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Environment and Expectations

Lab Environment

The purpose of the lab group is to grow as scientists and as people. Our intent is to maintain an open, welcoming, and communicative environment among all lab members. You are encouraged to approach any member of the lab with questions or issues related to science or otherwise. As the old idiom goes, "there are no stupid questions". It is okay to make mistakes, but it is not okay to hide your mistakes from others - addressing them and learning from them is how we grow as scientists. Similarly, if you disagree with lab members on any issue you are encouraged to challenge them directly.

To foster the intended lab environment, everyone must follow the code of conduct. Lab members are also expected and encouraged to participate in trainings, committees, and self or group education to strive towards a more equitable, inclusive, and just lab and departmental community. Here is a non-exhaustive list of DEI resources available to you at UW and beyond: DEI-Resources. Additionally, all members of the lab meet \~1x per week to discuss project progress, diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, and to get help from others. Here is an example of our weekly meeting schedule.

NOTE: You are expected to attend all lab meetings, within reason (but no need to ask permission to miss an occasional meeting). Science hour is optional, but highly encouraged!

  • Biweekly Project Progress Lab Meetings (1.5 hour): All members discuss their activities since the last meeting, planned activities for the next two weeks, and to get help from lab members on project-related issues.

  • Biweekly Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Meetings (1.5 hour): This biweekly meeting provides space to learn, discuss, and engage in initiatives that further lab members' understanding about the institutionalized oppression present in academia.

  • Weekly Science Hour (Fridays): A casual meeting to hang out, and sometimes tackle science issues/questions with the "hive mind" - e.g. we spend time debugging a script, interpreting a statistical analysis, interpreting/providing feedback on figures, or discuss science concepts that require more time than is available during the biweekly lab meetings.

  • Practice presentation meetings (occasionally): When members prepare a presentation for a conference or symposium (etc.), they are expected to give a practice presentation to the lab group. For a 15 minute presentation, we schedule at least 1hr to deliver it, then receive lots of feedback. This exercise is invaluable, and greatly improves presentations.

Roberts Mentoring Approach

My mentoring approach will be somewhat specific per person, however generally I view my role as providing you the resources to succeed in your educational experience. There will be regular lab meetings where we primarily address any challenges members might be having while reaching their goals. Goals are important and I will working with you in developing long-term goals, however you will need to develop monthly goals. You might not always achieve them, but this helps you stay focused. Beyond lab meetings we have established a number means of communication.

Utmostly important as you get into research, is to communicate issues and challenges. I will work with you to address these, though often we might find that the most effective solutions are resources outside of the lab.

I will provide honest feedback in an effort to push you to be your best. This will include pushing you to consistently be stepping back to re-evaluate your work in a larger context, and consider areas of improvement.

The predominantly white and cis/het, amongst other factors, community at SAFS may not meet everyone's needs. For this reason, you are encouraged to seek mentorship and community in the way that is best for you.

Personnel Expectations

Research Methods

A lot of our research involves computational analysis of large, novel datasets. You will need to be competent in computing skills including basics of bash and R. A common task you should be able to accomplish is installing and running Blast on your own computer. You should also be familiar with Jupyter Notebooks. As might be evident, we using GitHub extensively and you will be using this to document code and data (and everything else).

Electronic Open Lab Notebooks are also central to the lab. You are required to document your activity in real time. This will include not only benchwork and computational work, but also reflections, questions, and monthly goals.

Writing. Always be doing it. Do not wait until you have completed a project but rather write the methods as you carry them out (or preferably before). This goes hand in hand with the lab notebook. Document your work in a detail that you and a stranger can completely reproduce it in 5 years.

Graduate Students

Graduate school is not easy, and not for everyone. Graduate school will be very challenging, and for most, very rewarding. Graduate school is not a job where you check-in and check-out each day, but rather an educational endevour where you gain a deep understanding of a scientific area and complete your tenure by contributing a valuable research product, that substantially advances knowledge. Understanding this fact might help you deal with the challenges and frustrations you will face.

There is a lot going on during your graduate education. Staying organized and not overwhelmed is key. In the same vein, time-management is key. There are several strategies for this. I suggest reading "Getting Things Done". Finding time outside of lab to recharge your mind and body is essential.

Expectations on Performance

Graduate students will complete a Graduate Research Plan that will be revisited on a quarterly basis.

This document is in part meant to delineate expected progress on thesis research. If there is inadequate progress made on thesis research (determined in part by entire committee when in place), action will be taken at the department level (commonly a written warning with specific expectations outlined). If targets are not reached, the situation will be reported to the UW Graduate School where a formal probation period could be initiated.

Research Credit Hours: The following information regarding research credit hours should be confirmed with SAFS Graduate Program Advisor, but typically a graduate student will need to be signed up for at least 10 credit hours during the academic year. If these are not graded courses they should be research credit hours. Note, with the exception of summer, students are limited to a maximum of 10 credits per quarter of any combination of courses numbered 600, 700, or 800. Unsatisfactory progress on thesis research could result in no credit (NC).

Graduate Student stipends are paid in a variety of manners. There are often specific responsibilities associated with this. If you are a TA you are expected to perform duties set forth for the position no more than 20 hours a week. If you are asked to perform duties that exceed 20 hours a week you need to inform Professor Roberts ASAP.

Another common form of stipend payment is a RA. A RA can be associated with a faculty grant or certain funds from SAFS are distributed as an RA. Responsibilities as set forth as part of a RA require 20 hours of effort per week. If you are unclear of responsibilities of a RA for any given quarter please contact Professor Roberts ASAP.

To simplify efficient documentation of progress (useful for grant reporting) students on RAs will need summarize activity at the end of each month (or end of quarter) when funded on an RA. Please use this form:

Prospective graduate students interested in graduate school and joining the lab, please submit this form. Please feel free to contact current graduate students for more information.

Undergraduate students

I enjoy having the opportunity to provide motivated undergraduate students with a chance to gain hands-on lab experience and get a better understanding of an array of approaches that can be used to study aquatic organisms. I feel this is an important component of your education. Depending on your status (i.e. intern, work-study, course credit, capstone etc.) there will likely be specific details that will need to be discussed.

Undergraduates must review and sign the Undergraduate Commitment Contract prior to starting in the lab.


Postdocs should complete an Individual Development Plan (e.g. that should be reviewed and updated on a quarterly basis.