Welcome to the TEcoEvo Group! My goal as a Principal Investigator (PI) and mentor is to foster an inclusive environment in the group where everyone can reach their full potential as (independent) scientists. This document describes how our group functions in order to ensure that you have everything that you need to be a happy and productive member of our group. We pride ourselves on being an open and collaborative group and would like you to know that we are happy to answer any questions you may have about life in this/our group.
[While we suggest including the following points in this section, these are specific for each lab, or maybe even department/university/institute]
About the lab: Describe broad questions that the lab is interested in. Introduce the model system(s) the lab works with (including basic maintenance/animal care). Describe techniques that are commonly used in the lab that new members should either already be familiar with, or learn or get trained on. Potentially name the expert person(s) in the lab for each technique.
Getting started: List required training/inductions and contact persons for these sessions. List specialized equipment that the lab itself contains (i.e. sequencers, mass spectrometry instruments, (q)PCR machines, etc). Also link to core facilities on campus that may have more specialized equipment, or equipment the lab does not own including names and email addresses of who to contact (for inductions, adding to mailing list, etc) and links to booking systems.
Basic safety: Mention here (a link to) the basic safety rules and regulations of your department/university/institute, including phone numbers of whom to contact in case of emergency.
It’s an honor for [PI name] to coach and mentor an amazing team of people who together drive our innovation and accomplishments. My commitment to you is to make our lab a welcoming and supportive environment to conduct good science. Importantly, [PI name] is invested in your success—the ability to graduate and/or follow your desired career path either in or outside of academia. [PI name] will provide an environment that is emotionally supportive, safe, equitable, intellectually stimulating, and free of harassment. [PI name] will help guide your research project and give you feedback on your work to ensure our science is of the best quality possible. A two-way feedback culture is critical to a successful lab environment! Thus, any issues, even small things, should be dealt with swiftly. When you have any questions or concerns—[PI name]’s door is always open. You are always welcome to communicate with [PI name] and [PI name] will respond to you in a timely fashion. In an emergency, whether that is lab-related or personal, you can call on [PI name] for assistance. Please also come to [PI name] if you are having issues with individuals outside our lab. [PI name] can help guide you to the appropriate resources to deal with this within the Department and University. If [PI name] is the cause of your concern, please seek help from another PI in the department (such as [name other faculty]) or discuss the issue with human resources.
In our lab, we want everyone to be honest, enthusiastic, and happy. You are expected to bring your enthusiasm and curiosity to the lab. We ask everyone to have a proactive attitude and to contribute to the lab, both intellectually and operationally. It is up to you to make the most of all the training and opportunities you are given. Lab members come from diverse personal and academic backgrounds. All lab members should treat each other with respect and dignity. Disrespectful behavior, harassment, and/or scientific misconduct will not be tolerated. Be considerate of others in the lab; it is courteous to keep common spaces clean and organized, and return communal equipment to where you found it. If you use up common supplies and solutions, please refill them or order more. Mistakes and accidents happen in the lab, and that is okay, but if an incident will affect others in the lab please tell them. If you do not know how to fix an issue that has arisen or are having trouble with something in the lab, ask for help. Make smart choices. Be respectful, kind, safe, and proactive!
Research support staff (e.g. research assistants and technicians) are vital players to proper operation of the lab and are valued contributors to research projects. They are expected to contribute to all lab chores. Importantly, research support staff are expected to keep the lab spaces and equipment (including fridges and freezers) clean and organized. The needs of the lab will be constantly evolving as will the responsibilities, opportunities, and skills needed. Our lab will work together to define research support staff’s evolving role in the lab, depending on individual skills and preferences. Importantly, research support staff are encouraged to voice their aspirations. Depending on desire and ability, research support staff are often given research projects of their own or assigned to work with others as a team.
We expect graduate students and postdocs to be the driving force behind their projects. We expect that you will be the expert on your project and your research field. Seek out research relevant to your work, and keep abreast of the latest tools and research in our field, even if it may not seem directly relevant to your work. Take advantage of the environment and opportunities that may arise and seek mentors both inside and outside of the lab. Graduate and postdoctoral trainees should support each other and collaborate with others inside or outside the lab on research projects. [PI name] expects you to be an “independent researcher”, but independent does not mean alone. Independent means that you take ownership, gather knowledge, formulate ideas, and then bring all of that into dialogue with others who can help. It is never too early to start thinking about your career goals; –please discuss these with me.
Rotation students will be paired with a graduate student or postdoc as a point of (daily) contact for any questions. At the start of your rotation, we will discuss your expectations and goals together. During your rotation, we will meet on a regular basis to discuss your data and further steps for your project. Please express your research interests during your rotation and don’t be afraid to pitch projects or ideas. Even if it is not a part of the lab currently, academia is very dynamic and things can change. Conversely, sometimes we have more rigid roles to fill, but it is a good idea to explore different ideas and training opportunities. Do not give yourself excuses to be mediocre. However, the rotation is short and unlikely to be long enough to produce many datasets. Give yourself permission to make minor progress. It is okay to mess up in the lab, and more likely than not, you will. You are still learning, but try not to make the same mistake twice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from your daily supervisor or anyone else in the lab! Importantly, use this opportunity to explore what you find fun to do or learn.
Undergraduate research assistants are critical contributors to our research. We value the effort you put into the lab and reward it with course credit, training, experience, letters of recommendation, mentoring, and potentially authorship. You will generally work on projects led by others within the lab. However, you should strive, and we encourage you, to make intellectual contributions to the projects you work on and may embark on independent projects as well on an ad hoc basis once you’ve become familiar with the lab. Undergraduate trainees are expected to commit to a minimum number of hours over a set period of time; please discuss this with me. Please develop your weekly schedule by talking to your individual mentor.
We are all here to grow as scientists. However, that should never come at the cost of your well-being. Your mental and physical health are an important consideration in all that you do while in the lab. Moreover, success should not come at the cost of maintaining your health. In fact, you are more likely to be successful if you take care of yourself and balance time with the things outside of work that matter to you. Below are some general guidelines on well-being, but every situation is unique, and I am always open to discussion on this topic, so do not hesitate to ask.
If you are not feeling well, either physically or mentally, take the time that you need to seek help and take care of yourself. Specifically,
Being an undergraduate, technician, graduate student, or postdoc is stressful. We all care about you and are here to support you – just let us know how we can help. If any situation requires you to take time off but there is are small essential chores/resposibilities in the group then ask if others can take over for a while.
You can share as much or as little detail as you are comfortable sharing with [PI name], all our communications remain confidential. These situations are inherently stressful, so make sure you are taking care of yourself.
Being ambitious and hard-working are part of our lab culture, and science in general. But it should come from a perspective of driving yourself for the fun of pushing your limits and exploring what you are capable of, while answering the scientific questions. The key is to know your limitations. Managing your motivation and work habits while integrating your interests and commitments outside of work is critical to success.
Imposter syndrome can be defined as persistent thoughts and feelings of self-doubt and a fear of being unmasked as a fraud, academically or otherwise inferior. Those who suffer from imposter syndrome (which could be any of us) have the inability to value and incorporate their abilities, skills and accomplishments into their mind and perceive themselves as significantly more inferior than others do. First, we tend to see other’s successes and not their failures. Second, there will always be someone who has accomplished more than you. Do not compare yourself to others. Everyone is different. More importantly, do not compare yourself to the cumulative successes of multiple people in your cohort. Remember, we are all on our own growth trajectory, and the people we look up to were once where we are now. All of us are doing the best job we can, which is all we can really hope for. Although we should aim to minimize feelings of self-doubt, such lingering feelings can be channeled into productivity. They can motivate us to strive for more than mediocrity; to get outside of our work and see it from another point of view. Make room for improvements and challenges. Keep a record of your successes, no matter how small. Use it as positive reinforcement when times get tough. While rejections are inevitable, the [PI/lab name] is committed to providing opportunities that will challenge you in a constructive way.
Within our lab, we organize occasional events to permit causal and social interactions within the lab. While attendance is not required, we strongly encourage all group members to organise and attend when possible, and, when applicable, bring significant others/families.