I just finished an interview about my experience as a graduate student at the University of Michigan…and I recalled a piece of advice from one of my graduate professors at Georgia Tech
“There are 3 things that you need when choosing a lab, do not compromise. You must be excited about your project, enjoy the lab environment, and have a good relationship with your advisor.”
The trifecta. All three? You can’t possibly have it all.
Actually…you can, and you should.
I’ve found myself in situations where my personal life had gone awry and I felt like I was at a dead end with my research. I can’t imagine how miserable I would have been going into a lab I didn’t feel happy in and/or working with an advisor I did not get along with. It’s when everything hits rock bottom that the trifecta becomes SO important. Sure, if everything else is good, maybe you can manage 2/3; a bad advisor with a great lab and an awesome project is manageable. But the minute something else falls off the wagon, you’re sh-t out of luck.
I’ve come from labs that were a great fit for me and a not-so-great fit. Sure, you can tough it out and get through; I know plenty of people who did and continue to do so. However, I don’t think you have to compromise your happiness for your education (well… if you’re black … there’s likely a social cost… I digress).
Find a great lab with a great project in a great environment and thrive.