Post#11…PhD tips & tricks Series: working groups

Defining different working groups generally helps me a lot. I like to work with people, particularly when it goes well (don’t you agree?). Thus, with all different working groups, I set goals. I also try to keep in touch with the groups to stay on track.

Management of working groups:

  • Thesis supervisors
  • Laboratory technicians
  • Colleagues
  • Bachelor & master students
  • Extra-muros collaborations

1) Good professional relationships with my supervisors are essential to me. Even though I am an autonomous person and work regularly, I update my project from time to time to keep them informed. I consider communication the most efficient way to avoid misunderstandings or problems. I enjoy discussing changes I need to make to the project or issues I face (in an experiment or in life). It often reminds me that they, too, have been through it, doing a thesis, having their ups and downs… and that is good to hear. It’s very enriching to have a different look at your work or choices; it allows you to question yourself and bring new ideas. I always leave these discussions satisfied with a sense of accomplishment.

2) Lab technicians are fantastic. They are the core around which all other lab members gravitate. Without them, we would lose a lot of time…for everything! They know where the equipment is, who is using it, or if a particular protocol already exists. Observing these people working in the lab helped me a lot in my daily life and avoided many mistakes when I started. Besides, I apply a lot of their advice to work, as simple as they are. For example, I knew that a protocol had to be read in detail before being applied, but I didn’t realize that many things had to be checked beforehand: “are the solutions your protocol talks about available? do we have to order them?”, or “is there enough glassware to experiment or do you run out of vials?”, “in the total number of samples, did you count the control samples?” or “annotate your protocol so that someone else can rerun the experiment.” How helpful this was! Since then, I meticulously annotate all my protocols, and create new ones with additional information… Since my master’s, I may have been asked 6-7 times for one of my protocols. They maybe have been optimized afterward; they could be used as a basis for other colleagues/students. Communicating and collaborating is essential to work in a friendly environment, especially during the long days in the lab.

3) Colleagues often help me out of inspiration or get stuck with an experiment/analysis. Never underestimate the power of a good coffee break between colleagues where we discuss work or less serious things. Finally, I think it is essential to create a “brainstorming” environment with my colleagues.

4) Students ask for more supervision if they have not been well oriented from the beginning. Indeed, it is necessary to “bring the students up to speed” when joining my project. I know that I will have to dedicate time to them, but I also know that I don’t have that much time. Therefore, I try during the semester to plan a weekly remote meeting where all the students under my supervision participate. It is an excellent way for my supervisors and me to follow their progress and review the work in progress; for the students, it is a dedicated time where they can ask any questions they may have. To optimize our sessions, I make available (as a drive doc) a brief “agenda” containing the points discuss all along the year. It’s very enriching and allows all students to hear the questions/answers given during the meeting and integrate them into their respective work. My supervisors advised me to do this when I agreed to supervise several students simultaneously. I continue to apply it, even with fewer students to care, because it allows me to isolate a moment in the week for the students and avoids countless daily meetings.

5) Extra-Muros collaborations can be the real danger in the thesis process. Indeed, if they are poorly managed, or the objectives are not entirely defined, they can bring many stress and problems. However, suppose the collaborations are chosen carefully and the ones imposed are well framed. In that case, it can propel the thesis and give a second meaning to the Ph.D. If a collaboration takes a wrong turn, I try to open a dialogue, see the project from a different perspective, and keep a positive mindset. If this doesn’t change anything, I don’t hesitate to ask for help or advice elsewhere. Defining different working groups generally helps me a lot. I like to work with people, particularly when it goes well (don’t you agree?). Thus, with all different working groups, I set goals. I also try to keep in touch with the groups to stay on track.

Hope this may help you!



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s