LAB POLICIES

Below you can find information regarding my expectations for lab members. These expectations are part of a living document that we review and edit as a lab once per year.

General Lab Rules 

Safety and Health. Your health and safety are more important than your research. Lab members are expected to adhere to all lab and field safety rules at all times. Lab members must complete all required UW-Madison EHS training modules as outlined in the lab’s Chemical Hygiene Plan and Biosafety Protocol.

Lab members should maintain their physical and mental health. Mental health is critical for your ability to do high quality work; thus, take breaks when needed, speak kindly to yourself, and visit University Health Services 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 arrangements for any responsibilities to be handled by co-workers.

Lab Chores and Basic Etiquette. Everyone contributes to making the lab run and has dedicated tasks they’ve agreed to be responsible for. If you have agreed to do a lab chore, please take this seriously and take care of your duties on a regular basis. It’s likely the entire lab is counting on you/waiting on you. We typically re-assign these tasks as the lab grows and shrinks.

In support of your health/safety and that of your co-workers, please maintain a clean and organized workspace. Much of our lab is common space and items can easily get lost or destroyed. It is important that everything is put back where it was found in the correct location.

Collegiality. I expect lab members to contribute to a collegial and productive environment that supports learning and research. Everyone in the 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 with inquisitiveness instead of stereotypes.

Expectations

Work hours. Lab members are generally expected to be in the office during normal business hours (roughly 9am-5pm, M-F) so that you can learn from each other and be present for meetings and joint discussions. That said, I recognize that everyone has different levels of efficiency and experience. Different individuals may also go through phases of more and less intense work based on their specific research project, deadlines, and commitments. Productivity is more important than hours.

You are not expected to work more than 40 hours per week. However, keep in mind that you will get out of your career what you put into it. Both hard work and learning to keep a consistent balance for your health and sanity are essential to be competitive for your future career.

Let me know if you will be out of the lab for a full day or more. Lab members should also generally 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. Vacations are best taken outside of conference season.

Standing Weekly Commitments. Attendance at weekly lab meetings and Thursday departmental seminars is expected. If you are funded off of a grant (including both research and training grants), attendance at grant or training program meetings and conference calls is required. If you are presenting a paper or manuscript during a lab meeting, you must email the group one week in advance of the presentation date. 

Yearly Evaluations. Each year we will sit down to formally discuss progress and goals. At that time, you should remember to tell me if you are unhappy with any aspect of your experience in my lab or at UW-Madison in general. Remember that I am your advocate, as well as your advisor. I will be able to help you with any problems you might have with (other) students, professors, or staff.

Similarly, we should discuss any concerns that you have with respect to my role as your advisor. If you feel that you need more guidance, tell me. If you feel that I am interfering too much with your work, tell me. If you would like to meet with me more often, tell me. At the same time, I will tell you if I am satisfied with your progress and if I think you are on track to graduate by your target date (or to start applying for independent positions). It is my responsibility to explain to you any deficiencies, so that you can take steps to fix them.

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. We follow the ICMJE rules for authorship:

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.

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

Scientific Integrity. Never manipulate or selectively exclude/expand data to achieve an expected or desired result. This is falsification and ignorance is not an excuse. Never use text or content from elsewhere in your writing without citing it appropriately (even if it’s something you previously wrote, which is called self-plagiarism).

Lab Notebook and Data Backup. Your lab notebook belongs to the university and must remain in the lab at all times. Any electronic resources associated with your research should be stored online via the lab’s shared Box drive. Please make sure your lab notebook is up to date by the end of every week (if not sooner) and transfer all raw data/images, etc. to Box at the end of every week so that it can be backed up.

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. 

Career Development. I will always strive to make sure you are aware of as many opportunities as possible to help you develop into a stronger and more well-connected scientist. These opportunities include writing grants, writing review articles, speaking at conferences, participating in training courses, going to career development seminars, mentoring less experienced trainees, etc. Please take advantage of these opportunities to give yourself the very best chance to achieve your scientific goals and be sure to discuss any changes to your long-term career goals with me so that we can reorient your training plan to achieve these goals.

Own Your Mistakes. Everyone (including me) will make mistakes in the lab. Be honest and forthright when you have made a mistake. Apologize if warranted. 

Be Flexible. Failure is a part of science and projects can change quickly. Try to stay flexible and be open to creative alternatives.

Lab Conflict

Communicate. More often than not, lab conflicts stem from a lack of proper communication. When in doubt, be transparent and openly communicate with one another to avoid such conflicts. Be professional; don’t talk behind others’ backs and don’t lose your temper. Be open to feedback on how to improve your own behavior. Regardless of who you are having trouble with, whether they be your superior or someone junior, you should never be afraid of having an honest and receptive dialogue with other lab members (including me).

Be Aware and Engaged. Positive social interactions can be crucial for setting yourself up for success in a lab. Be aware of yourself and others around you. Make an effort to get to know your co-workers and participate in lab events. Develop personal strategies that will allow you to be more open and receptive to others in a way that is most comfortable to you. Remember—science is a team effort! 

Be Patient. You are not going to get along with everyone in the lab at all times. Tensions often run high in science and we all have bad days, so it’s important to always try to have patience and a bit of understanding.

Be Assertive. Be polite and be realistic. Do favors for others and help out where you can, but don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if what they are asking for is more than you can provide.

Seek Help. In most cases, conflicts can be resolved quickly and peacefully without outside intervention. However, in some cases it may be necessary to organize a meeting with me to discuss issues causing conflict in the lab. Do not hesitate to reach out to me to help facilitate conflict resolution. Be prepared for any resulting meetings. Take sufficient time after a disagreement to reflect and brainstorm exactly what you feel needs to be addressed at these meetings. Try to detach yourself from your emotions (as much as possible) and avoid defending your actions or shifting blame. Most importantly, suggest solutions! If you want to see real change happen, step up and have a counterpoint for how the conflict could be resolved.

I will always strive to be approachable so that you feel comfortable enough to ask questions, express your feelings, or simply complain when necessary. I will also always strive to make sure that you feel that you are being treated fairly. If you have concerns about my mentoring that you do not feel comfortable communicating directly to me, please reach out to your degree program’s student coordinator or the Office of Postdoctoral Studies. Other resources include department/College human resource representatives and the Employee Assistance and Ombuds Offices.

Specific Rules for Different Members of the Lab


Postdocs and Senior Ph.D. Students.
My responsibilities to postdocs and senior Ph.D. students include:

          1. assisting with the identification and writing of postdoctoral fellowship applications;
          2. developing project ideas, including independent projects that can be taken with the postdoc;
          3. interpreting results;
          4. reviewing manuscripts;
          5. discussing career goals and maintaining an individualized training plan that works toward those goals; and
          6. hosting bi-weekly (weekly if needed) meetings to discuss progress and pitfalls.

Postdocs and senior Ph.D. students are specifically expected to:

          1. prepare for our regular meetings and communicate progress and goals;
          2. write and submit manuscripts;
                    — Postdocs should expect to produce two first author papers per year, one substantial work and one smaller.
                    — Ph.D. students should have one paper published, one in revision, and one ready to submit by their dissertation                                   defense.
          3. apply for external funding (either individual post/predoc fellowships or contributing to larger lab grant writing)
          4. write reports if on a grant-funded project;
          5. keep a calendar;
          6. maintain a lab notebook (for bench work) and digital notes (for coding), including directories of data, annotated codes                    and versions, and detailed methods; these need to be sufficient to reproduce results without additional instructions;
          7. review manuscripts from other lab members; participate in talk rehearsals of your colleagues;
          8. participate in general lab responsibilities (EHS, ordering, maintain common areas, help host visitors, etc.); and
          9. mentor at least one undergraduate student.

Masters and Junior Ph.D. Students. My responsibilities to Masters and junior Ph.D. students include:

          1. developing project ideas; I will work with junior Ph.D. 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 material 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;
          2. interpreting results;
          3. reviewing and revising manuscripts; helping to develop writing skills;
          4. discussing career goals and maintaining an individualized training plan that works toward those goals; and
          5. hosting weekly meetings to discuss progress and pitfalls.

Masters and junior Ph.D. students are specifically expected to:

          1. prepare for our regular meetings and communicate progress and goals;
          2. write and submit manuscripts;
                    — Masters students should have one manuscript submitted by their thesis defense.
                    — Junior Ph.D. students should submit their first manuscript before their preliminary exam.
          3. apply for external funding;
          4. write reports if on a grant-funded project;
          5. keep a calendar;
          6. maintain a lab notebook (for bench work) and digital notes (for coding), including directories of data, annotated codes                    and versions, and detailed methods; these need to be sufficient to reproduce results without additional instructions;
          7. review manuscripts from other lab members; participate in talk rehearsals of your colleagues;
          8. participate in general lab responsibilities (EHS, ordering, maintain common areas, help host visitors, etc.); and
          9. mentor at least one undergraduate student.

Undergraduate Students. My responsibilities to undergraduate students include:

          1. providing training in both laboratory techniques as well as scientific thinking; this will involve both your graduate or                    postdoc mentor and working with me;
          2. analyzing and interpreting results;
          3. discussing career goals and maintaining an individualized training plan that works toward those goals; this includes                    summer opportunities; and
          4. reviewing abstracts and application materials.

Undergraduate students are specifically expected to:

          1. come to the lab on the days and hours that are pre-arranged each semester;
          2. be willing to learn and make corrections when given;
          3. maintain a lab notebook (for bench work) and digital notes (for coding), including directories of data, annotated codes                    and versions, and detailed methods; these need to be sufficient to reproduce results without additional instructions;
          4. help maintain common areas; and
          5. participate in on-campus undergraduate research symposia.

Note: Much of the text and ideas outlined above were borrowed heavily from Emily Puckett, Jeff Ross-Ibarra, Rubén Rellán-Álvarez, and Prachee Avasthi.