Lab Policies – by Adam Martin
Who I am
As a child of middle / secondary school teachers, I value education and its ability to empower people. While I benefited from a privileged upbringing, I saw my parents work with students from diverse backgrounds and challenging family situations; their work made a difference in our community and made a clear impression on me growing up. In deciding where to be a faculty member, it was important to me to be at an institution where I would be able to teach, encourage, inspire, and help students; much like my parents did. One of my responsibilities in the department is to be a co-undergraduate officer – where I have had the opportunity to help students from many backgrounds. I am also actively involved in first year advising (both undergraduate and graduate level), which is one of the most rewarding activities I do.
I measure my success by the happiness and success of my trainees.
My mentorship style is tailored to the individual – like my trainees. I am continuing to learn because each trainee is different and I adjust my approach to provide individuals with the input and resources they need to succeed.
- I perform Individual Development Plans with my trainees each year.
- Lab meetings (once a week) are informal and for the sole purpose of updating and getting feedback from the lab. They are NOT for ‘showing off’ or for judging others. I aim for an interactive atmosphere where all trainees can ask questions and express ideas / criticisms in a safe space.
- Journal clubs (once a week) are an opportunity for the lab to discuss research papers or other topics (i.e. lab culture, promoting equity and education accessibility) that are important to the lab.
- I encourage my trainees to attend at least one conference per year and present their research.
- Trainees have their own individual projects and are empowered to write their own papers, which I discuss and edit with them.
- Trainees also will have opportunities to mentor less experienced individuals. I strategize with my trainees on when to do this and help facilitate interactions.
Lab Culture of Inclusion
One of our lab’s missions is to remove barriers to individuals wanting to pursue science. The diversity of individual backgrounds and sharing of experiences is one thing that I like most about academia.
Despite the stereotype that scientists work by themselves in a dark basement, science is a career about people and collaboration. All trainees in my lab come from unique backgrounds – intellectually, culturally, and experientially.
I require that members of the lab respect each other’s backgrounds and experiences. Some of our guiding philosophies and practices to achieve these goals are:
- Understanding that anyone at any training level can make valuable contributions to the scientific enterprise.
- Removing hierarchy. My view is that any of my trainees’ ideas are just as valuable as my own. Everyone’s views, opinions, hypotheses, and models are given equal weight / respect, independent of one’s position in the lab.
- We dedicate one journal club per month to discuss lab culture, past injustices, and the importance of promoting equity in our pursuit of science. In this meeting we listen, share, learn, and try to understand each other’s needs. The goal is to understand the uneven barriers that can be present and how we can contribute to each other’s success.
- Our lab contributes to department efforts to help students overcome challenges in pursuing a science career, including the MIT Summer Research Program, the Quantitative Methods Workshop, and inviting high school students to come tour the lab. We actively seek opportunities to remove barriers to anyone wanting to do science.
Data Responsibility and Record Keeping
Every lab member is responsible for keeping a lab notebook. Lab members have their choice in how best to do this, but I will provide input into best practices. Best practices on lab notebooks is rapidly changing and so I discuss with lab members how we evolve and make this efficient, searchable, and complete.
It is every lab member’s personal responsibility to organize and maintain their lab data. I provide helpful tips and resources to facilitate this.
Much of our funding comes from the federal government and so our science belongs to the public, therefore it is essential that it is well documented and reproducible. In that vein, we support public access and posting preprints.
I discuss best practices in figure making and data analysis with members of the lab. Dramatic image manipulation and transposition are not acceptable practices. Acceptable forms of image manipulation, such as contrast adjustment, need to be documented in the manuscript and done equivalently between images being compared.
Lab members should not inappropriately use text from another source without proper quotation and citation. Most, if not all, writing should be your individual work.
Lab Organization / Responsibilities
To keep the lab a safe and efficient working environment every lab member is responsible for a manageable set of lab ‘chores’ that are distributed equally among current lab members. I assign lab jobs in discussion with each individual lab member and aim for equal distribution of lab responsibilities. To ensure equal distribution, I regularly check in with lab members to ask if their lab job is compromising their happiness or research progress.
Lab members are responsible for being a good lab citizen. This helps maintain harmony and inclusiveness in the lab.
Trainees set their own schedules. What matters is that progress is made, not how many hours you worked or when.
I encourage trainees to pursue meaningful extracurricular activities that will help them balance their work life and keep them physically and mentally healthy.
Science requires teamwork and diverse ideas in order for it to be effective. Therefore, the lab is intentionally designed for projects to relate to each other and lab members often work together while pushing ahead on their own independent projects.
- My criteria for authorship is that an individual has contributed a critical piece of data and / or analysis and makes intellectual contributions to the paper (which should include editing, suggestions / comments on manuscript)
- When the primary author of a study is preparing a manuscript, we discuss who should be considered as co-authors.
- Co-first authors on manuscripts are by mutual agreement.
In science, there are many rejections. When someone in the lab does something great, we celebrate.
- Birthdays – cake
- Papers – lab lunch
- Babies – shower
- Holidays – ugly sweaters and food