Archive for: January, 2013

Lab meeting musings

Jan 21 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

lab meeting [lab meet・ing] noun : a sometimes regular gathering of two or more members of one or more laboratories, during which discussion of science sometimes takes place.

One thing (of many) that's been particularly challenging in this new gig has been instilling in my lab members a sense of both independence and team spirit. It's incredibly important to me that my grad students feel like they each own their projects, and that the work that they do is part of their personal education and career growth. But I also want them to feel like they're part of something bigger--that in the end, the common themes running through our research mean we're on some level all working for the same goal. Toward the first end, I try to find regular time to chat with everyone one-on-one, sometimes through a scheduled meeting, and sometimes just by wandering into the lab. Toward the other, we have lab meeting. But how can you know what lab meeting should look like? There are so many kinds.

1. The seminar. In grad school, I did a rotation in a lab whose weekly lab meetings were huge, 35-person affairs. Catered. Each week, one of the members of the 3 or 4 labs that participated gave a full hour presentation of their recent work, followed by another half hour of heated discussion. People stressed for months preparing for their talk as if it were a prestigious speaking engagement. Luckily, as a rotation student who couldn't get anything to work, I was exempt.

2. The I-guess-maybe-we-should-have-a-lab-meeting. The lab I ultimately chose for my thesis work did not really "do" lab meetings. Once in a while we'd try to get it going, but it was mostly just to work out animal testing schedules with the technicians. It never really stuck.

3. The rapid fire. My post-doc mentor had a lot of administrative duties that kept him out of the lab most of the time, so our weekly lab meetings were generally a time for him to catch up on what equipment was currently broken. Once in a while someone would present some cool new data they had, but more often than not it was just people going around the conference table accusing each other of leaving oil on the confocal objectives.

4. The journal club. My post-doc sabbatical lab was small enough that our PIs could give us the face time we needed during the week, and so our weekly lab meetings were primarily used as an opportunity to have journal club, with a smattering of data presentation here and there. This worked out really well for me, since the focus of the lab was somewhat outside my general repertoire, so it helped catch me up on the literature.

Currently, our lab meetings are mostly journal club-style. I think that first and foremost, it's important that we as a group get together and talk about science, whatever shape that might take. We usually use 10-15 minutes in the beginning to talk about whatever's been going on in the lab during the week, make sure that any issues that arose are being dealt with. Then, all lab members--grad students, tech, and undergrads, rotate weeks presenting a journal article of their choice, which has honestly been one of my favorite parts of this job. Providing nothing majorly falls apart, we should be able to start having some data presentations soon, which will be exciting. Also, I find that I give a lot of pep talks. Do other new PIs find this, too?

Lab meetings are certainly not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, but still I'd love to know what you've found to be successful or not. Comment away!

24 responses so far

Cocktail time!

Jan 04 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I'm just going to go ahead and assume that whatever little fantasy you entertained about going booze-free for the month of January went out the window the moment you set foot back in your lab/office and came to grips with the mountain of work awaiting you, am I right? It's OK! You're amongst friends. And speaking of friends, tonight we're making an Old Pal--winter's Negroni, you might say.

I may have my gripes about NJC, but I will admit that they have one or two cocktail dens whose bartenders are up to snuff. Naturally, my favorite is exceedingly popular, and you can only get in without a wait if you go at, say, 5pm on a Sunday. But it was on just such a Sunday afternoon that I was introduced to the Old Pal, and my life has never been the same since.

Look, we all love a nice Manhattan, but sometimes they're just too sweet for me, even with rye instead of bourbon. The Old Pal takes rye, dry vermouth, and Campari and makes this perfectly non-sweet, fairly bitter aperitif that warms you up without giving you cavities. If you'd like it a little sweeter, you can swap out bourbon for rye and sweet vermouth for dry*, and then it's called a Boulevardier. Also lovely.

Let's make one!

2 oz rye whiskey (Rittenhouse or Old Overholt are solid affordable options)
3/4 oz dry vermouth
3/4 oz Campari
dash orange bitters

Thoroughly stir all ingredients with ice in a shaker, and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a nice big orange peel (they're in season!).


* a word about vermouth. I just want to make sure you all understand that it's fortified wine, right? Which means that you can't just keep a half-used bottle on the shelf with the rest of your booze for a year or whatever and then decide one day to make a Manhattan--it's gone bad at that point, and your Manhattan will taste like poop. I recommend buying it in small bottles, and keeping opened ones in the fridge. Chilled, an opened bottle will be good for maybe a month. After that, toss it and get a new one, it's like $5.

12 responses so far

12 more months of Fumbling

Jan 03 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Hey hey hey! It's the year end meme to end all year end memes! Here are the 1st sentences from my first post from  each of the last 12 months. Thanks for all your reading and comments this year, folks, and stay tuned--later tonight, a cocktail post!

January: Big day tomorrow, you guys.

FebruaryThis is for all you folks out there who just kicked ass on your interviews.

March: So, this happened:

April: Neither my grad nor my post-doc PI was the type to say no to a photo op, and so I became accustomed to the ritual early on:

May: It's mailbag time, folks!

June: "approved for funding."

July: One of the things I'm quite sure each and every one of you has been told is that an important part of your training is having the opportunity to mentor people.

August: We've just now passed the year mark in New Job City, folks, and there has been much mulling.

September: The second year is nothing like the first year.

October: Over at Pondering Blather, the inimitable Odyssey shares his Five Stages of Grantwriting, an apt twist on the old Five Stages of Grief story.

November: Look, I'm not going to beat around the bush here, Sandy is a piece of shit.

December: A few weeks ago, I attended a fancy pants conference for the first time.


2 responses so far