Russo Lab Policies: Practices and Procedures for Ambitious Students

-Paul S. Russo, Laboratory Director (June 06, 2013)

Key Links

 

Staying on Target in Our Laboratory

Introduction

Our lab is for students who want to get ahead in science....while having fun. The decision to write down a policy reflects the increasing diversity of people we have in the lab over the long term, everyone from high school students to visiting scientists, and the different expectations every individual has. In the same way that rules are meant to be broken, policies are meant to change....so I eagerly await feedback and suggestions.

Graduate students, fellows and postdocs (a.k.a. Postgraduates).

These lab members are supported by salary or stipend. That means they are paid to build a career (distinct from a job). Progress and competence are assessed over the long term. These "postgraduates" have no set hours, but often work nights, weekends and holidays. They do make themselves available for scheduled group meetings, seminars, directing student workers and assisting with outreach/educational activities that are part of the integrative, "broad impacts" research environment as defined by the granting agencies with "help" from Congress.

Goals will be established for each "trimester" (fall, spring and summer). Although we sometimes fall short of goals, it should not be for lack of time spent. The expectation is 55-80 hrs/week, including time spent at home writing or reading, time in group meeting or seminars, time in classes and time spent grading or proctoring exams. This does NOT include time spent on Facebook, surfing the web, socializing with friends or pursuing hobbies. A good strategy is to take one day per week (maybe Sunday) to do all that kind of stuff not related to science. Spending ten hours/day for the remaining six days should get you through years 2, 3 and 4 of graduate life. Year 1 will usually require greater effort, as will Year 5 (if you need Year 5 at all). Keeping track of your hours on a "science log" may help at first. For many students, graduate school will be the hardest they ever worked.

Research Comes First for grad students & postdocs (after the first semester of graduate school). If they are taking a class, that's a hobby. Homework for that class is best done at home (ironic, eh?).

If 80 hours/week isn't enough to stay on track with your goals, see me about redefining the goals, making better use of Pregraduate researchers (below) or learning to work faster. It is my job to help you with these things. When I cannot help, we sometimes seek the advice of others.

Postgraduate researchers are not just robots, executing a plan handed to them. They are expected to spend some time eagerly seeking discoveries and pondering new pathways. Also, many of the problems they face on a daily basis have no known solution....anywhere. They have to MAKE a project produce a useful result--that does NOT mean the "right" result!!!

A word of caution about pursuing your own ideas. It's OK! But we are paid to do certain kinds of work, and there is no guarantee I will find your wild and crazy idea very interesting. Don't expect as much getting it published as if it were one of our funded projects...unless you can interest me in it!

Salaried employees will be reviewed at the end of each semester. As required by GT policy, students will receive a formal grade on the usual satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. A U grade always carries severe consequences. Postdoctoral researchers also receive a periodic, formal evaluation as required by the Institute. Additionally, all salaried employees can request an A-F informal grade, possibly with explanatory comments and observations, at the end of each semester. This is to ready you for the ugly world ahead, but I hope it is not too painful (for either of us).

Special Considerations for Graduate Students (GS)

  • GS will typically be assigned to a project for the first 1-2 years for training purposes; this will lead either to a MS thesis, a submitted paper, or both.
  • At any time, GS are encouraged to develop their own research ideas. Whether or not we can execute these ideas depends on whether the idea is consistent with the funded mission of the laboratory, but students should feel free to spend about 15% of their time and allocated supplies resources in pursuit of their own ideas. They can also write minigrants (see our current NSF proposal). Caveat: lab leadership does not have to get excited about your crazy ideas, so you might be on your own when it comes to trying to publish and fund them.
  • GS are expected to SOLVE PROBLEMS using literature resources, fellow students, friends at other universities--whatever it takes; however, after reasonable effort (a few days) it is appropriate to contact me. There is no point floundering too long, but sometimes the answer may come as a "clue" or "hint". Other times, you may be shown the answer directly.....if I know it! Do NOT expect me to know all the answers--no one would give us money to explore new things if that were the case.
  • GS are strongly encouraged to write fellowship grants throughout their tenure for research money, stipend funds, travel funds, etc… Some have been spectacularly successful!
  • GS can write minigrants to use some of our NSF $$$. These are peer-reviewed (by people outside our group, mostly).
  • GS are encouraged to train and supervise undergraduate and high school visitors. You can learn a LOT by (trying to) teach others. It sometimes seems hopeless, though. The main advantage may be to you. You will become a better asker of questions once you have this experience, too.
  • GS are encouraged to attend SOME research conferences, especially in the last few years of their tenure. Lab will only pay for travel and fees if funds are available, and if the student is the main presenter...and then only if we have the dough.
  • GS are expected to perform internal review assignments for other laboratory members and other scientists at all levels within the Macromolecular program.
  • More than anything, GS are expected to "catch fire"--i.e., become the person who needs almost no direction and who can defend their ideas and results on an international stage.
  • GS are advised that they are e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e to the lab ... so try to be worth it by keeping up with Postdocs if possible.
 

             

The Difference between HS, UG, Master, PhD and Postdoctoral Lab Members
  • HS: Emphasis on being a good employee, taking initiative. Limited freedom to pursue ideas; amount of involvement depends a lot on skill, availability of more senior advising group members, etc.
  • UG: Depends on whether it's a long-term or summer project. Again, emphasis on taking initiative, learning new skills beyond lecture.
  • Master: learning specific skills of research and broadening his or her base of knowledge.
  • PhD: learning to be an innovative global leader, building a storehouse of ideas and trying them, seeking challenges and finding better solutions, taking ownership and pride in their project.
  • Postdoc: platform for launching a successful career; studying the group's operations in comparison with prior group, with a eye towards being a leader in the very near future, whether in academics, industry or other career. 

 

Special Considerations for Postdocs (PD)
  • PD are hired mainly for three reasons: 1) to perform specific research tasks faster than we can do otherwise;  2) to meet the lab's mission to train exceptional individuals for a leading research career (not just a job); and, 3) to bridge the gap between lab director and students by being approachable and communicating to students about their recent experiences (these differ from mine by almost 30 years).
  • PDs are encouraged to develop own research ideas. Whether or not we can execute them depends on whether the idea is consistent with the funded mission of the laboratory, but PDs should feel free to spend about 25% of their time and allocated supplies resources in pursuit of their own ideas.
  • PDs are expected to SOLVE PROBLEMS and to FIND NEW PROBLEMS. 
  • PDs may be asked to write fellowship grants throughout their tenure for research money, and they should be developing new proposals and ideas to propel their future careers (but not to the exclusion of duties in the lab; afterall, the papers from the PD experience are a key component to future success).
  • PDs are expected to perform internal review assignments for other laboratory members and other scientists at all levels within the Macromolecular program.
  • PDs are encouraged to attend SOME research conferences and should use these opportunities to establish a network of future collaborators.
  • PDs are expected to attend Macro and other relevant seminars, assuming a leadership role in that communications-intensive experience.

 

Undergraduate students, summer interns and high school students (a.k.a. Pregraduates)

These employees are paid by the hour to do a job, perhaps as a prelude to a career-developing opportunity (grad school, med school, law school) later. That job is never surfing the web or visiting a Facebook page. Nor is checking your phone every five minutes. Nor is it studying for a midterm or final exam. There are easier jobs on campus than working in a lab; if easy is what you seek, please seek it elsewhere. Even though your mission here is to accomplish a job, we want to make this opportunity available to people who will leverage that job to promote their career.

Pre-graduate lab members are welcome to "hang out" in the lab to use its desk spaces or computers not associated with an instrument for their own academic or personal pursuits.....but they cannot bill this as work time! Students are on the honor system to report time honestly, but a postgraduate lab member has to sign for the time in keeping with Department policy. Students must keep track of their time and inform the Lab Director when all money allocated to them has been spent.

Pregraduate lab members will be assigned to TWO graduate students, fellows or postdocs. One will be the primary director, and the other will serve as backup director. The primary and backup directors will communicate with each other at laboratory meetings to remain familiar with what the pregraduate worker is doing.

Pregraduate duties are roughly divided into "research" and "fixit". In the case of HS students, "research" time requires a formal appointment with their supervisors, as described here

Pregraduate lab members must contact their director and backup director as soon as possible in case they cannot work at their appointed time. This will permit the directors to rebudget their time. An E-mail or text message is usually sufficient. A copy to the lab director (Professor Russo) is also a good idea.

The director or co-director will initial the Pre-graduate lab member's time sheet each week (preferably each day of work because this is easier to remember). Time may be subtracted for not wearing safety equipment or other safety violations (0.25 hours per incident).

Pre-graduates are welcome to work holidays and weekends, if their directors agree. The time can be kept informally until timesheets are available again. This can make the semesters less hectic, ensuring the student has a meaningful research experience. 

As Pre-graduate employees become more familiar with their research, they will gain more freedom to explore independently. Pre-graduates have co-authored some of our best papers!

 

Lab Director

I have the following main functions:

1. Try to maintain a safe laboratory. Lab members who do not follow safe policies (everything from labeling samples correctly to getting enough sleep before entering the lab) will have lab privileges suspended.

2. Say when something is good enough (set standards). Sometimes this means "stop trying to make it perfect". Old people have little tolerance for perfection, having never seen it except perhaps in young children. Other times setting standards means, "Not good enough."

3. Decide overall direction of research (areas we study).

4. Determine the magnitude of effort (find money to execute the plan).

5. Train students to understand "the system" by which research is conducted here and abroad. Most of the training will be in an academic setting, but we endeavor to give students with other aspirations a chance to explore.

6. Teach research by direct example (if there is time). Students are welcome to shadow me (quietly) on those few days when I venture forth to do something in the lab.

7. Formative and summative evaluation. The first is for students, the second is for the benefit of people who would hire them (Most industrial employers don't ask anymore because there is so little energy of activation to firing someone these days; why ask professors--clearly we are out of the loop--what we think about someone when you can just hire people and fire them if it does not work out?).

8. Find what you are good at doing consistent with our goals and try to get you trained for it. This does NOT mean letting you off the hook just because you don't like certain aspects of an assignment.

9. Promotion of your career, consistent with your abilities. No promises, but this group places its people well in academics, national labs and industry. We don't believe much in awards; if you want awards and plaudits, you might need them. You might need another group, too.

 


Timeline for Getting Your Degree Here

Timeline for someone who arrives with BS degree, intending to pursue PhD with a MS thesis on the way*

Year

  Trimester

Activities
1    1 (F)

Survive, choose group. Courses come first.

   2 (S)

Research comes first (RCF); project will be assigned.  Courses are a hobby now.

   3 (Su)

RCF

Develop an idea for your general exam independent proposal.

2    4 (F)

RCF

Write independent proposal for general exam.

   5 (S)

RCF

Begin learning PhD project by writing prospectus/intro (50-100 refs).

(Can you publish it as a review?)

Begin writing MS thesis (and associated paper, if appropriate).

   6 (Su)

RCF

Complete writing of MS thesis + continue learning PhD project.

3    7 (F)

This semester is critical! You are now an RCF person, but one who must tend to the not-so-fun side of research--proving your worth and demonstrating results. For that reason, here's a suggested month-by-month breakdown.

*September: Shine up your MS thesis + consider whether there is a paper from MS to submit now? If so, include a draft of it as supplementary information provided to be provided to MS defense committee.

*October: Prepare for General Exam in terms of understanding the PhD project, writing a good "prior arts" section for the research prospectus (approximately 50 references you understand), posing hypotheses and proposing how you will solve them, specifying back-up plans, provide something like a reasonable time frame and budget (see Petroleum Research Fund ND Subprogram guidelines below).

*November: Convene MS & General Exam committees on the same day. If all goes well--it usually does!--you emerge with MS degree in hand and PhD candidacy, too!

*December: take a break, you have earned it. 

   8 (S)

RCF

General exam unless taken in previous trimester.

Strategic courses OK.

   9 (Su)

All research, all the time (ARAT). 

4   10 (F)

ARAT

Not so sure about taking courses anymore.....can you learn it yourself? Sometimes, a course is still worthwhile, though--LSU Chemistry is a small department, so it struggles to offer courses often enough. 

  11 (S)

ARAT + is there a paper from PhD to publish now?

  12 (Su)

ARAT + write complete draft of dissertation.

Data Defense (cannot be scheduled without complete draft of dissertation on a shelf)

Start thinking about postdocs and/or jobs.

Data defense will NOT be scheduled until there is a complete draft of dissertation sitting on a shelf.

5   13 (F)

ARAT + shine your dissertation. 

  14 (S)

Defend dissertation if there' s a job waiting AND the required accepted paper; otherwise, more research and/or papers.

No defense will be scheduled without at least one accepted manuscript with you as lead author (sometimes two authors are identified as lead authors). Don't even ask to schedule an exam without that accepted paper. Also, the defense will not be scheduled until I can go page after page after page without finding even the slightest style or grammatical flaw. Dissertations from this group wil be like Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way. This ensures your evaluation committee can focus on the science without any distractions. Also, it will help them feel comfortable writing strong letters of support.

  15 (Su)

If no job, continue one semester as student or postdoc (highly qualified students only) and write papers. Students seeking a real career, not just a job, will need more than one paper. I hold that 2-3 papers is as good as 5-8, though. The point is to suggest to prospective employers you can complete projects to the satisfaction of peer reviewers....time and time again.

6

 

RA support ends, even if there is money; TA support may continue.

7  

You probably have to petition Grad School after this. Don't get into this situation!

                                                      *Students entering with a MS degree are accelerated by about 1 year beginning in Trimester 6.

Master's Degree Policy

Graduate students who arrive in this laboratory without a previous Master's Degree must write a MS thesis, even if their eventual goal is the PhD. Normally, the introduction and literature background can be written in the third trimester (first summer of residence). The entire document should be written by the end of the 2nd summer of residence (sixth trimester). The actual defense of the thesis can be in the early part of the the 7th trimester. It is expected that the thesis will contain sufficient work to lead to one manuscript submission (i.e., the MS thesis can be distilled down to at least one publication). Whether or not we pull the trigger on the submission(s) depends on the quality of the work. Normally, the MS work and planned PhD work bear SOME relation...so it isn't that much more work to get the MS on the way to PhD.

Students who arrive with a MS degree should prepare and submit a draft manuscript for publication in the same period of time.

No student of this laboratory will even TRY to schedule a defense with their committee until these documents are fully written and reviewed by their peers and by Professor Russo.

For students stopping at the MS degree, I will not write letters of recommendation or answer phonecalls from employers concerning future employment until a complete draft has been prepared. The kind of employer you wish to work for is willing to respect the effort you put into your education and will wait. If you really want the job, they won't have to wait long, either!

One purpose of the mandatory MS policy is to make strong writers early on and to render the writing of the PhD dissertation a less imposing task. It's a learn-to-walk-before-you-run policy. It should NOT lengthen the total time to PhD for those students who intend to continue to the PhD. Another purpose of the required MS policy is to make sure students get SOMETHING out of their graduate career, even if health or personal issues interfere in later years (suppose you fall ill in Year 4 and have to quit graduate school; then it would be helpful to at least have the MS degree to show for your time). This policy protects you!

This internal policy can run afoul of the Department's infinite wisdom that the PhD general exam must be taken by the 7th trimester (fall semester of the third year in residence). We can petition for an extension if needed, but let's try not to need it.

PhD Policies

Time: The expected time to PhD is 4-5 years, including getting the MS degree. Students who arrive with a MS degree in Chemistry or another relevant discipline should expect to complete their PhD in 3-4 years. Every day you spend here, as opposed to a "real job", costs you about $200 - $300 depending on how you calculate the difference. The financial loss isn't the worst part; losing opportunities is. Doors open once you have your PhD, and the sooner you CAN walk through those open doors the better. If you don't really like the door that opens, you can always opt NOT to walk through it and stay here as a PhD-in-waiting student or short-term postdoc (for exceptional individuals).

Independent Proposal (for Chemistry Students): Students should start writing their independent proposal in the third or fourth trimester, which might be before cumulative exams have been passed. This will be before the MS thesis is complete. The main purpose of the ever-controversial independent proposal, according to its proponents among our faculty, is to demonstrate some spark. See me to obtain copies of previous students' general exams for examples.

Research Prospectus: PhD-intending students should begin writing the research prospectus about the 3rd trimester (summerof Year #1) which is again before the MS thesis is complete. The purpose of the research prospectus is to demonstrate UNDERSTANDING and a PLAN of the upcoming research project. It helps to have some preliminary data, but that is not the purpose. The committee can judge research capabilities and ability to complete a job based on the MS thesis and/or submitted manuscript. What they are looking for at the candidacy Exam is a clear understanding of what you're trying to do, why it's important, what you will do if something goes wrong, and how long the research will take (timeline). The introductory part of the document should be a review with perhaps 50-100 references. The middle should show whatever preliminary results you have so far, along with clearly identified questions suggested by these preliminary results. Many committee members expect to see well-formed hypotheses that can be tested. They expect some knowledge of the limits of the testing methods. You should specify what you will do if one part of the research proves to be a blind alley (for example, if the inherent color of a solution you hope to measure by light scattering proves to be a problem, what would you do next?) An appendix showing anticipated dissertation chapters and possibly even a preliminary outline of some chapters is helpful.

Data Defense (a.k.a. 6-month Presentation), Complete Draft and Dissertation on a Shelf:

    In our lab, the data defense will NOT be scheduled until there is a "complete draft" of the  dissertation. This is called "dissertation on a shelf".

A complete draft means each chapter is present in more than just skeletal form. The complete draft may be waiting for a few minor data points, repeat measurements on some critical experiments, or grammatical and spelling improvements. It cannot be a 5-chapter dissertation where only the introductory chapter is written! Get the dissertation done first, put it down, do the data defense and go job hunting. I will not write letters of recommendation or answer phonecalls concerning future employment until there is a "complete draft" of the dissertation on the shelf, awaiting just the little final touches.  Students in this laboratory will not even attempt to schedule their dissertation defense until the complete draft stage. It's far better to have the dissertation essentially complete, then work on smoothing it and/or distilling it into manuscripts while seeking jobs. Once you have a job offer in hand, just pull the dissertation of the shelf, make a few minor updates, and defend with confidence! This avoids all the usual stress and hassles, while giving you a clearer mind to evaluate job offers and your future. This requirement is designed to relieve stress!

What Goes Into the Dissertation: Work that has been published in sufficient detail that someone could reproduce the results does not have to appear in the dissertation. If it does appear, all co-authors must be specified clearly and your role must be evident. YOU would then write material ("glue") explaining how the work fits into the overall thematic document. This may include extra detail not available in the paper, speculations not usually tolerated by journals, and ideas for future research. Unlike the paper itself, this prose must absolutely be written by the PhD candidate ONLY (with critique from friends, labmates and me, of course). It would also be possible to write your own chapter on a published subject, then add the published document as an appendix. A draft manuscript based on the work could be supplied to the readers as supplemental information. In any case, It is essential that the dissertation committee can judge YOUR contribution. This differs from the policies of some of my Department colleagues. If you want to work someplace that permits you to glue together a bunch of papers you didn't write, then call it your dissertation, choose another group.


Publication policy

It is often and said that you aren't getting a degree in Chemistry--you are getting a degree in writing! That isn't quite true, but it may seem that way. Even so, this laboratory does not count papers. Some are way better than others, so what would be the point? Nevertheless, every degreed graduate student should (MS) or must (PhD) publish at least one paper. After 2-3 years of PhD work or 1-2 years of MS work, SOMETHING must have happened that is interesting to the public at large, who pay taxes to support your research and professional development. There is no set policy for postdocs because they know what it takes.

MS students will be ready to submit one (1) manuscript before or soon after their thesis defense. Whether we actually submit it depends on quality, patent issues, etc.

PhD students must have one (1) manuscript ACCEPTED by a peer-reviewed journal before even attempting to schedule their dissertation defense. We are not impact factor snobs, but it's important to choose a journal that can select knowledgeable reviewers.

The PhD student working towards a career (not just a job) is strongly advised to author more than one paper. This demonstrates you are not a one-hit wonder. Even in Louisiana, more people know John Lennon than John Fred. The difference is the number of #1 hits.

A clear path to any papers beyond the accepted one must be delivered. The guiding principle is that number of papers doesn't matter, but publishing what is publishable is our duty to the taxpayer. If there is just the one paper, so be it.

Normally, students prepare a strong first draft of the manuscript. After several iterations and internal peer review, this is what gets submitted. Much effort is going in to shortening the process, but it's still too slow. You should take charge of the process to the degree I will let you....waiting for me is too slow! By the same token, if I seem to be reluctant about a paper there could be a valid reason for it that I cannot yet consciously formulate or explain. One of the few happy consequences of age is a sixth sense about when something is about to go badly.

Authorship policy

The lab director decides who is first author, second author, etc. For multi-author projects, the time to do this is at the start! You should get it in writing, particularly for "rogue" ideas that deviate from the funded research plan. The person with "the big picture/original idea" is usually the communicating author who is responsible for the work. This person usually has a permanent address, but not necessarily. The first author can be the communicating author, but more likely it is the person who did the most intellectually sophisticated work, or maybe the one who made the critical breakthrough. The total amount of work and even the quality of the work are secodary to intellectual input. Two of the more innovative and productive students in my past actually got small grants and paid undergrads to do the menial parts of their research.

Space policy

Graduate Students & Postdocs have a defined work space.

Undergrads and high school students do not normally need a desk space, as their jobs usually keep them on their feet. If space is not used by a more senior lab member, Pre-graduates may "camp" temporarily to analyze data or even hang out between classes (as long as they are "off the clock"--i.e., not billing us for time).

Laboratory space associated with equipment can only be used for the intended purpose. For example, no one should sit at the desks devoted to the microscopes, electronics repair bench, DLS desks, etc., unless they are using these instruments. As already stated, it's questionable whether Pre-graduates need desk space at all, while postgraduate students who need more space will find plenty of it in the library or student union.

Bench space in the lab is divided into "communal" and "individual" space, and the little black "dividing fencers" (a.k.a. "peacemakers") define where those spaces are. Label it or lose it!


Food in lab

No food is allowed in any of our labs. A refrigerator is provided in the seating space, along with a microwave.


Computer policy

Computers associated with a piece of laboratory equipment can NOT be used for general web browsing; normally, they will be disconnected from the internet except to update antivirus software or perform research-relevant activities. It is permissible to use those computers to e-mail yourself a copy of data or images, search for the right procedure for Kohler illumination, refresh your memory on the Siegert relationship or tend to other technical matters directly related to an experiment.

It is NOT permitted to use instrument computers to do general e-mail, check on Facebook or Twitter, shop on Ebay, etc. The reason for this policy is the "delicate" condition of science instrument computers. They often use special DMA settings, IRQs reserved for the apparatus, or specialized software that is easily corrupted or subject to changes in the registry. This software is not tested as thoroughly as, say, Excel. So it takes rather little to cause a failure. Computers can easily be wiped out by the addition of, say, a Cyrillic font set.

Any data or images gathered must be backed up onto another computer or the cloud by the end of the research day. The best way to do this is by sending it to yourself via e-mail or storing data in a cloud file. If someone removes your week-old data to make room for new measurements, causing you to lose everything, that is YOUR fault.

USB Keys are NOT Permitted.

Use SyncToy (free from Microsoft) or Crash Plan (See Kevin Green) to back up data.

Some computers can be made available for remote desktop service. These computers permit you to use special software that is too expensive to provide throughout the lab. These machines can also be reached from your home (you need the VPN client--see me or the School Computer staff).


Collaborators

From time-to-time, our laboratory collaborates with others. These activities can range from a simple afternoon of helping someone get a viscosity to months or years of combined effort. Consult me to establish the priority of a collaboration relative to your main activities. Collaborators must follow our labeling scheme for samples which remain in the laboratory, and they must follow our instrument use guidelines and practices. Understand that students and postdocs from some laboratories are placed under enormous pressure for "results". If you feel you are being pressured by them to do poor science, again consult me. You can't get in the middle of this kind of issue; these things have to be handled from the top down. Normally, we produce a report on collaborations (except the very trivial) in the form of a Macromolecules draft manuscript. This is an exercise; you should not expect that the report actually gets published, although it might happen. Usually, the authorship and credit for any significant collaboration will have been discussed among the senior collaborators before the project is even mentioned to you. It's a good idea to ask about these arrangements.


Goggle zones

The chemical labs (4325-7 and 4346-8) are "goggles always" zones. The optical labs (2503) can sometimes be used without splash goggles, but laser goggles may be appropriate. Pre-graduate workers, who are paid hourly, will be docked 0.25 hours for each instance of goggle abuse. Postgraduate workers may see their grade (the official GT grade) lowered as a result of unsafe eye protection.


Lab Tour (a.k.a. rounds)

     We will try to walk through the lab about once every week, or once every two weeks. Students will be asked to show their equipment, describe recent improvements, breakages, etc. The Lab Director may request to see the chemical inventory, require students to dispose of old or dangerous chemicals, and inspect apparatus or equipment.


Lab Meetings

    Typically 2 hours. The schedule will be set at the beginning of each trimester. Agenda varies, but typically on each meeting day, one person will be assigned to coordinate and lead the session. On most days, one lab member will present a paper from an assigned list (about 20 minutes) and then others will give shorter presentations on papers from their assigned journals. Presentations should be tested to work with the projector.

    Another group meeting motif will be to invite your committee members to attend for an update. This is designed to prevent shock and dismay later in the process, and to make the dissertation defense easier for everyone.


Shop Use: Machine, Glass, Electronics, NMR, MS, SAXS, Microscopy, XPS

    Every student should always have something in the shops. GT is blessed with really fabulous student shops, and there is always some way to make something better. Just because something works, doesn't mean it's ergonomically efficient. Make it better! Challenge the status quo! Finally, tell me what it costs so I can keep track of how much money is left.


Hoarding

    Lab supplies are treated much the same as space. Some things are communal, some can become "yours"....but only if you replace things taken from the communal supply. Let's illustrate good behavior with an example. Suppose a lab member needs six (6) clean volumetric flasks for careful DLS or dn/dc work. That many are on the shelf, and they are perfectly clean too (indicated by aluminum foil cap). But the need will be recurrent. What should that worker do? Answer by steps:

1. Order eight (8) new volumetric flasks and put them on the communal shelf when they arrive.

2. Until then, place a note on the shelf that new flasks have been ordered.

3. Take the six from the shelf right now to get a quick start....and hoard them until they can be returned at the end of all experiments.

This procedure makes sure we don't run out of stuff in the long term (ordering 8 when you take only 6 ensures our supply grows and/or guards against breakage) and gets the science off to a faster start than waiting for new flasks to arrive. People are not too frustrated because flasks not there yesterday are at least on order already.

Follow good drawer/cabinet labeling practice. If something is in it, a label is required saying what.

 


Finances

  • Supplies: Lab members will receive "block grants" for supplies. You ask me for money. I tell you "go ahead for $1000". You keep track of all the little expenses, not me! When you run out of money, ask for more. It is usually available. Block grants mean I don't have to make a spreadsheet entry every time you buy new filters. You must do that, though!
  • People paid hourly: I will tell you that you have $XXX dollars. You will translate this into hours of employment and keep track of your hours (just sum together the hours you have turned into Amy Commander). When you run out, ask for more.
  • NMR, IR, TEM, SAXS, Machine Shop, Electronics Shop, etc. All these things cost! It helps me if you obtain an estimate of the cost of whatever you do.

Vacations

Graduate students, postdocs and fellows

  • Should not exceed 3 weeks per year: as already stated, every day you spend in graduate school instead of a real job costs you >$200!
  • Holidays are iffy: Christmas, New Years and July 4th are examples of "real" holidays when no one works. Memorial Day, Labor Day and Mardi Gras are good days to work.
  • Please tell me before you buy the tickets! Sometimes, things are in the planning stage (e.g., beamline trips).
  • Make sure your TA responsibilities, if any, are covered by the instructor of the course(s) to which you are assigned.
  • Make sure you notify the Graduate Office, in case we need to reach you for an emergency.

Undergraduates, HS students, etc.

  • Vacations with your family comes first...you will relish those fights with your siblings someday.
  • Consider working through your holidays! We can figure out how to complete the timesheets.