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Lab Handbook

First published: 17 Oct 2023

Last updated: 17 Oct 2023

Welcome! The purpose of this handbook is to candidly lay out the expectations for working and studying in the Hogan Lab, including research ethics and work/life balance concerns. I hope this will be a beneficial resource to prospective students and employees as they choose which lab will be right for them, as well as for current lab members.

Note: this document is currently a work in progress and will likely be updated regularly in the first year.

Lab Philosophy: Support, Honesty, and Rigor

I believe that the highest quality science is done by people who feel supported, well-rested, and free to speak openly and honestly about their work and others’ work in the lab. Open communication, good record-keeping, and scientific integrity are critical to the scientific enterprise. By prioritizing these values, I hope to establish a positive and fun work environment where everyone will feel welcomed, respected, and productive.


This ethos guides all of the following policies and expectations for the lab.


Training and Mentoring Philosophy

My goal as a mentor to students and postdocs will be to provide trainees all of the opportunities and resources they need to be successful. I will work together with trainees to try to identify projects that suit their scientific interests as well as what they need to be able to successfully publish, prepare a thesis, etc. Often, this may mean selecting 1 safe project (low risk, low or high reward) and along with ≥1 side project that can be high-risk/high-reward, if desired by the trainee.


I hope that trainees will be honest with me about what they need to be supported and successful, and I will do my best to provide what is needed. Trainees can expect regular 1-on-1 meetings with me (e.g. every 1 or 2 weeks) to discuss their science and professional/career topics, training in scientific and laboratory practices from me or other lab members, and honest feedback about their science and progress. They can also expect to attend at least 1 conference per year, funded by the lab, and to present their work at forums on campus as well.


Graduate Student Rotations

The goal of graduate student rotations, in my opinion, is to give the student a good sense of how the lab works interpersonally and scientifically, with familiarity with the techniques used in the lab. For this reason, I believe it is usually best to identify a discrete, accessible project for a rotation, such as a pilot project that could tell us whether to open a new avenue of research. This is usually more productive and lower-stress than starting a large project from scratch. But this is very flexible, and a thesis-like project could also be identified if this aligns better with your graduate program (e.g. prelim exam preparation) or scientific goals.


Laboratory Technician Goals

My goals for laboratory technicians will be tailored for each individual based on their background and career objectives. All laboratory techs will have a role in facilitating the general operations of the lab, providing technical support to other lab members, and piloting various project ideas. Technicians may gain co-authorships by contributing to other lab members’ papers, and depending on their interests they may lead projects as first author in mRNA vaccine development (e.g. finding ways to decrease the resource-intensiveness of the vaccine production process, increasing vaccine potency, testing out new models, etc.) or related topics.


Scientific Integrity

Integrity is critical to the scientific enterprise and cannot be achieved if lab members feel afraid to show negative or unexpected data, or if there are any conditions in the workplace that undermine their ability to evaluate their science with the highest level of honesty and rigor. I will do my best to foster an environment in the lab where everyone is comfortable to show whatever data they generate, to give and receive criticism in a collegial, courteous, and totally honest manner. There are never negative consequences for showing negative data, as they should help us correct course towards more rewarding areas of work.


Research Practices and Rigor

Transparency, attention to detail, and good record-keeping are all essential to performing high quality science in an efficient and dependable manner. All lab members will keep an electronic lab notebook that will be easily searchable by me and other lab members, allowing for easy sharing of protocols and data. Experiments will be numbered (e.g. MH001 for my first experiment) and all files for each experiment will be collected together in a clearly labeled folder. All important details should be digitally available for each experiment, while incidental information can be written down on paper such as cell counts. We can work together to make sure that this record-keeping is not a burden—the goal is that it will make your life much easier, saving you and your colleagues tons of time looking for documents and details, sometimes years after the fact.


Fellowship Applications

Preparing grant applications is, for better or worse, a core skill for academic scientists, and acquisition of external funding benefits both the lab and your CV for future applications. Therefore I expect students and postdocs to apply for relevant NIH F awards (e.g. F30, F32) or their equivalents.


Lab Meetings

My plan is to have weekly whole lab meetings to discuss general lab business and give trainees an opportunity to present their data. We will also use this time for “journal club”-like discussions of new or classic research papers or scientific topics of interest, and may occasionally link up with another lab(s) with common interests for a joint lab meeting. Trainees can also expect to have weekly or near-weekly 1-on-1 meetings with me.


Social Activities

I will plan occasional social activities (e.g. a lab lunch or other outing) with the lab to help people get to know each other. They will be paid for, optional, and based around lab members' preferences.


Work Hours, Sick Time, and Work/Life Balance

Lab members are free to set their own hours and have flexible hours as long as they are making progress towards their goals over the long term. Be a night person or a morning person. If you have a cold, stay home and recover if at all possible. Skip lab meetings or attend virtually, and ask a colleague or myself for help managing experiments, or, if necessary, wear a mask.


As for work/life balance, this is something I care very deeply about. I have a rich life outside of lab and I expect the same for my lab members! Finding fulfillment outside of lab helps to buffer us against the common disappointments inherent to the scientific process (negative data, failed experiments…) and keeps our morale high so that we can make it to the eventual successes and breakthroughs. So make time for socializing, hobbies, family, and vacation.



Other Resources

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