Setting formal expectations for lab members


Are your lab members aware when they do not meet expectations?

Out the outset, students should know what is expected of them. This enables their success as well as gives them a way to avoid a shortcoming. It also makes things easier on you when you’re dealing with underperforming students.

It’s standard to have a page with information about information for prospective students (here is mine). In addition, how about we specify the expectations of current students and make these well known? I have yet to do this, but a great model of expectations is on the site of Melissa Wilson Sayres of ASU. What’s particularly great about hers: she starts with what her lab members should expect from her, before she explains what she requires from them.

It’s not adequate to say that you’re dedicated to your students and that you give them 120%. Students should get a specific understanding of what, when, how much, and how you will support them, and in return, you may levy similar expectations on your students.

Do you have, or know of, a set of expectations that you provide or make publicly available? Would you like to share a link or text in the comments? The kinds of expectations can vary widely with institution type, the type of work done in the lab, and and also there are different categories of lab membership.

8 thoughts on “Setting formal expectations for lab members

  1. I have a complex set of expectations for incoming honours thesis students (4th year project students) and a different set for graduate students. I also lay out what they should expect from me. I would be happy to share with those interested. These are rather formal, but then I am not too formal. But, it gives us a place to refer back to if the communications start to break down or if students really aren’t meeting expectations.

  2. These are all great! I’m assuming that if people are posting their expectations here then that means that folks like me can, um, “borrow” from them (with due credit)?

    Also, I noticed in Cameron’s expectations list that the undergrads are required to keep a lab notebook in Evernote, and I wonder how well that works for them. I’m an Evernote fan and am always interested in ways it can be used for academia and research. Maybe this would be a good guest post topic?

  3. Thank you very much for these helpful ideas and links. As a PhD student coming towards the end of this project, I particularly liked the concepts in preparation for PostDoc and P.I expectations (that last link to the National PostDoc Association was really informative). Hope I can contribute more next time.

  4. I’m a PhD student in a medical research field, and our department has just undergone a significant amount of minor upheaval thanks to taking part in a Grad Program Review this past year. One thing that was implemented was to provide PIs with a template of a “memorandum of understanding” that was to be reviewed with students at the beginning of the year, and outlines expectations for professionalism, safety, vacation, etc. It’s a beginning for that conversation to be held, but this takes place after students have already been accepted into the program. I like that the example you linked to also clearly listed the requirements of the PhD supervisor, as well.

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