Is this an offer I'd be a fool to refuse?
September 24, 2012 5:15 PM Subscribe
I am a senior undergraduate biology student who wants to become a conservation biologist and a professor. I work part-time in a lab at my university, and my principal investigator recently made me an offer that on the face of it seems pretty great. Should I take it?
posted by Scientist to Education (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
OK. That's the bones of the situation. I'll try to fill it in here. Here's where I was at last week: I'm in my next-to-last semester of college, where I'm getting ready to graduate with two and a half years of laboratory experience, some great recommendations (I hope), and a pretty mediocre GPA. I have yet to take the GRE or apply to any schools but obviously that would be happening very soon now.
I was seriously considering staying for my master's at my current place because I have such a good relationship with my PI and I could use some time to improve my transcript, but not for a PhD because I'm tired of my current city and also the research I am doing isn't exactly in line with my interests. And also I'm not sure of my chances out in the wide world of grad schools with a GPA that's down in the low threes.
Very recently though, my boss took me aside and made me what seems like an excellent offer. She told me that her lab is moving into a very exciting new phase and she was going to need an additional grad student next year. She said that she had been planning to advertise for the position but that she first wanted me to look at the proposal and tell her whether I was interested.
I have not yet seen the proposal but what she described was very exciting. There would be a large component of international field work in a very ecologically-important (and beautiful and interesting and "sexy" in a popular-science sense) but under-researched part of the world. There would also be a significant bioinformatic and molecular wet-lab component. There would be cross-disciplinary sociological aspects and a major part of the project also involves capacity-building at higher education centers in the developing world. I would be involved in all of these aspects. I would be a Research Assistant paid through her grant, rather than a Teaching Assistant paid through my university. I would get to do a lot of collaboration with senior scientists on multiple continents, so there would presumably be excellent networking opportunities.
This sounds like a golden opportunity that I should jump at but I worry I am missing something. One hitch is that she'd prefer a PhD student (as would my department) but if the proposition is that good then I am OK with that. I would have to spend more years living somewhere that I'm really not so keen on anymore, but at least I'd get to travel. My significant other says that she understands that we'd be apart a lot but that she's willing to take that on and try to make it work. The exact groups that I would be doing fieldwork on are probably not my favorites but just because I would be doing my PhD on (for instance) birds doesn't mean I couldn't transition later to working on tortoises or something later, right? And it's still a cool group, just not my dream group.
Is this opportunity as good as it sounds? Obviously I need to read her proposal first, but it sounds pretty great at this point. What should I be bearing in mind in terms of evaluating the proposal? Should I still even try applying to other schools if I can be assured of having this position? (It seems to me like I would sort of be insulting my PI if I said I was interested but wanted to also apply elsewhere, and that I might lose her recommendation as it would be a conflict of interest for her.) Is this work the kind of thing that would help me later on when I wanted to try and become a professor?
Thanks for all your advice. I appreciate it, as always.