How my lab works

General Lab Information:

  1. I want everyone to be excited about his or her research project and to understand what we do and why we do it. If you’re ever unsure about why something is being done (or why it’s being done in a particular way), PLEASE ASK ME! Ideally, you should ask right away. But, if you realize later that you are confused, asking later is better than not asking at all.
  2. Safety: If you are ever unsure about whether something is safe or have concerns about safety, please ask. 

General Lab Policies:

  1. Lab notebooks:
    1. I will provide everyone with a lab notebook; it belongs to the and must stay in the lab (or return to the lab after the field season) at all times. You must leave them after you finish working in the lab.
    2. Write details for everything you do, and keep things organized. Write lots of details — you can never have too many details and you will remember much less 6 months from now than you think you will! This will help you a lot when you work on your end-of-semester paper. It will also help everyone later if we need to go back and figure out a specific detail regarding what was done. You should write enough information that we can reproduce what you did without needing to send you any emails. Always write more information than you think you need to write! I’ve never looked back at an old lab notebook and thought, “Wow, I wish they’d written less.” I have definitely looked back at an old lab notebook and thought, “Wow, I wish they’d written more.”
    3. Never go back and erase anything in your lab notebook at a later date.
    4. Staple attachments into the lab notebook.
    5. If you make a mistake (and we all do at some point!), please write details in the lab notebook and notify your mentor. I make mistakes all the time. The most important thing is to acknowledge them so that we can take that into account when continuing with the study and when looking at the data.
    6. Many of my projects are or will become long-term projects, so we all build on each other’s data. That means that it is very important for you to collect data carefully and to record notes carefully, and to note when mistakes are made.
    7. Some of the most exciting results are those we don’t expect. Keep an open mind when collecting and analyzing data. If you see something you didn’t expect, record the data and then tell someone else about it.
  1. Data: (Thou shalt not be careless with thine data!)
    1. All data must be backed up at least weekly; one copy should be on the lab computer and one copy should be elsewhere (a server, Dr. Stumpf’s computer, your personal computer, dropbox, google drive etc.)
    2. Any data that hasn’t been entered yet should be scanned and/or photographed with a cell phone as soon as possible. Ideally, you should snap a photo of the new lab notebook entries and data sheets at the end of EVERY day.
    3. Data should be entered into a computer daily and proofed weekly. Proofing refers to double-checking that the data on the datasheets matches that in the database.
  1. Field work:
    1. Always have a buddy when you go into the field or at the least, tell someone (Dr. Stumpf, ideally) where you are going. Sending a weekly plan is required.
    2. Be mindful of weather. DO NOT go into the field in bad weather. 

End-of-semester/season information:

  1. Everyone I advise gets a calendar at the start of the semester with explicit due dates for following deliverables. This is a class for which you are getting credit; treat it as such.
    • Research question
    • Literature review
    • Clear hypothesis
    • A proposed experimental design
    • Descriptive statistics from the data
    • Draft main results
    • Final tables
    • Complete draft
  1. Please make sure you communicate with me well ahead of any deadlines. We will be meeting weekly to make sure we BOTH stay on track. These meetings are generally scheduled for an hour but may be shorter or longer, depending on what we have to discuss.
  2. Your writing is your own! After the initial draft, I will help you with editing for your final draft, your abstract, and poster (if doing). You should expect to have several back and forth email exchanges with track changes in a word document; this is completely normal and an important part of developing scientific writing and presentation skills.
    • Please be aware that I will start out by only writing comments on your drafts, not actual edits. There will be A LOT of them.   This isn’t a reflection of you or your knowledge or your writing. It is COMPLETELY normal. As we do more editing, I will start to make changes/edits on the paper itself.
    • The best way to learn to write is to WRITE and WRITE OFTEN. Read my comments thoroughly.

Other information:

  1. I am happy to talk about your career goals, summer plans, letters of recommendation, etc. Just send an email to set up a time. (You can also stop by my office, but there’s a chance that I will have something else scheduled if you use this approach.) In cases where I don’t know the answer to questions you have, I will try very hard to put you in touch with people or resources that can help you.
  2. These two blog posts are aimed at undergrads who are starting to do research in labs. They’re worth reading!