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Lab expectations

I very much like the idea of having expectations and responsibilities to graduate and undergraduate students in the lab explicitly stated. Even though it seems quite obvious, I first heard it from Terry McGlynn at Small Pond Science and from Melissa Wilson–Sayres on Twitter (you should follow them both, by the way, they are awesome). And now, with one year as a PI under my belt and having some experience with both graduate and final year undergraduate students, I can set up my own list (the one below is mostly based on Melissa’s, but was also influenced by J. Cameron Thrash’s list).

My responsibilities to graduate students:

  • Help develop project ideas.
  • Meet at least bi-weekly to discuss project’s progress, pitfalls and plans.
  • Support travel to at least one meeting or workshop per year.
  • Assist with data interpretation.
  • Proof-read and contribute to writing of manuscripts, fellowships and grants.
  • Provide training and mentorship in soft skills, including teaching.
  • Discuss future career goals and career development, including careers outside academia.
  • Assure appropriate working conditions and resources throughout the project.

My expectations of graduate students:

  • Prepare for and participate in regular lab meetings.
  • Maintain a set of lab notes, from both wet–lab and in silico work. These need to be sufficient to reproduce results without additional instructions.
  • Contribute to writing grant proposals.
  • Write and submit manuscripts.
  • Proof–read manuscripts from other lab members or colleagues from other groups.
  • Attend departmental seminars.
  • Present a poster or talk of research progress at a conference at least once a year.
  • Participate in general lab responsibilities (servers, maintenance of common areas, taking turns hosting visitors etc.).
  • Be available in the lab/office for a minimum pre-arranged set of hours to facilitate interactions.
  • Mentor at least one undergraduate student.
  • Contribute to teaching in the department (if you are funded by the university, this is an obligatory requirement).

My responsibilities to undergraduate students:

  • Prepare a well–defined, challenging but achievable project.
  • Meet weekly to discuss project’s progress, pitfalls and plans.
  • Assist with data interpretation.
  • Provide timely and constructive feedback on dissertation drafts, presentations and job, fellowship or further education applications.
  • Provide advice and reference letters on job, fellowship or further education applications.
  • Discuss future career goals and career development, including careers outside academia.

My expectations of undergraduate students:

  • Be familiar with and meet the module benchmarks such as: duration of lab work, deadlines for submission of draft introduction to your project, COSHH forms, format and structure of the dissertation etc..
  • Prepare for and participate in regular lab meetings.
  • Maintain a set of lab notes, from both wet–lab and in silico work. These need to be sufficient to reproduce results without additional instructions.
  • Be inquisitive and proactive about your project’s goals, tasks, protocols and results. Ideally you will not need guidance about every step of your project, but you will actively research, propose and try solutions and new directions yourself.