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Dealing with Fellow Scientists

How to Be The Lab Bastard

We all know them. You might even be one. The Lab Bastard is the one who considers himself (or herself!) superior to all other mere mortals in the lab. He would never degrade his talent by doing communal jobs in the lab, but swans around, absolutely sure that his experiments are most important and his…

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Top Tips For Peaceful Lab Communities

Picture the scene: standing at your bench, you look up at the shelf of neatly-labelled bottles of fresh buffers, you see your pipettes arrayed in size order by your right hand, the gleaming expanse of your bench is in front of you, ready for you to perform wonders of science on its routinely-cleansed surface. In…

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The recent Easter holiday got me thinking again about the ultimate question……whether or not to go in to the lab! I have asked myself this question many times around national and religious holidays and I have come up with a list of the top 5 reasons why going to lab during these times is a…

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A Tale of Two Lab Meetings

It’s common practice in many laboratories to hold weekly lab meetings, where all members of the lab discuss their exciting new results, experimental pitfalls, new papers published in their field, etc. For the last several years, our lab meetings have been very formal. By formal, I mean that whoever is presenting that day prepares a…

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How To Use Your Department To The Fullest

“No one can whistle a symphony.  It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” – H.E. Luccock In my previous article on “Starting your PhD the right way”, I already mentioned the importance of using your department’s resources to your advantage. In this article, I will expand on how to use your department to the…

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Time for coffee!: The Easy Way To Collaborate

Some of the greatest ideas in scientific history have involved finding connections between widely separated fields. Take human genome sequencing for example: without the computing expertise required to crunch enormous amounts of data, the project would have never taken off. As we move from an era of specialists to an era of super-specialists, collaboration has…

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Why You Should waste time chatting at work

Sometimes, you just need to put your head down and get some work done.  But if you spend 100% of your work time in that intensely focused state that most people only find when under the threat of a deadline, you could be shooting yourself in the foot. That’s because although everyone needs to be…

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Mentoring Undergrads

The following situation might be familiar to you: your PI summons you to his/her office and asks if you are interested in mentoring an undergrad as part of the undergraduate research program. At this point, you have two obvious options: either decline your PI proposal (and there are PIs who have a hard time accepting…

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Why You Need To Mentor, No Matter What Your Level

From a graduate student’s perspective, it often seems as though there are two types of labs: those that mentor well and those that don’t. This distinction can mean the difference between a brief, productive Ph.D. and an aimless, meandering waste of time and money. Mentorship is not simply the domain of the major professor but…

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The Art of Giving Advice

Science is a culture of information exchange, from the top to the bottom. Sometimes we are simply presenting the information, such as in seminars or papers, but most of the time the information changes hands as advice, solicited or unsolicited. Obviously this occurs most often between labmates, but also between scientists within the same department,…

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Does (Should) Your Lab Rock?

My PhD was a soul-less affair. It was also rock-less, jazz-less and pop-less. And all because my supervisor was of the opinion that music in the lab was a distraction that reduced concentration and our ability to do the job. “Rubbish!”, I thought, “Nothing helps you through a mindless task like splitting cells, pipetting or…

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Be The Golden Child In Your Lab

In a previous article, I listed some ways that people annoy their co-workers and many of you added some of your own pet peeves. Now I would like to discuss some ways to be the lab favorite, also known as the “golden child”. Does your lab have a “golden child”? Someone who is always perfect,…

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10 Ways to Piss Off Your Co-Workers

Every day you go into the lab and you spend the 8-14 hours with the same group of people. And when you spend that much time with people, bench to bench, for anywhere from 3-6 years, you really need to learn how to get along. Usually, after some time, most people learn the rules of…

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Spare a Thought for the Old Scientists

You youngsters don’t know how easy you’ve got it. Kits, outsourcing and improved practices are making research easier and easier. At least in theory (who are we kidding?). In the old days things were much tougher, and many wiley old scientists bear the scars, mental and physical, of carrying out techniques that were mind numbing,…

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Delivering Effective Criticism

Criticism is not just valuable, it is essential for a person’s development as a scientist, or anything else for that matter. Well that’s not entirely true. Not all criticism is valuable, it has to be the right kind of criticism. It has to be constructive and better still, well delivered in order to inspire the…

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10 Ways to Be a Good Boss

As well as having had some negative work experiences, I’ve also had the pleasure of working with some wonderful people, including some of my previous bosses. Life is too short to deal with some of the idiosyncrasies described in Suzanne’s previous article on bad bosses. So let’s balance the scale and look at what it…

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Management Skills in Science

Amid growing recognition that a successful scientific career requires skills beyond scientific acumen, institutions are racing to provide management training for newly minted principal investigators. Young scientists spend years conducting complicated experiments and crunching data, but when they are finally given the keys to their own lab, they suddenly face tasks they were never trained…

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What to Look for in a Good Mentor

For every half-way decent mentor or adviser that an aspiring scientist comes across, it sometimes seems as though there is another lurking, who is simply a jerk*. Let’s face it – scientists aren’t consistently “people-persons.” Maybe they had bad mentors, and inadvertently end up passing on the karma. Or maybe science just attracts a higher-than-average…

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