Lab Meeting 101

What is the point of lab meeting? It is to keep your PI off your back until your next lab meeting. Yes, I know: PI’s are like mushrooms, feed’em shit and keep’em in the dark. But only until lab meeting. Don’t try to obfuscate results or hide failure. Don’t blow your wad between your lab meetings by running to their office to share your cool results in real time. By the time your lab meeting rolls around, they will be craving their next fix of results. It’ll be all: what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? “Remember that cool result from 2 weeks ago?” won’t slake their junkie’s thirst for data.

1. Underpromise
2. Overdeliver
3. It’s not a job/conference talk. Be serious, don’t try and sell it.
4. Have an ace in the hole.
5. Short and sweet or your lab will hate you.

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16 Comments on “Lab Meeting 101”

  1. jbashir says:

    Short and sweet or your lab will hate you.

    We have people take over an hour on a regular basis. Usually the same people. A defined ending time for lab meeting is important.

  2. rxnm says:

    Ugh. Do they think that impresses people?

  3. Toma says:

    Sounds like you have a hard-ass PI (who doesn’t read your blog).

    P.S. We seem to share a taste for blog themes – damn! 🙂

  4. rxnm says:

    Not hard ass, really. Intense. Engaged. Up for tenure soon.

  5. Don’t blow your wad between your lab meetings by running to their office to share your cool results in real time. By the time your lab meeting rolls around, they will be craving their next fix of results. It’ll be all: what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? “Remember that cool result from 2 weeks ago?” won’t slake their junkie’s thirst for data.

    HAHAHAHAH! I never thought about it that way, but very true!

  6. rxnm says:

    It’s something I learned slowly. There is no cumulative impact of my work on my P., It’s always WHAT DO YOU HAVE RIGHT NOW. Like a golden retriever and snausages.

  7. DrugMonkey says:

    Mushrooms? Srsly?

  8. rxnm says:

    Just a figure of speech!

  9. The Lab Mix says:

    I totally have a problem with getting excited about new results and running to my PI. Then in lab meetings I have this exact problem of them wanting NEW data, not the data from four days ago. These are the lessons to learn in grad school.

  10. rxnm says:

    Yeah, get that shit under control. It’s not really your project until you don’t care what your PI thinks.

  11. […] considering how my own mentoring style will continue to develop as my career progresses.  rxnm has a funny piece up about titrating the amount of information you give to your mentor so that you’re not […]

  12. Potnia Theron says:

    This is GREAT advice. I applaud the underlying idea tof actively playing your mentor. That’s when you own the project.

  13. rxnm says:

    Yes… it’s about owning it. When you see a 3rd or 4th year grad student who has to check with the PI what the next step is after every experiment, you know they’re in trouble.

  14. […] a paper so that’s become somewhat de-prioritised….in the meantime you should read this good advice. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was […]

  15. LOL! this is perfect, how to work your PI….so many people need to read this. @jbashir, ugh! i have the same problem, and that person regularly tries to explain other people’s projects to the new people AT LM!!!

    i think my fave part is this: Yeah, get that shit under control. It’s not really your project until you don’t care what your PI thinks. that or the golden retriever and snausages comment!!

  16. BugDoc says:

    That’s funny – I have a different view (but maybe my students and postdocs would agree with you). Obviously, I don’t want to see the same data from 3 weeks ago as the only thing that’s been done recently. But….I really like it when people drop by office with interesting data and then in our one on one weekly meetings, after thinking and reading about ideas, we can discuss the data more deeply. I like our lab meetings to be more polished in the sense that people should spend time articulating their working models and fitting their data into a bigger pictures, not using the time just to show your latest data. I guess I enjoy the group exchange of ideas and suggestions at lab meeting and don’t feel that 1.5 hrs is too long, although more than that probably yields diminishing returns. Uri Alon published a nice piece in Molecular Cell a few years ago about how to keep a group motivated and one of his suggestions was to keep lab meeting as both a scientific and social interaction. If it’s only show and tell, as opposed to a lively discussion, then it’s not as valuable. I do agree with points 1-4 though!


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