Hi! I'm Geeka. I've been a scientist for, I don't know, it seems like forever, I guess since I started college, so, like 15 years? Anyhow, this is where I'm going to give my take on a bunch of stuff. I'm usually a little bit out there (that is, I don't see the obvious at the outset), which means that you are probably going to have to deal with reading such topics as: Interpersonal relationship training for scientists, my lab pet peeves, how to get along in business when you just came straight out of academia, trying to deal with having a life and being a scientist, really odd topics for a paper, random stuff I found on the internet that made me shoot coffee out of my nose, you know, (ab)normal Geeka. Why the title? Because at the very heart of me, I'm a virologist, and while I don't necessarily do that now, it's how I view the scientific world.
My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.
My graduate school PI had a somewhat lax method of mentoring. His philosophy was: "I give you money, a place and an opportunity. What you make it is up to you." He had a very hands-off method. We didn't have lab meetings. No one worked on projects together. It was sort of a 'everyperson for themselves' type of lab. We didn't even have scheduled 1 on 1 meetings. I would just barge in on him whenever I wanted.
(This worked for me. Mostly because I'm independent and a morning person.)
I was always the go-to person to supervise the new tech/grad student/volunteer in lab. This remained with me even when I moved to my post-doc lab. As a post-doc, I was largely the one in charge, because my boss was always very busy. I've had some really good students and volunteers and tech, and I've had ones that couldn't find their ass with a map.
I have rules for my 'minons'. This keeps me organized and them learning. Here they are:
1. I expect you to think. If you are in the sciences, no one is going to be there to hold your hand forever. You have to have an idea.
2. I expect you to write everything down. I'm not talking just about protocols, I'm talking everything. For instance, where stuff is in the lab, lot numbers of things that you have used, notes to yourself, lists of things I have told you NOT to do, how to work the autoclave. Everything. Your notebooks should be like a liveblog of your day. If you piss me off enough, I will look at you and tell you that if I'm speaking to you, you should be writing it down.
3. I expect you to read. When I give you a journal article, you should have stuff written all over it. My standard rule is to write 4 questions for every page of writing you are reading. These don't have to be 'answerable' questions, they can be anything. I'm a firm believer of wonder and there not being dumb questions.
4. I expect there to be things you don't know, but I expect you to ask about them.
5. I expect you respect lab rules. Did you use the last of something? You better damn well tell me.
6. I expect you to learn by teaching. You only know something if you can explain it to someone else.
7. I expect you to have fun. You are going to be spending a lot of time in lab. You have to be able to make it be somewhere you want to be. Listen to the radio. Talk about ethnic food. Tie-dye your labcoat. Laugh.
8. I'm never going to answer your questions outright. I will ask what you did last time, what you think you should do, what all the options are, etc. It's my way of making you think. I know it's annoying. I don't care. :)
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Those are "Golden Rules". I always envisage having the same rules when I start my lab. Thats a coincidence.
However, I would be adding one or two more rule:
"Write your manuscripts and submit me your drafts". It improves your writing skills.
"Develop a habit of reading blogs that are useful "
Great post Geeka.
I am going to print this out and hand it to every new incoming undergrad/grad student who is required to work with me. This is beyond awesome. I love the lab notebook rule. When my new undergrad asked me what to put in her lab notebook, I calmly replied "Everything."
Seriously, Geeka, these are so good! I, too, am going to direct all future trainees to this exact page.
I'm stealing this and saving for the future.
I'm stealing this and saving it for future mentees too.