To be the best lab we can be, members of the DeAngelis lab are expected to:
- Be highly-capable and critical thinkers.
- Be advocates for and practice the execution of ethically responsible, sound, and well-communicated research.
- Take responsibility not only for our own research, but that of our lab peers by providing a supportive and accepting environment in which accomplishments are rewarded, and constructive criticisms are always welcome.
The following are specific expectations for everyone in the lab, in no particular order.
Attendance. All lab members are expected to contribute towards making the lab a fun, safe, intellectual place for scientific discovery. With the freedom to pursue what interests you comes the responsibility of being a committed lab member; this means you show up to lab events, group meetings, and individual meetings prepared and on time; if you cannot make an event, it is your responsibility to let me and other lab members know in a timely manner.
Professional development. All members should be on the lookout for opportunities for personal and professional development. It is your responsibility to know where your funding comes from, both for your stipend as well as your research and travel supplies. While I am committed to supporting you while you are in the lab, it is your responsibility to earnestly try to supplement that with outside funding. It is ultimately better for your career as well as for the lab.
Lab citizenship. The lab is a shared environment. It is up to everyone to keep it clean and tidy, to take responsibility for and to communicate safety issues, left dirty dishes etc. Sharing is encouraged, and members should replace lab stocks when they finish or nearly finish them, or let someone know about dwindling resources. Everyone is also responsible for communicating about material needs as far in advance as possible - this degree of organization will make you a better scientist.
Mentoring. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and the lab should be an environment where we can talk freely about and work on our weaknesses, and showcase our strengths. While more senior members will take on most of the mentoring responsibility, the goal is to help each other cultivate our inner scientists. Make time to help others, but don't forget to protect the time you need to reach your own goals.
Safety. Everyone is responsible for safety; there is no hierarchy of who can tell whom to be safe. So, get personal protective equipment (PPE) that you like and use it. Follow the safety rules and use common sense: fill out and dispose of waste appropriately, avoid incompatible chemical reactions, use secondary containment, use fume hoods, be attentive, don't eat in lab areas, and keep work areas organized and clean. If you feel unsafe for some reason, bring it to my attention. Because remember...you can’t be a good scientist if phenol:chloroform has corroded your brain.
1. Be concise. The most concise email is the one never sent. Is a phone call or a walk across the hall more appropriate? Can you find what you're looking for in a reference guide or online? If so, do not send the email. If you must send an email, keep it short. A good rule of thumb is to strive to keep emails to one line or less. Your recipient may be checking the message on a phone, and shorter is easier to digest – which means you’re more likely to get a response.
2. Communicate “action steps” first, not last. Make it clear what you are asking of your recipient. By listing action steps first you keep the attention on the items you want to draw attention to.
3. Number your questions. Break out multiple points or questions as numbered items in all email correspondence. If you don’t, you risk having your recipient only respond to the first question that happens to catch their eye. (And now you have to write another email to ask them about it again.)
4. Make the way forward clear. Be explicit about what you are asking for, and re-read emails before you send them to make sure there are no ambiguities. Avoid pronouns whenever possible.
5. Include time constraints. For example, “For the project to stay on track, I need a response from you by 1/18.” If a response is optional, communicate that as well: “If I don’t hear back from you by 1/18, I’ll proceed with the solution I’ve proposed.” Only include time constraints that are important to you, and that are affected by the reply of that particular email.
6. Always use expressive and compelling subject lines. The subject line is a key place to indicate importance and time sensitivity, for example “FOR APPROVAL:” or “SCHEDULING REQUEST:”. Use “FYI:” to indicate when action is not needed. Think of subject lines like newspaper headlines or paper titles – they should be expressive and compelling. It’s your chance to hook the reader in.
7. Tell them that you’ll get to it later, if someone sends you an urgent email that you can’t get to today (or whenever their time constraint is). You’ll save yourself a future email and preserve goodwill.
8. Never send an angry or contentious email. Email is forever, and you don't want to damage professional relationships in the heat of emotion. Sometimes writing an angry letter is cathartic. If you must write an angry email, save it for later and then revise extensively or delete. If a confrontation is necessary, a conversation in person or on the phone is almost always best. In this case, you may want to email to request a phone meeting or in person meeting. In general, emails leave too much room for misunderstanding.
9. Never “reply all” (unless you absolutely must). If the sender was qualified to send the group email, typically they can be relied on to be the point person who collates the responses. If using the “reply all” feature really seems necessary, you are probably having a conversation that would be better (and more efficiently) had face-to-face.
10. Be polite. Use opening salutations ("Dear Prof DeAngelis", "Hello Dr. DeAngelis") and closing salutations ("Sincerely," "Best wishes," etc), and sign your name. Say "please" and "thank you." Ask questions, and avoid sounding demanding. Avoid emoticons, slang, exclamation points, ALL CAPS, and other informalities. Be sensitive to the recipient's situation and relationship to you, and edit your email accordingly. Don't be afraid to ask a friend, mentor or colleague to review and edit an email before you send one. If you don't have an email mentor, I will happily fill that role. Email me any draft emails you'd like feedback on.
These are not hard and fast rules, and there are loads of places online that offer guidance (this list borrowed heavily from here). I do expect you to use emailing with me and with your labmates as an opportunity to practice good email etiquette.
The following are general expectations for different members of the lab. However, everyone's goals and specific situations are unique, and my expectations from each of you are also unique to your situation. If you have a question about what is expected of you, please ask, but remember that you are here because I think you are capable of making a significant contribution to our science, and I would not condone you do anything I didn't think you weren't able to do.
Expectations of Graduate Students
The primary job of the graduate student is to learn. Graduate students are expected to work towards completion of their dissertation projects in all endeavors, knowing that this can be defined quite broadly and individually in consultation with me. Graduate students are expected to serve as mentors for undergraduates, leading by example and helping mentees become capable, thinking scientists. Since graduate students are working towards becoming intellectual peers to their professors, it is important that they read widely and help complement the knowledge of their committees. Graduate students should do everything in their power to meet deadlines, and to communicate if/when those deadlines are not going to be met.
Expectations of Undergraduate Students
Undergraduate students are expected to show up to the lab, ready to learn, at the agreed times, and commit to the lab work during those blocks. Graduate students do their best to provide activities which are interesting and provide good learning experiences, but it is the role of undergraduates to inform them when something isn't going as expected, or really isn't stimulating them. Like graduate students, undergraduates must come ready and prepared with results and questions for weekly meetings, and meet deadlines, and communicate ahead of time when those won’t be met. Typically, undergraduate students commit to a project that lasts for one semester, with clear benchmarks to meet throughout the semester. Independent study students will submit a brief final written report and presentation to be delivered at the end of the semester.
Expectations of Technicians
Technicians are expected to take a deep interest in the technical aspects of their job, developing a broad portfolio of troubleshooting skills for both procedures and equipment. The technician should be the first place a student goes to when they are having issues with an experiment and their troubleshooting ideas have failed. The lab technician should then work with the student to brainstorm and troubleshoot, forming hypotheses about what caused the problem, and methods to test possible solutions. It is crucial to have a collaborative response to problems, rather than the technician simply providing answers to issues. Technicians are a resource that our PI can deploy for students when they need an extra pair of hands, and to keep the lab running smoothly. Technicians must have a high degree of self-initiative, and able to structure and fill their time optimally in order to maximize their positive impact on the lab.
Expectations of Post-Docs
Post-Docs should be interested in mentoring all levels of students, and able to do this while doing the most brilliant science imaginable. They are expected to be collaborators in the grant writing and reviewing process, and submitting grants of their own. Despite the high level of collaboration, the post-doc should be independent and able to work alone. I will commit to helping postdocs realize a vision of your own science, and assist with any material needs or otherwise that will achieve that goal. I expect postdocs to help me to improve myself as a PI.
Expectations of Kristen
My goal is to improve our understanding of the world through our science, and to do it in the most personally and professionally sustainable way possible. I expect you to do as I do, which is to work hard but also honor the things that make you happy and productive, and include them in your life also. You can expect me to facilitate your training as a scientist by helping you to choose a project and research direction that will be fulfilling on a day-to-day as well as broad basis. I will do my best to provide, with your help, all the things you need to perform your research. I will read drafts of your grants and applications. I will introduce you to my colleagues and help you to make them your own. I will work with you to get you into the research career path that you set out for yourself. I will commit to this as long as you meet your own expectations, and you can expect me to be honest and supportive of you along the way.