The Tye Lab Mission
To make a lasting impact on the field of behavioral neuroscience. To make a great impact on the field, we must achieve the following tasks:
- Perform well-designed experiments that lead us to exciting and novel discoveries.
- Communicate these findings within and beyond the greater scientific community.
- Mentor trainees to become some of the best neuroscientists of their generation.
Expectations of all Lab Members
Above all, I expect everyone to do their very best and to be aware and communicative of what you need to be happy and feel fulfilled. I expect you to work both individually and as part of a team, and open and honest communication is an absolute must. More specifically, I expect scientific integrity, passionate interest, hard work, smart work, common sense, careful execution, maximum efficiency, steady motivation, good scholarship, great vision and most importantly, a positive mental attitude.
Failures, technical problems, and mistakes, I certainly expect. But I will not tolerate a negative attitude that harms yourself, the people around you or the morale or reputation of the lab as a whole. I expect you to do what you can to support and encourage your fellow lab members, make sure you have the resources you need to feel supported yourself and do your part to keep the atmosphere of the laboratory fun and productive. I expect everyone to attend all lab meetings and participate in the discussion. I expect all lab members to come find me for one on one meetings on a regular basis. Finally, the obvious but mandatory items: I expect all lab members to stick to protocols, lab safety regulations and maintain the highest ethical standards.
Collaborating can accelerate scientific progress. Although all graduate students and post-docs should be leading a project, I encourage people to take on collaborations to enrich their experience. From a short-term perspective, they help the project get done more quickly and everyone gets to be in more papers. From a long-term perspective, being led by others helps you to learn how to be a better leader and everyone gets exposure to alternative technical and scientific styles. Ongoing open communications about authorship and contributions is a must, and all collaborations involving other labs must involve direct communication between the PIs. For any students, postdocs or staff, discussion with Kay and other PIs is a prerequisite to any collaborations with other labs.
Even when a formal collaboration is not appropriate, communicating about progressing projects helps to inform future decisions and prevent redundancy, thereby expediting the discovery of new information and increasing efficiency as a greater scientific community. In environments where trust, openness, honesty and mutual support are held as the highest values, competition can occur in a fun and productive way that is exciting, but not stressful. The degree of competition is an inverted U-shaped curve: without any competition, it is difficult to focus and prioritize; when competition is too intense, quality can be sacrificed for speed; but when there is a healthy balance of friendly competition, then you have peers who can inspire you to raise your standards to the next level and in such cases, competition can also accelerate scientific progress.
My top priority is that people in the lab are happy and stay happy. To be happy, you need to make time to take care of yourself (socialize, exercise, eat healthy, sleep, blow off steam, etc.). To stay happy you need to maximize your effort/productivity ratio and feel that you are moving forward. I do not necessarily expect people to work evenings and weekends, and I won’t tell you how much vacation you should take. I will ask you to look inside yourself and ask yourself what you are made of and what you want for your future. Excellence and mastery do not come without dedication. Productivity requires both hard work and thoughtful planning and design. That means working smart — considering multiple strategies and selecting the best one. If you must do a risky experiment, do a safe one as well. Hedge your bets. Ask your mentors for advice. Discuss with the lab. Think out loud. Use your colleagues and mentors as resources.
First, don’t fix it if it isn’t broken. Second, change one thing at a time. After that, I expect you to ask for help when you need it, but try to figure it out for yourself if you can with manuals or the internet. In terms of equipment and animals, I expect you to ask to buy equipment that you need to push the field forward and advance the existing realm of possibilities — but do not be wasteful. Try to negotiate a discount or a warranty. If you buy something, make sure we are going to get our money’s worth.
I strongly suggest that each and every person who is eligible for personal grants to apply for them: Not only will they benefit the lab, but they will also benefit you and your personal career. Post-docs, in particular, should expect that applying for and obtaining their own funding will be part of their training. You will be able to attend more conferences and travel the world, you will be able to have more intellectual freedom and you will have a record for being able to fund yourself – all of which will help advance your career and empower you to be an independent investigator. While I would ideally like to promise to support lab members for their first year, this will depend on the individual lab member’s merit and funding availability. The best will be able to fund themselves.
My broader career goal is to make a lasting contribution to the scientific community, and I aim to do so not only with primary research findings but also by providing exceptional training and mentorship to the next generation of neuroscientists. Each individual discovery is just that: a single discovery that will remain fixed in scientific history. However, each well-trained young investigator is a source of unbounded future contributions. Teaching and Mentorship are the lifeblood of our trade, and core values of integrity, rigor, curiosity, and inspiration are part of science. Mentorship is a very high priority for me, and it is a great privilege and a great responsibility. I have been fortunate enough to have had several incredible mentors in my career, and I have them to thank for all of my success. I have learned a great deal from them, and am excited to be able to pay their good deeds forward. That said, nobody was born perfect, and we are all learning as we go.
We’re a family, and we need to take care of each other. Temper your tempers and if you can’t, apologize as soon as you’ve cooled down. If you’re not sure where the boundary is (for space, expectations, demands), please ask.
The more you know, the more you owe ¹. Encouraging younger generations, underprivileged or underrepresented populations, and establishing a culture of paying it forward is central to our lab philosophy. The lab regularly engages in outreach activities in the local community.
Expectations of Post-Docs
I expect you to realize your maximum potential…and I would not accept you into my lab as a post-doc if I did not believe that you had the potential to be one of the best neuroscientists in your generation.
I expect you to tell me what you need to realize your vision and I will do my best to ensure that you have it. My goal is to place all of my post-docs into career paths where they can make the maximum impact on the scientific community. My post-docs will have ample opportunities to develop the skills that will serve them as a principal investigator, including mentoring, writing grants, giving talks, publishing papers and leading projects to fruition. Most of all, I expect post-docs in my lab to tell me what I can do to be a better PI.
Expectations of Graduate Students
I expect you to bring your enthusiasm and curiosity to the lab, along with your questions! I expect you to speak up about your problems, insecurities, frustrations so I can help you enjoy all the phases of your graduate training.
I expect you to mentor undergraduate students, collaborate with each other, learn from post-docs and myself about how to find your true calling in neuroscience — what excites you the most? Remember that we’re all in this together and keep an open mind about what you expect your graduate career to be. Listen and internalize advice, even if it means you have to repeat your experiment — stubborn students take the longest to graduate. Roll with the punches and you’ll be a post-doc in no time. If we design our experiments well, there is something to learn regardless of the outcome.
Expectations of Undergraduate Students
Undergraduate Students basically fall into two categories, I know because I was at times in each of those categories: 1) Really awesome and taking a light course load, and basically like a grad student; 2) Really awesome but taking a heavy course load and basically coming in during the middle of the night and breaking things or during the day for 1 hour to basically to make a mess and then abandon it in a frenzy.
Since category 2 can certainly also be category 1, and category 2 can even become a professor one day, I welcome both of you. In most cases, I will need to find a graduate student or post-doc that would be a good mentor for you, so it may take a little time. If you are a special case: you have lab experience or are willing to work full time, I will treat you like a grad student. If you break something, it’s ok — just tell me right away and exactly how you broke it because it will help us fix it. To be clear, Undergraduate student positions are distinct from full-time technicians, and can be arranged for credit or an hourly stipend.
Expectations of Staff
Technicians, research assistants, senior laboratory assistants, lab manager: you are the glue of the lab. You have flexibility and you also need to be flexible. You are to do whatever is needed, and whatever you are best at doing that the lab needs, making sure that we are firing on all cylinders at all times.
This includes protocol work, returning broken equipment, ordering new equipment, helping out on specific projects, and leading projects if you have the desire and ability to do so. The needs of the lab will be constantly evolving as will your responsibilities, opportunities and abilities. We will work together to define your evolving role in the lab depending on your skills, preferences and talents.
Expectations of Kay
You can expect me to help you to envision, implement and communicate/publish your stories, and cultivate your career development, whatever your goals may be. You can expect me to make sure that the lab has funding and that you get whatever you need to test your hypothesis.
You can be sure I will work hard to help you prepare for all your personal milestones, be they job talks, qualifying exams, or grad school interviews. You can expect me to nominate you for awards and support your travel to conferences. You can expect me to meet success with celebration and failure with moral support, and always keep it real.
You can count on me to care about your happiness, your project, and your future.
1. I first heard this phrase from Ynot. #Ynotisms