On the same day that I renewed the Pandora subscription I have for my lab, I read this blog post by Namnezia, where he argues that a lab espresso machine is one of the best investments a new PI can make in his/her lab. This got me wondering about the little things that I do to try to increase lab morale, and what I might want to add to the mix.
Some of the things I do:
1) Pay for a lab Pandora account: It’s not very expensive, and spending long hours in the lab pipetting Daphnia and washing glassware pretty much requires good music to keep from going insane. (Audiobooks work quite well, too – I listened to tons and tons of books while counting samples as a grad student – but they don’t work as well when there are multiple people listening.)
2) Celebrate lab birthdays: this is a tradition I’ve carried over from when I was an undergrad in Nelson Hairston, Jr’s lab at Cornell. When I first joined Nelson’s lab, one of the first questions I was asked was when my birthday was, since all lab birthdays were celebrated. That was a great way to signal that I was valued as a lab member, even as the new undergrad in the lab. I’ve carried on this tradition in my lab, and I think everyone enjoys it. I mean, who doesn’t like an excuse to eat cake?
3) Lab lunches: At Georgia Tech, we would have lab lunches every Friday. People could come or not as they wished – it was just an opportunity to get together and chat informally. I started this in part because of how much I loved the lunch room at the Kellogg Biological Station, where I was a grad student. Grad students, postdocs, and faculty would gather in one room to eat, and it was such a great way to interact with everyone. Here at Michigan, we haven’t started weekly lunches yet, in part because there is no good place to have them near my current lab space. But we’re moving to a new lab space soon, and that will have space for this sort of thing, so I’m hoping we’ll resurrect lab lunches this summer.
4) Lab outings/get togethers: This is something that I did much more of pre-kids. Sadly, my current lab members probably will read this and think – lab outings? Huh? But, pre-kids, we did things like go to Braves games (back when the lab was in Atlanta), I had people over to my house, etc. Now, I find it much harder to figure out how to make time for these things, but I probably should work on that more.
Those are the main things I can think of right now. It doesn’t seem like much, really, and I’d love to hear about other things that I could do to keep a happy lab. If you’re a PI, what do you do for your lab that you think works well? If you’re a student, postdoc, or tech: what would you appreciate your PI doing?