Lab Philosophy #5: Do Everything Well

There are numerous chores that need to be done in a research lab, and it's tempting to rush through them just to get done.

Instead, adopt the philosophy that everything you do in the lab is important, and deserves careful attention to the correct procedure.

Independent Project Blues

Even if you've been working in the lab for a while, when you start a new project there will be unexpected glitches and hiccups--especially in the beginning.

When starting independent project it can be especially frustrating. For many undergrads (and new grad students), the beginning of an independent project is both a badge of honor, and a badge of shame.

Don’t Judge a Research Project by Its Organism

As you decide which research opportunities to apply to, avoid automatically dismissing a lab solely based on a model organism. This is important for two reasons:

1) Depending on the project, you may never even see or touch the actual organism—even if you’re in the lab for several years. This is because much research is done on pieces and parts—tissue samples, proteins, or isolated and purified DNA.

Realistic To-do Lists Help Avoid Burnout

One of the biggest mistakes scientists at all levels make is planning to do too much in too little time. We all believe things will go faster, be easier, and take less time to accomplish than they actually do. Setting research goals is important, but so is adjusting them when needed. NEVER let yourself feel that you failed for reevaluating what is reasonable to accomplish. It's simply part of EVERYONE'S research experience.

Getting the Most out of Your Time

What you do in the lab when you aren’t doing research matters. A lot.

To extract the most from your undergrad research experience, you'll need to make your time in the lab matter.

Read the Troubleshooting Section Before You Need It

Every research kit contains a protocol manual with a troubleshooting section that explains the most common mistakes made with the kit at the research bench. If the kit procedure fails, the first thing most scientists do is turn to the troubleshooting section to determine if the reason could have been Operator Error.