tips

Make Lab Friends. Not Enemies

"When a supply is low, tell the person who needs to know."

Whenever we ask researchers to share their pet peeves with us, discovering that a regent or supply was empty and had not been reordered was near the top of the list--for everyone.

Many supplies take a few days or longer to arrive at the lab—they can’t be picked up locally in a pinch. A labmate, for example, can’t run out to Target to in the middle of the night to purchase ligase and complete their cloning reaction.

Your Spare Time is a Limited Resource: Use it Wisely

Managing your time in college is more complicated than setting a schedule. Among other things, it's also important to regularly ask yourself, "Am I involved in activities that are important to me, or do I participate in them because it's important to someone else?"

It's not uncommon to join a campus club or group as a favor to a friend or because you've read that membership will look good on your future applications. But, if you're not feeling it, it's better to move on.

Label Bottle Tops

At the start of a wetlab research experience, there is often more information to learn than is possible to remember. Even those who take great notes inevitably lose some details. One of the most common mistakes a new researcher makes is storing a chemical or reagent incorrectly.

Don't Guess and Go

In a lab, many reagents look similar either in color or formula and substituting one for another can cause substantial frustration for both you and your mentor. Back in the day, one of my student's experiment failed several times before I realized they were substituting EDTA for EGTA. That one letter made all the difference...

Whether you're new to the lab or in a hurry, double check your notes and the bottle label to make sure you have the correct one.

Take a Break. Renew. Reboot.

Sometimes, the best plan is to take a break from the chaos and embrace a little bit of 'me time.'

Especially when you're nearing the end of an intense research experience or semester, it can be hard to focus. And even the little things can seem to take more effort than they should. The crushing feeling of "responsibly overload" always happens at the worst time--when you have soooo much to do and most of it is tied to a deadline.

New Researchers Beware: Learning Curve Ahead

For almost everyone, research turns out to be more complicated, and take more effort to gain skills and accomplish the objectives of a project than anticipated. So, if you struggle to learn a technique, or you don’t immediately understand a concept your research mentor explains, remind yourself that such challenges are to be expected.

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