Eventually, there will come a time when you’ll have to leave a research group for various reasons. You may have been presented with another opportunity elsewhere, or you may be interested in another research domain. The reason could also be that your work environment was not the best, or you were let go due to lack of funding. Whatever the reason is, it’s important to be mindful of how you leave a research group and the impacts it can have on your reputation and professional relationships. Here are some suggestions to consider prior to leaving a research position. 

Inform your research mentor about your decision to leave the research group as early as possible

  • Be direct and honest about the reason for your departure and be appreciative of the opportunity they have given you regardless of the reason. Being mindful and responsible in this situation can lead to a positive reference from your supervisor in the future.   
  • If possible, try to discuss your decision in person or via Zoom, if this is not an option send an email.

Plan accordingly by setting reasonable timelines

  • Research groups are different in that they usually don't accept a standard two-week notice. Many of these groups are invested in long-term projects, therefore, it is important to let your supervisor know at least one month in advance of any changes you plan on making.

Plan to complete your work for the current term

  • Leave things in a state that will cause little to no disruption. Complete any unfinished projects and ensure your replacement has been trained if necessary.

Pass on any research techniques to help make the transition smoother

  • Do you have any tips and tricks that have made your life easier when conducting research? Pass those onto your replacement to set them up for success!

Ensure your research area is clean and organized

  • Spend some extra time ensuring your notes are legible and that the data and materials can easily be found. Your notebook and any materials pertaining to your project will remain with the research group. If you wish, make a copy of these notes for future reference.
  • Make sure to clean up after yourself. This includes your desk space and any materials that you worked with.

Be available even after you have left

  • Your fellow researchers may have remaining questions, be open to answering them and let your group know that you are open to connecting after you are gone.

Virtual Research Groups

  • If you are leaving a virtual research group, make sure you return any shared documents and lab kits if you borrowed any.

Creating an Informative and Professional Email

When creating an email informing your research professor (PI) and/or supervisor of your decision to leave a research group, consider these questions:

  • What is your reason for leaving?
  • When will your last day be?
  • Are there any projects you need to finish before leaving?
  • Where and to whom should you return your materials to?
  • What are you currently working on and when do you expect to have that finished? 
  • If unable to finish your projects by the time you leave, who will you be training to do so?


Email Template for Leaving a Research Group:

Dear. Dr. XXX,

Thank you for the time you have invested in me by allowing me to be a part of your research group through the STEM Leaders program. While I appreciate this opportunity, I would like to inform you that I have decided to leave my position because [state reason here, e.g. major change, additional leadership role, outside circumstances]. I anticipate my last day to be [Day, Month and Date, Year]. 

Prior to my departure, is there anyone you would like me to train? Is there a specific procedure for leaving your research group? Where should I leave my research notebook, documents related to projects, and lab keys? 

I want to be certain that all my duties are fulfilled prior to this date. I am currently working on [insert project here]. If there are any outstanding assignments that must be completed, please let me know. 

Again, thank you for providing me the opportunity to gain research experience and grow professionally. 


[Your name here]