Lab Expectations

My job is to facilitate the training and intellectual advancement of lab members so they may pursue their dream job.  I have no expectation that all lab members will want to remain in academia; that’s great, as there are wonderful jobs across industries.  This means first, that I accept students with diverse career goals; and second, that if career goals shift, the lab member should discuss this change with me so we can reorient the training plan towards the new dream job.

Below you can find information on expectations of lab members. Text and ideas in places borrow heavily from Jeff Ross-Ibarra who says he borrowed heavily from Rubén Rellán-Álvarez.

Lab Rules
Safety and Health
Your health and safety are more important than your research!  Lab members are expected to adhere to lab safety rules at all times.  Lab members must complete all required University of Memphis EHS training modules before beginning lab work.  Field work must always employ the buddy system.

Lab members should maintain their physical and mental health.  I encourage everyone to eat healthy, exercise, not abuse addictive substances, and sleep.  Mental health is critical for your ability to do high quality work; thus, take breaks when needed, speak kindly to yourself, and visit the Counseling Center or arrange for a therapist if you need to speak to a professional.

Do not come to work sick or if you think you are contagious.  Stay home and rest and make arrangement for any responsibilities to be handled by co-workers.

Collegiality
I expect lab members to contribute to a collegial and productive environment that supports learning and research.  Everyone in lab should feel welcomed and appreciated for their contribution.  The success of each team member contributes to everyone else’s success.

Racist, sexist, or other inappropriate comments or behavior will not be tolerated.  Science is a global pursuit, please approach cultural differences (including those of Southerns) with inquisitiveness instead of stereotypes.

Expectations
Work hours
Lab members are expected to be in the office during normal business hours 9am-5pm M-F.  There is some flexibility here (ex- an afternoon in a favorite library alcove or coffee shop) but on the whole being around lab members, departmental colleagues, and university guests will enable the interactions and relationship building critical to science.  There may be times when project work requires more hours per day or per week.  You are not expected to work more than 40 hours per week.  However, reading the news or social media is not work; you are expected to work 40 hours per week not simply be at your desk.  That said, you will get out of your career what you put in to it.  Never underestimate how much work the HPC will do while you sleep; it may very well be worth an hour of after dinner coding.

Lab members should plan to take one week of vacation in both the winter and summer.  Please discuss vacation plans with me in advance so that we can plan around any extended absences.  Summer vacations are best taken after conference season.

Standing Weekly Commitments
Attendance at weekly lab meeting, Thursday departmental seminar, and Tuesday graduate seminars is expected.  If you are funded off of a grant, attendance at grant meetings and conference calls is required.  If you are presenting a paper or manuscript in lab meeting, you must email the group one week in advance of the presentation date.

Attendance at On Fridays We Code is not mandatory but highly recommended as a block of your week dedicated to coding and scripting.

Conferences
Everyone is encouraged to attend at least one conference a year.  Lab members must make a good faith effort to obtain partial to full costs of meeting and travel expenses.  This includes applying for departmental, university, and society travel grants; volunteering at the conference; and sharing rooms.  Whenever possible, I will help fund attendance at one conference per year on the condition that you present a poster or talk.  Abstracts must be reviewed by myself and all coauthors at least three weeks prior to the submission deadline.  First practice talk should be given to the lab one month prior to the conference.  Second practice talks and posters will be presented to the lab two weeks prior to the conference.  Plan accordingly.

Authorship
I believe there is a distinction between being collegial and authorship.  Helping lab or department colleagues learn new skills, pitching in on lab work when someone is in the weeds, or chatting through a problem will not necessitate authorship.  These are collegial activities and should be viewed as such.

I follow the IJME rules for authorship rules:
1- Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
2- Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
3- Final approval of the version to be published; AND
4- Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Projects evolve over time; thus, authorship inclusion and author order will be re-evaluated accordingly.

Grant Writing
Lab members should actively seek out and apply for grants and fellowships.  No amount is too small.  If you have a big idea that needs big funding, let’s discuss then form a grant writing strategy.

Own Your Mistakes
Everyone (undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and myself) will make mistakes in lab. Be honest and forthright when you have made a mistake.  Apologize if warranted.

Specific rules for the different members of the lab
Postdocs and senior PhD students
My responsibilities to postdocs and senior PhD students:

  • Assist with identifying and writing postdoctoral fellowships
  • Develop project ideas, including independent projects that can be taken with the postdoc
  • Interpret results
  • Review manuscripts
  • Discuss career goals and make an individualized training plan that works towards those goals
  • Bi-weekly meetings (weekly if needed) to discuss progress & pitfalls

Expectations of postdocs and senior PhD students:

  • Prepare for our regular meetings and a follow up email of progress and goals
  • Write and submit manuscripts.
    • Postdocs should expect to produce two first author papers per year, one substantial work and one smaller.
    • PhD students should have one paper published, one in revision, and one ready to submit by the dissertation defense.
  • Apply for external funding (either individual postdoc fellowships or contributing to larger lab grant writing)
  • Write reports if on a grant funded project
  • Keep a calendar
  • Maintain a lab notebook (for bench work) and digital notes (for coding), including directories of data, annotated codes and versions, detailed methods. These need to sufficient to reproduce results without additional instructions.  A good working example can be found here.
  • Review manuscripts from other lab members.  Participate in talk rehearsals of your colleagues.
  • Participate in general lab responsibilities (EHS, ordering, maintain common areas, help host visitors).
  • Mentor at least one undergraduate student.

Master and junior PhD students
My responsibilities to Master and junior PhD students:

  • Develop project ideas.  I will work with junior PhD students on a training project during their first year.  This may or may not be directly applicable to the student’s dissertation work, but will establish a foundation for how we work together.  Masters students should expect to be given a research question and materials to begin work on day 1.  We will then work together to follow-up on the original research question after the first data analysis is complete to flush out the thesis.
  • Interpret results
  • Review and revise manuscripts.  Help develop writing skills.
  • Discuss career goals and make an individualized training plan that works towards those goals
  • Bi-weekly meetings (weekly if needed) to discuss progress & pitfalls

Expectations of Master and junior PhD students:

  • Prepare for our regular meetings and a follow up email of progress and goals
  • Write and submit manuscripts
    • Masters students should have one manuscript submitted by their thesis defense
    • Junior PhD students should submit their first manuscript by their prospectus defense
  • Maintain a lab notebook (for bench work) and digital notes (for coding), including directories of data, annotated codes and versions, detailed methods. These need to sufficient to reproduce results without additional instructions.  A good working example can be found here.
  • Apply for external funding
  • Write reports if on a grant funded project
  • Keep a calendar
  • Review manuscripts from other lab members.  Participate in talk rehearsals of your colleagues.
  • Participate in general lab responsibilities (EHS, ordering, maintain common areas, help host visitors).
  • Mentor at least one undergraduate student.

Undergraduates
My responsibilities to undergraduates

  • Provide training in both laboratory techniques as well as scientific thinking. This will involve both your graduate or postdoc mentor and working with me.
  • Analyze and interpret results
  • Discuss career goals and make an individualized training plan that works towards those goals, this includes summer opportunities
  • Review abstracts and application materials

Expectations of undergraduates

  • Come to lab on the days and hours that are pre-arranged each semester.
  • Be willing to learn and make corrections when given.
  • Maintain a lab notebook (for bench work) and digital notes (for coding), including directories of data, annotated codes and versions, detailed methods. These need to sufficient to reproduce results without additional instructions.  A good working example can be found here.
  • Help maintain common areas
  • Participate in on campus undergraduate research symposium by preparing an abstract and poster, and attending the symposium

Different Views on Lab Expectations
This is a living document that will change with time and experience. It is important to remember that there are diverse perspectives and approaches to the topics of lab life and expectations. I encourage you to explore how other PIs see their role and expectations of students.
Danielle Dixon
Pat Schloss
Charles Mitchell