4 Types of People You Meet in Science

At the end of a seminar, the speaker will often present a slide showing all of the members of the lab.  Young faces, old faces, curiously observing a plate of growing bacteria or smiling over watermelon slices at a picnic table.  The people in your lab, working with you from morning to night, is what will define your experience in the lab, whether it be your undergraduate research, six years of PhD, or a post-doc position on the other side of the world.  We all go through many stages of our life where we work in teams where different personalities are trying to work together to reach a common goal.  It comes with many challenges, but it is where we learn the most.  About ourselves, about others, and about how a good team somehow resembles a cell, as you will soon see…

After all of my team experiences, from being on a dance team in high school and then on an advisor team in college… I can honestly say that my experience as a lab member has been the best team experience I have had in my life.  Maybe it is just because I feel science is so much more important than winning a dance trophy or advising a college freshman not to binge drink.  However, more than that, I always feel support from lab members and no sense of competition.  We come from all different places… California, Spain, India, Israel… and yet, we all have one common goal… to answer scientific questions.  At my lab, we appreciate our similarities and celebrate our differences.  Of course, no one in my lab exactly fits the following four stereotypes; however, it is my experiences in my lab that helped me to shape these personalities.

The Mitochondria:  This is the person on your team who is at the lab before you arrive and still working when you leave.  They are the “powerhouse” of the cell.  Sometimes they are so busy, you are not even sure if you should distract them by saying bye before you leave.  Although this person might seem a bit stressed, you admire their hard work and perseverance.  Also, no matter how busy they are, they will still spare time to answer a few of your questions.  After all, it is widely known that they have some of the best protocols…

The Cytoplasm:  “Where do we keep this obscure antibody?”  This is the person who can answer all these questions.  They have probably been working in the lab at least a few years, so they know where to find everything.  But in addition to this, they are great at keeping everyone in the lab happily working together in harmony.  When you see them, you can’t help but smile, because you know your smile will always be returned with an even bigger smile.  Like the cytoplasm makes up the body of the cell, this lab member is really what keeps everything flowing.

The Cell Wall:  The one who stays with you way past normal lab hours just so you don’t have to be alone.  Like the rigid cell wall, this lab member gives you the support you need.  They are there for you when your experiment didn’t go right, reminding you not to go too hard on yourself.  Without them, everyone in the lab would probably be a depressed zombie.

The Nucleus:  Your PI, the “control center” of the cell.  They have all the power, without them, where would we all be?  Of course, we all have very different PIs, with very different personalities, but they are the definitely the one driving all the action.

Having the right people in your lab will give you an enjoyable experience, no matter which direction your work goes in.  They will teach you how to become the person or scientist you wish to be one day, but still allow you to feel accepted for who you are today.

Does your lab team have additional typecasts? I would love to hear it! Send it over to contact at labworm.com

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