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Johnson Lab Guide


 

Guide for Ph.D. Students & Postdoctoral Fellows in the Johnson Lab

 

This document is adapted from a comparable document for the Charles Sanders laboratory at Vanderbilt. To see the original Dr. Sanders' lab document, see: http://structbio.vanderbilt.edu/sanders/Sanders_Lab_Guide_Comprehensive.pdf http://structbio.vanderbilt.edu/sanders/Menu_Page_Sanders_Lab.htm Training in the Johnson lab at the Ph.D. or postdoctoral levels is designed to prepare the trainee for a successful career at the cutting edge of research and/or teaching. Getting a good job at the Ph.D. level is very competitive and will require that you have established a strong track record of scholarship, as reflected both by your letters of reference and your publications. It also usually requires a high degree of professional motivation and a good track record of laboratory citizenship. This document is an attempt to outline the qualities which Carl thinks are the key ingredients for maximizing one’s potential as a scientist-in-training at the Ph.D.-student and postdoctoral levels.

Johnson Lab Mottos:

Research is to see what everyone else has seen, and to think what no one else has thought.

--Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

As long as you keep moving, failures can become turning points.

—CHJ

• Aspire to be a scholar, not only a highly skilled technician. Being a scholar includes both mastering the research literature related to your own project and also being broadly interested in other areas of science that may not be directly related to your own work. Scholarship also means being relentless in the pursuit of scientific truth, clarity, and thoroughness in terms of the conclusions being drawn from your research. So much of what you are looking for in your career will fall naturally into place if you are a scholar. Always know WHY you're doing a particular experiment, not just HOW to do it.

• Persistence: I don't know ahead of time what traits predict who will become a successful independent scientist. When I was a grad student and postdoc, there were other grad students and postdocs who were smarter or more knowledgeable than me, or who had better professional connections. At the time, I thought those peers would forge ahead of me professionally. Some of them have (like Joe Takahashi). But most have fallen by the wayside in one way or the other. One trait, however, that I think is shared by all successful independent scientists is persistence, especially after defeats. It is hard to handle when a favorite manuscript is rejected by all the "good" journals (but it WILL happen). Even harder, it is very painful to recover from a triaged grant proposal when you need that grant to keep the personnel in the lab employed. Yes, I am angry, upset, depressed by these failures. But usually after a few days of depression, I start thinking "well maybe the reviewers had a point--I can change this, or that." And then I'm off to the races again. It is this particular trait---the ability to recover and regenerate from failures---that has kept me, and our lab, in business. And that is the basis of one of the lab "mottos" that you'll find at the top of this document.

• The ability to “reinvent yourself” scientifically so that you can, repeatedly over a period of years, adopt emerging approaches and/or shift emphasis to emerging problems, seems to be an important survival trait for an independent research career. I am not sure how one develops this trait (especially without losing focus on one’s current projects), but I do think this trait is critical over the long haul. What our lab does now is completely different (in terms of organism and techniques) than what I did as a grad student, postdoc, or even as an Assistant Professor.

• “I don’t know of anyone who is having a successful career in academic research who is at the Ph.D. student-or-higher level who is not working at least 50 hours a week at the lab, plus additional time spent working or reading at home” (this is a statement from Dr. Sanders’ document with which I totally concur). To some extent, what you do with your time beyond the classical 40 hours of work per week is what will define you as a scientist. It is typically this extra time that you will use to develop a broad scientific perspective and to make sure that your work is always of the highest quality. Please realize that scientific research is a competitive career, and there are plenty of people over the world (which is the relevant pool of competitors) who are working harder than we can even imagine. Compared to your competitors, 50 h/week is a modest commitment.

• Here’s the “old fart” statement: so that you know where I (CHJ) am coming from, when I was a graduate student, I worked on weekdays from about 10 am to 10 pm; subtracting mealtimes, that's roughly 10 h/day. I usually worked on Saturdays about 10 am to 6 pm, and on Sundays from 1-5 pm. Roughly 60+ h/week in the lab. When I became a postdoc, I stopped working in the lab on Sundays (but I still worked in the lab Mon-Sat). While I do not expect you to routinely work 60+ h/week in the lab, I do believe that averaging 50 h/week in the lab with reading/paperwork at home is necessary.

• This time commitment is particularly important in a lab that studies circadian clocks. All-night experiments are not a once/year extraordinary event, but a regular necessity. Moreover, there are other routinely time-consuming experiments/procedures such as purifying proteins. When I was a graduate student, time-course experiments with every 4-h time points for 3 continuous days & nights were something that I did once every month or two. Fortunately, we now have automated apparatuses like the Kondotron, Taylortron, LumiCycle, and Spark that are a god- send. Nevertheless, overnight experiments/collections are often necessary, especially for biochemistry-related projects.

• I model the time commitment that I expect by continuing to work hard myself. I usually arrive at the lab at 8:30-9:00 am and I leave at 6:30 pm. That's about 9.5 hours. If you are arriving after I arrive in the morning and then leaving before I leave in the evening, that is a big problem UNLESS you're coming back to the lab after supper or on the weekends. I am also working part of the time that I spend at home (as you know by the emails that I send out at 11:30 pm!). I respect the fact that some people prefer to come in late and then work late, but you should overlap for a substantial portion of every workday with me. If you are going to be absent or late on more than an occasional basis and have a good reason for it, let me know.

• Lab meetings are on Mondays. Even on holidays such as Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc. Of course, if you have a time conflict with any particular lab meeting because of a personal issue or a university event (e.g., required orientation, can’t-miss seminar, etc.), please let Carl know and it is possible that you may be excused.

• When you are in the lab, be efficient with your time, although this does not mean the lab should not be a fun place. • Please check your email and text messages several times every day. If I need to contact you, I expect you'll be available to receive my email and/or text messages. When I send you an e- mail with a question or request, I do expect a timely answer, even if it is “I am busy now, but will reply as soon as I can.”

• Follow the literature specifically related to your project and also keep up with general scientific trends. Flipping through Science/Nature/CELL on a weekly basis is a good idea. Doing regular PubMed and/or Medline searches on areas/topics of interest is essential. Following the literature goes hand-in-hand with the development of your ability to come up with viable ideas for topics for your own research program in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future. Because of my time commitments to teaching and other duties, I don't have as much time to do literature searches as I'd like, so if you discover an interesting paper that you think I need to see (or that you think I'd enjoy reading), I would appreciate your sending me the PDF by email.

• Remember that “A couple of months in the laboratory can frequently save a couple of hours in the library.” (A "tongue in cheek" quote attributed to Frank Westheimer) Master the literature related to your project before diving into your project.

• Attend our clocks journal club and read the paper beforehand. Journal club is not a place for you to walk in unprepared and be “entertained” by the presenter. I expect you to read the paper, be prepared, and participate. You might think that the paper is not interesting or relevant to you, but that isn't the main purpose of journal club; the main purpose of journal club in my opinion is as a training exercise for you to learn how to evaluate papers in preparation for you to be a reviewer of manuscripts.

• Attend seminars to keep up with what is broadly happening in science. I expect everyone in my lab to attend the weekly BSci seminar whether or not it appears to be relevant to your research project(s), in addition to other seminars on campus that are especially relevant to your research project(s). I attribute part of my success as a biologist to the fact that I regularly attended departmental seminars as a grad student and postdoc, thereby exposing me to a wide range of topics and techniques. Probably attending those seminars is the reason that I was emboldened to study the evolution and selective advantage of clocks. It requires some effort to keep up with who is coming to town and when they are speaking. Often, extremely interesting people are visiting departments with which you may ordinarily have little contact.

• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In some cases, neither you nor anyone else in the lab will have expertise in a technique which may be “just what is needed” to address some question related to your research—don’t be afraid or shy about politely approaching those who may be able to help out. Just be sure to say “thanks” afterwards and to acknowledge those who help out when you publish. Indeed, in many cases, including helpful folks as authors on your paper is appropriate and represents a “win-win” outcome for everyone involved.

• When you ask for help with learning a new technique, be respectful of the other person's time. Do the background reading so that you're already knowledgeable about what you'll be doing and why. If you are sufficiently prepared, you should have to be shown only once how to do a technique, with some follow-up questions later on. Also, see Dr. Sanders' notes below about how you'll learn the new technique best if you do the procedure while coached by your helper rather than just observing the helper showing you the procedure.

• Having said that asking for help and giving help to others is part of every successful lab (including ours), you nevertheless must be responsible for and do your own work. While getting help on an occasional experiment because of an unexpected time conflict or overnight experiment is fine (and you should pay back the helper the next time that they could use a helping hand), there is also a point at which sympathetic friends and co-workers can be exploited. Don't be a person who drags down the productivity of your colleagues in the lab.

• Take advantage of the opportunity to attend a relevant scientific conference each year and do your homework to find out which conferences will be most beneficial to you. Talk with me about your project(s) to decide if we're ready to present the data at a conference, and if so, make sure you apply early enough to submit an abstract to present your work at the meeting. If the conference sponsors travel fellowships for which you are eligible, please apply. Students and postdocs are encouraged to apply for travel scholarships, when available, and to take advantage of the fact that Vanderbilt is also sometimes willing to cover the partial cost of conference attendance (grad students can use Mosig Funds). Depending upon our funding situation, I might be able to pay part of the expenses for you to attend a meeting. But postdocs in particular might need to use their own funds as well (when I was a postdoc, most of the meetings that I attended were paid from my own pocket).

• Funding permitting, I make every effort to take the entire lab to the every-two-years meeting of the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms (SRBR). This is an opportunity for all of us to present our data, keep up with the field, and make professional contacts.

Here are other topics from Dr. Sanders' "Expectations Document" with which I agree (with minor edits to adapt to the Johnson Lab):

• The point about attending conferences is really important. There are things about both the science and culture of your chosen sub-field that can only be learned at conferences and similar events. Failing to learn those things by neglecting to make an effort to travel and participate in meetings may limit career aspirations.

• There are generally two types of conferences—big conferences that are typically sponsored by foundations or professional organizations like Neuroscience (SfN), Cell Biology (ASCB), Microbiology (ASM), the Biophysical Society, and small conferences such as the Gordon Research Conferences, Keystone Symposia, RISER, and FASEB Summer Conferences. I like both. It is not too early in your career to start looking for a regularly running big conference and a regularly running small conference that you like and will attend regularly. While attending a wide variety of conferences definitely has its merits, regular attendance of one or two particular conferences is a great way to start building long term relationships with national and international communities of investigators in your field.

• Consider joining one or two professional societies (probably the one who sponsors a regular conference that you seem to like, see above point) and consider opportunities to serve in such societies. For us, SRBR, Society for Neuroscience (SfN), and American Society for Microbiology (ASM) are obvious choices. Again, this helps you build professional relationships and get exposed to the culture of science at a different scale than you experience in your day- to-day work in your home lab.

• Keep in mind that there might be a possibility to travel to a different lab for training or assistance in conducting an experiment that cannot be carried out locally.

• Develop efficient organizational skills including:

  • Keep a neat and detailed laboratory notebook. Future members of the lab should be able to follow your notebook and be able to figure exactly what experiments you carried out and what the details of those experiments were.
  • Computer files must also be organized and saved so that they can be identified and retrieved by others, even years after they are first prepared.
  • Maintain your own well-delineated folders on lab computers—don’t leave your files scattered throughout system folders.
  • Clean your dirty glassware promptly and maintain a well-organized bench space.
  • Order needed reagents and equipment far enough in advance so that you never have to delay experiments due to the need to wait for ordered supplies to arrive.
  • Label all samples and reagents clearly and store them appropriately.
  • Discard obsolete reagents and samples. Every few months you should make an effort to review what you have in the refrigerators and freezers and get rid of outdated or no- longer-needed samples.
  • Dispose of chemicals in an appropriate and safety-approved manner.

• The development of good writing skills is essential for your career. After deciding upon a detailed outline of a new manuscript and figures with your advisor, a good strategy for a trainee in the lab is to work on the first few drafts with the help of other students or postdocs (you can pay them back later by helping them!). Once you have a draft that is in reasonably good shape, this is the optimal point to give it to your advisor, with whom subsequent rounds of editing will be carried out. (Addendum from Carl: start with the figures, then Results, Methods, then Discussion/Introduction and the last thing to write is the Abstract/Summary).

• The development of good public speaking skills during the course of Ph.D. and postdoctoral training is essential. Resolve always to give a good talk. Our weekly lab meetings are not just to transmit information, but more importantly to give experience in presentations to develop (hopefully) self-confidence in front of an audience. (Addendum from Carl: I completely agree that our lab meetings are for transmitting information/getting feedback, but ALSO for practicing good presentation style. Be aware that Carl is sometimes frustrated that many of the lab meetings in our group---even from senior members---are NOT good examples of presentation style.)

• When preparing your talks for group meeting keep in mind that our lab is very diverse, so that you can't assume that everyone already knows the background for your project. Just as you would do for any seminar you will be giving for a broad audience, you should include an introduction to your project and to the techniques you will be referring to. A reasonable "rule of thumb" is that the first 1/4 to 1/3 of your presentation should be introduction.

• Know your audience and adjust your presentation to each different group that you're addressing. In addition to providing a good intro, it is also critical to project yourself into the minds of those in your audience so that you can present your data in a manner that they will be able to digest. For example, if you are giving a talk with a lot of biophysical data to a group of biologists you will need to adjust how you present your data in comparison to how you would present the same data to a group of biophysicists. Empathize with your audience.

• Remember the cardinal rule of giving presentations/lectures: First, tell them what you will tell them. Second, tell them. Third, tell them what you told them.

• When you prepare a new talk for an important venue, always give a practice talk in advance of your scheduled presentation. Your advisor and fellow students and postdocs are usually very happy to help.

• When invited to give a presentation, know how much time is allotted for your talk and don’t shoot yourself in the foot by exceeding this time limit. This can be a fatal mistake on a job interview, and you should train now to keep your presentations on time.

• When answering questions after giving a presentation, try to avoid giving a 5-minute answer to a 1 minute question.

• When asked, please provide me with the PowerPoint file for your group meeting presentation afterwards. This is an excellent way that I can keep a record of your progress. Moreover, if the figures are of high quality, they often can later be used for publications without the need for extensive reformatting.

• You should be aware of the importance of preparing high quality figures for all presentations, both written and oral. Not only is this important so that you can present your science clearly, the quality of figures is often used as the basis for making a first impression. For example, when an editor receives a paper you have submitted s/he will usually glance at the figures; if they are of low quality that editor is likely to immediately view the quality of your paper with suspicion. The same is true of your oral presentations.

• For an oral presentation, part of having high quality slides is to make sure that they are labeled clearly so that the audience can easily grasp what the slide is conveying, and has a title that clarifies the take-home message of that figure.

• Maintain a spirit of helpfulness when working with your colleagues.

  • Be a good host to visitors when called upon to do so.
  • Make new members of the lab feel welcome.
  • If you make a mess, clean it up.
  • Help keep common areas of lab clean, even if you are not the one who made a mess.
  • Everyone occasionally breaks things, sometimes by carelessness and sometimes completely by accident. This is completely understandable. What is critical is that when you break something you report this immediately to the appropriate person (usually our lab manager/research assistant) so that a repair/replacement can be promptly arranged.
  • It is NOT OK to "borrow" a colleague’s buffer, cell culture medium, etc. without obtaining permission first.
  • Help instruct colleagues regarding lab practice and techniques when there is a need.
  • Help out with lab chores, even if they don’t directly benefit your project. Do not suppose you are too high in seniority to be called on to occasionally do a menial task.
  • Watch out for the safety of your colleagues--don’t let them do things which are unsafe. Safety is everybody’s responsibility!
  • When common reagents are getting low, take responsibility and ask our research assistant to order more well in advance of their complete depletion.
  • Our lab projects are never set up so that members of the lab are in competition with each other (although there are many times when members of the lab work together towards a common goal). Therefore, always think about your lab mates in a cooperative manner.
  • Understand that almost no labs are completely self-contained: at all stages of your career you are going to be called upon to share equipment, space, etc. with members of other labs. It is important that you treat members of other labs with courtesy and respect.

• To a significant degree, science is based on the willingness of scientists to SERVE the community, without necessarily getting anything in return. The quality and integrity of scientific journals is based on the peer review (volunteer) system. So is the grant review system. You would be surprised at how devoted some of our most prominent scientists are to serving the scientific discipline and associated community in selfless ways. So, while you will always need to avoid becoming overcommitted, make an effort to do your part when called upon to serve.

• Lab staff, especially the research assistant, should be regarded with particular respect.

• Resolve lab conflicts in a polite manner. If the conflict cannot be resolved by a polite discussion directly between the lab members, please inform Carl so that he can mediate.

• Don’t gossip or talk about other lab members in a demeaning manner.

• Don’t be petty. Celebrate the accomplishments of your peers.

• Respect the value of your colleague’s time and don’t imagine that yours is more valuable than theirs.

• While it is natural that certain members of the lab will gravitate toward each other to form friendships and alliances, try to avoid tribalism and cliquishness. For example, if members of the lab are going to partake in an after-work social event, please give thought to being as inclusive as possible in terms of who gets invited.

• When teaching another person a laboratory technique, realize that they are much more likely to learn the technique if the "learner" is the one who does the hands-on experiment. This is as opposed to the "teacher" doing the procedure while the "learner" merely looks on. This is true both in the wet lab and when running instruments/microscopes. Yes, it may seem to take a little longer to teach this way, but in the end it saves time because the "learner" learns faster and is less likely to need to be shown repeatedly.

• Be careful when communicating by e-mail as it is easy to rashly put something into writing that may not convey exactly what you mean, that you will regret later, and/or may be forwarded to people for whom your message was not intended. Serious matters are often best dealt with by face-to-face conversation.

• Creativity and innovation in the lab is encouraged. However, if you wish to develop independent projects in the lab or to take an existing project in a completely new direction you must first consult with and obtain the PI's permission. The research (and most often the stipend) of members of the lab is usually being provided by research grants. These grants have aims. It is essential that if you are supported by a grant, then much of your effort falls within the scope of the aims of the grant.

• The establishments of collaborations with other labs can be highly beneficial for all involved. But not always. Please consult first with the PI before approaching someone from another lab about collaborating or if you yourself are approached by another lab. Please copy Carl on e-mails between collaborators and yourself.

• The papers you publish represent a major form of currency for your future career advancement. You should always have a strategy (and I also think checklists are a good idea) for what your next paper is going to be and what needs to be accomplished to attain that publication goal. An unfortunate phenotype found among some scientists are those who are smart, work hard, and generate lots of data, but have trouble completing work in publishable units.

• Never submit a paper that you know to be a weak paper or a grant application that you know is a weak effort. Reviewers remember who consistently submits only high-quality work and those who do not, so your reputation is at stake (not to mention that you never want to waste the valuable time of your colleagues).

• I do not believe in publishing “minimal publishable units” (MPUs) just to publish as many papers as possible. This does not mean that we do not sometimes publish communications, short papers, or methods papers. However, every paper should tell a significant story, not just deposit data.

• Completing the final 20% of a project often requires 80% of the effort. So, don’t be surprised at how difficult it is to bring a well-advanced project to the finish line. Indeed, when making future plans and estimating completion dates, this general principle should be factored in.

• Be a finisher. Don’t leave dangling ends dangling. When a project is near completion, complete it! When a paper is almost done, finish it! It is usually best to finish a major endeavor before moving on to something new.

• Plan on working with me to write and submit your papers on your research before you leave the lab and move on to another position. I am committed to publishing completed work, but it is very difficult to write and submit a paper on a student’s or postdoc’s work once s/he has moved on to another position. Factor this imperative into planning the timing of your work, job searches, and moving dates. Everyone loses if a student or postdoc’s work cannot be written up for publication because s/he did not take the time to organize his/her results in publishable form before leaving the lab. If you leave it to someone else to finish your project then in all likelihood the person who finishes the project will be first author of the resulting paper.

• Avoid losing focus on your primary project. Focus, focus, focus. Some people are naturally good multi-taskers and can efficiently do two things (or sometimes more) at once, some people are not. However, everyone has to avoid losing focus on priorities.

• For senior postdocs in the lab who are planning on embarking on a career in academic research, there is a good possibility that I will give you permission to go ahead and try to generate some critical preliminary data for projects that you would like to pursue once you are out on your own (e.g., my postdoctoral supervisor gave me this opportunity). Speak with me about this first to make sure the time is right and that are no problems. There is no higher honor in science than for your students/trainees to go on to establish successful independent research careers.

• Develop the ability to be fully aware of the “big picture” while at the same time being focused enough on your own work to bring it to full and prompt fruition. As part of being aware of the big picture, keep an eye out for areas that are distinct from what you are doing now, but that may represent avenues of future opportunities either at the postdoctoral level or when you develop your own research program.

• Think far down the road: What are your long term professional objectives? What steps will you need to take over the coming months and even years to attain those objectives? What lab would you like to postdoc in some day?

• If you can, develop the ability to discern what is likely to be “hot science” 5 years from now, even though today such an area may be undeveloped or neglected today.

• When designing an experiment, always think hard about what the appropriate positive and negative control experiments are and make sure you include such controls. If you are having trouble seeing what the appropriate control experiments would be, please see Carl for advice.

• For some research, attention to detail seems to be especially important. Dr. Sanders said in his document, for example, that some members of his lab are much better at getting reproducible NMR spectra of membrane proteins than others: "This may reflect the degree of attention that folks pay to the gory details of sample preparation and careful consideration of all of the variables that go into membrane protein sample prep. In addition to all of the things one would worry about for a soluble protein (protein concentration, buffer pH and composition, temperature) there are the additional variables of total detergent concentration, free detergent concentration, micelle concentration, and the protein:micelle concentration ratio (not to mention lipids if you are working bicelles, mixed micelles, vesicles or nanodiscs). If sample reproducibility from sample-to-sample matters, there are more variables that need to be reproduced for membrane protein samples! So, careful attention to and appreciation of details is absolutely critical."

• Be very wary of automated software that is used for data analysis. Don’t assume, a priori, that the automated software will necessarily analyze things properly. When embarking on a lengthy analysis it is usually best to analyze at least some data manually and confirm that the automated routine gives you the results that you know to be correct. This general statement is also true for statistical programs; make sure that the computer program is really doing what you think it is doing.

• Do not “cherry pick” data. For example, if you run an experiment 3 times and you get only one set of results that make sense, you need to know what went wrong the other 2 times before you can conclude that the “good” data reflects the correct (not just desirable) result.

• Always save your old data and do so in a form that will accessible far into the future. You never know which data you will need access to at a future date and so you need to save it all.

• Generally, there are two possible strategies for how one can establish a successful career as an independent scientist following postdoctoral work. You can continue to work directly in the area of your graduate/postdoctoral training. In this case, you start out as an expert in your field, but do run the risk of competing with your former mentor or of growing stale. Alternatively, you can take the best of your training with you, but set out into completely fresh territory. The dangers here are (1) that you want to make sure that you don’t “bite off more than you can chew” in terms of adjusting to a new area, and (2) it is harder to develop a reputation when you don’t stay in the same circle of science for many years. Either choice can be a successful strategy, but be aware of the pitfalls to be avoided.

• When you have opportunities to seek your own funding (fellowships, scholarships paying your way to meetings, etc.), do so. It is important to get some experience in seeking funding (writing grants) under your belt and it looks good on your CV—obtaining a competitive fellowship is akin to securing your first grant. In recent faculty job searches in the BSci department, almost all of the applicants who make it to the "short list" (i.e., the applicants who are interviewed) have successfully obtained their own grant (e.g., NRSA/F32, K99, etc.) to fund part or all of their postdoctoral training.

• When applying for a grant, fellowship or job, it is important to know what the application deadline is and make sure that you contact everyone who will need to contribute to that application far in advance of the deadline: reference letter writers, grants administrators who will need to process application forms, collaborators who need to supply a letter, CV etc. People are really really busy, so they will appreciate being given as much advance notice as possible regarding their contributions.

• Deadlines are your friends. They help you to focus and they terminate endless fine-tuning that is a temptation to perfectionists.

• Your mentor/preceptor is always eager help a student or postdoc prepare a high-quality paper, dissertation, or application. However, it may not be your best option to present her/him with a 1st draft document that is poorly organized or written with poor grammar. A better strategy may be to have one of your peers (or sometimes even a non-scientific friend) help you with getting that first draft into respectable shape before turning it over to your PI. You can return the favor when your proof-reader/editor has a document of their own they need help with.

• As the corresponding author for the papers generated by our lab, I do the final editing on papers. It will be much appreciated and in your best interest if when you turn a manuscript over to me I don’t have to spend a lot of time doing writing chores such as: reformatting the manuscript for the intended journal, looking up the middle initials and addresses of co-authors, making sure the reference format used matches the requirements of the intended journal, checking the references to make sure there are no missing dates etc., making sure all abbreviations are properly defined as per journal-specific guidelines, and making sure any required database depositions (BioMagResBank, PDB, etc) have been carried out.

• For those of you who are in the USA on some sort of visa, please stay on top of your visa/immigration status to make sure that you reapply for your visa or switch visa types at the appropriate time (before your visa runs out!). Don’t assume that someone else is keeping track of this for you. Also, keep in mind that for some visa types we sometimes save a lot of money if we apply far in advance of the projected activation date.

• Requesting letters of reference: Throughout your career you will need to get letters of reference from other scientists who know your work. It is very important that you request letters as far in advance of deadlines as possible. Don’t assume your letter writers can drop everything to write and submit a letter for you today that is due tomorrow.

• When scheduling meetings via the internet (such a thesis committee meetings), try to do this as efficiently as possible. Nowadays, I generally suggest using Doodle poll, WhenIsGood, or something similar if more than two people are involved.

• When our lab receives requests for reagents or protocols from other labs, it is our policy to promptly provide these to the requestor and to do so with full documentation of what we send. It is our wish to be as helpful as possible to other scientists, even those who possibly could be viewed as our competitors. There are, of course, government and university laws and regulations about material and IP transfers such as MTAs (Material Transfer Agreements) and we (obviously) stay within legal boundaries.

• Always discuss vacation time well in advance with Carl, especially BEFORE you make any nonrefundable travel reservations/plans. It might be that you're needed to help prepare a grant proposal or manuscript at the time you're considering a vacation, and that a small change in the timing of your plans will allow you to be available in the lab at a critical time.

• It is a poor idea for you to take any significant vacation during your first 6 months in a new position (be it in this lab or your next lab) unless you made clear arrangements regarding this with your employer as part of the offer/acceptance negotiations. Accepting a new job and soon after announcing plans to take an immediate vacation is a bad way to start a professional relationship.

• When the time comes to "move on" from the lab, Carl will work with you to prepare a “exit task list” of things you should complete before leaving (things like organizing samples/plasmids you will be leaving behind, providing records such as lab notebooks, locations of key computer files, etc.). Completing the items on this checklist is very important.

• It is folly to "burn bridges" in terms of professional relationships that do not need to be burned. References are one of the keys to your success.

• Conduct all on-line activities, such as emails, based on the assumption that all such activities may soon be a matter of public record. They may well be. Every little click you make...

• Plagiary, academic misconduct, criminal activity, and all forms of harassment are not tolerated and, if encountered, will be dealt with “by the book,” which includes promptly turning the matter over to the appropriate academic officer, university office, or legal authority.

• You should know that no matter how much I like you personally (certainly a lot!) or how much I want to see you to succeed professionally (definitely a lot!), that when I am asked to write a letter of reference for you, I will do so as honestly and objectively as possible. This means highlighting not only what I perceive to be your professional strong points, but also pointing out what I perceive to be any major professional weaknesses, especially as may be related to the specific job for which you have applied. A strong letter carries weight precisely because of this objectivity; employers know an honest letter when they see one. There may be professional instances where “who you know” is the key criterion for getting a job and where preceptors provide strong letters of reference for loyal trainees no matter what. However, what matters in our scientific culture is talent, knowledge of specific technical skills, motivation, professional productivity, reliability, integrity, diligence in record keeping, interpersonal skills, the ability to write and speak well, and scientific knowledge/interests. These are the qualities which must be addressed in a letter of reference. Seriously.

• The following is stated with kindness: keep in mind that your advisor is not your parent and your lab is not your family. This doesn’t mean that you won’t build deep and lasting friendships in the course of your time in a lab. However, to imagine that the personal commitments being made to you by your advisor and professional peers are akin to those made in a well- functioning family may lead to serious disappointments.

• When considering this Lab Guide document, know that Carl sometimes also struggles to live up to his own expectations. Sometimes I really struggle.

• Everyone, even Carl, needs mentors. Allow yourself to be mentored at every stage in your career. It is one of the ways we learn, and having people you can look to for mentorship is one of the ways we weather the storms and trials of life, both professionally and personally.

• If you pursue a career at the cutting edge of science then you are probably going to make mistakes. Carl certainly has—plenty! When you make a mistake and you realize it, own up to it. Then get up, dust yourself off, and move on.

• Finally, a scientific career can and should be fun. Especially if discovering something that no one knew before is exciting for you (see the Lab Motto quote at the top from Albert Szent- Gyorgyi). Moreover, the relationships you build should last well beyond your years in this lab. I sincerely hope that your time in this lab will be fun and will lead to many new friends for life.