Life in a research lab can be daunting, especially for early-career scientists. Personal and professional hurdles abound in bench research, and this book by two seasoned lab professionals is here to help graduate students, postdocs, and staff scientists recognize stumbling blocks and avoid common pitfalls.
Building and maintaining a mentoring network, practicing self-care and having a life outside of the lab, understanding that what works perfectly for a labmate might not work for you—these are just a few of the strategies that lab manager and molecular biologist Paris H. Grey and PI and geneticist David G. Oppenheimer wished they had implemented far sooner in their careers. They also offer practical advice on managing research projects, sharing your work on social media, and attending conferences. Above all, they coach early-career scientists to avoid burnout and make the most of every lab experience to grow and learn.
About the Author
Paris H. Grey is a writer, molecular biologist, and lab mentor. She has written articles on strategies for early-career researchers for Nature, Lab Manager, Science, and elsewhere. With David G. Oppenheimer, she is co-creator of UndergradInTheLab.com, a website to help researchers navigate the hidden curriculum in STEMM research and to help mentors address emerging issues before small matters turn into big problems. You can also find them on Twitter @YouInTheLab or Instagram @UndergradInTheLab.
David G. Oppenheimer is associate professor in biology at the University of Florida. His research program focuses on the proteins that control cytoskeleton dynamics and how this influences plant cell shape. With Paris H. Grey, he is co-creator of UndergradInTheLab.com, a website to help researchers navigate the hidden curriculum in STEMM research and to help mentors address emerging issues before small matters turn into big problems. You can also find them on Twitter @YouInTheLab or Instagram @UndergradInTheLab.
“Part survival guide and part pep-talk, Life and Research: An Early-Career Guide for Biomedical Scientists should be included in every welcome package for scientists joining a new lab or research program. Grey and Oppenheimer have created a portable version of the ideal mentor – helpful, honest, and compassionate. I wish I’d had this book ten years ago, as it would have saved me a lot of frustration and loneliness while navigating the confusing world of grad school.” — Susanna Harris, Ph.D., Founder and Chair of PhD Balance
Paris Grey and David Oppenheimer are the mentors you never had in graduate school. They will teach you how to carry out scientific research while still living your best life, so you can do high-quality work without risking burnout.
— Jennifer Polk, Ph.D., Principal, FromPhdToLife
Life and Research is a practical guide to surviving academic research as an early career researcher (and beyond). In this book, Grey and Oppenheimer strike a friendly tone while discussing very personal issues like finding the right work-life balance and establishing a network of mentors, but also when focusing on more utilitarian information like travel reimbursements. They are also realistic about the process of research itself – the ups and downs – and they provide practical tips for handling failure in the lab and how to get back on track.
Much of the text focuses on practical matters for new grad students, but the advice is universal. For example, the book often focuses on issues of equity, inclusion, and the hidden curriculum in biomedical research. While this information is important for new researchers, it's also important for new (and established) PIs to consider when creating a healthy and supportive lab environment. They are also honest in advising early career researchers to prioritize career development and exploration from the first years of graduate school. Resources for graduate students are all too often developed to keep researchers on an academic track even as PI positions become ever more scarce. Grey and Oppenheimer steer early career scientists to identify their strengths and pursue relevant training outside of the lab to broaden their skill sets should they decide to pursue non-academic careers.
This book should be required reading for researchers, especially those early in their career.
— Danielle R. Snowflack, Ph.D. Senior Director of Education, Edvotek