Lab Manual & Culture
Below follows selections from the Kisley Lab Manual that detail our overall approach to research & day-to-day lab-life.
Group members have access to the full manual that has more details related to CWRU-specific procedures.
We are indebted to colleagues who have shared their manuals which served as inspiration & model for ours.
The mission of the group is to make significant contributions to the field of applied fluorescence microscopy by fostering an environment of scientific curiosity and excellence. To do so, we will:
Have fun while doing great science, so that each individual lab member can be happy and productive while being a part of the research group.
Make exciting and novel discoveries through well-designed experiments.
Communicate our results to the local, national, and international scientific community.
Pay it forward by being active members in the departmental, campus, local, and broader scientific community.
Through science, we are advancing knowledge about the world by discovering new things and developing new technologies. We are expanding our knowledge and teaching others. We have a responsibility to make an impact on society by framing our research in respect to the wider world and by passing our knowledge on to others.
Science in the day-to-day can seem small, slow, and difficult, but keep in mind the awesome opportunity we’ve been given.
Everyone should work hard, be interested in their projects, and be proud of the work both you do and the group does as a whole. While every project has its ups and downs, you should overall be passionate and excited about your work. If you are not committed to or interested in the research, please reflect and consider why you are here.
Mistakes, technical problems, and failures are all part of science. Admit them, correct them, and strategize so they don’t happen again. Do not hide or avoid problems.
Show up, be on time, and come prepared. Especially for meetings with other people and when you are performing experiments on shared instruments. Respect that others have busy schedules and everyone’s time is valuable. Come to meetings prepared with a notebook, pen, printouts/presentations of relevant data, papers, etc..
Students are responsible for meeting departmental and university deadlines (course registration, exams, thesis, etc.). Make sure I am aware of important dates, but you are ultimately responsible for managing these benchmarks.
Science is a collaborative pursuit. While each PhD is an individual degree based on an independent project, it is not possible to complete a PhD alone. You will have to collaborate with other lab members and even people from other labs and universities to advance projects and learn new technical, scientific, and leadership styles. The atmosphere of the lab should be productive and fun. Therefore, you should:
Work with your co-workers, encourage them, and understand their projects.
Share your knowledge and help your co-workers with less or different research experiences than you.
Be patient and respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Support each other by attending each other’s presentations and celebrating each other’s achievements and personal milestones.
Avoid negative attitudes and gossip that are detrimental to the group. If interpersonal conflicts arise, we will address these immediately. If you have a conflict with another lab member that cannot be solved by talking with them about it, please talk with me. If you have a problem with me, please reach out to another member of the department who can intervene.
We will do science in an honest way. It is never ok to plagiarize, tamper with data, make up data, omit data, or fake results. Electronic data and physical lab notebooks should never be deleted or destroyed. Results should be verified based on experimental design that includes reproducible and replicable measurements. If you have questions regarding this for your experiments, please discuss this with me. We are being trusted to carry out science on the university, taxpayers’, and private donors’ dime. Purchasing will be done in a reasonable and moderate way.
Keep open the line of communication between yourself and me about your career goals (academia – research or teaching, industry, scientific communication, consulting, something else). This will ensure that you’re getting the training you need for that career. Differences in relevant conferences, networking opportunities, internships, coursework, project directions can result based on your goals. Communicate if things change or you’re unsure - this is all okay. It’s your future and we need to work together to make sure you are the most prepared by the time you finish in lab.
Science is never more important than your personal well-being. It is important to have a life outside of the lab and to take care of your mental and physical health. It’s ok to go through rough patches (we all do) and you should not be afraid to ask for help if needed. If you’re struggling, tell someone (feel free to tell me). The lab looks out for the well-being of all its members. The university also has resources through the University Health and Counseling Services (https://students.case.edu/departments/wellness/). You can always go to an on-demand walk-in appointment just across the quad in Sears 220 or call 24/7 216-368-5872.
Learning from and collaborating with your co-workers is important to advance your projects. To encourage lab interaction, try to be around on weekdays during “peak” hours – e.g., between ~10 am and ~4 pm - especially if you are new member of the lab. This is when to be around in the office/lab and if you are a morning vs. evening person you can come in early vs. stay later around these times based on your personal preference. These working hours are not a hard rule, as work schedules can shift with instrument availability, needing to focus on data analysis/writing away from the office, or other obligations. If your schedule will be shifted or you are working from home, please use Slack notifications to indicate to the group that you will be working the morning/late shift or from home.
You are also expected to be in electronic contact through email during peak hours. While emails/Slack messages may be sent/received in off hours, you are not expected to be in contact 24/7. Be respectful of your co-workers time by not excessively contacting them on weekends or off hours about work matters.
Finally, one of the benefits of a career in academic research is that it is typically more flexible than other kinds of jobs. However, science is hard and can’t be done on a part-time schedule. You should be treating your research like a job by putting quality time into your research each week. Some people are successful sticking to a very focused 40 hr/wk (the expected “full time job” time commitment in the US). Other weeks when an instrument needs alignment, revisions are due, or a sample is working may require more than this, including possible time in the evening or weekends. Other weeks where you are waiting on something may end up being less. Realize that I will not be keeping track of your total hours, as self-time management is part of your development as an independent researcher. I will instead be keeping track of your progress.
Science requires focused time and energy on reading the literature and performing experiments and analysis to advance your knowledge and move your project forward. Keep in mind that your success in the lab is not correlated with the number of hours you are in the office/lab per week, but how well you use the time you have. Make sure you prioritize your time for research. Coursework and TAing are important, but ultimately your research gets you your PhD and prepares you for the next stage of your career
Group meeting is a place to learn, ask questions, and hold discussion to improve our science. Presentations are used to share updates on research projects, to serve as an internal review to refine and improve ideas, troubleshoot issues, discuss updates in the field, and to practice communication. It is also a time to discuss group business.
Group meetings take place on Friday afternoons (typically 4 pm during the semester; 3 pm in the summer, but can change based on course schedules). Everyone in the group is expected to attend unless discussed with me beforehand. Please show up on time so we can finish on time. If you are the presenter, arrive early and setup beforehand. The format for group meeting each semester will be decided beforehand (safety moments, research updates, literature review, instrumentation tutorials, etc.) and an internal group document will be used for everyone to sign up for each week. Every lab member is expected to present at least once every semester.
You are expected to be present and engaged in group meeting. As your fellow co-workers have spent time preparing their talks, show them respect by paying attention. Keep phone/computer use to a minimum in group meeting. Even if the presentation is on a project that differs from yours, you are expected to learn about it, ask questions, and give feedback.
Weekly reports are a form of communication between the PI and researcher so I know what you are working on, I can provide you feedback, and we can troubleshoot. They help you stay on top of your data collection and analysis. Weekly reports are a record of your progress and help you keep track of your goals and prioritize your work. They also are a form of practicing scientific writing, reading, and figure design.
Weekly reports are due every Monday at 10 am. If a university holiday falls on a Monday, the weekly report is due on Tuesday.
Weekly reports should contain the following sections: 1) Goals from previous week; 2) Summary of results from the week; 3) Plans for present week; 4) Literature Review. If you are new to the group, ask for example weekly reports from other group members. Use of additional section headers and including figures are encouraged. Be quantitative and thorough with your reports
I read every report. I typically provide an email with my quick impressions/feedback about your report by email by Monday/Tuesday or have a more detailed discussion with a meeting. This is dependent on my schedule and availability. If I am traveling, etc. it may take longer and I appreciate your patience.
For the literature review section, you should review 3-5 papers a week. If you are a newer student and/or English is not your native language, start off with 3 papers; as you move up in the lab you should be reviewing more. Provide a full citation with authors and a DOI hyperlink to the paper and write up about a paragraph about the results and your thoughts about the paper. (See “Reading Current Literature” section under "Advice" tab). Undergraduate lab members are responsible for reading one paper a week and sending the summary to their graduate student/postdoc mentor.
Meetings with Lydia
I view discussing research with group members my number one priority in my job as a professor. Therefore, I have an open door policy. Slack with the group is the only push notification on my phone and the quickest way to get a response from me. More formally, a block of time will typically be available on Monday or Tuesday for you to schedule weekly individual meetings with me. If you’d like to have a meeting, please indicate so in the email containing your weekly report. Similarly, I may let you know if I’d like to have a meeting with you after I review your weekly report if you didn’t indicate you’d like to have a meeting. Depending on the point of your career and the project, we may meet more or less frequently. Typically, more junior members of the group meet weekly with me, while more senior members may be every-other week or so.
Vacation and Sick Days
If you’re sick, stay home and take care of yourself. Both for your health and the health of others. Send a Slack message to Lydia detailing when you plan to check in next and a quick message to the lab letting them know you’ll be out. Reschedule your meetings and experiments for the day (or the next couple of days) once you are back. “Sick days” also include time you may need to take off for medical appointments. If needed, the University Health Services is at 2145 Adelbert Road and the 24/7 nurse on-call number is 216-368-2450. Please also note the graduate school policies for leave.
As paid employees, graduate researchers and postdocs follow the university holiday calendar (not the undergraduate academic calendar, e.g. no spring break). Everyone is allotted 16 vacation days per year in addition to the ~13 days of university holidays, unless delegated differently at the university level (i.e. staff positions). Vacation days are not required for time away from the lab for job interviews, workshops, or conferences. You should let me know in advance about any vacation days taken, with at least 2 weeks notice for any time off more than 2 days. You should also let any collaborators/mentees/mentors in the lab know when you will be away. For international students that may require extended time off due to extensive travel/visa, please discuss this with me. Be strategic about appropriately selecting vacation time – e.g. it’s not smart to leave right before an oral exam or manuscript revision deadline.
In the same way that I expect notice from you regarding days out, I will do the same for the group when I expect to be out of the office for non-work related reasons. Please note that as a professor I do travel on behalf of the lab for presenting seminars, conferences, reviewing grants, etc. and my availability at these times may be limited.
The lab should be a safe, friendly, and accepting environment for everybody. Therefore, we will not tolerate any verbal or physical harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, national or ethnic origin, age, color, race, or religion. Inappropriate language and jokes have no place in the lab, including any lab outings. Please see CWRU discrimination and sexual misconduct policies that we will follow precisely. If a harassment issue arises – to yourself or you witness it – please tell me immediately or reach out to another trusted faculty or university member.