What’s it like to walk into a new lab?

Finals week is upon me, so here’s something I wrote some time back and never got around to posting:

We don’t stay in the same lab forever. As undergraduates maybe we’d only been in one lab, maybe we’d been in a few. I’ve been in two (or three, depending on how you count). Then as graduate students, we need to start working in another lab, and often we’ll do rotations–work in a few different labs for a few months at a time. During graduate school, we stay in the same lab for 4+ years, but when we graduate, it’s time to move on again.

Borrowed from cheriwra.myweb.uga.edu

So what’s it like, walking into a new lab? It depends on how familiar/different the techniques and organisms are, for one. Every lab does things differently, so there’s always some adjustment, even for a very similar lab from the one you come from. You don’t know where the chemicals are kept. You don’t know where the machines are. Sometimes you might not even know where the water is. That last one can lead to a very sad feeling, by the way.

And of course, the more experience you have, the more is expected of you.

I’ve heard some people say that graduate school is less about teaching you a particular set of techniques (though it does do that) than it is about teaching you how to think and how to learn whatever you might need to learn for your next project.

So we’re going to choose a lab, stay there for years, get used to how things are done in that lab, and then move to a new one. I wonder if it’ll feel different after grad school, than it does after undergrad.

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