I used to think that the workplace drama would be mitigated once the fall semester started. The eldest undergraduate was going to be done working in the lab since she graduated in May, and the other undergraduate would be sparse in the lab due to classes and applying for graduate school. The first graduating student is also gone in Maryland to start his next job while his committee members read his thesis. The lab was all-around a bit cramped with eight active members in a single lab room. We were down to five people in the lab, with typically only three running around doing work in the same room at once.
I’ve taken on an undergrad student to mentor and train, so that brings our running total to six people on the busy days; she will only be around two to three days a week at most. I knew we were taking on a rotation student interested in Lil’s (next graduate student due for graduation, this coming spring as she’s already gotten permission to write), so that puts us to a steady six, as she will try to work most days of the week. Little to my knowledge, there was another rotation student lurking that I was not aware of. She’s simply pending her approval to work with radiation. Once she receives that, we’ll be up to a steady seven. Bear in mind, that theres really only desk space for six in the lab at present. To top that off, the undergraduate that was taking a break returned today. She’s mostly done with her applications for graduate schools (as most are due in January), she’ll be returning to work in the lab.
We are back to a slightly crowded lab! In addition, next week the graduating student will be back to meet with his committee members regarding his thesis. I have no idea how much he’ll plan to be in the lab, but we’ll be far more space-strapped with his presence, if so. Take into account that there are still at least two more 1st year graduate students interested in rotating in the lab. Thankfully, we’re not obligated to accept all of them if they’re interested. However, last I checked in discussions with the 1st students, two of these four were strongly interested in the lab, such that they would consider staying with the lab unless circumstances provided otherwise.
Right now, we’re limited to how many students we can accept by financial reasons. My PI’s primary grant runs out this spring, so the money he has funding the three students before me will essentially end. His renewal for that grant entered the study section today. Hopefully within a week or so, he’ll get his review/rating for the renewal, giving him some real perspective on whether or not the grant will get renewed. All three of the graduate students before me are expected to graduate this spring (or sooner), in order to deal with this adjustment in the funding. Realistically, we also cannot take on any more graduate students unless he brings in more funding, i.e. the renewal. Myself and the other PhD student are on other squandered money sources (I’m stashed away money, the other is supplemented-by-the-department-money if the renewal doesn’t come through), so we’re okay for now.
I’m anxious to hear the review of my PI’s renewal application, but at the same time, it’s hard to think that by the summer I will likely be the senior graduate student with another two new students in the lab. The lab is already mostly women, which is an odd change with the one student graduating (as he and I got along pretty well). My previous lab experiences tended to err on the side of more men in the lab, so it’s slightly different to deal with socially. Additionally, the two female graduate students that are in the process of finishing up seem more much headstrong than the younger (newer) students. This makes me wonder how the younger students will fit into the lab compared to the present two.