If you have only positive feelings when you leave the laboratory, you will be in the minority, perhaps unique. I certainly was not wholly positive to the respective lab experiences after my undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate work. Despite this caveat, I believe I can guarantee that the rewards will be well worth the costs. There are some things, though, that you should keep in mind during your time in the laboratory.
First and foremost, like you I am a person of moods. Moods can lead to periods of general tension in the laboratory. If at some point during your stay in the laboratory there is a particular problem that you feel is of general concern and, further, you feel I can rectify or ameliorate it, I would appreciate it if you would tell me. If you do not and I do not pick up on it, you will begin to resent the laboratory experience rather than enjoy it.
As head of 12+ research scientists at various levels of training, I am constantly trying to coordinate and keep ahead of a variety of research projects. You will find that at times it is impossible to talk with me spontaneously about your research activities. Worse yet, you may find that you have to “bring me up to speed” before presenting the latest finding! At other times, such questions may distract me from what I am doing at the time and I will have to schedule appointments. My abruptness or terse manner at these times should not be taken as evidence of dislike or disinterest. If those were my thoughts, you would not be in the laboratory!
Again, do not be intimidated by this Lab Manual (re-read the introduction). You should feel free to approach me. At first you may find that even entering my office may be difficult. I enjoy talking about ideas. Some of the best ideas have started out as seemingly insignificant or trivial thoughts.
Notes to New Members
I believe strongly in cooperation, not competition, among members of the laboratory. You are encouraged to treat everyone with respect, listen to ideas, and support each other. This of course is an earned right, but should be freely given until proven otherwise.
As a new member of the lab, your primary duty initially is to learn. The first things are where everything is but that quickly progresses to what everyone is doing in their own research, who has various skills and how your skills can contribute to the general knowledge base. How you learn is a key ingredient to success. You watch, notice immediate surroundings, and most importantly listen actively to what people say, including their choice of words and their tone. Where you learn most about a person is through their choices. Initially you will feel awkward and out-of-place, the new person on the block. The natural reaction is to contain yourself, revealing as little as possible because you do not know the type of people you will be working with. This form of preservation can often be interpreted as being smug and arrogant, even when that is the last impression you want to give.
Konrad Lorenz spoke about the myth of the unbiased perception and though he was talking about ethological observation of animal behavior, it extends to people as well. While we begin with those perceptions and choices, often passed on through generations, of our parents, we each ultimately choose how we perceive and what our attitudes are. How we present ourselves, even where we sit in groups, whether we participate and what we say, define your life both as a researcher and as person. Finally, if you know that you have choice, you can choose to change any aspect of your self that is preventing you from progress to your goal.
I read somewhere that there are five things that lead to wisdom, five sentences to learn to say and mean. “I have to listen. I don’t know. I need help. I am wrong. I apologize/am sorry.”
Finally, a word about myself. I will treat you with respect and courtesy, but do not mistake this for weakness. If and when you blow it (we all do occasionally), I will let you and there I will leave it. I will not bring it up again or hold it over your head. Mistakes are going to be made, but you have to move on rather than relive or repeat them. Strongly advise that you: DO NOT try and negotiate with me, debate with me after a decision is made, or say “not my job”.