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Dealing with Fellow Scientists

5 Types of Difficult Lab Supervisor and How to Handle Them

The lab is a melting-pot full of workers from different cultures and backgrounds, so some conflicts of personality are inevitable. However, when the lab head is the person that you are struggling to get along with, it can make your life a lot harder. Check out some different personality types and get advice on how to work with them effectively.

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How to Optimise Your Intern

Are you mentoring an intern and nervous about how to be a good boss? This quirky and offbeat article has got some great tips!

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How to Reconcile Being an “Aspie” and a Scientist

I received a very late diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, when I was already twenty. Before that, I was ashamed of my “social awkwardness”, but my passion for life sciences and research relieved me of my sorrow. After I learned about my condition, I was able to self-accept and be proud of myself (and continued to…

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Hot Tips for Creating a Scientific Special Interest Group at Your Institute

Universities are often organized by faculties, colleges, schools, and/or departments. So, as an academic, you often work closely with colleagues studying similar subject areas. A common interest, however, often transcends the boundaries of this organizational structure. Enter scientific special interest groups. What Are Scientific Special Interest Groups? Scientific special interest groups are member-led initiatives within…

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How to Foster Lab Cooperation

Research isn’t easy. Not only do you deal with experimental failures and demanding supervisors, you also work with other lab members — people who are under the same pressures and stresses as you. Staff, postdocs, PhD students, and undergrads are often given bench space and a desk and encouraged to sort out the personal side…

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The Sandwich Technique: How to Dish Out Critique

How time flies. One day you are giving your first presentation in front of your fellow students, seemingly the next you are listening to a presentation by your own student. And frankly, the talk is awful. It’s twice the time limit, the student weaves around the topic as a drunken sailor, and she acknowledges her…

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Don’t Be Discouraged in a Lab with Minimal Resources

My first lab experience was in a lab on a really strict budget: no kits, no technicians, no media kitchen, or glassware washing service. We really had only minimal resources.  I was close to paranoid about not wasting one tip or glove. Later, when I started in other labs, I spent my first days going…

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How to Focus When Your Colleagues Are Wreaking Havoc Around You

Now, we all love our colleagues – true, some are more loveable than others, but still. However, sometimes they can be very noisy. Especially when you need to focus.  For example, when you are in the middle of some important breakthrough, or trying to decipher a cryptic, but important paper. If you work in a…

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Breezing Through the Aftermath of a Conflict

When working very closely with a team of people in the lab, you will have disagreements leading to conflict. That’s just human nature, hence the origin of a common phrase, “Can’t we all just get along?” If you are lucky, you will be able to resolve the conflict. But then the question becomes, how will this…

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How to be an Excellent Scientific Leader

It’s often said that great leaders have a knack for bringing out the best in those that follow. In turn, followers enjoy the work they do and will take the initiative to soar far above and beyond what is asked of them. A less effective scientific leader may unknowingly squander potential that might have flourished…

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Ten Phrases Uttered by the Unethical Advisor

A good scientist must see to believe… but if you just landed in the lab and things aren’t working, maybe it’s not you. We all love to try and save our hypothesis, but in this publish or perish climate, looking the other way during truth bending happens, and it happens a lot. Here are some…

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How to Make the Most of Your Visit to a Collaborating Lab

One of the many perks that we often experience as graduate students is the chance to work with a collaborating lab on a research project. A successful collaboration results in: Gaining a collaborator’s expertise in a particular area of science Building/learning a new method and/or Addressing an overlapping scientific question I recently came back from…

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Dealing with tension and conflict in the lab

A busy research lab can be a challenging place to work for a variety of reasons. Science is a high pressure environment, often with looming grant or research paper deadlines, troublesome reagents, and experimental failure. Combined, these factors can cause many kinds of strife in the workplace, here are a few examples and some of my top tips for dealing with them!

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Are you being bullied by your boss?

There are many kinds of supervisors out there, ranging from the amazingly laid back to the crazy micromanagers. There are various strategies for dealing with all of them, but what do you do when your boss is a bully?

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Survival as a PhD Student: Keep the Post Docs on Your Side

From one lowly PhD student to another: we need post doctoral scientists. From their ability to seemingly do everything right to their moral support after a weekend of failed experiments and questioning the decisions that led you up to this moment * clears throat *. The list of support post docs offer is endless. So…

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Handling Different Personalities as a Newbie in the Lab

Being a PhD student has many challenges, and one of them is finding an efficient way to deal with different personalities in the lab. When choosing a new lab, it’s more than just choosing a boss and a research field; it’s like joining a new family. In fact, some may feel that it’s more intimate…

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What makes a good collaborator?

In its beginning science was a solitary pursuit: most of the papers in scientific journals prior to the 20th century have just one author.However, the change in scientific culture from “publish when you are really sure about the results” –(it took Darwin many years after he wrote The Origin of Species  to publish it) –…

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Getting the Most Out of Supervisor Meetings

The monthly meeting with your supervisor is approaching and you are getting nervous.  What can you do to get the most out of it?  For starters, let’s hope that you are actually having regular, one-to-one meeting with your lab head.  If not, you have bigger problems than just preparing (look out for my upcoming article…

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The Tale of Two Lab Management Strategies

According to the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, experimental science relies more on  scientists’ emulation of each other as apposed to theoretical knowledge; e.g. it’s more like craft, which is transferred from person to person through teaching and observing, rather than anything else. Chosen by a group leader, a lab-management strategy is self-sustaining, so I…

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How To Deal With People Stealing Your Reagents

I have been fortunate enough that in my career to date I have rarely experienced the problem of other people stealing my reagents. However, one PI told me of her experiences working in a US laboratory where things had got so bad people brought their reagents home at the weekends! Working in a research laboratory…

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How To Handle A British Supervisor: A Foreigner’s Guide

The United Kingdom, formerly known as Great Britain, has a long scientific tradition. British academic institutions are among the best in Europe and possibly the world (there is a potential conflict of interest here: while the author is not British by birth, she has spent many years studying and working in the UK). It is…

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How To Survive The Next Meeting With Your PI (Members Only Article)

Every scientist, at one time or another, has avoided meetings with their PI. They are, however extremely important in shaping the direction and progress of your project. Having regular productive meetings with your PI will help maintain a positive working relationship and contribute to the success of your project. Keep the following in mind when…

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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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