Thursday, June 28, 2018



The ideal goal of every graduate or prospective graduate student is to generate results that boost his/her smooth transition to the next level of their research and academic career. Such transitions should always reconcile with their natural progression towards an outstanding performance with international credibility. In meeting these expectations, right personal attitudes, sacrifice, good laboratory and research practices and experiences are key to meeting deadlines in the graduate schools coupled with generating excellent results.
However, far from these expectations, not all planned experiments work out as expected which could result from poor attitude to work, poor skills, protocols not well optimized, minor mistakes, poor supervision, poor laboratory and experimental set up. These brain-wrecking scenarios of not getting the expected results requires the input of corrective and preventive laboratory practices to save time, energy and resources.
Whilst attending and participating in international science conferences and workshops, a number of graduate students from diverse national and academic backgrounds were interviewed on how to meet the expectations of an academic supervisor in the graduate school. It was reiterated by several students on the negative feeling associated with failing to produce expected results and this makes one deviate from the expectations of a supervisor. Hence the best way out is to learn from mistakes and perfect one’s skill sets. A good number of the students suggested that fellow graduate students should not overlook their mistakes during experiments but note them in the lab notebook and seek for corrective measures by engaging their Principal Investigators (PIs). In this wise, experimental failures should be documented and corrected otherwise, one may not be able join a different lab to develop further, which would affect a persistent research output. Others stressed that no student should wish to be the cause of their low research output, so it is better the fundamentals relevant to the study are learnt and applied rightly.
In instances where post-doctorate fellows are micromanaging graduate students, some suggested it is necessary graduate students constantly seek guidance from post-doctorate fellows. Others laid emphasis on the fact that the integrity of their research is hugely affected at the least experimental failure, so research guidance should be constantly sought. Since adherence to optimized lab protocols is paramount to generating excellent results, some international graduate students suggested that it would be very appropriate for one to familiarize with the culture of the lab designed by the PI and fit in as a team player. Further to this, in events when a graduate student is under-performing because there is a weakness or lacking skill set that should be complemented by rightly pairing with another student to learn.
The 21 keys points have been stated below for quick reference:
  1. Take notes of your mistakes and try not to repeat
  2. It is not a good feeling to fail in an experiment, so I learn from mistakes
  3. Discuss with the PI on corrective measures
  4. Report to the PI on how to get things right whenever something goes wrong
  5. No student wants to be in such a situation, so it is better to get the fundamentals right
  6. It feels bad and one has to learn to do better
  7. Seek help from the post-docs who are micromanaging in the lab
  8. One would need to sit up and ask for help. Maybe one needs help somewhere
  9. Schedule a meeting with the PI and discuss it
  10. It affects the integrity of the research, so one will have to request for guidance
  11. It will be nice for one to follow the lab protocol
  12. Discuss with PI to get the wrong attitudes fixed
  13. Maybe one needs the right training, so one will have to ask for the right training
  14. It should be a good decision to make things right so that one can complete the research on time
  15. It is more important to understand the lab protocol and practices
  16.  One needs to work harder to improve lab skills
  17. One has to take notes of attitudes and discuss them with the PI
  18. Record what went wrong always, seek for corrective measures with PI and keep it up next time to get the right results
  19. There may be an area of weakness one needs support in.
  20. Note down one’s failures in the lab and correct them. Otherwise one may have to leave the lab, and this would affect your research output
  21. Try to fit into the culture of the lab designed by the PI

Written by Isaac Carilo
Reviewed and Edited by Dr. Patrick Kobina Arthur

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