In a guest post at Inside Higher Ed's GradHacker blog, KD Shives shares tips for choosing the right lab. Shives, a PhD student at the University of Colorado, says choosing a lab to for your thesis research "is extremely important as you will end up spending more time with these people than your family, and establishing good working conditions is critical to finishing your dissertation in a timely fashion."
Before the semester starts, she says, "find a lab with funding." If the lab is without current funding, Shives adds, it's a good idea to "try to find a group with a good funding history." If the lab is currently funded, Shives suggests reading its grant thoroughly. "It is a long and boring document but it is the heart of the modern academic research group," she says. "What the lab wants and needs to accomplish for funding purposes is all right there in the grant and provides an invaluable guide to what you will be doing in a group."
Shives also suggests reading the group's recent publications and speaking with lab members other than the PI. "You cannot discount how important it is to work well with your labmates," she says.