The Joys of a Good Lab Group

Jun 18 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

When new people join my lab (sometimes it comes in waves, sometimes just turn-over of one position), I always have the discussion about civility in the lab. It goes something like this:

I spend more awake time in my lab/office than I do in any other single place. (1rst Note: this is NOT true for everyone. I am not advocating it for everyone. It has not always been true of my life. It is now.) I do not want to walk into a lab filled with tension. (2nd Note: my lab group has always been small by the standards of the BSD's around me - 3-6 people, no more than I can be sure of what they are doing, and give them the help they need). I do not ask that you, members of my lab group, be best friends. But I do expect that each will treat everyone with respect and consideration. Violations are taken seriously. If you have a problem, try to solve it. If that doesn't work come to me. If you have a question, come to me. If you have a concern, about the animals, your colleagues, the university, the future of world peach, come talk to me. (3rd Note: it is important to follow up on this one. Be There. Talk to everyone. Frequently). 

The work done in my lab is a team sport. For the most part, people do not go off and do there own projects. The surgeries we do, the live animal experiments we do, require not only happy animals, but at least 3-4 pairs of hands collecting data. I set up a practical exam (anatomy) with a couple who had just broken up and it was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. They did almost nothing but glower at each other for 3 hours.

I tell my peeps this story. Not to warn about intra-lab affairs, but to talk about how bloody hard work gets when people can't work together. So, I have a superb lab group. We've had a set of medical students join us for the summer. These guys  are smart, hardworking, eager to learn, and committed to a summer of research in the best possible. The others in the lab (postdoc /tech /student /colleague) get along incredibly. The biggest issue is whether to go  to a microbrew pub or a wine bar to unwind. We are all exhausted. It has been a very hard set of experiments. Everyone is very tired. Very very tired. This set will be done by Monday. We have 3 weeks before the next set.

How can I tell this is a good group? Everyone, in the midst of their exhaustion is talking about plans for the next set. What to do different. What data from this set is good/bad and what we might need to change to make things better. Everyone is working hard and thinking hard.

I love this group. This is why I am a scientist.

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