Is Joining Two Labs Twice the Fun?

Dear Dora: Joining two labsDear Dora,

I can see my rotation project expanding to a thesis project that would actually overlap with two labs in the department. Should I consider joining two labs jointly, or just setting up an official collaboration?

– Darren, grad student


Dear Darren,

It is common for graduate students to have projects that overlap with two or more professors’ research projects. Some of these students are co-advised by the two professors, so in a way they would join both groups simultaneously. Other students have one main advisor and the other professor becomes an unofficial co-advisor and collaborator.

It is a good idea to check with your headquarters, and to see which solution would be logistically simpler, and whether they have any rules for your situation. Joining two groups could be twice the fun (two holiday parties and twice as many group lunches) but it could add more work as well. You might need to go to twice as many group meetings and have individual meetings with both professors. Also think about which professor is easier to get along with, and which group would be a better fit for you.


Dora Farkas, Ph.D. is the author “The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.:200 Secrets from 100 Graduates,” and the founder of PhDNet, an online community for graduate students and PhDs. You will find links to her book, monthly newsletters, and discussion board on her site. Send your questions to [email protected] and keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue!


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  1. The Job Hunt: Move With My Spouse or Chase a Paper? | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on January 13, 2011 at 10:26 am

    […] Is Joining Two Labs Twice the Fun? […]

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