I’ve been in the lab grinding so I haven’t had time to update!
Things are well. I took my advice from the second most previous post and had an effective conversation about my frustrations and expectations in the lab.
That said, I definitely think there is somewhat of a cultural difference in how labs operate in Belgium (Europe?) vs. the U.S. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s different.
I would say that the standard here is that most labs expect you to operate autonomously from the beginning, which makes sense. It’s not possible to enter a Ph.D. program in Belgium (Europe?) without obtaining a Master’s degree first. Whereas in the U.S., many Ph.D. students come straight from undergrad. There’s certainly a greater level of expertise that comes with having an entire Master’s degree when doing Ph.D. level work vs. having a Bachelor’s degree (regardless of how much undergrad research you did) 99.99% of the time time there’s a noticeable difference.
For example, I think I would have had a much more challenging time being productive in the lab had I come straight from undergrad. In fact, I don’t know if I would have gotten anything accomplished to be honest (unless I did intensive undergrad research, which I didn’t).
Most of the things I do in my lab are things I’m an expert at, things I’ve done before, and at the very least am familiar with. I’m often handed protocols and left alone to work independently.
I think this is something that one needs to consider before doing research abroad. Setting realistic expectation for the type of mentorship you want and can receive.
My biggest piece of advice, embrace the independence. Trust yourself. I can’t tell you how many nonsense doubts have creeped into my mind. Like when I’m running a PCR, what if the primers don’t anneal because you just designed them wrong. (I mean…yeah…PCR optimization is a thing), but I know how to complement bases and I’ve designed primers a million times before. It teaches you to trust yourself and be confident in your work. You know what you’re doing. You’re capable. You’re smart enough. You’re good enough. You belong here because you got here, end of discussion.
So anyway, it’s past my bedtime.
Moral of my story – things are good. Always communicate so that all parties are on the same page. Trust your bad a**edness at all times.