For those of you that are like me, and trying to find your place in a lab to call home, here are a few questions that are important to ask prospective advisers and potential labmates. A combination of these questions give you a bit of insight into both the research being performed and work environment you will be a part of. This way, you can be sure you’re making a good choice when you officially join a lab. Note that some questions are repeated for both the grad students and the faculty, because believe it or not, their answers might differ quite a lot.
Also, a special note to be sure you ask these questions to a large sample size and also talk to both the happiest and grumpy grad students in the same lab, so you get the full picture.
The following questions are in no particular order.
Questions for Grad Students
- What’s a typical work week like?
- Does the lab have social events?
- How often to you get vacation?
- Do you think most of the lab achieves a work-life balance?
- Is the adviser hands on/hands off?
- How’s the funding situation? Are you expected to TA?
- What are your goals after graduation?
- How often are group meetings? Journal clubs?
- What do you do outside of the lab? Hobbies?
- Is there a lot of support amongst the lab members? Peer review?
Questions to the Professor(s)
- Are you accepting students?
- Where do you see your research headed in the next five years?
- Are you hands on/hands off?
- How often do you meet with your students in a group? Individually?
- What jobs do your students typically go to after graduation?
- What is the expected time to graduation?
- What is the typical size of your lab?
- What is the typical funding situation?
- How often do your students publish?