A few months ago, my P.I. sent out a message that she had “important lab business” to discuss at our next journal club. We had speculated about what she might say, but I wasn’t thinking too much of it. After journal club ended, she took out her laptop, opened up PowerPoint, and announced,”The lab is moving to UCLA!” I wish I had a picture that captured the look of complete shock on my face in that moment. As she was presenting the PowerPoint about the move, I zoned out for a bit getting lost in my thoughts as many questions raced through my mind. What is going to happen to my graduate student? What will the postdocs do? Does this mean the grad students have to transfer? What will happen to our space? Finally, what does this mean for me?
I really loved this lab. I had an amazing graduate student mentor, I was working on a fascinating project, and everyone there was supportive and fun to be around. The idea of me leaving the lab had never crossed my mind. After the announcement, I became really sad and spent a week brooding while going through the seven stages of grief. The thought of having to find a new P.I. and start over on a new project stressed me out, but I was grateful to have few months to figure out my next step. Although I was hesitant, I knew switching labs could be a good opportunity for me to explore a different field, pick up new skills, and get out of my comfort zone.
I felt like I needed to have something exciting to look forward to, so I started my search for a new P.I. almost immediately. Finding a P.I. this time around felt a lot easier than it did the first time. Doing research for a year really boosted my confidence as a scientist and I knew I had some useful skills to bring to my next lab. I found that graduate students were the best people to talk to if you are looking for a new lab. Graduate students spend time in a few different labs during their first-year rotations and usually have friends in different labs across campus. They were able to tell me a lot about how other labs are run and where to find cool research. A few of them even gave me an offer to join their lab! I was trying to take my time and just reached out to a couple professors. I thought it might take me two or three months until I found the right match, so I was really surprised that I found my new lab in two weeks. Even more surprising was that I decided to leave my lab earlier than expected to start working in my new one.
Three months ago, I was absolutely clueless about any changes to come and I certainly did not think I would be where I am now. I have been in my new lab for a few weeks now and it feels a little weird because everything seems different from what I am used to. Although I am still adjusting, I believe I made the right choice in both picking this lab and choosing to start early.