who usually have better defined shorter term projects. 

I don't envy you having to make that choice - in what is a rather common scenario unfortunately - ha, it is a "character building exercise". The research may in the end be worth it - and if you proceed he may be buoyed by your commitment to his research goals. 

and this is a minor suggestion for most people  - be careful who you tell that you want to go into medical school if you are doing research because this sort of thing is all too common. 

and none of that excuses what he does - students are not there to advance his career. He is there to advance yours. 

Edited by rmorelan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, KeyzerSoze said:

I approached the PI of a lab I've been working at for almost a year today asking for funding for NSERC. I'm in my 2nd year so of course I'll be doing my MCAT this summer and applying for med school the upcoming year, but evidently my PI despises the notion that students are allowed to leave undergrad without finishing their degrees,as he feels it is "taking advantage of" the lab. He told me that either I stay and finish my 4th year thesis (i.e. not apply for med school in my 3rd year), or I would no longer be allowed in the lab.

I've been weighing the two sides. Obviously admission after 3rd year is highly unlikely, but the fact that my PI wouldn't let me apply at all seems unfair. On the other hand, I've made substantial progress and I'm in a serious position to get published this summer so maybe I give that small chance of early admission up for progress in my academic career...?

I've absolutely no idea, and my prof wants a decision by the end of the week. I don't know. At all.

I almost never recommend this, but from a career perspective you just need to lie.  Apply in 3rd year but don't use him as a reference (it sounds like he wont give one anyway).  In the unlikely (?) event you get in--great!! You no longer have to worry about that lab anyway!!  If you don't get in you are still in the same position, plus have him as a potential reference.  

I also had a lab supervisor who disliked pre meds in undergrad.  I got great publications out of the lab, but he was so resentful that I ended up not even asking for a reference.  Some professors get like that, who knows why.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, goleafsgochris said:

I almost never recommend this, but from a career perspective you just need to lie.  Apply in 3rd year but don't use him as a reference (it sounds like he wont give one anyway).  In the unlikely (?) event you get in--great!! You no longer have to worry about that lab anyway!!  If you don't get in you are still in the same position, plus have him as a potential reference.  

I also had a lab supervisor who disliked pre meds in undergrad.  I got great publications out of the lab, but he was so resentful that I ended up not even asking for a reference.  Some professors get like that, who knows why.

only reason I ever found is they think their job is to train future academics - and the medical school system keeps sucking away many of the most promising people into it. The people that leave in no way help them advance either their research (which they care about) or their personal careers (which they also care about). 

Not an excuse - most people from all those professors train don't ultimately actually become academics after all. Some profs really, really do hate how the system works though. 

Edited by rmorelan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, KeyzerSoze said:

So I think there's general agreement that I won't be getting a LoR from this PI, oh well. But I'm quite close with the postdocs in the lab who are quite friendly to me. Would it be possible to ask one of them for a letter?

I think it’s generally always a bad idea to ask anyone else to lie on your behalf. It’s one thing for you to just not tell your PI and leave him out of the application all together. It’s another to ask someone to potentially risk damaging their own relationship with their supervisor if it was found out. Of course it depends on the relationship you have with that post doc. But I would think very carefully about who you could ask and whether it’s reasonable to put them in that position while they’re still at the lab.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
38 minutes ago, KeyzerSoze said:

So I think there's general agreement that I won't be getting a LoR from this PI, oh well. But I'm quite close with the postdocs in the lab who are quite friendly to me. Would it be possible to ask one of them for a letter?

I would say no - that is putting someone in a conflict of interest. Plus no matter how friendly they are they are also in that lab because they are loyal to your supervisor, and thus things could explode. Lastly it would be odd to get a LOR from a post doc and not the person in charge of the lab - it might raise curiosity. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, rmorelan said:

I would say no - that is putting someone in a conflict of interest. Plus no matter how friendly they are they are also in that lab because they are loyal to your supervisor, and thus things could explode. Lastly it would be odd to get a LOR from a post doc and not the person in charge of the lab - it might raise curiosity. 

 

Well then that's it. This lab was supposed to be my academic reference, every other possible reference is nonacademic. If I do apply 3rd year am I to do it with basically a winged reference from one of my professors, who really don't know me at all?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, he can't make you do a thesis 4th year if you don't want to. A lot of things can change between now and 4th year.

I definitely wouldn't ask for a reference letter though - seems there is some sort of vendetta against pre-meds.

Maybe look at other profs you can apply for NSERC with in the summer, and use them as your academic reference?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, KeyzerSoze said:

Well then that's it. This lab was supposed to be my academic reference, every other possible reference is nonacademic. If I do apply 3rd year am I to do it with basically a winged reference from one of my professors, who really don't know me at all?

that is exactly what I think the prof is forcing you to do. For 4th year you would be fine for that professor and the letter then may be quite good potentially. He is quite deliberately closing down as much as he can the option of using him/his lab to advance things. 

Potentially you can switch to someone else but that would mean abandoning the lab basically completely at a loss of the research you have done and the publication you are positioned to get. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would take a strong reference letter and a good working environment any day over a single publication. Particularly given that you have the goal of medicine and not academia. You are essentially working for free and contributing positively to the productivity of the lab. It's a mutual relationship and to hold your personal goals against you is pretty gross and unreasonable. I would resign as quickly as is reasonably possible and seek greener pastures.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Borborygmi said:

I would take a strong reference letter and a good working environment any day over a single publication. Particularly given that you have the goal of medicine and not academia. You are essentially working for free and contributing positively to the productivity of the lab. It's a mutual relationship and to hold your personal goals against you is pretty gross and unreasonable. I would resign as quickly as is reasonably possible and seek greener pastures.

Yeah, if you're not interested in academia, bail on the lab and find a new one. I am/was interested in academia, and spending 1.5 years in a lab that I hated really didn't help my sanity. Go figure, I wrote my thesis there, got a paper, and am not using that PI as a reference because I just don't trust that he'll be reliable/helpful. Just make sure you don't use him as your verifier for the NSERC/lab position--if that gets verified, it certainly won't end well

16 hours ago, rmorelan said:

only reason I ever found is they think their job is to train future academics - and the medical school system keeps sucking away many of the most promising people into it. The people that leave in no way help them advance either their research (which they care about) or their personal careers (which they also care about). 

Not an excuse - most people from all those professors train don't ultimately actually become academics after all. Some profs really, really do hate how the system works though. 

Ironically, those same professors probably chase out most of the people who would otherwise be interested in academia. Out of my cohort, the majority of whom wanted to do a PhD and become professors, maybe one or two of them remain interested at the end of our second year.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, KeyzerSoze said:

I approached the PI of a lab I've been working at for almost a year today asking for funding for NSERC. I'm in my 2nd year so of course I'll be doing my MCAT this summer and applying for med school the upcoming year, but evidently my PI despises the notion that students are allowed to leave undergrad without finishing their degrees,as he feels it is "taking advantage of" the lab. He told me that either I stay and finish my 4th year thesis (i.e. not apply for med school in my 3rd year), or I would no longer be allowed in the lab.

I've been weighing the two sides. Obviously admission after 3rd year is highly unlikely, but the fact that my PI wouldn't let me apply at all seems unfair. On the other hand, I've made substantial progress and I'm in a serious position to get published this summer so maybe I give that small chance of early admission up for progress in my academic career...?

I've absolutely no idea, and my prof wants a decision by the end of the week. I don't know. At all.

Well, chances are you aren't going to get in after 3rd year anyways. Just finish your 4th year.  

Of course, you can always still apply and see what happens. 

Need far more info about your grades, ECs etc. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, KeyzerSoze said:

Well then that's it. This lab was supposed to be my academic reference, every other possible reference is nonacademic. If I do apply 3rd year am I to do it with basically a winged reference from one of my professors, who really don't know me at all?

Generally research references (IMO) aren't really academic references anyways. They haven't seen you in an academic setting.  Get cozy and go to office hours for some of your profs this term and get one that way. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
43 minutes ago, JohnGrisham said:

Well, chances are you aren't going to get in after 3rd year anyways. Just finish your 4th year.  

Of course, you can always still apply and see what happens. 

Need far more info about your grades, ECs etc. 

I had a 3.96 gpa first year and I'm on track for a 4.0 this year. I have two extensive clubs that I've founded outside out school that I've started from high school and I'm easily going to get 2 references (albeit nonacademic) out of that and they will be marvelous; I'd expect them to praise me like their own child. I'm volunteering here and there (hospital and outside) and I'm a musician for fun. I also have a few other one-time things here and there.  I've always been a good reader and have no reason to expect less than a 129 on CARS on the mcat.

 

42 minutes ago, JohnGrisham said:

Generally research references (IMO) aren't really academic references anyways.

Class sizes are still quite large and professors always seem to use the "I don't know you well enough excuse". They always say they can attest to my grade and the material we covered but it never gets personal. Should I just take this 5/10 reference and hope my other two 9.5+/10 references can make up for it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, goleafsgochris said:

Do you need an academic reference?  I would just use another one from my ECs

Oh how I would love for this to be true. I don't think 3 nonacademic references is wise, but I'm seriously hoping someone corrects me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Honestly, having an academic reference at your stage shouldn't be a dealbreaker for you. In my first and second years I never spoke to any of my professors (as far as I remember). It was only in third and fourth year that I started speaking with them since class sizes dropped from 200+ to 20-30.

If you have good grades and you've just taken generic undergrad courses, an academic reference really doesn't mean anything. They will more or less talk about what your transcript says even if they know you well. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

54 minutes ago, KeyzerSoze said:

Oh how I would love for this to be true. I don't think 3 nonacademic references is wise, but I'm seriously hoping someone corrects me.

Depends on the school. Where are you applying? Some require at least one academic reference (e.g. ubc), others don’t specify the type and instead require you select each reference to comment on a specific attribute (e.g. calgary), others give you a lot of flexibility in choosing academic or non-academic options as along as you cover the characteristics they want to hear about (e.g. ualberta, omsas).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would just ask your post doc to give you the letter of reference. Just explain the situation to them and ask if they are comfortable or willing to provide a letter of reference for you. There is no reason why your PI would or should ever know about this.

In the event you don't get in, the PI would be none the wiser. No harm, no foul.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A 10/10 research reference letter is better than a 5/10 academic reference letter (and a research reference is close enough to an academic letter in my opinion).

I only used PIs and work-related references and everything turned out fine, it doesn't have to be a prof that taught you.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, brady23 said:

A 10/10 research reference letter is better than a 5/10 academic reference letter

 

 

Problem is I'm not getting a research reference letter, which is what the original post is about.

On a side note damn this thread is getting long, I think people are starting to not read through it all anymore haha. But really, I appreciate and I've needed all the advice I've gotten. I've never been put in a position anything like this before, and I'm to make a decision by tomorrow. As of now, I'm leaning towards leaving the lab and finding another one. Forget the reference, I'll either use a prof and hope my other two recs will buffer this one (which they will) or I'll get another non academic rec, which I'm sure will be good.  As for my research, I don't know if it's worth the hostility and my prof hasn't even given any indication that he expects me to publish...ever.

Don't know if I'll feel this way waking up tomorrow, but yeah...that's what I'm leaning towards at the moment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...