a little advice needed...

<p>so a few months ago i had applied to a few labs for summer internships. i heard back from one (let's call it lab #1) , and i've actually already started there, yesterday in fact.
another lab (lab #2), at the same university, had initially told me that although they would like to have me, their lab was full. however only a few days ago they got back to me and said that some things had changed and i could be a summer student/intern there.</p>

<p>it is clear to me that i could do a much better science project at lab #2 - the professor is very nice and has asked me what i would like to work on as a summer project. whereas it seems that the work at lab #1 is repetitive and would not lend itself to a science project. an undergrad who had previously interned at lab #1 told me that the focus is on getting free work from high school students, not teaching them.</p>

<p>however, would it be really rude to terminate the internship at the first lab? this is my second day working there, and it's fairly clear to me that i won't be able to create a decent science fair project out of the work i will be doing. there are quite a few other high school interns, so it's not like it would be a huge loss to the lab or anything - it's just that i don't want to alienate anyone. </p>

<p>i would appreciate any input!

<p>Here are some thoughts:

  • I find it hard to believe that Lab #1 would have brought you on for the summer if they didn’t need the help. So even though there are other interns, it seems fair to assume that they would have a gap in resources if you left.
  • This is the way adult job searches go sometimes, too. It is really unethical in my opinion to leave once you have started at the first internship. I would politely explain that to Lab #2, but tell them that you would love to work with them after school in the fall or next summer. Explain that you have already accepted #1, and are very sorry that you can’t work with them next summer. Prof #2 will likely be impressed that you kept your commitment to lab #1, and make room for you in the fall or next summer.
  • Your lab experience isn’t all about you and having a good science project. It is about learning how labs work, getting some hands on exposure to the scientific process, and helping the lab complete their work.
  • You could have a conversation with your boss at Lab #1 and see if (1) they can adjust your duties to support a science project, or (2) see if they have any suggestions regarding how you can take the work you are doing and make a project from it. You can tell them that lab #2 called, and that you thought it would be unethical to leave lab #1, but it got you thinking about how to get the most out of your summer experience.<br>
  • You never know when you will run into people again later in life (the professor, any TAs in the lab, other interns). I recommend that you take the high road and stick with the job you have started. Your reputation is much more important than one summer science project.</p>

<p>hi intparent - thank you so much for the feedback.
well, first of all, supposedly the internship (at lab #1) is for “my benefit and my benefit only” (taken from the letter i received from them). although i’m not quite sure if that’s true.
also, i can terminate at any time and so can they, according to the document - although that is not really relevant as i wasn’t concerned with it being illegal, just preserving the goodwill and reputation.
it’s my third day today and what i did was help a grad student perform an experiment - some pipetting, etc. it really wasn’t a huge amount of work - i probably saved him around 10 or 15 minutes. </p>

<p>when i applied for the internship i made it very clear that my intention was a science fair project, and it looks like this may not be possible. so i don’t really think it’s unethical to leave for a better opportunity - especially considering that my presence is probably costing the grad student some time (e.g. explaining things to me, showing the technique, etc.). </p>

<p>i just feel like my summer would be wasted as an intern at the first lab - i don’t feel like i’m being exposed to the scientific process at all. basically I’m just helping out with some experiments that i have had no role in designing.
the research in lab #2 is much more interesting to me - also, the PI is less busy so she would have more time to discuss my research with me. </p>

<p>sure, it might be possible to take the data and make a project out of it - however, it just wouldn’t feel right to me, because i did not design the experiment. and the PI at the other lab is willing to work with me to create my own project (that is relevant to their work of course). </p>

<p>please let me know your thoughts.</p>

<p>I see your dilemma. Maybe you should talk to your parents a little bit, see what their thoughts are. I agree with intparent. It’s kind of rude to stop right when you’ve started, and if they offer fall/winter courses, then don’t panic! Having two internships or whatever-they-ares is always better than having one. And what you don’t like about this lab, you can take as experience. You’ll probably be glad that you stuck with it; and like intparent said, lab2 will be impressed to see that you were committed to what you were doing. You should explain your situation to the lab2 person in a letter or a phone call, saying that you really are interested in lab2’s program but are unfortunately unable to go, since you don’t want to stop right when you’ve started. Ask if they offer programs during the fall or the winter, and assure them that you’ll apply (if they offer the program in the fall/winter.)</p>