What are you doing for socially distanced lab meetings?

So, what are you doing for socially distanced lab meetings? The same stuff you always do? Or other stuff?

I have a small lab at the moment, just two grad students working on unrelated projects, plus a summer undergrad who just started. So far, most of our socially distanced lab meetings have been about checking in with one another and socializing. Which we did fairly often even when we were meeting in person. I think students gain a lot of “tacit knowledge” about how to do good science, and be good professional scientists, just by hanging out with their lab group. And during a pandemic, it seems especially important to just see some people you know, even if it’s only on Zoom.* But lately I’ve been thinking about other things we could do as well.

One thing we could do is invite in external speakers. It’s much easier and cheaper for external speaker to chat with your lab group for an hour via Zoom than it is for them to fly to your university for an in-person visit. I’m joining somebody else’s lab group via Zoom for a meeting next week, and I definitely want to start hosting some external remote visitors as well.

Looking forward to hearing what you’re doing for lab meetings these days.

*The nature of our socializing has changed a bit. For instance, early in the winter term, our lab organized an in-person science board games night for ourselves and any other labs who wanted to join us. We’re exploring ways to do that again online. Depending on the game we want to play, Board Game Arena might be one option. And here’s a free site that helps you play Scattergories online.

4 thoughts on “What are you doing for socially distanced lab meetings?

  1. Biggest change in my lab (and my one-on-one meetings with students) is a decision to continue to meet at some frequency (not necessarily weekly) over the summer. Normally with everybody in the field, conferences, vacations summer has always been an as needed meeting. But now as you note with everybody needing social contact and normalcy and all those interruptions cancelled, we’re running through the summer.

    You mention invited speakers over zoom. I recently had the pleasure of being the invited speaker in somebody else’s lab meeting (1500 miles away) who appears to be having somebody in every week. I really enjoyed it and am definitely thinking about doing it here. Its a pretty minimal commitment for the speaker to be on zoom for 1.5 hours and give a talk that is likely already prepared, and the chance to have some scientific interaction with new people was really fun.

  2. We too are continuing to meet over summer, which we ordinarily wouldn’t, and we also have invited some lab alums and the incoming grad students, which gives us 14 people on 4 continents, which has been a lot of fun. And we’ve had guests from other places, too. Instead of the usual discussing papers/practicing presentations, we are having a Summer of Writing, and using Stephen Heard’s book as a guide. To kick us off, a faculty member in our creative writing department, a poet, came in yesterday, and we had a terrific conversation about similarities and differences in scientific writing and poetry/other writing. It may be the novelty, but I think the sessions have been more engaging than in “normal” times.

  3. We do this in person too, but I think it’s extra helpful right now. We start our lab meetings with each person discussing their rose/thorn/bud of the week. Something that went well (e.g., progress on a paper, baked goods success), something that went not so well, and the bud being a goal for next week. A cathartic check in + people weigh in with suggestions for each other + sometimes nice to normalize an openness about setbacks as well as successes. It takes ~15 mins to get through but is worth it.

    Our department has been running biology trivias with open invites to everyone, which as also been fun.

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