Why your lab should have a website and a quick guide to making one.

Websites are your identity to the world. They help establish your credibility and your expertise. These things are incredibly important for researchers and their labs. All professors and researchers running a lab should have them. They are powerful tools for communication, recruitment, and spreading your influence. Your website is where you can control all of the messaging and content. In your own words, you can decide what you show the world. It is a place where you can craft an identity and what you want to be known for. I can guarantee that people will try to find your website to learn more about you before they call or send an email. Do you know what they find? Is your website a good representation of your lab?

A lab website should consist of at least three pages: home, blog, and team. The home page is your first introduction in to the world. This page should include the most important parts of your message that you want to convey. Include information about your ongoing research projects, if you are looking for new lab members, and contact information. Think of the home page as a snapshot or business card of your lab. The blog should consist of articles about poster presentations, future talks, or announcements of new papers published. Including posts about related subjects or opinions to the lab’s work is helpful as well. Post about these short essays to LinkedIn or Twitter, to draw people into your lab. The team section should include bios on all the members in the lab, along with professional pictures. The professor’s publication or even a short CV should be included.

All of these sections on your website serve different purposes. Your home page lets people know what you are all about. Your identity, your brand to borrow from the business world. This is the impression you will leave on people after they leave your site – so how do you want to be remembered? The blog section is your way of drawing people in. Share your blog posts on social media. Getting people to visit your site lets them come to know you, which leads to new recruitment or collaboration opportunities. Finally, the team page serves as a way to show that your lab is real and that the people working in the lab are legitimate. The team page will also improve your credibility, because you can show the depth and breadth of experience and education in your lab.

There are several options in making a cheap website for your self or for a lab. Many platforms will handle the security, updates, hosting, and domain name for you. WordPress.com is one option, it is great for simple sites and blogs. WordPress.org is different and requires more hands on effort and experience. Wix has a free option that allows you to create beautiful websites with its drag and drop interface. Squarespace is another to consider, but is more expensive and does not offer a free version. Many of these sites have tutorials available and there is a lot of content out there that will teach you how to create a site. My colleague John Bhatia has a great site with some helpful videos for creating a website on Wix.

Whichever platform you chose to start your blog, the investment of time and possibly money is worth it. Your website is something that you can take with you and use as a tool throughout career. Use it to recruit new students and expand your collaboration opportunities. It can become a part of your tenure application. Even if you change universities, or pivot to a new career path, your website can be a testament to your work and achievements.


Do you have a website for your lab? How has it benefited you? I’d like to hear about your experience in the comments below.

Photo credit to John Schnobrich found on unsplash.com

Are you thinking of pursuing a tenured position? Tip for you – record everything you do.

Every poster, every talk. Include every scholarship, grant, or award you receive. Not just the current stuff, I’m talking about your post-doc, your graduate career, even your time as an undergraduate. As Dr. Robert Renden describes it, “They [the review committee] want to see the entire arc of your research journey and growth.” Keeping detailed records will help you tell the story of your research journey from start to finish.

What this detailed record looks like is up to you. There are obvious things to include like date, school name, award name, etc. Not so obvious things include money amounts for scholarships or grants and the name of the professor or lab you worked with when you received the money. Something to keep in mind during your record keeping, universities want to know if you can bring in money. R01 designations are determined by how much research money a university brings in a year. Universities also take a cut of every grant of funding award a professor brings in. Even in science, money runs the world. So, including dollar amounts in your records is important. Show the tenure review committee that you can get grants and funding for your university.

How you keep records is up to you. Some of the people I have talked to use a long CV. Others used an excel file with each row a new entry and the columns including all the details. LinkedIn is another option, where it is easy to add and modify. Word doc, google doc, tik tok however you want to keep a record, make sure it has a few things:

  • Easily to keep updated and current with your work
  • Backed up to the cloud or a secondary location
  • Clear and detailed so that you can go back 10 years later and understand what you did

The important thing is that this document becomes a long lived record that you can keep for 10 to 15 years.

Building your CV over 10 years or more can be intimidating. One of the best books on this topic is The Professor Is In by Dr. Karen Kelsky. Not only does it talk about the entire hiring, working, and tenure process for professors, it has one of the best pieces of advice; add something to your CV each month. A paper, a talk, a poster, an award. Map it out on a calendar and keep track. Exceptional CVs don’t happen by accident. Be intentional about activities and work that can fill out your CV.

Even small steps can be valuable. A project, sitting on a committee, or even being a peer reviewer. Each of these small steps are like small promotions. They help you get just that little bit of a boost towards your goals. These smaller steps can also show of your talents in other areas. Showing you are multifaceted and well rounded is a plus for the whole process of achieving tenure, from initial interview to final application.

Tenure is difficult to obtain, especially with tenure track positions disappearing at a rapid rate. In 2018, American Association of University Professors measured that non-tenure track faculty made up 73% of all faculty in the US. The rarity of tenure positions make the competition even more fierce. Telling a compelling story of your research journey is important in securing tenure. To tell that story, you need details. Keep a record, sweat the details, and build your self up step by step toward achieving tenure.


I spoke with professors, grad students and undergrads for this piece. I also included my own experience. What is your experience like with tenure applications? Do you have any other tips for others perusing tenure? Leave a comment below, I’m interested in hearing from you.

Photo credit to Edar found on pixibay.com.

Know before you join, is the lab’s principle investigator a keeper or a placer?

The principle investigator (PI) has an outsized impact on any graduate student or post doc. The PI determines the criteria for success, graduation, and career afterwards. Generally, there are two types of PIs in academia, keepers or placers. Knowing which kind runs the lab is vital. It will affect your time in the lab and your career afterwards.

Keepers

These are the kinds of PIs that will keep students in the lab for seven years or more. They will delay students’ dissertations or give dead end projects. Keepers hold on to students for as long as possible, extracting as much labor from them as possible. Motivations for keepers vary; apathy, fear of competition, and desperation to hold on to human resources are a just a few. Though the motivations are different, the result is the same; exploited students with stunted career growth and reducing opportunity. These effects do not help the mental health issues that many students already face.

Placers

These kinds of professors will provide career guidance, support, and mentorship. Students are encouraged to finish their dissertation in a timely and appropriate manner. These professors are called placers because they place students into new positions and labs after they graduate. Their mentality is often different as well, viewing mentorship and advancement of students as a positive reflection on the lab. This is contrast to a keeper, who views students moving on as a threat to themselves.

When thinking of keepers or placers, it is important to remember the greater context. These students are not enjoying high paying jobs with many benefits. While on paper, the students are part time, the demands of research and teaching often push them into 60 hours or more of work a week. This exploitation can be exacerbated by the lack of graduate student union at the university. Many graduate students barely make ends meet with the paltry stipends offered by their departments or PIs. In many cases, graduate students live in poverty and fear. Financial issues, food safety, and homelessness are constant worries for graduate students. Keepers cause this poverty to be extended and deepened, as the payoff after graduation is delayed. Keepers perpetuate the exploration of graduate and post-doctoral students.

So know before you go and avoid labs with keepers. Ask the other students in the lab. Ask the professor how much time they anticipate you spending in their lab. Get details, like how they will support your career placement, what kind of networking can the help you tap into. If you are in a lab now, it is still important to ask. Continued mentorship and support should be a normal part of a PI’s responsibilities. Follow up and get the support you need to be successful in and after the lab.


Did you experience the benefits of a placer? Or were you trapped by a keeper? I’d like to hear about your experience. Please leave a comment below.

Photo credit to Alexas_Fotos found on pixabay.com.

The Three Legged Stool, a metaphor for job satisfaction.

Changes at my job have caused me to re-evaluate, do I actually enjoy this job? Is it time to find a new one? During my evaluation, I turned to one of my favorite conceptual models. The Three Legged Stool model is a way of conceptualizing and assessing job satisfaction. It comes down to a simple idea; you need at least three strong reasons to stay in a job. If those reasons are compromised, job satisfaction plummets and it is time to look elsewhere.

It takes three points to define a plane. That’s why three legged stools are so stable. Same applies to job satisfaction. Your job is the seat of the stool. Your job satisfaction is supported by the things that are most important to you, just like the legs support the seat. Your job satisfaction is higher and more stable when the legs are strong and of similar length. If a leg is short, the stool is unstable. If a leg is lost? Then the stool and job satisfaction are falling fast.

In general, the three legs of the stool can be different person to person. Mine are compensation, work environment, and management. There can be others, like highly motivating job or excellent work life balance. You can have more than three legs if you want, this is a metaphor after all. These legs represent the things that most important to you in your job. For me, my most important legs are compensation, direct management, and work place environment.

Things change, especially in any research or working environment. These changes can make the legs of your stool stronger or weaker. These changes can remove legs completely. When that happens, job satisfaction is compromised. As the person sitting on that stool, this is also decision time. If my work environment turns toxic all the sudden my job satisfaction as lost a huge support. Are the other two legs in my stool enough to keep me sitting up right? If just one of those other legs is short, or weak, then I would seriously consider leaving.

So what happens to my lopsided stool if pressure is applied? Weak legs snap and my stool is upended. Why put up with the pressure if I’m not happy anyway? If I had strong job satisfaction, with three strong legs supporting my stool, I could withstand the pressure. I would stay in the job because I have things I value and care about to sustain me. This is where the metaphor becomes useful for managers and for independent contributors. We need to keep the legs of the stool strong and level in order to withstand tough times and stay with the job.

The Three Legged Stool can provide a model for assessing job satisfaction. As a manager, it can be used to evaluate your decisions, will your actions shorten or weaken legs? As an individual contributor, you can use it to determine if it is time to stay or to go. I also find it helpful in outlining what makes me happy in a job. I can then communicate that to my manager, letting them know what I value. This enables my manager to make better decisions that will hopefully strengthen the things I value, thus making my stool stronger. Weather the ultimate decision is to stay or to go, the Three Legged Stool model is a helpful tool in making the choice.


Have you stayed in a job too long? Or left a job too soon? How did you make those decisions? I’m interested in learning from your experience. Please let a comment below.

Photo credit to Marc Pascual (makamuki0) found on pixabay.com.

Titles: a comparison between science and business styles.

As a science adjacent writer, writing about science adjacent things, I realize that I’ve been titling my posts incorrectly for my target audience. I want scientists, academics, and professors to read my posts. So why aren’t they? It wasn’t until I read Erik Deckers’ recent post, about how writers imitate what they read, that the obvious hit me. I was writing business-y sounding posts with business-y sounding titles, because I’ve been reading and consuming a majority of business-y articles. You know, the articles titles with attention hooks and SEO optimization:

That last one is mine. All of these title are from business blogs that I follow. Their titles are attention getting because they illicit feelings of missing out, inferiority, and fear. They play on these emotions to get people to click on the articles. Not quite clickbait, because these articles are more truthful in their representation of facts. The problem is, on the spectrum of clickbait to obituaries, the reading material of most scientists is deadly earnest:

The first thing that leaps out is the complex and incredibly precise language. Additionally, these titles make me feel nothing but curiosity. I am drawn to them not because of an emotional response, but from a response to the content. The titles tell me what I can learn from these articles, what advancement in understanding has been made. The titles of the scientific articles are earnest. They want to be descriptive and precise, so that when you open the article, you know exactly what you will get. They don’t need emotional hooks to get me to take action. The content itself is attractive and the title is an honest reflection of that high quality content.

As Stephan Heard mentioned in his post, scientists imitate other scientists in their use of language. It starts with students, when we teach them to write scientific papers. Jargon heavy writing begets jargon heavy writing. I’ve come down on the other side of the spectrum, where I’ve started to write business posts because that is what I’ve been consuming. I now use business buzz words instead of precise multisyllabic terms. This has caused a mismatch between my writing and my target audience. I need to the find the balance where my titles, language, and tone are similar enough to science writing for my audience, but avoiding the trap of narrowing that audience by the use of jargon.

Scientists chose titles for precision. Business people chose titles for clicks. I need to rethink how I title my posts.


What considerations do you take into account when titling your posts or your scientific publications? I’m interested to hear what is important or not important when making the titling decision. Let me know in the comments below.

Photo credit to analogicus found on pixabay.com.

Research Is An Infinite Game Part 2: The Five Requirements for Leading In An Infinite Game

In Part 1, we established research is an infinite game. Research is a competition without winners or losers, no time limit, unknown players, changing rules, and the goal is to perpetuate the game, to continue doing research. Where as a finite game has a winner, a loser, a time limit, set rules, known players, and the goal is to win the game. To win a finite game, a player must make very different decisions than in an infinite game. The problem, we make decisions in research as if it was a finite game, when it is not. As Simon Sinek explains, this causes decline in trust, decline in cooperation, and decline in innovation. In short? The researcher can no longer do research because the will and resources to continue have been squandered.

It comes down to leadership and the decisions we make. As leaders of research labs, we need to change the way we think in order to make the right choices for the game we are in, an infinite game. To make the right decisions, we first need to recognize that in research the only competition is the self. Ahead or behind others in the infinite game, am I better now than last year? Is my writing better than last year? Is my research better than it was last year? As leaders in the infinite game of research, we need to seek constant improvement. To help us maintain constant improvement, we need five things.

1. Just Cause

A just cause is a purpose that is so benevolent and righteous that people willingly forego opportunities, sacrifice comfort, and spend time to be a part of it. A just cause will make these sacrifices feel worth it. In research, your just cause could be curing cancer, discovering the cure for multiple sclerosis, and making differences in millions of lives. Just causes are ideals that we can never reach, but will constantly strive to do so. This becomes the motivation for work and creates a depth of grit and perseverance that a less worthy cause could never muster.

2. Trusting Teams

You know you have a trusting team in the lab when everyone feels like they can be themselves. If people feel like they must hide, or fake, or lie in order to make it through the day, that is not a trusting team. Trusting teams will not hide mistakes and they will ask for help. They can do these things without fear of shame or retribution. A teammate can be honest and open, secure in the knowledge that others will be there to help. Developing trusting teams requires the question, “How can I crate an environment where my team feels safe and can work at their best?” This question leads to resources, training, and support for your team. Most importantly, it will lead to giving your team agency and control over their day to day tasks, making them feel safe and self determined.

3. Worthy Rival

Do you have a worthy rival? Another lab, or another professor, in the same vein of research, that you admire and want to emulate? They are a worthy rival. A rival is someone that will keep inspiring us to get better, to continuously improve. They highlight our weaknesses and show where we need to make changes. The motivation provided by a worthy rival can help us sustain the fortitude needed to stay in the infinite game. Remember, there is no winning or losing to your rival. You are either ahead of them for a moment, or behind them for a moment. This will constantly change. The only thing that won’t change is the need to constantly improve. Let your worthy rival help find areas for improvement and sustain the motivation to change.

4. Existential Flexibility

In science, the publication of a new discovery or method can change the way we do research overnight. CRISPR/Cas9, GFP, electron scanning microscopes, telescopes, each of these have pushed science into new directions. What follows is a rush of discovery that pushes the frontier of our understanding. In order to be in that rush, we need to be existentially flexible, or we will disappear. When something comes in and radically changes the field, we need to adapt and adopt quickly, or get left behind. This is why it is called existential flexibility, it is the choice between existence or destruction. It is not about winning or losing, it is about staying in the game.

5. Courage to Lead

Realizing a just cause, creating a trusting team, admiring a worthy rival, and making a drastic change require one thing, courage. It is hard to do any of these things! Especially in the academic world where the next grant is our main concern, not a just cause. Especially when our teams can be stressed with split priorities. Especially when our worthy rival creates a new technology that forces us to radically change our lab’s direction. Courage is needed to All of these things require an enormous amount of courage. It is hard, and it is scary, but it means that you are open minded to the idea that you may be wrong. It means you are honest about where you are, your weaknesses, and how you need to improve. Courage to be an honest leader will sustain you in the infinite game.

Research will always continue on. If you are not there, the next discovery will be made by someone else. The goal of research is not to win. There is nothing to win. There is only staying in research for as long as possible. With these five things, just cause, trusting teams, worthy rival, existential flexibility, and the courage to lead, you can stay in the infinite game. Have courage, be honest, stay open, and you can change the world with your research.


Have you worked in a lab with a PI that lead with an infinite mindset? Or a finite mindset? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments, I want to learn from you.

Photo credit to JESHOOTS-com found on pixabay.com.

Research Is An Infinite Game Part 1: Your Rules Do Not Apply

There are two types of games; finite and infinite games. These types of games have different foundations, end results, and mentalities. Research, I argue, is an infinite game. Following Simon Sinek‘s and James Carse‘s definitions, research fits the requirements for an infinite game:

  • There are known and unknown researchers in any given field
  • Researchers may join or leave their field at any time
  • Research activities have no time limit
  • Rules and regulations change, along with the tools and methods used to conduct research
  • The goal of research is to perpetuate research activities into the future
  • There are no winners and losers in research, only those that can continue and those that drop out

This matters, because infinite games require different decisions. Making finite game decisions in an infinite game will cause frustration, errors, and eventually force the player to drop out. That’s because finite games are fundamentally different. In finite games:

  • All the players are known
  • The rules do not change
  • There is a time limit to the game
  • There is an agreed upon metric for how to win the game
  • There are winners and losers at the end of the game

Our default mode is to think in terms of finite games. Finite games are easier to understand, they are short contests with clearly determined winners. Finite games are all around us, baseball, football, poker, etc. Finite games are important to our society and culture, the massive sport leagues like the NFL, MLB, and NBA provide proof. This means that finite game mentality is our default mentality. We want to beat the competition and be better than anyone else. We want to win!

In research, a finite game mentality is absolutely the default. Tell me, does this sound familiar? We want to publish first, don’t get scooped, publish more than anyone else, higher impact factor, and more citations than anyone else. We want to win! However, if you publish one paper, with high impact and many citations, and nothing else, have you won? Does that make you a good researcher? How about a scenario where you have many publications, that no one reads or cites. Does that make you a good researcher? Depending on who you ask, the metric can be wildly different. This is another indicator that research is an infinite game.

Using finite game mindset in an infinite game is like showing up to a football game ready to play golf. The rules you are playing by do not apply to the game you are in, they are fundamentally incompatible. Succeeding in a finite game requires playing by the rules and fulfilling the requirement to be called the winner. Infinite games do not have predetermined requirements for success and the only way to compete in an infinite game is to perpetuate the game. In research, this means you never stop conducting research. One project always leads to the next, and the lab is active in perpetuity. This is the goal of an infinite game.

Why should you care? Playing a with a finite mindset in an infinite game will cause a decline in trust, a decline in cooperation, and a decline in innovation. It will bring about the end of your lab. Changing from a finite to an infinite game mindset is possible. It takes five incredibly difficult changes, but if completed, can ensure that you compete in an infinite game.

I am going to discuss the five things in my next blog post, Research Is An Infinite Game Part 2: The Five Requirements for Leading In An Infinite Game


Did this post resonate with you? Do you know of someone who has a finite mindset in research? What were their outcomes? Leave a comment below.

Photo credit to Pexels found on pixabay.com.

Manage Competing Interests to Maintain Benevolence, Trust, and Lab Success

Benevolence is having someone else’s best interests at heart and taking action to further those interests. One of the three pillars of trust, benevolence is key for relationships and a positive work environment. In academic labs, competing interests often destroy benevolence, eroding trust, and causing toxic lab environment. This has a massive impact on the students and professors that work together. Managing these competing interests will help maintain the perception of benevolence and keep the lab on the path to success.

When a student joins a lab, they want to get a degree. The professor needs the student to publish research. The student’s goals may span four to six years. The professor on the other hand, needs to plan for decades. Though the two may have some goals in common, the time frame and end result are different. This difference informs behavior that can seem hostile. For example, a professor may keep a student in their lab for way too long, harming the student’s overall career path. A student can leave the lab, have poor performance, and leave the professor out of time or resources for that next publication. The competing interests and different time frames cause the perceived benevolence to wither.

One way to fix this, set both short term and long term goals. Align the interests of the student and professor to both and clearly outline the benefit to be gained. For example, the student will help publish so many papers and in return the professor will provide monthly networking opportunities. Put time limits on these goals and expectations. This avoids the perception that the student or the professor are only in it for themselves. Once these goals are completed, don’t forget to celebrate. This will reinforce the perception of benevolence and show that progress is made towards mutually beneficial outcomes.

Another option is to bring in outside help. Communication and attention are other ways to boost perceived benevolence. If there isn’t enough time or resources, bring in advisors or university staff into the mix. The professor does not need to be the sole mentor for a student. Involve other committee members more closely, even set up monthly mentor meetings. The university can provide many resources to help the student and professor. Utilize them, ask for assistance, it will help because obvious action is being taken to benefit each other.

Benevolence can take time to establish, especially if it was compromised. Taking the time to manage competing interests, to set goals, and to reach out for support will go a long way to improving perceived benevolence. Concrete action is proof that both the professor and the student have a vested interest in a mutually beneficial outcome. This boosts trust, which is a foundation for a positive and productive lab.

Lastly, benevolence can be shown in the ways that we go above and beyond for each other. Setting the ground work for benevolence is only half the battle. While it may take extra effort, to show gratitude, to do something unexpected, it can make such a difference in a relationship – especially a working one. Academic lab work environments are complex, with many competing interests, and personalities. These strategies can help bring them all together, improving benevolence, trust, and lab success.


Have you ever had a situation where you felt like PI or the student was hostile to your interests? How did you handle it? What were your strategies? Please let me know in the comments below.

Photo credit to sasint at pixabay.com.

3 Steps To Build Empathy in Your Research Lab

My grandfather died three days ago. Through the fog of grief and heartache, one thing has stood out to me, empathy. Especially at work, the outpouring of support and understanding from my coworkers, bosses, and direct supports has been a light in the dark. Their support made me realize how crucial empathy is and how quickly a relationship can be soured when empathy is lacking. If empathy is lacking on an entire team, disaster. So how can we promote empathy on our teams and in our labs? 3 steps, listen, question, and take action.

Listen

When someone is talking, how often do you truly listen? Taking in their words, hearing the meaning, without typing on a keyboard, thinking of your own answer, or distracted by your to do list? Being mindful and present when someone else is speaking is difficult, in the lab we often have so many distractions. However, listening is a key component of empathy. We need to know what the other person is feeling or thinking in order to empathize with them. Listening also validates the other person and makes them feel heard. It opens you both up for honest communication.

Question

Follow up the listening with a relevant and pointed question about the what the person just told you. This demonstrates that you truly listened and that you are invested in what they have to say. Lecturing them, changing the subject, or talking about your similar experience moves the focus of the conversation away from the person and on to you. This can interrupt the other person feeling your empathy. To ensure the other person feels your empathy, keep the focus on them. Ask them about how they are feeling, what they are thinking of doing next, or if they need support. Asking relevant questions shows that the speaker’s words didn’t go in one ear and out the other.

Take Action

You’ve listened, you’ve questioned, now you need to take action. Empathy with out action is indifference. Even worse, it can be disingenuous, which destroys trust and causes other problems. Often something actionable will come up in your questions. Perhaps the person asked for some time off, a re-assignment, or maybe they just needed to feel heard. If an action doesn’t come up, ask directly, “I hear you and deeply empathize. What can I do to help?” Then work with the person to make that action happen. Sometimes the action may not be plausible, but just asking can lead to changes and a positive impact.

How many times have each of us wanted to be heard? To have some ask how we are or how they can help? The desire for empathy is universal. It can improve work environments and relationships, leading to increased productivity. Additionally, empathy can be practiced by anyone and anyone can make an impact in the lab. It’s not just up to the PI or the post-doc. Any member of the lab can improve the lab by listening, questioning, and taking action. If we want our labs to be happier, more supportive, and more productive, then practicing empathy is one way to make it happen.


Have you had moments where an empathetic person made a big impact in your lab or in your life? I’d like to hear about it in the comments.

Photo credit to geralt found on pixabay.com.

Set and Manage Expectations To Improve Your Lab

While interviewing for graduate school, the joke went something like this, “Check for cots in the lab. Lets you know if people spend all night in the lab!” While the response is usually laughter, toxic labs and unreasonable expectations are a real possibility. It also brings to the forefront a serious question, what are the expectations in a lab? As the PI, it is imperative that you set these communications early and communicate them clearly. Doing so will benefit you, your students, and your lab as a whole.

Expectation setting is a fundamental part of leading a group. It lets everyone know what the standards and norms are that will govern behavior. If these standards and norms are violated, then punishment or reprimanding is expected. Fulfilling these expectations would then beget reward and promotion. When expectations are not set, this can lead to issues with enforcing wanted behavior and overall decline in productivity. Labs are groups of people working together towards research goals. Setting expectations will benefit any PI leading a lab.

When setting expectations, write them down. Turn the expectations into a written document that is available for lab members to reference at any time. Make sure to give a copy to any new member and review it during meetings. This constant reinforcement allows for the expectations to become norms and enforced by the group behavior. Additionally, writing the expectations down and making them a constant part of lab culture makes discipline easier. If a student does not meet those expectations, the conversation can refer to the document instead of a distantly remembered conversation. This will also provide you, the PI, with increased integrity since the expectations were set and there was follow through. Accountability goes both ways! As the professor or PI, you are the leader and you must model the behavior and meet all expectations you set out. Otherwise the members of your lab will lose trust in you, which makes leadership incredibly difficult.

Some of the things. to include in expectations are work hours, reports, and availability away from work. It is important to respect the limitations of a graduate students schedule, along with department guidelines and labor laws. demanding more hours of research than is possible or legal for a student to give is a quick way to burnout and legal trouble. Another expectation is software accounts and use for the lab such as Slack or Asana. Do you expect students or post-docs to always be available? Establishing these expectations will avoid miscommunication and frustration.

Expectations should be communicated up front. As early as possible. If a student is not willing to meet your expectations, wouldn’t you want to know before you spend time and resources training them? As a PI, one of the biggest keys to success is getting the right people in your lab. Making sure that your expectations and the prospective recruit are a match is a big step in the right direction. Write your expectations down, communicate early and often, then follow through. Your research, your lab, and your students will flourish because of it.


What are the expectations in your lab? Have you ever heard of some outlandish expectations? What happened as a result? I’m interested in learning from your experience.

Photo credit to geralt found on pixabay.com.