Lab Culture

Mission - a work in progress

To understand the wiring of the brain - from genetics to cells to behavior

I came up with this list as I was thinking about the things that are great about being a scientist and doing research. Being a researcher, with all the ups and downs it entails, is a challenging and exciting business. We are lucky to have the chance to explore the world, and this is my current, and admittedly a bit stilted, way to create a framework that builds great lab culture. This process, and document, just like the research we do, will continue to evolve and change.

Principles to get us there

Science is fun, enjoy it.

Science is hard, get better at it.

Think big and take risks.

Discovery - Scientists need to push boundaries and explore the unknown. We all must dedicate ourselves to accepting uncertainty and finding new paths. The world is amazing, let’s find out how it works.

Trust - Each scientist has important ideas. To find the best ideas we must critically analyze them. Put ideas forward. Don’t be defensive about ideas. Don’t be personal about ideas. Be critical about the idea, not the person. Ideas are the way to build scientific understanding and they must be robust against scrutiny. Each scientist is responsible to build ideas but also to build a community of trust to allow ideas to be freely exchanged.

Growth - Science is ever changing. Scientists must keep up and be agile. We must invent our own new methods to meet challenges. We must adopt the best practices of others. Each scientist must know the body of work related to their project. But also must know what is outside so they can take new approaches to get deeper into their science.

Ownership - Each scientist must know the ins-and-outs of their project and role. Scientists think hard about short-term goals and how to achieve them, and dream big about the possibilities of where things can go.

Quality - Scientists get to have a glimpse of the inner workings of the world. But to understand it we must be able to examine it, test it, and build models. Only good data allows us to understand the world. We must quantitate and reevaluate constantly. We have to attain and maintain and accept only the highest standards.

Balance - Scientists need to publish to stay in a job, but also find new ideas to stay alive. We must push forward quickly on projects that we can complete in the short-term (papers). At the same time we must build the projects that give us new insight (the next cool thing). The rule of thumb is 80/20, with 80% going to the now and 20% to the next.

Team - Each scientist is responsible for their project, but we all must maintain the mindset that there is no “that’s not my job”. If we recognize that we are all on a journey towards “scientific truth”, and each of us is at a different point along a trajectory of growth, then we can all help each other move forward.

Success - Quote from Liqun Luo, via Hui Zong - “There are three things necessary for success in science: brains, luck, and hard work. You only have control over one of them.”

Required reading!

A good friend of mine Minna Roh (if you're into cancer and cell biology check her out because she is really cool) shared this link with me from ASCB about being a leader. I think it applies to the lab head (me) but also to everyone in lab. Everyone should be creating their own leadership and independence at their own appropriate level.

- Note that I don't like the term "staff" used in the ASCB article - and I hate the term "boss". The article above doesn't use "staff" in a negative way, but I think a better way to view it is that we are all colleagues at our own place in a scientific trajectory.