The Roach Brain Lab
for studying biodiversity through molecular systematics
Working in the Lab
i. Work Ethic
In our lab, we follow a set of values focused on the importance of scientific work – manifested by determination and desire to achieve our goals. You are expected to be self-motivated to work hard and smart. This means doing your job to the best of your ability and learning the most efficient way to complete your tasks. It is vital to balance persistence with adequate rest to reduce the risk of burnout. An important way to drive your project forward is to work smart. This means being efficient with your time, and prioritizing improving your workflows. This should not be done in isolation (i.e., use established protocols, ask for help, and share your solutions).
ii. Working Hours and Location
The unique character of scientific work in academia often allows a flexible schedule; thus, you should work the number of hours on a particular day necessary to move your project forward. A schedule that works for others may not work for you. Please also respect others’ time and schedule; we do not judge others by perceived time worked. It should be feasible to do most of the lab work within normal working hours. However, it may happen that you must work outside these hours, either in the lab or at home, but Dr. Evangelista will never force you to do this. If you must work outside normal working hours, you may compensate for this another time, and always take care to preserve your personal (physical and mental) health.
Remote research is encouraged but isolation is not. If certain tasks (data analysis, coding, writing, etc.) can be done more efficiently outside of the lab, you are encouraged to do so. In that case, please make yourself available on Slack and email and please be present in person for group work (i.e., lab meetings, mentoring meetings, team research). If you’re working with lab members on a project be respectful of their time and make yourself available to them in person when necessary. If you wish to take a trip and work remotely (for family visits, vacation, or conferences) please limit this to no more than 4 weeks a semester. We benefit from your presence at lab meetings and on group research. If you need more time away, please discuss with Dominic first.
Holidays are important and leaves of absence happen too. These are welcomed if needed. However, they must be planned for. Extended times away from the lab/research should be discussed with Dr. Evangelista. Please organize your lab space before any extended leave. If you leave in the middle of an experiment/project, make notes about where you stopped and how you can resume. You will thank your past-self for this when you return.
Remember that your PI has invested resources in you. Therefore, your reappointment (i.e., funding) is contingent on you making significant progress on your research. If you only come into the lab during lab meetings and work remotely the rest of the time, this is fine as long as it is evident you are being highly productive.
Working hours are something you will inevitably compare to other academics (graduate students and others). Some graduate students will work 50-80 hours a week. Working 80 hours per week suggests an unhealthy relationship with the lab and Dr. Evangelista’s opinion is that you should NOT work that much. Unfortunately, 50 hours or more is the norm in a lot of the academic world. You make the decision about how much time you need to be successful. How you and your mentor define success is important in this context. If you feel you are working too much (or not enough) consult with your mentor. Remember to prioritize your health.
iii. Lab Meetings
You are expected to attend and actively participate in the group’s lab meetings. Lab meetings are scheduled in advance, everyone must be aware of the schedule, and lab members will play a role in determining the topic for the lab meetings. During meetings, everyone is encouraged to ask questions, ESPECIALLY “stupid” ones. These could be words you don’t know or a concept you don’t understand. Don’t be shy about sharing ideas or questions – others may have the same questions, and all ideas, even when you think it is a ‘silly’ idea, help the creative process. Likewise, please be mindful that everyone in the room deserves an equal opportunity to talk. Some are more reticent to do so and need some “space” to offer an opinion. Please don’t dominate the conversation and feel free to continue giving input after the meeting. We will discuss lab business at each lab meeting. If you have anything that you think everyone in the lab should be aware of, this is the time to share.
iv. Support letters
Recommendation and support letters are important for getting new positions and grants.
Letters from your PI: Do not hesitate to ask Dominic to write a letter of recommendation. If you need a letter, notify Dominic as soon as possible with the deadline, your curriculum vitae (CV), and any relevant instructions for the content of the letter. If it is the first time that Dominic is writing you a letter, please give him at least two weeks’ notice. If the letter is for a grant/fellowship/scholarship application, also include your specific aims. Please do not hesitate to send him multiple reminders. In those reminders you can say “your lab manual, that you wrote, encouraged me to annoy you about this.” Dr. Evangelista takes great care in letter-writing and will aim to write the strongest possible letters for everyone. You should make it known to Dr. Evangelista if there are points that you want to be highlighted. If he feels that he has inadequate knowledge of you to write a sufficiently positive letter, he may suggest you get a letter from another knowledgeable person.
Letters from other lab members: If your direct mentor is a graduate student, post-doc, or lab tech then they might be the only person in the lab knowledgeable enough about you to write you a letter of recommendation. However, letters of recommendation look best when they are sent by a person with an established, professional position. Therefore, letters for undergraduate trainees will often be prepared in between the PI and the person that they closely worked with in the lab. Dr. Evangelista will write you a letter of recommendation and within that letter will include a quoted section from the grad student/postdoc/etc that mentors you. This is part of the reciprocal relationship everyone has with PI-Evangelista: you help his lab succeed and he writes a letter of recommendation for you.
vi. Attending Conferences
Conferences are an important part of scientific career development and an avenue for networking with peers as they allow us to increase the lab’s and individual researcher’s visibility, get feedback on research results, seek new collaborations and update ourselves with what is going on in the field. Often, your PI will ask you to present at a conference even if you have no results to present yet. Ideally, you will have more to present by the time the conference arrives, but even if you don’t your presentation is still a good opportunity for practicing communicating your science. You will not be the only person at the conference doing so, and this is perfectly normal.
Graduate students: If you are demonstrating regular success, you will be funded to attend 1 scientific conference per year (assuming the lab has reasonable funds available). If the lab does not have funding available for this, or you with to attend more than one conference, you must find funding through other means. Scientific societies, your home institution, and the conference itself, usually allocate awards to help students attend conferences. If you receive a partial award to attend a conference, you should inform your PI and department head to ask for matching funds.
Undergraduate students: Same as graduate students but funding is more limited. Ask Dr. Evangelista if funding is available.
Post-docs: Same as graduate students but you are expected to apply for your own funding before asking for lab funds. Lab funds may be more limited for post-doc conference attendance. However, you probably get paid much more than grad students, and if so, you may only be offered partial funding from the lab.
Research staff: If you are leading a lab project in a first author, or co-first author capacity then the same applies to you as graduate students and post-docs.
The conferences that are recommended are:
EntSoc*: The annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America. Occurs annually in November
ICE: International Congress of Entomology. Every 4 years.
EntSoc north-central branch meeting. Annually in April
Evolution*: The joint annual meeting of the ASN., SSE and SSB. Annually in June
SICB: The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. Annually on 2-7 January
Dresden Meeting on Insect Phylogeny. Every two years in September. Anyone can register to attend but talks are by invitation only.
*Most highly recommended.
We will discuss together who would like to attend these conferences, but Dr. Evangelista will ultimately decide how to allocate lab funding for conference attendance. If you come across another scientific meeting or symposium that is interesting for your project, discuss the possibility of attending and presenting your lab research.
You are encouraged to apply for travel grants offered by our department/university or the conferences to attend the meeting of your choice. This will look favorably on your CV. Conference organizations, academic societies, and research reagents/equipment companies may have opportunities for travel grants.
v. Environmentally Sustainable Science
We are committed to minimizing the carbon footprint of our laboratory and office spaces, department, and university. The environmental sustainability areas that we can contribute to as researchers are in energy conservation, freezer management, water conservation, chemical waste, waste reduction, recycling, inventory management, and outreach.
All printer paper should be reused. We minimize printing on paper (please print double-sided when possible) and encourage electronic note-taking and recording of specific experimental steps and calculations taken during your research activities (although some notes on paper may be necessary during experimentation). If you need scrap paper please take it from the scrap paper pile and don’t use a fresh piece.
Office and lab supplies should be made from recycled/sustainable materials. If they are not, please find a more appropriate product and bring it to the attention of the person in charge of stocking the lab.
If a machine/light/sink/computer etc. must remain on for an extended period (e.g., for an experiment) please put a note indicating the time it can be shut off. Before leaving the office and laboratory spaces please ensure that water taps, light switches, and unused instruments are off, especially if you are the last person leaving the lab or office space. Please close the fume hood (and shut the sash) if you are the last person in the lab using it for the day in the lab.
Deionized water comes out of a tap, but it is not free, and it requires a huge investment of time, energy, and water to make. Chemicals also impact the environment. We minimize use of chemicals/reagents that are toxic to the environment as much as possible.
Pipette tips may be among the most “wasteful” products in the lab. As such, please use them responsibly. If you are aware of a green option, please bring it to the attention of the lab manager. When ordering reagents and other materials for your research, please consider whether the item is available second-hand or is needed at all. Do not over-order items in large quantities. Vendors that utilize environmentally sustainable packaging will be prioritized.
The most energy-intensive pieces of equipment in most biology labs are the low-temperature (-20°C) and ultra-low temperature (-80°C) freezers. Freezers deliver a double environmental negative: not only are they voracious energy users, they also pump out excessive heat. We will defrost our freezers regularly and you are expected to assist and participate in these activities.