It's the time of year where undergrad summer fellowships are being announced and I was contacted by an Employment U foundation yesterday to let me know that one of the undergraduates working in my lab has made their list of students to fund for the summer. Ordinarily this would be a good thing, but I was shocked that the student had applied to continue working in the lab because, A) Undergrad Student (UgS) appears to be going through the motions every day and seems to have no interest in what is going on in the lab, B) UgS never even told me they were applying, and C) UgS is an unmitigated disaster in the lab.
For these reasons, I have no idea what to do with this student. The complications are that this student originally came to the lab when I partnered with a diversity mentoring program in an effort to recruit diverse students to the lab and provide research experience to those who might not otherwise get it, which makes me feel a certain obligation to try harder with this student. At the same time, this is not just a case of inexperience in the lab. Everyone has mentored a student who just can't do lab work, for whatever reason and UgS is just the kind of person who doesn't get it. If one of my grad students spent a substantial amount of time with UgS for half of the summer, it might mean that UgS could perform mundane tasks in the lab unsupervised, but do we have 40 hours a week of mundane tasks and is it worth the loss of the grad student's time?
I haven't made a call on whether to take on UgS for the summer yet, but I need to by noon tomorrow. If I thought UgS really wanted to go to grad school and just needed training, I would take them in a second. However, it is pretty clear that they are just applying for the things that they are being told to apply for and not because they see it as a career-advancing opportunity. The flip side is also that the opportunity will not be available to another student who really does want it if I take UgS on for the summer. I can argue myself in circles, but in the end it comes down to whether I want to invite a giant time-sucking vacuum into the lab in the name of making every effort to promote science diversity, even if I think this particular student will not continue in science in the long-run. On this, I am conflicted.