Monday, August 29, 2011

first lab mtg: part II in the lab rotation saga

I sat in on my first lab mtg in rotation lab #1 this afternoon.  The first thing I observed was a very amiable dynamic... laid back, even.  There was a scalable project undertaken over the summer which was presented by two of its major players.  I was pretty quiet, mostly observing how people interacted and how information was presented.

Being only vaguely familiar with the study, I suppressed my myriad questions which would have mostly been helpful to my own clarity and not contributory to the conversation.  Mostly, though, I was not interested in coming off as that jackass who comes in and blindly tries to push their experience without understanding the particular design/choices of the lab.  I do understand that a lab mtg is not a seminar, and that plenty of detail, being familiar among the post docs and grad students, is not reproduced.

That said, one very curious observation was how disjointed some things seemed.  For instance, the summer study involved some cell counting.  After the presenter discussed her counting methods and findings and seemed somewhat unsure as to how to interpret them, Dr. PI chimed in and very amiably pointed out that the presenter had set parameters for said counts that made her results jumbled and irrelevant, and she should try measuring several new parameters in the upcoming weeks.

During this part of the discussion, my brain was asking, "why weren't reliable parameters discussed before they were carried out?  why weren't the specific cortical layers of interest identified separately and compared instead of being clumped into one group?  why was the cell size not defined as part of counting parameters? could double-staining be done to elucidate cells of interest more clearly?  what would you speculate this outcome might mean?"... etc.

This is why I shut up.  Questions better saved for a one-on-one with my grad student mentor in a learning environment as opposed to a lab mtg.  From what I gathered from the rest of the lab's input, this was somewhat standard.  There was a, "let's try this and see if it works, and if not we will exclude the approach in future" attitude, which I love.  But I also got the feeling that students were very much on their own in terms of project design, and methods were not cleared with a higher authority or guide before conduct, which is a foreign concept to me.  My instinct is to approach every study as if it were publishable, and to optimize the design as much as is feasible in order to produce a result that could contribute to a manuscript.  It did not seem that this was the general perspective in rotation lab #1.

Finally, there were about seven undergrads at the mtg getting a feel for whether they'd like to become part of the lab in the fall.  Also very new, since there were no undergrads at the teaching hospital from which I hail (only summer students).

It's going to be a very exciting term.  I cannot wait for Sept. 6th.

1 comment:

  1. I found your blog! Neat :) Nice to know i'm not the only graduate newbie around the blogosphere!