MentorshipI am prouder of the young scientists I have mentored than of any of the particular scientific discoveries from my lab. It is the greatest joy of my job to watch young scientists thrive, spread their wings, and take flight. And I have a pretty good track record, if I do say so myself :)
What I Strive to Provide to Lab Members:
- The best scientific advice I know how to give.
- A fun and supportive environment where young scientists can learn, develop their skills, and develop their own distinctive scientific niches, so as to position themselves well to land in their preferred next position in their career.
- Understanding and compassion in the event of scientific or personal adversity.
- To be your scientific advocate and PR agent while you are in the lab and thereafter.
- Infrastructure such as a functioning computer, desk space where you can comfortably get your work done, and access to scanners and other equipment.
- Above all else: Scientific integrity. That means you provide the unvarnished version of your data and findings with no hiding or glossing over problems. It means if you have concerns about your data, your analyses, or their interpretation, you tell me. If you discover an error in your experiment or analysis, I need you to tell me and I promise to be understanding and not mad.
- Treat other lab members with kindness and respect, and help each other by “seconding” for each other at fMRI scans, giving advice on each other’s projects, and sharing knowledge and expertise, whether in experimental design, data acquisition, data analysis, or theoretical interpretations. The most valuable thing you will get from the lab is the community of other lab members; the value of the relationships you build in the lab will last a long time, hopefully for your entire career.
- Keep detailed notes on your research in an organized fashion, including every change in an experiment and every subject you run. This should be enough that someone else could write most of the methods section for your research if you were not available. Also keep careful records of where all your data are located, that will be intelligible to others after you leave.
- Engage fully in research. Our lab is a place for people who are passionate about science and want to be thinking about it a lot of the time, not a place for people who think of science as merely a job. Not very many people get to be scientists. I seek to run a lab full of people who are thrilled (as I am) to have the opportunity to take full advantage of this incredible privilege and who want to really go for it.
- Be willing to share your data with other lab members as much as possible without reducing your own ability to mine those same data.
- Attend lab meetings. I expect everyone to come to most lab meetings, while recognizing there will inevitably be a few you’ll need to miss for various reasons.
- Don’t allow lab conflicts to fester. A happy and trusting atmosphere in the lab is precious and essential. If a conflict arises that you cannot quickly resolve on your own please tell me so we can nip it in the bud.
- Make your critiques of others’ science as clear as possible, while being as kind and respectful as possible. We all value constructive criticism, but we are also all vulnerable (even me!).
- Be welcoming and helpful to newcomers.
- Clean up after yourself, especially in the kitchen area.
- When you send me (or pop in to show me) data (even if it is not what we wanted!).
- When you send me (or pop in to tell me about) cool talks you heard or papers you read.
- Seeing different lab members learning from each other, helping each other, enjoying each other’s company, and collaborating with each other.
- Seeing your excited happy engagement in science (your own, your fellow lab members, and the field at large).
- Fairly prompt answers to emails (otherwise I forget what I was even asking about). That does NOT mean that if I email you late at night or on a weekend you need to drop what you are doing to answer, but it is appreciated if you are able to answer off-hour/weekend emails within a day.
I do not wish to micromanage anyone’s time. You need to get your research done, and you know how to manage your own time better than I do. I want everyone to be able to have a happy life outside the lab, to spend time with family, and to take real vacations. Work hard, play hard!
Chief among these is that I am not a coder myself, and I do not have a detailed grasp of the nuts and bolts of machine learning and advanced stats. I try to compensate for this by a) insisting that all lab members either come with extensive coding skills or acquire them as quickly as possible, and b) making sure that each project has collaborators whose skills in these areas compensate for my lacks.
- I typically meet with each core lab member (grad students, postdocs, lab techs, and postbacs) once a week. I also love popping by the lab at random just to check in and chat.
- Our work is highly collaborative with other labs, and most of my grad students and postdocs are jointly mentored by me and another faculty member.
- Some lab members arrive with their own project, but most work with me (and sometimes other faculty) to develop a project. I try to keep the work of different lab members at least somewhat related (so we can all learn from each other), but not so close that people feel their scientific toes are getting stepped on. This requires considerable management and I don’t always succeed, but I think I usually do. It is common for a first project to be conducted with a grad student or postdoc who has been in the lab for some time, who can share their expertise. I try not to start new projects that are completely unrelated to ongoing work in the lab but occasionally I succumb to an unusually exciting idea even if it is not that related.
- Grad student funding is covered by the department or by me. Postdocs sometimes arrive with their own funding and sometimes are covered by one of my grants. All postdocs are paid at the same NIH scale level for fourth year postdocs, unless they bring in their own funding, in which case they are sometimes paid more.
- It is often possible for grad students and postdocs to work on more than one core project, but I like to see everyone first develop a solid core project first before branching in too many directions.
- I place a high priority on being available for my trainees, and I think I mostly succeed, in part by not letting my lab get too big, and also by not taking on too many other activities. >
Current and recent lab members can evaluate the lab more accurately than I can. Below are some results from an anonymous survey of lab members conducted in late August 2021 (poor is at left and perfect is at right).
And my favorite response to the anonymous questionnaire is this: